Can Chess Make Us Better Writers?

I've never played chess. It always seemed too hard to learn. But a story in last week's New York Times has me thinking about giving the game another shot.

The story focused on plans to introduce chess into every second- and third-grade classroom in Idaho next fall. That move, the Times' Dylan Loeb McClain reported, "will make Idaho the first state to offer a statewide chess curriculum."

"One of the things that we hear is that too much of what we do is based on rote memorization," Tom Luna, the state's superintendent of education, said in the story. "The part I really like about this program is that kids are thinking ahead."

The United State is several moves behind the rest of the world. Chess is part of school curricula in
"nearly 30 nations around the world, include Venezuela, Iceland and Russia," according to the nonprofit America's Foundation for Chess.

The chess in schools program, called "First Move," is the brainchild of the chess foundation. Here's a good summary of research into the value of chess in education, which supports the benefits cited by America's Foundation for Chess.

Among the information on the foundation's site is a list of 25 answers to the question, "Why Play Chess?" As I read the list, it struck me that, if true, just half of them would be a boon for writers. boon for writers. Chess:

  • improves concentration
  • develops critical thinking
  • inspires self-motivation
  • helps you plan ahead and foresee consequences
  • develops self-confidence
  • develops memory
  • is cheap
  • helps you live a longer, healthier life
  • promotes imagination and creativity
  • teaches that success rewards hard work
  • builds self-esteem
  • increases patience
  • encourages respect for ones self and others

Could it be that easy?

What impact does chess have on your writing?

Should I learn and play more?

Your move.

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    Chip Scanlan

    Chip Scanlan is an affiliate faculty member at The Poynter Institute. From 1994-2009, he taught reporting and writing in its real and virtual classrooms and coached journalists worldwide. He spent two decades as an award-winning journalist for the Providence Journal, St.


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