Kirsan Ilyumzhinov: "The only way to train your brains is to play chess every day"

The ability to play intellectual games is one of the unspoken criteria of employers when hiring top managers. Chess can be the first game among the compulsory subjects of the Russian school curriculum.

70% of the adult population of the Earth played chess at some point in their lives, according to data from YouGov. In 2017, the International Chess Federation (FIDE) registered 724.8 thousand chess players taking part in international tournaments.

The first studies of the influence of this game on memory were published by the French psychologist Alfred Binet as early as 1894: he demonstrated that good chess players have superior memory and recognition. A meta-analysis, "The relationship between cognitive ability and chess skill" conducted in 2016 by an international group of scientists led by professor of psychology at the University of Liverpool Fernand Gobet, showed that the average IQ score of chess players with different levels of skill was 120.5. At the same time, the process of learning the game develops skills that are useful not only at the chessboard.
According to the research, chess training positively affects the cognitive and academic abilities of children especially in mathematics.
Today, chess is not a compulsory subject in Russian schools. However, chances are that the game can be included in the compulsory programme of junior school. The head of the Ministry of Education (at the time the Ministry of Education and Science) Olga Vasilieva spoke about such an initiative last year.
The need to introduce one hour of chess per week into the school curriculum is due to the positive impact of the game on the quality of education. According to the ministry, the appearance of chess in the school curriculum is a matter of the next two years.
The example of Kalmykia shows that such an approach can justify itself. The government of this republic introduced mandatory chess education in all schools and kindergartens on the initiative of the head of FIDE and the former President of Kalmykia Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in 1996. After that, educational progress in Kalmyk schools increased by 40%. Chess is also part of the compulsory school curriculum in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Hungary, Spain, Mexico and Poland.
"When I became President of Kalmykia in 1993, the first decree I signed was a decree on the development of chess and the introduction of chess into the school curriculum," Ilyumzhinov said. "And I was convinced of the beneficial effect of chess by the example of Kalmykia children. 40% of students increased their academic performance; chess improved discipline, children became more concentrated and their memory began to improve. And the children of Kalmykia, where there were none first class chess players, began to become champions of Russia, Europe and the world.
10 years old Sanan Sjugirov became the world champion in his age category. He is a guy from a simple rural school. Ernesto Inarkiev at the age of 14 became the European champion among schoolchildren, and he became the European champion among adults last year.
The Chess in school programme made it possible to achieve professional results. But when I introduced it in schools, I said that our task was not to raise champions (this requires talent) but make sure that the children become versatile and educated persons. Chess makes it possible.
As a result of the development of this programme, children from Kalmykia began to regularly take prizes at the Olympics in mathematics, physics and biology," the head of FIDE said.
George Soros, Bill Gates, Lawrence Ellison, Mark Zuckerberg, Peter Thiel, Richard Branson and many others are fond of chess. The similarity of conducting a business with the game of chess is noted by many chess players.
"We must constantly plan a strategy and tactics. You always have an approximate game plan, but with every move you have to solve tactical tasks". That’s how Alexander Gutenev, head of the Chelyabinsk private chess school PandaChess , explains similarity between the strategies of chess and business management.
Chess also develops intuition and imagination, says Associate Professor of the department of sociology and political science of the South Ural State "University, author of the monograph "The Chess Game as a Phenomenon of Intellectual Culture" Maxim Gutenev. "The skills of intellectual activity acquired in chess are most in demand in solving problems in the information society and economy", he believes.
Job seekers interested in intellectual games are in demand by employers, says Antal Russia agency's head Nadezhda Styazhkina. According to her, these are typical requirements of international consulting and legal companies for both senior staff and trainees. An intellectual hobby is an advantage of an applicant.
(The original text was abbreviated and amended in some parts)