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Jamie Ritblat: What Are the Benefits of Chess for Young People?

Jamie Ritblat is the founder and chairman of Delancey Real Estate, a multi-award-winning UK real estate investment, and advisory group that operates robust corporate social responsibility policies. Delancey Real Estate has been the proud sponsor of numerous charities and events, including serving as principal sponsor of the British National Alpine Ski Championships and helping to fund the British Olympic Ski Team in 2014 and 2018. 

Jamie Ritblat personally oversees the Delancey UK Schools Chess Challenge, one of Delancey’s longest-running sponsorships. This article will explore the benefits of playing chess for young people, coaxing them away from computer screens to make new connections and providing them with a stimulating and exciting cognitive workout. 

What is Chess

Chess is a two-player strategy game that is synonymous with intelligence. The aim of the game is to move different playing pieces around a chequered board, with each piece having its own prescribed set of possible moves. 

Goals of Chess

In chess, the player’s ultimate goal is to capture their opponent’s king. There are more than 2,000 identifiable variations of the game in existence today, according to UNESCO. In ancient times, the game was widely played across the Silk Roads, with historians suggesting that the origins of chess lie in an early game called Chaturanga that was played throughout the northern Indian subcontinent during the Gupta period, from 319 to 543 AD. 

A Brain Exercise

Brain exercise
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Numerous studies have established that chess provides an excellent exercise for the brain, greatly benefiting mental health. The game has been proven to drive an increase in IQ, as well as helping participants to develop higher levels of creativity, improving memory function, and simultaneously exercising both sides of the brain, which has been shown to help prevent cognitive disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In children, studies suggest that playing chess helps to improve problem-solving capabilities. 

Increased IQ

Chess is played all over the world today by players, young and old. According to Chess Wizards, one large study involving elementary school-aged players in Venezuela revealed that after just 4½ months of playing the game, students benefited from a significant increase in IQ. 


Players are required to remember multiple moves that helped them to win in the past, as well as those that did not work out so well, along with moves made by previous opponents. Learning and playing chess stimulates the growth of dendrites in the brain. The more dendrites an individual has, the greater their brainpower. Most chess players will attest that playing the game has improved their memory significantly.  

Right Brain

Stimulating the right side of the brain, the region associated with creativity, chess requires players to come up with innovative ideas, visualizing moves they want to try and the various possible outcomes. The game encourages players to think about a multitude of different scenarios, predicting how their options might change as the game progresses. 

Weighing around three pounds and containing 100 billion neurons, the brain is one of the most important organs in the human body. While the right side is responsible for creativity, the left side drives analytical and methodical thinking. When players engage in a game of chess, both the right and left sides of the brain are stimulated simultaneously, becoming highly active. 

Decreases Cognitive Disease

A growing body of evidence shows that the brain needs to be exercised regularly in order to stay healthy. The older an individual gets, the more important this becomes. A recent study published by The New England Journal of Medicine revealed that people aged 75 and older who play games like chess are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia than their non-playing peers. Although chess is not a cure for cognitive disease in itself, it does appear to lessen the risk of developing both dementia and Alzheimer’s. 

Builds Problem-solving Skills

Chess helps children to hone their problem-solving skills, boosting their independence and confidence. Players are encouraged to find innovative solutions to solve problems, with participants forced to think quickly, adapting to an ever-changing board. Children who are introduced to chess at a younger age are more likely to have higher reading and math test scores, performing better at school. 

These skills acquired by young chess players go far beyond merely mastering the game itself, teaching them how to solve challenging problems in creative ways, and helping them to prepare for difficulties in real life. Chess also benefits children through enhanced memory function, increased IQ, and prevention of degenerative cognitive conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. 

Builds Social Connections

In addition, chess also encourages young people to connect with others, building human connections through competitive play. Studies show that activities that encourage children to interact with others, particularly their parents, have a particularly powerful positive impact on overall brain health. 


Chess is a great antidote to an increasingly digitized world, engaging children in an activity that actively improves concentration. Playing chess not only provides them with a fun activity to enjoy but also helps to improve their memory, concentration, problem-solving skills, critical thinking capabilities, and creativity while teaching planning and foresight all at the same time. 

Featured Photo by Michal Vrba on Unsplash