Chess is a mentally stimulating game that aids in the development of both memory and analytical skills. It is full of infinite possibilities requiring mental discipline as it tests the abilities of players to concentrate and solve complex problems. Now, schools, such as St Catherine’s and governments across the world are utilising Chess to not only improve mathematical, literacy and critical thinking skills in their students but also build confidence.
In 2012, the European Parliament adopted its Declaration on Chess in Schools, declaring:
…whatever the age of the child, chess can improve children’s concentration, patience and persistence and can develop the sense of creativity, intuition, memory, and analytic and decision-making skills; whereas chess also teaches determination, motivation and sportsmanship. 
Studies in both Canada and the United States found elementary school students had significant increases in memory and verbal reasoning skills and increased gains in mathematical problem solving. 
In 2018, St Catherine’s has introduced weekly Chess across both the Junior and Senior Schools, providing students with access to experienced coaches and opportunities to broaden their reasoning and cognitive skills in a social and engaging activity.
“As well as playing just for the enjoyment of it, Chess has the potential to add great value to overall learning, both from an academic and social perspective,” explains Deputy Head of St Catherine’s Junior School, Ms Catherine Samuel.
“The skills, attributes and mindset required to learn and play Chess are remarkably in line with what current research shows are the 21st Century skills we need to be teaching our children so they are prepared for their futures. These skills are also what employers are looking for in candidates.”
Below are just some of the benefits Chess provides:
- Playing the game can improve the logical and sequential thinking, analytical and reasoning skills, and decision-making ability of children.
- Chess helps students understand strategy and tactics, helping them recognise the importance of foresight and planning.
- Promotes sustained concentration, memory and focus.
- Practising Chess regularly aids in improving the self-confidence of children, which is extremely essential for a child’s growth.
- Reinforcing mathematical concepts – Chess is a game of prediction, calculation and pattern recognition. Predicting consequences and pattern recognition are key elements of Mathematics.
- Encourages an understanding of game play – fair play, competition winning and losing.
- Provides opportunities to meet new friends and find common interest.
In St Catherine’s Senior School, Chess is available for all abilities. Students who are beginners have the opportunity to learn about the basics of Chess, enabling them to comfortably play a game of Chess without assistance. Experienced students are coached on the finer points of Chess such as opening systems, middle game tactics and endgame strategies.
St Catherine’s School is very fortunate to have to two students who are experienced Chess players at tournament level. Lillian Lu (Year 9) and Paula Chen (Year 8) have both participated with success in internationally rated Chess tournaments and both have a FIDE Chess rating (FIDE is the International Chess Federation). Both Lillian and Paula assist with coaching their peers during the sessions.
All students who regularly attend coaching sessions at the Senior School Chess Club are eligible to represent St Catherine’s in interschool Chess competitions.
Morning Chess in the Junior School has students from Years 1 to 6 competing against each other in mini-tournaments. “It has been wonderful to watch the growth in each girl as they learn and practice new strategies and skills. It is amazing to watch how quickly they absorb and apply the new learning,” says Catherine Samuel.