The Transformative Power of Chess: Enhancing Critical Thinking Skills and Reducing Juvenile Crime

Rob Mitchell Chess critical thinking skills

Last year Rob Mitchell, who serves as our Rutherford County Property Assessor had text me after he heard me discussing the rise of juvenile crime, mental health and children’s behavior. I often hear teachers in our community call me regarding student’s behavior and mental health—which they all agree is, no doubt, on the rise.
Rob has been advocating for the game of chess to be implemented in our public school system, at the county alternative schools and within our juvenile system. Unless you’ve been under a rock you know that our system has been broken and the taxpayers recently settled a lawsuit of $6 million. I don’t know about you—but I’m frustrated to see our tax dollars fund lawsuits. Possibly Rob is correct on investing in at risk youth and teaching the critical thinking skills with the game of chess.

Related: Rutherford County paying up to $11M in lawsuit alleging over 1,000 children were illegally incarcerated

Recently, Marcus Lemonis, star of CNBC’s hit show “The Profit”, donated $5,000 to the Chess program for at-risk youth in Rutherford County. That check, along with additional donations totaling $5,300, was presented to the Rutherford County Public Safety Committee meeting last month.



Related: Celebrity Donation Presented to Rutherford Public Safety Board to Kick Off Chess Program for At-Risk Youth: Rob Mitchell tells WGNS Radio


Chess, an ancient game of strategy and intellect, has captured the minds of people around the world for centuries. Beyond being an entertaining pastime, numerous studies have shown that chess can have a profound impact on the development of critical thinking skills, particularly among juveniles. In addition, the game has demonstrated the potential to contribute to the reduction of juvenile crime rates. In this article, we will explore the benefits of chess on critical thinking and its positive influence on juvenile behavior, supported by relevant studies and research.


Enhancing Critical Thinking Skills: Chess is a game that demands deep concentration, foresight, and problem-solving abilities. As players maneuver their pieces across the board, they must consider multiple variables, anticipate opponents’ moves, and develop strategies to outwit their adversaries. Such cognitive challenges foster the development of critical thinking skills, including analysis, pattern recognition, logical reasoning, and strategic planning.

Related: Violent juvenile crime increasing in Tennessee, but what are the root causes? Experts explain

Research conducted by cognitive psychologists and educators has consistently shown that chess can significantly enhance critical thinking abilities, particularly among young minds. One study published in the journal Science in 2009 revealed that students who received regular chess instruction demonstrated improved performance in critical thinking and problem-solving tasks compared to their peers who did not engage in chess activities.

Furthermore, a meta-analysis of multiple studies conducted by Fernand Gobet and Guillermo Campitelli in 2002 found a positive correlation between chess playing and cognitive development, with notable improvements in critical thinking skills observed across various age groups.

Related: Rob Mitchell & Igor Talking Chess on Rutherford Magazine Show with Mike Sparks

Impact on Juvenile Behavior: The benefits of chess extend beyond intellectual growth and academic performance. The game has also shown promise in reducing juvenile crime rates and promoting positive behavior among young individuals.

A study conducted by the Chess-in-the-Schools program in New York City examined the impact of chess on at-risk students. The research revealed that students who participated in chess programs exhibited a significant decrease in aggressive behavior, suspension rates, and disciplinary issues. The structured and disciplined nature of the game, along with its emphasis on problem-solving and strategic thinking, seemed to channel their energy into a constructive and purposeful activity.

Academic Studies: In another study conducted by the University of Texas at Dallas, researchers analyzed the impact of chess on juvenile offenders in a correctional facility. The results demonstrated a notable reduction in disciplinary infractions among participants who received chess instruction compared to the control group. The study suggested that the intellectual stimulation and engagement provided by chess contributed to improved self-control, decision-making, and impulse management among the participants.

Wrap up: Chess stands as a powerful tool for enhancing critical thinking skills and fostering positive behavioral changes among juveniles. The game’s complex and strategic nature challenges young minds, promoting the development of analytical thinking, problem-solving abilities, and strategic planning skills. Moreover, chess has shown promising results in reducing juvenile crime rates by providing a constructive outlet for energy, teaching discipline, and promoting positive decision-making.

As educators, mentors, and community leaders, we should recognize the transformative potential of chess and strive to incorporate it into educational programs, community initiatives, and juvenile rehabilitation efforts. By harnessing the intellectual and behavioral benefits of chess, we can empower young individuals with valuable skills and guide them towards a brighter future filled with critical thinking, personal growth, and positive contributions to society.