Friday, April 11, 2014

7 Reasons My Kids Play Chess...And Why Yours Should Too

Okay, I'm not going to actually tell you what your kids should do....cause this blog isn't about telling people what to do.

I am, however, going to tell you about all the benefits I've discovered from our kids playing chess.

I'm not a chess player....wait...let me take that back.  Technically I am card-carrying member of the United States Chess Federation and I have a rating (302...which if you don't know, is not very good).   I even won the Third Place Medal in the Kentucky State Women's Chess Championship in 2001.   I lost every single game...amazingly they still gave me a medal...that's what happens when there are only three women players. 

As I was saying, I'm not a chess player...but I married one...a really good one that played in competitive tournaments and won money even occasionally.   So, I started to play a little bit, but I was never that into it.  I just don't have the competitive nature to play chess. kids are really into chess.  Really, really into it.  I'm constantly shocked at how much time they spend playing chess and talking about chess and studying chess and watching chess videos.   They are constantly coming to me and saying things like Mom, you should see this game I played. I played e4 and he played knight g6 and then I castled and we traded queens and he sacked his bishop and we had the Lucena position and then a rook endgame.  Meanwhile I'm all oh, yes, the rook endgame, fascinating.  

And, if you are a chess player reading this (cough, Ben, cough) cut me some slack if the above makes no sense.  I just made it I said, I'm not a chess player.

My kids have known how to play chess for several years, but it wasn't until we moved to Virginia that there were actually able to play in tournaments....hence when they started to get really into it.  And, since that time, I've noticed some awesome benefits about playing chess.

Chess is cheap, as far as activities go.  Sure, you can spend a lot of money flying to national tournaments and all (and we might do that once we actually have some money to spare) but for now, we just stay local and that is plenty fun for them.  Or, you could spend big bucks and pay a Master to teach your kids, but you don't need that.  My husband got to a pretty high rating in chess, all being self-taught.  The equipment is minimal and tournament entry fees are usually very affordable.   Plus, it doesn't take a huge commitment. You can go to tournaments or not...depending on your schedule...there is no major time commitment involved. There are lots of great chess programs and books and other ways that kids can teach themselves, all very affordable. 

You win some, you lose some.  And that is important.  It teaches kids how to both win and lose gracefully.  Which is a really, really, really important skill to learn.   Chess is an individual you can't count on your teammates to help you during a's just you, so you have to learn to handle pressure and stress and winning and losing all by yourself.  Sometimes you have a good tournament and take home a trophy, and sometimes you lose more games than you win.  And, that's okay, because you have to learn how to handle both situations.

It teaches you to slow down and really think. Good chess players really think about their moves and consider them carefully before making a move.  It takes persistence and practice to really think about your moves and not just make the first move that comes to mind.  I'm constantly amazed at how Heidi and Greta have been known to play really long games...over an hour even, because they (and their opponent) are really taking the time to carefully consider their moves.   

Age and size don't matter.  Every single one of my kids could beat me at chess, easily. Chess isn't about who is the oldest or who is the strongest.  It's pretty funny to see this little kid beat a much older kid, or even adults.  There is some advantage to age, but not as much as you might think. 

Critical Thinking. Chess improves critical thinking skills and logic skills.  You have to anticipate your opponent's move, you have to learn to apply strategy to different situations and you have to think ahead....many, many, many moves ahead. Plus, Ben says that chess helped him during law if you think your kids might want to go to law school, have them play chess.

Improved Math Skills. Seriously..I do think that playing chess has improved my kids math skills.  As a homeschooler, math is our worst subject...nothing against math, it's know...math.  So, improved skills and better retention of math facts is a definite plus.

Chess brings people together. least other chess players that is.  According to Ben, if you sit down somewhere and set up a chess set, people will come over and want to play with you.  So, apparently there is the whole social chess network, where chess players are drawn to other so they can chat over strategy and games. So, even as adults, it's a good social skill to have.  Plus, my kids spend an inordinate amount of time going over their games with each other and with other kids.  So, it brings them together, because they like to replay their games, discuss strategy and and argue over moves.  Yes, they do argue over's all part of the fun.

So, those are my reasons why chess is so great for kids.  Any other chess players or chess moms/dads want to chime in with any benefits you've noticed?

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(linking up with Jen for 7 Quick Takes Friday)


  1. I don't play chess, but my husband does. And what I think is really neat is that it trains you to get inside the other person's head, to figure out how they think. That's a valuable skill in every area of life!

  2. OK, I'm sold. I've toyed with the idea occasionally, and do certainly see the benefits. Especially for my oldest, who's bright but struggling in math, and for my other son, who's not athletic and needs to find a niche. Perhaps my children will be getting a chess set with their Easter baskets!

  3. Amelia, I've been meaning to ask you about this!! My kids LOVE chess. They are entirely self taught, I don't even know enough to make up the sentence you did, lol. Mike knows how to play and has played with them but I would love to teach Gabriel more skills, techniques, etc. What's the best way to do that? Videos? computer programs? Sign him up for a class? Would love to hear your thoughts!

    1. There are some great computer programs. DinoChess is really good for basic learning. is a free site where kids can play other kids online and they have a few video lessons for free. You can also get Chessmaster which is a computer program that lots of lessons/videos and you can play the computer. We have all three. I would have him play on and maybe get Chessmaster for lessons and at home play. But, probably the best thing is to find a chess club or something for him. I'm sure there are LOTS of them where you live. I know there are a ton of scholastic chess tournaments in your area. You might be able to find one just for homeschoolers, I would start by asking around on your homeschool lists. Another thing is to check out libraries as chess clubs are oftentimes hosted at libraries. They get the most out of it and it's most fun if they can play other kids so I would try to find a chess club for them first.

  4. How young do you think a child can begin? My oldest is just now 5, she's really bright....but I'm still slow with you think exposing her to the game online would be the best starting place? I enjoy the game and would love to play as a family!


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