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I’ve played recreational chess all my life, although not well. I was a bench-warmer on my high school chess team and played in a couple US Chess Federation tournaments through college. I ended up with a lower USCF rating than when I began, which is hard to do when you start at the bottom.

So I was interested to see this Union-Leader story about the state considering a $310,000 contract (using federal $) with Chess in Schools LLC of Hendersonville, N.C. “Teachers interested in offering the instruction will receive a $150 stipend after going through four days of training” and schools will get equipment, which presumably means chess sets.

The story says the state pushed the idea after hearing of increased interest in chess due to the excellent Netflix series “Queen’s Gambit”. If you haven’t seen that show, you should – it is excellent.

This is fine, of course. I’m happy to see kids who want to learn or play chess get more opportunities. as long as you don’t adopt the dubious idea that chess knowledge somehow spills over into other types of knowledge. Chess is often presented by non-chess-playing people as a sort of magic tool for learning to think well or develop strategic thinking or something along those lines, the idea being that a certain kind of “smart” person plays chess so playing chess will turn you into that kind of person.

Not so, of course. Learning chess, especially if you join a school chess club, provides the same benefits about social interaction and focused thinking as any group activity with a specific goal. Good stuff, but nothing out of the ordinary.

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