Chapter 2: Literacies at work, for fun, and at school

2.13.1 Positively affecting the mind with chess (synthesis)

Ryan Grady

English 102, February 2021

Chess is one of the most popular games ever created. With the game’s high level of popularity, it means that it’s being played around the entire globe. The entire globe means that chess is played in a wide variety of languages and cultures. With high-level players from across the world playing the game professionally in many different countries, making them apart of a community, one of many involved with chess. Another community could be a local or college chess team where they communicate with each other and their opponents. A more communicative community is would be the chess players of the New York City streets who talk trash their opponents who challenge them. Different communities and the communication within and surrounding chess are written about in many academic articles.  

 One important aspect of the chess community is those who do scientific research on chess. They’ll go into the analytical aspects of the different parts of the game and the effects the game has on people. From young minds to older generations, chess requires the person playing to think analytically and put most, if not all their attention, into the game in front of them. The researchers then take note of their findings and use data to help with their studies while communicating their results.  

 First and foremost an important academic article that deals with the basics of language, communication, and one’s personal identity is James Gee’s “What is Literacy”. Gee mentions in his article the idea of the “identity kit”, which is about the different factors in one’s life that makes them who they are, this could be the different languages they speak (18). Another important term in Gee’s article is “discourses” which are the rules of communication in or relates to a specific group (19). Discourses also have specifications, Gee mentions “primary discourse” and “secondary discourses”, for primary it’s more of a groundwork for a discourse and in secondary it’s built upon the primary discourse creating its own new discourse and group (22). Some important Gee terms that are also related to the chess academic articles are “learning”, “acquisition”, and “literacy”. For “learning” it’s the steps taken to set out and acquire specific information and “acquisition” is when you learn information through your personal experiences (20). Also, “literacy” is known as an understanding of a topic or language.   

 Furthermore, an academic article that focuses on the positive effect chess has on the mind of a student is “Didactic Potential of Chess Game and Its Influence on Student Achievement”. This article was written by Abdulhalim Khamidovich Mahmudov and many other researchers from the Uzbek Scientific Research Institute of Pedagogical Sciences and Gulistan State University, which are located in Uzbekistan. This article fits in between the academic articles of education and chess because of its correlation with each other. Mahumudov’s point of the article is to show how the complex thinking related to chess and teaching the game to students can help with their performance in academics (3). Chess can be a very complex game with high-level thinking involved, similar to academics requiring high-level thinking. The authors came to this by analyzing the level of performance in chess by each student and how well each of them was in their subjects (5). An important part of the research is the participants, knowing the participants’ interest in school could be very beneficial. Mahumudov and the other researchers did this by marking which students performed high-level moves in chess, their learning habits and interests in learning (7). Also, Makhmudov and the other researchers took note of each of the students’ grades who are chess players (8). The team of researchers handled all this data by using graphs and charts for their study (7).       

In addition, Mahumudov and the other researchers figured that the complex level of thinking required in chess resulted directly with their improvement in their courses as well (8). Especially an increase in mathematics was found in those who excelled in chess (8). Mahumudov’s data also shows improvement in foreign languages as well (8). From Mahumadov’s studies it shows that students who play chess excel in their subjects that require complex thinking (9). After these studies I think they should do more research for a longer period of time with more subjects in different locations. By doing this they would get a good idea of some areas where chess isn’t as common compared to ones where it is. They should look more at how a student handles a complex problem, from one who plays chess to one who doesn’t as well. I would try and see how a group of students does when they are newly introduced to chess at the beginning of the school year.  

“Didactic Potential of Chess Game and Its Influence on Student Achievement” by Abdulhalim Khamidovich Mahmudov is relevant because it is showing the scientific study community of chess and how they communicate and write about their findings related to chess. Specifically, in this article the community of researchers are focused on communicating how to play chess and how being good at it can result in good academic performance. This relates to Gee’s “What is Literacy” because each of the researchers in this article share a similar “primary discourse” and “identity kit” with the research being conducted by researchers from Uzbekistan. Also, some students needed a “literacy” in chess for the study to be conducted, knowing how to play the game to show how well they improve their academics.  

Moving on, another academic article related to the scientific research of chess is the “Effects of mindfulness- and acceptance-based interventions on performance and psychological variables in chess: a systematic review”. This academic article was written by Silvia Sole and other researchers from Spain with connections to many Spain Universities. The main point of this article Silvia Sole and the other researchers want to bring attention to the psychological aspects of chess and how chess players working with psychologists can help improve their game (5). Silvia Sole and the other researchers came to their findings on how psychology can help chess players improve by holding studies with different skill-level players and trying different psychological techniques on them (7). The findings Silvia Sole and the other researchers found were that the chess players responded well, improving their game after going through multi-hour-long psychological sessions. According to these findings it proves it’s beneficial for chess players do work phycologists and do their exercises (14).  

