Can chess make you smarter?

by ChessBase
1/29/2013 – A research project in Israel is going to study the correlation between chess and cognitive enhancement. The group will also develop the first Hebrew-language educational software program for teaching chess in preschools and elementary schools, and establish an international program for training chess instructors and coaches. The online news magazine Israel21c reports.

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“The program will provide an opportunity to achieve breakthrough research and social outreach in a field that has not yet been fully explored,” said University of Haifa Vice President and Dean of Research Prof. Michal Yerushalmy. The researchers will examine the impact of chess on students’ abilities in math, language acquisition, and other areas.

Following a stunning performance at the 2012 World Chess Championship in Russia last April, Boris Gelfand called on the Israeli government to increase its funding of the mind sport: “It’s important that we continue to develop this field and initiate international competitions that will see Israeli chess players recognized.”

And while the government did promise to do its part, the University of Haifa has taken it one step further. Advanced studies in the department of computer sciences and other facilities at the university, together with the ongoing guidance of Gelfand, will ensure the prospect of achieving sophisticated research.

A study by IBM showed that learning chess improves reading performance. An Education Ministry of Moldova report found that grades increased in all subjects for young students taking part in a chess project. “In just one year, chess [instruction] will improve a student’s learning abilities, concentration, application, sense of logic, self-discipline, respect, behavior and the ability to take responsibility for his/her own actions,” according to World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov, who runs a foundation that offers a chess curriculum to American schools.

Making a toast to the new scientific chess study at the University of Haifa are, from left, Rosa Leikin, head of the Interdisciplinary Center for Research and Advancement of Excellence and Giftedness; VP and Dean of Research Prof. Michal Yerushalmy; Grandmaster Boris Gelfand; Maya Gelfand; researcher Shay Bushinsky; and legal adviser Doron Schweppe. Photo courtesy of University of Haifa.

What led to it: Gelfand mania

In June last year the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that in the wake of Gelfand mania, the Israeli government will fund new chess clubs, a decision that “effectively doubles the ongoing budget for the sport from the ministry and the Israel Sports Betting Board”. Sometimes the good guys do win.

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