WS/FC Scholastic Chess Association
WS/FCSCA, 133 Queensbury Rd.
Winston-Salem, NC 27104-3537


  Why Chess?

Chess is a game of imagination and strategy, one that provides rules, order and opportunities for intellectual growth.

An effective educational tool at all levels of academic achievement, chess teaches students to think logically and take responsibility for their actions and consequences.

Research studies demonstrate the positive impact of chess on academic performance and emotional intelligence. Students receiving chess instruction showed statistically significant gains in reading on a nationally standardized achievement test than did the control group. The gains were particularly impressive among children who started with relatively low average initial scores. Evidence also indicates that children develop:

  • An improved attitude toward school and improved attendance
  • Increased self-confidence and respect for others
  • enhanced problem-solving, logic and reasoning skills
  • organized work habits
  • increased patience and persistence
  • Improved emotional control and mood management
  • Sustained efforts to achieve personal goals

    Chess is not a game of luck. Children who practice and develop skills will reap rewards. The confidence they develop extends to other areas of their academic and emotional lives.


Chess Improves Children's Reading Scores

Dr. Stuart Margulies, a noted educational psychologist, conducted two studies of reading score changes of children. The first study was conducted with students in New York City Community School District 9, the South Bronx and the second study in classrooms in New York City and Los Angeles. The results in each study were significant.

Students in the chess program showed statistically significant greater gains in reading on a nationally standardized achievement test than did the control group. The chess players outperformed the average student in the country and the average student in the school district. The gains were particularly impressive among children who started with relatively low or average initial scores. Children in non-chess playing control groups showed no gain.

Interviews and analysis by Dr. Margulies offer possible explanations for these exceptional results.

The cognitive processes used in chess and reading are very similar. Both chess and reading involve processes of decoding, thinking, comprehending and analyzingĖ all higher order skills. Chess and reading are decision-making activities and some transfer of training from one to the other may be expected.

Chess masters believe chess play develops general intelligence, self-control, analytical skills and increased ability to concentrate. They argue that enhanced reading skills naturally follow.

Teachers believe chess-playing students develop enhanced ego strength as they increase their chess competence. They argue that students who feel confident and good about themselves naturally learn to read better.

Chess participants form a pool of intellectually gifted and talented students. Students who join this group make contact with a core of high achievers and thereby develop more academic interests, speak at higher levels of standard American speech and take on the values of achievement.

Conclusion: Chess participation appears to enhance reading performance.

Starting a scholastic chess club

So what does it take to start a chess club at your school? Letís consider what it takes:

Requirements for starting a great school chess club




Parent volunteers having only basic knowledge on how to play chess and limited time due to other commitments


Plastic mismatched sets picked up cheap at garage and clearance sales


Cafeteria or gym (when available)




Your average bright and fun-loving kids who just enjoy playing the game

If your school falls in the "Reality" column, then youíre ready to start a chess club! Many schools are reluctant to start a chess club because of unrealistic expectations. They feel that they need to have grandmasters and "really smart" kids. Their measure for success is how many big trophies they will win.

But the true measure of success of a chess club is not the trophies they pull in but the number of childrenís lives enhanced.

All kids can benefit from chess. Kids may see it as just a game. But research has shown that chess enhances scholastic abilities including test scores. Think of it as "exercise for the mind", a fun way to practice concentration, patience, logic, and mental calculations.

Phases of a club

Start your club simple, then add things as it matures.

A. Start-up

The first rule of starting a chess club is: Donít wait for someone else to do it! If you donít step up and make it happen, itís unlikely someone else will. You have the opportunity to enrich the lives of dozens of young people.

Make it a decision right now, even before you reach the end of this sentence, to take a positive step toward making a chess club a reality at your school.

There are a few thinks you will need to get started.

  • Chess Club coordinator Ė This can be a parent, school administrator, or community volunteer. Their purpose is to be the focal point for organizing activities. Only a basic knowledge of the game is necessary.
  • Facilities Ė Anywhere with tables and chairs will do, preferably somewhere quiet.
  • Chess sets Ė Donít let a lack of equipment prevent you from starting! Chess sets begin at about $3 each (about $1.50 per kid). Ask the PTO for funding, or the school, or just ask kids to donate sets as price for joining. You can build up to better quality sets as the club matures.
  • Scheduling Ė Pick a time that does not conflict with similar activities. Length of time can vary. Experience has shown that 30-45 minutes is about the max for Kindergarten and 1st graders while middle schoolíers can fill 90-120 minutes.
  • Players Ė Plan on starting small and manageable but donít deny any child the opportunity to join and play. Start by sending flyers to upper-grades first and work your way down. You may end up with 8 or 80 players. It doesnít matter as long as youíre reaching all the kids who want to play.

Planning a start-up

  1. Contact the school to ensure you have their support. Find out what resources they will provide.
  2. Bring it up at your PTO. As with any new idea, expect some skepticism, but also expect some partners who can help you out. Organize your volunteers. Treat them like royalty.
  3. Schedule a regular weekly session.
  4. Send out sign-up sheets so you can anticipate the numbers
  5. Enthusiastically welcome the students.

B. Recreational Play

Emphasize the purpose of the club is to play chess and have fun. No other activities should be allowed (unless this is a game club). Once kids start playing, try to group kids by skill level. If someone is winning more than losing, encourage tougher play. Always emphasize good sportsmanship.

C. Instruction for new players

Make no mistake. Chess can be a complex game, especially for young children. However, experience has shown that any child that can be taught the alphabet can be taught chess. The younger they start, the more they will likely to get good at the game and enjoy it later in life.

For teaching "beginning chess", you do not need a chess expert. What you really need is a good teacher who knows the basic game, is good with kids, and can explain things simply.

Teaching young children

The key to teaching very young children (pre-K and up) is to reduce the concepts and explanations into its simplest elements. Keep it light and entertaining.

Donít try to teach the entire game at once. Teach it a piece at a time starting with the least complex. Use simple made-up games along the way to reinforce the concept.

Teaching older kids

Teaching older kids is simpler because you can find more books for the older audience and you can assign homework. The concepts of keeping it simple and pacing per the childís ability to absorb still hold true at any age.

Interesting links: