Youth Violence and Mental Health on the Rise—Can the Game of Chess Help?



Can the game of chess help our troubled youth?

Yes, studies have shown that the game of chess can help develop critical thinking skills. Chess requires players to analyze, plan ahead, and make strategic decisions, all of which are important critical thinking skills. Additionally, playing chess can help improve problem-solving and decision-making abilities.

Chess is a game that has been around for centuries. The origins of chess are not definitively known, but it is generally believed to have originated in northern India or eastern Iran around the 6th century AD. The game eventually made its way to the West and became popular in Europe by the 10th century.

Through playing chess, we can learn how to think critically and strategically. We can learn how to plan ahead, anticipate our opponent’s moves, and make decisions based on what is best for us in any given situation. It also teaches us how to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions to problems. Playing chess encourages us to develop problem-solving skills, which are essential in life.



Recently, Rob Mitchell who serves as the Rutherford County Property Assessor heard me on WGNS 100.5 FM radio discussing the growing need to reach our youth today. He recommended me watch the movie ‘Critical Thinking’ and how the game of chess can help students—‘Think before you move.’

It seems that all students are at great risk of becoming a statistic of the growing issues from mental health, addiction, childhood trauma, sexual abuse—just to name a few.

RELATED: Children’s mental health tops list of parent worries, survey finds

Rob mentioned the game of chess and how it has been used to help with critical thinking skills among juveniles. The term ‘think before you move’ is often mentioned with the game of chess.

I requested a meeting with Jeremy Faison who serves as the Republican Caucus Chairman in the Tennessee General Assembly. Faison realizes the importance of reaching our youth and help them understand that critical thinking is the cornerstone of making good decisions in life. Rob invited Jerry Nash who serves as the National Chess Education Consultant for Chess in Schools.

Jerry Nash Chess
Jerry Nash, FIDE Chess in Education Commission Chairman National Chess in Education Consultant

Nash believes in the power of chess to enable student success – both in and out of the classroom. In his own background as a teacher, campus minister, and office administrator, chess provided the critical thinking skills he needed to succeed. Having seen the effect of poor decision-making among university students for almost 20 years, he saw the need for students to develop critical thinking skills long before they graduated from high school. When he started coaching chess with 4th and 5th graders in southwest Louisiana, Jerry saw the immediate improvement in critical thinking skills among those students.

Rutherford County Property Assessor Rob Mitchell and Rep. Jeremy Faison’s Chief of Staff Zach Roberts listen as Jerry Nash discusses the Language of the game of chess.

Nash’s experience as a trainer has provided ample evidence that when teachers introduce chess to students, they create the opportunity for students to develop the skills they need to be successful. Teachers consistently report improvements in student behavior and positive changes in the school culture. When teachers learn how to teach chess, they can better achieve their calling to make a difference in their community and beyond.

RELATED: Granite Gambit Teachers Use Chess to Connect with Students

How to develop Critical Thinking Skills among youth

  1. Encourage questioning: Teach young people to ask questions and examine their own beliefs, as well as the beliefs of others.
  2. Promote active listening: Teach active listening skills to help them understand different perspectives and avoid jumping to conclusions.
  3. Foster independent thinking: Encourage youth to think for themselves, instead of just accepting what they are told.
  4. Develop problem-solving skills: Teach critical thinking skills by guiding youth through problem-solving processes and decision-making exercises.
  5. Use real-life scenarios: Provide real-life scenarios for youth to analyze and consider different options and consequences.
  6. Encourage reflection: Teach young people to reflect on their thoughts and actions to understand how their thinking affects their decisions.
  7. Promote diverse perspectives: Encourage youth to seek out and consider different perspectives, especially those that differ from their own.
  8. Provide opportunities for practice: Offer opportunities for youth to apply critical thinking skills in a safe and supportive environment.

It’s important to be patient and provide support to help troubled youth develop critical thinking skills, as it can take time and practice to develop these abilities.

If you are an educator or a parent and would like to learn more about Jerry Nash and Chess in Schools email Jerry at or visit Chess in