Earlier today, I had a chance to meet some of the wonderful young players and management at Chess For Success program in Portland, Oregon. Their success is truly amazing!

The students who participate in the Chess For Success are:

* 17% more successful in math

* 10% better in reading

* 37% are girls!

* 69% live in poverty

Chess for Success is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to helping children develop skills necessary for success in school and life by learning chess.


Chess For Success History

Chess for Success developed as an outgrowth of the Portland Chess Project, an after-school chess program founded in 1992 by Richard Roy, founder of the Oregon Scholastic Chess Foundation. Funded through a four-year grant from the Meyer Memorial Trust, the Portland Chess Project was launched in nine Portland Public Schools to see what effects chess might have on the academic performance, self esteem and classroom behavior of students in the district’s most disadvantaged schools.

In 1994, Frank Eiseman formed Chess for Success, which was funded by donations from corporations, individuals and foundation grants. Frank placed chess programs identical to those created by the Portland Chess Project in twelve more elementary schools. In 1996 the two programs merged under the banner of Chess for Success. We have grown from nine schools and 200 children to 52 schools and 2100 children this year in Portland, David Douglas, Centennial, Parkrose, Reynolds and Monmouth school districts.

In 1967 The Oregonian and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry began sponsoring scholastic chess tournaments in Portland. As the popularity of chess grew, the tournaments expanded into other areas of the state and included elementary, middle and high school chess players. Over the years the number of chess players increased and the tournaments became too large a project for OMSI and their volunteers to continue producing, so the Oregon Scholastic Chess Foundation was formed to continue the tradition of the statewide tournaments. In 1998 The Oregon Scholastic Chess Foundation passed the responsibility of running the state tournaments to Chess for Success so thousands of young people could continue competing in the game they love, which truly is “athletics for the mind.” Approximately 2500 young people in Oregon participate in 25 regional tournaments to qualify to compete in the Chess for Success State Tournament. Last year 560 players qualified to play in the two-day championships held at the Convention Center in Portland.

Why Chess?

Chess for Success is an educational program that uses chess to teach children important skills necessary for success in school and life. We provide children with a fun, competitive and appealing after-school activity that promotes their healthy development, enriches their lives, and entices them to attend school so they can participate in chess club.

Chess clubs provide children with a concerted activity that increases their capacity and willingness to acquire and apply new knowledge and skills. They are attracted to chess because it is a game and as they learn how to play they are eager to try out their new skills on the board. Chess teaches children how to adapt to changes and challenges – they may think they know how to win the game and then their opponent makes a move that causes them to rethink their strategy. It also teaches them how to make wise choices, solve problems and try new approaches. These skills are sustainable and useful lifelong. Learning to play chess enhances the cognitive, emotional, and social development of children.

To play chess correctly children must sit still, with their feet on the floor, and focus their attention on the board. They have to make decisions slowly and patiently about choosing good moves and then re-evaluate their decisions. Without realizing it, they are developing the same skills children need to read a book with comprehension, solve a math problem and take exams.

Chess instills in children a sense of self-confidence, patience, self-control and responsibility. The challenge of the game stimulates critical thinking. Children learn social skills, sportsmanship, how to solve problems, control anger and learn from mistakes. They also learn the important connection between actions and consequences and the benefits of thinking before acting.

Chess has a positive effect on the self-image of students, particularly those students who have not enjoyed academic success and may not be perceived as “smart” by their peers and adults. Chess possesses a unique capacity for focusing the attention of young children and providing challenging experiences that stimulate the development of critical thinking, even among children who are usually restless and unable to concentrate on schoolwork.

Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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