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Missouri's LINC Chess Linked to Better Student Outcomes

Kansas City has one of the largest after-school chess programs in the country, attracting students of all ages. (venturaartist/Pixabay)
Kansas City has one of the largest after-school chess programs in the country, attracting students of all ages. (venturaartist/Pixabay)
September 23, 2019

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The game of chess dates back to the sixth century, and Kansas City schools are capitalizing on that staying power to get children involved in playing a game known to enhance students' self-confidence, thinking skills and academic achievement.

More than 40 schools in the Kansas City region offer free, after-school chess clubs to help children learn and think strategically.

Brent Schondelmeyer is deputy director of community engagement for the Local Investment Commission (LINC), which sponsors the program. He says chess also can improve math skills and teach children how to analyze and think ahead.

"We're not trying to create Grand Masters,” he states. “We're trying to create kids that can sort-of think strategically – understand two or three moves ahead. It's a way to sort-of engage in structured thinking about the world."

This year, the citizen-led community group will play chess at 47 locations and host five chess tournaments for nearly 900 students.

Created in 1992, LINC is primarily state-funded, and a community partnership of the Missouri Family and Community Trust.

Although many consider chess an intellectual sport, longtime LINC chess instructor Lee Bohannon says he's never encountered a student who couldn't learn how to play the game. He says it can also work magic for children who've experience bullying – and those who've been the bullies.

"Once they start playing chess, they start looking at how to make decisions more rationally, how to make choices better than they've done before,” he points out. “And many times, when you're talking to young chess players, they express that a lot."

Schondelmeyer says chess was the original electronic or e-sport – and, like video games, he says it often engages students who don't gravitate toward traditional athletics.

"The other extraordinary thing about chess, it's low cost,” he states. “You don't have to have major funds to play chess – you just need a board and you need pieces.

“It is low impact. Few kids ever get injured or harmed playing chess. There are few concussions associated with chess."

Graduation rates and 4th-grade math scores have improved in Jackson County, where Kansas City is located, according to the 2018 Missouri Kids Count data report.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - MO