Chess in Schools

by Sagar Shah
11/1/2023 – India is on its way to becoming the biggest super-power in chess. Some of the credit goes to ChessBase India, which has organized a large number of projects to foster this development. CEO Sagar Shah is now on a mission to make chess a subject of the regular school curriculum, not just to generate further champions, but to foster the social and learning skills of students. Currently he is holding a seminar on how to implement chess in schools across entire states. Here are his talking points.

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Ever since I was a little boy who played chess, the plan of chess in school and making chess a compulsory subject have been lurking around. The idea of every kid learning chess in schools is a very interesting concept for people who have experienced the benefits of chess in their lives. However, the not so great success of the chess in schools program in several countries of the world definitely leads us to contemplate on the fact that what is it that is not being done correctly?

Hundreds of hours have been spent discussing curriculum, what needs to be taught in the chess in schools program and how it has to be taught. But I feel before we go into that direction, we definitely need to answer the question: why is chess in schools important as a project? Is it to create chess champions? Or is it because there are tangible educational and social benefits to the game of chess and when taught at a young age can enrich the lives of the youngsters. Both of them would require a different approach overall. But the main reason why a lot of policy makers are interested to back the chess in schools project is because they see the qualities needed in a chess game – concentration, analytical thinking, decision making etc. to be an excellent tool to mould the minds of the youth.

Once the overall "why" is resolved, we come to the more practical question: should chess be introduced as a part of the curriculum and made a compulsory subject, or should it be an optional subject where kids who are interested will attend. Compulsion is something that doesn't go down too well with sports, don't you think? Yes, the reach is higher, but very soon we will have kids who have absolutely no interest in the sport and are attending it just because it is compulsory. I am sure you had your own compulsory subject in school which you didn't like – history, geography, mathematics and so on. Think about chess being one of them, for thousands of kids, a few years down the line! What could be a better idea is to spread awareness and let everyone know the benefits of chess and create an infrastructure around it, then enforcing someone to learn chess.

For example there could be seminars held inside the school for parents where they are told the benefits that their children could gain if they learnt chess. Seminars should be held for kids where they aren't told about the rules of chess, but rather introduced to the beautiful world of chess – how the game was invented, how it spread, how India is growing as a chess nation and who are the champions of the sport.

Once the interest is created, there should ways in which this can be nurtured. A wonderful idea is to open chess clubs inside schools that have the infrastructure of tables, chairs, chess sets, maybe a projector. All interested kids can meet there under the guidance of a passionate coach. And to complement it on a broader scale, you can have chess parks like the state of Meghalaya is doing where people can gather to play chess at one location for no fees, or like what we at ChessBase India are doing with Phoenix mills, where we have open chess clubs inside the mall.

When a good talent is spotted from this, appropriate opportunities should be afforded in terms of tournaments and training. In this regard, the state of Odisha has already taken a wonderful step by creating the Prochessta Academy, which is entirely supported by the state government. This academy will have wonderful trainers who will train the best talents in the state to become champions.

In order for the chess in schools program to reach its goal not just in terms of numbers but in essence, where the kids are enjoying chess, benefitting from chess and champions are created, one needs the right people to join in. To share their knowledge and passion for the sport. To create more trainers and people who are passionate about the sport. Only then will chess really grow and make a positive impact on the society and community. Making anything compulsory, might not be a solution in my opinion, but then you might have a different viewpoint, and I would love to hear from you.

Video report with Sagar talking at the seminar


Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder and CEO of ChessBase India, the biggest chess news portal in the country. His YouTube channel has over a million subscribers, and to date close to a billion views. ChessBase India is the sole distributor of ChessBase products in India and seven adjoining countries, where the software is available at a 60% discount. compared to International prices.


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TomasAntonijevic TomasAntonijevic 11/5/2023 02:05
moi ca me va si il font aussi ca en europe(:
Mamack1 Mamack1 11/1/2023 04:41
Not at all convinced that everybody who plays chess - even to a high level - has a *high* IQ. Indeed several years ago tests were done on several leading US figures, with varying results. Beyond not many people with genuinely low IQs being good at chess (and even then, there will likely be the odd exception) it is difficult to generalise.
sivakumar R sivakumar R 11/1/2023 11:21
(With due respects to various initiatives mentioned), I think it is a good idea to promote / propagate chess, but it would be grossly incorrect to make it compulsory or may be even to introduce it in schools as an optional subject.
Chess is a high IQ game. You need to be intelligent by birth even to be a chess lover (leave alone being a chess player).
Chess is mental gymnastics - can you introduce gymnastics in regular schools?