Chess as a Rehabilitation Tool: Unlocking Potential Behind Bars

An interview with GM Kevin Goh Wei Ming on the transformative power of chess in prisons

Chess has long been revered for its ability to stimulate the mind, foster critical thinking, and cultivate strategic decision-making. But now, this ancient game is finding a new purpose within the walls of prisons, as a tool for rehabilitation and personal growth. In an exclusive interview with GM Kevin Goh Wei Ming, we delve into the inspiring initiative of using chess to unlock the potential of inmates.

A Surprising Start

The idea of introducing chess into prisons was born out of a desire to promote the benefits of the game to the general public. GM Kevin Goh Wei Ming and his team initially planned to run for the Singapore Chess Federation Elections in 2020 when the concept of using chess as a rehabilitation tool for inmates emerged. Inspired by FIDE’s initiatives, they decided to embark on this unique endeavor.

The Power of a Team

GM Kevin Goh Wei Ming is not alone in this mission. With a team of 15 dedicated volunteers, including chess enthusiasts and trainers, they set out to teach chess within the prison walls. The volunteers, led by GM Kevin Goh Wei Ming, provided invaluable support and guidance to the inmates, helping them navigate the complexities of the game.

A Pleasant Surprise

The first session was a simul exhibition, where GM Kevin Goh Wei Ming played against 18 opponents, while another volunteer faced 16 inmates. The initial expectation was that only a handful of beginners would show up, but to their delight, there were already many inmates with a passion for chess. The surprising turnout highlighted the inmates’ enthusiasm for learning and their eagerness to embrace the game.

Tailoring the Curriculum

Designing a curriculum for the inmates required careful consideration. Recognizing that the inmates came from diverse backgrounds and educational levels, the team had to adapt their teaching approach accordingly. Language barriers were also addressed, with volunteers providing on-the-spot translations for those who were not fluent in English. The curriculum covered essential topics such as opening principles, common tactics, and chess notation, ensuring a comprehensive learning experience.

Unforeseen Benefits

Chess has proven to be a transformative force within the prison environment. Prison officers have noticed a positive change in behavior among the inmates, with increased motivation to stay well-behaved in order to attend the chess classes. The game has also fostered camaraderie and teamwork, as inmates collaborate to solve chess puzzles. The confidence gained from solving exercises has had a profound impact on their self-esteem, instilling a sense of accomplishment and purpose.

Tangible Benefits and Future Plans

The ultimate goal of introducing chess in prisons is to reduce recidivism rates. By integrating inmates into the local chess community, they can establish new friendships and a sense of belonging, providing support during their reintegration into society. Future plans include organizing competitive chess tournaments within the prison clusters, with the aspiration of participating in the FIDE Online Championships for inmates.


Chess has the remarkable ability to transcend boundaries and bring about positive change in unexpected places. The initiative led by GM Kevin Goh Wei Ming and his team demonstrates the transformative power of chess in prisons. By providing inmates with a platform for personal growth, rehabilitation, and community integration, chess is not only changing lives but also challenging societal perceptions of the incarcerated. As the chess community continues to embrace this noble cause, the game’s potential as a rehabilitation tool may have far-reaching implications in shaping a brighter future for those behind bars.






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *