Skip to main content

I saw this question in a social media post recently. It is attributed to WCM Charvi Anikumar, the Under-8 Girls World Champion. I think it is a good question. The answer is somewhat complicated.

The Chess in Education Commission is committed to embedding chess as an educational tool within the global education community. The focus of our efforts is the emphasis on the interdisciplinary and transversal connections that chess offers to the normal school curriculum. Chess in this case becomes the vehicle to deliver academic and 21st century skills. But this doesn’t require a separate class. Teachers can use chess in a classroom to introduce math, literacy, or critical thinking skills, for example. In this way, every student becomes exposed to the fun and the benefits of the game.

What about chess as a subject?

Chess as a subject raises a number of questions. A separate class? A required class or an elective one? How many students will participate? How often does the class meet? Who teaches the class and what are their educational qualifications? How much will this cost? What is the goal of the class?

As an educator (I have spent a few years as a classroom teacher, and my wife has been a K-8 teacher for over 30 years.), I understand the stresses within the education community in the US that is not that different from situations around the world. Educators leaving in droves due to the increased stresses (certainly accelerated by the pandemic). Distracted students. Constant changes in education leadership at every level. Plummeting student test scores. Difficulty in hiring and keeping qualified staff. These are only a few of the challenges facing schools in the post-pandemic environment.

The Justification Hurdle

And into all this stress (and in some cases, chaos), do we request a separate class just for chess? Almost any educator, would ask, “Why?” Follow up questions might include those addressed above. Of particular interest, how does this class address the requirements of the state or national education standards?

A separate chess class – as a subject – can work. However, if the goal of the class is to only introduce chess skills and prepare students for competition, I have serious doubts about such an approach. Certainly, chess classes during school hours – focused solely or mainly on chess skill development – already exist in both public and private schools around the world. But they are generally exceptions to the rule. And it is difficult to use that model to develop sustainable and scalable initiatives. Finding qualified instructors and acquiring adequate funding are only two of the issues that make this approach less likely to find support.

These competitive goals are normally addressed in after school programs. To have chess as a subject offered during the school day, the instruction must do something else: the class must offer deliberate skill building for academic, 21st century skills, and social emotional learning at the very least. The only people who can deliver such an educational program in a sustainable way are classroom teachers. And they are seldom competitive chess players themselves.

Preparing Teachers

FIDE EDU has developed its Preparation of Teachers course exactly for this purpose: teachers learn how to introduce the board, the chess pieces, and the rules of the game through a series of minigames, collective games, and curriculum-linked exercises. There are enough activities there for a year’s worth of chess lessons assuming one lesson per week. The European Chess Union offers CIE certification courses through ChessPlus. Chess in Education – US offers CIE certification courses for teachers in the United States.

If we want chess to be accepted as an educational tool, the goals of chess instruction must meet the needs of educators and their students and go far beyond the lifting of trophies in the air at the end of a tournament. If those needs are addressed, we have a much better chance of introducing chess as a subject in school.

[An earlier version of this article first appeared on]

Visit Us On FacebookVisit Us On YoutubeVisit Us On LinkedinVisit Us On Instagram