After the study from “Effects of mindfulness- and acceptance-based interventions on performance and psychological variables in chess: a systematic review” by Silvia Sole and other researchers from Spain more research should be done on what the most effective method is with chess players and the long-term effects of the methods on them. This study relates to the other studies because it is under the scientific research of chess umbrella. This one also focuses on improving your mental effects aspect like the previous academic article mentions. This one is related to my personal interests in psychology and focusing in on helping someone become better with their tasks as well. Being able to help someone improve themselves and help them succeed is incredibly important. The relation between this article and Gee’s “What is Literacy” is that the chess players studied are very involved in chess, making it one their “secondary discourses” and could even be a part of their “identity kit”.      

 In addition to the other academic articles focusing on the positive effects of chess has on the mind is another article titled “The Effects of Chess Instruction on Academic and Non-Cognitive Outcomes: Field Experimental Evidence from a Developing Country”. This article was written by Asad Islam, Wang-Sheng Lee, and Aaron Nicholas who are all from universities in Australia. More specifically, Asad Islam is from Monash University in Melbourne and Wang-Sheng Lee with Aaron Nichols are from Deakin University in Geelong. Also, it’s important to mention this article was written in collaboration with the Institute of Labor Economics otherwise known as the IZA.  

According to “The Effects of Chess Instruction on Academic and Non-Cognitive Outcomes: Field Experimental Evidence from a Developing Country” by Asad Islam, Wang-Sheng Lee, and Aaron Nicholas that chess can help students improve their abilities in math and critical thinking (4). This is very interesting to see how a very well-known board game can help positively affect important mental abilities. Islam, Lee, and Nicholas came to their findings by studying and using data of young students from different schools in Bangladesh, telling how well they perform in some timed cognitive tests, including ones focused on math after taking part in a chess training program (7). Using time and many different schools in this study is definitely a great way of being able to get accurate and diverse results. The findings Islam, Lee, and Nicholas came up with were that chess training they gave to the students mainly helped with their ability to avoid risks and make well thought out risk choices but not enough with improving cognitive abilities on academic tests (21). The meaning of these findings show that the chess program used might not have been enough to show direct results related to academic improvement (21). Being able to help young kids learn to be better with the choices and risks they take is very important to their futures. Some new studies that could be used might be implementing a new chess program or using different programs for students to see which program works best. Also, trying this in other countries or working with older students could be beneficial to the study.  

This article titled “The Effects of Chess Instruction on Academic and Non-Cognitive Outcomes: Field Experimental Evidence from a Developing Country” by Asad Islam, Wang-Sheng Lee, and Aaron Nicholas is related to the other academic articles in this synthesis. The relation comes from all the articles featured scientific researchers looking at and communicating the ways chess could potentially benefit one’s mind. There is a specific relation between this article and Abdulhalim Khamidovich Mahmudov’s “Didactic Potential of Chess Game and Its Influence on Student Achievement”. Both articles focus on the exploration of how learning and knowing how to play Chess could help a student improve their studies and cognitive ability. The relation between this article and Gee’s literacy is the researchers “identity kit” in this study is that their Australian and those being researched in the study are from Bangladesh. Also, some students in the study acquired their skills in chess through “acquisition”.  

Overall, the academic articles in this synthesis have shown that the game of chess can be used in academic research. Specifically, the articles have shown research into how chess could have a great impact on our mental capabilities. Also, the terms used in Gee’s “What is Literacy” can be applied to the academic articles because of their close relation between each other. In conclusion, teaching students how to play chess and showing chess players different psychological exercises could be very beneficial to them. 

Works Cited 

Gee, James. “What is Literacy” Journal of EducationVolume 171, Number 1, November 1, 1989, pp 18-25. Accessed 8 February 2021. 

Islam, Asadul, et al. “The Effects of Chess Instruction on Academic and Non-Cognitive Outcomes: Field Experimental Evidence from a Developing Country” IZA Discussion Papers, No. 12550, August 2019.  Accessed 16 February 2021.  

Mahmudov, Abdulhalim Khamidovich, et al. “Didactic Potential of Chess Game and Its Influence on Student Achievement” PalArch’s Journal of Archaeology of Egypt / Egyptologyvol. 17, no. 6, Nov 2020. Accessed 16 February 2021. 

Sole, Silvia, et al. “Effects of mindfulness- and acceptance-based interventions on performance and psychological  variables in chess: a systematic review” ResearchGate, January 2021.  Accessed 16 February 2021.   


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