An Interview with Mikkel Nørgaard from Copenhagen’s House of Chess


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House of Chess in Copenhagen

Mikkel Nørgaard is the Chief Learning Officer for Dansk Skoleskak (Danish School Chess), which recently opened a brain gym in Denmark. I met Nørgaard at the 2023 London Chess Conference, where I presented about science team initiatives such as the Chessable Research Awards,

For a video of Chessable Science Project Manager Karel van Delft interviewing Nørgaard in London:London Chess Conference 2023 interview Mikkel Nørgaard

In February of 2024, Van Delft conducted a Zoom interview with Nørgaard.

Courtesy of Dansk Skoleskak

Interview Mikkel Nørgaard about Dansk Skoleskak by Karel van Delft

Dansk Skoleskak (Danish School Chess) opened the House of Chess – the brain gym in Copenhagen. Thanks to some big sponsors, this 750 square meter building, which costs about four million euros, has chess for everybody. Some projects are more teaching via chess in schools and developing new teaching methods for special needs groups. Dansk Skoleskak expands. “Chess is a magnificent tool for teaching and helping people socially and mentally,” Chief Learning Officer Mikkel Nørgaard says.

Dansk Skoleskak is a non-profit organisation that works to get more children and young people to succeed academically, socially and mentally, so that more people have a life of learning and education.

The organisation has existed since 1960, says Nørgaard. “It was founded by teachers with the purpose of using chess as a tool to stimulate education, social relations, and personal development. So it is more about the effects than the game itself.” At the moment the staff consists of 18 people of which a few are part-time.

The organisation is supported by the Danish government and sells teaching and coaching projects to municipalities and schools. At the moment every third school in Denmark is a member school, about 550 in total. In Denmark schools have nine grades, which means pupils from age 7 until 16.

A third of the 550 schools use chess as a systematic tool to enhance learning capabilities and social relationships. There are specific learning targets involved, for example combining maths with chess and stimulating social capabilities. Besides there is also a program for preschoolers (age 4-6 years) where for example minigames are used. The program is described on the site

Teaching Materials and Activities

Dansk Skoleskak provides teaching material (online GAMBIT® platform via site to school teachers . Dansk Skoleskak trains teachers a few days each year. During the course teachers learn for example to work on the students’ calmness and concentration through the learning program “Learn Chess With Duffy!” (Duffy is a chess mascot).

Dansk Skoleskak offers PLAYMASTER® courses for students from grades 5 to 9. The course turns the participants into cool assistant school chess teachers, who can assist on the School Chess Day and can arrange break-time chess activities at their own schools. During the course, participants practice communicating with each other and with an introductory lesson.

In 2018 Dansk Skoleskak introduced a new method for schools to use chess for special needs education, named Skoleskak For Alle (Scholastic chess for everyone). In this method consultants of Dansk Skoleskak visit the school to coach the teachers and the teachers receive training for 2 – 3 whole days at the start of the program.

The program “The Brain in the Curriculum” was introduced for classes of special needs groups in 2021 and takes the methodology from Skoleskak for alle further.
The program is used in classes with a variety of special needs such as ADHD, autism, reading problems, social and mental problems.

The program specifically targets awareness of mental health and what can be done to stimulate mental health. Factors are community, fellowship, planning ahead, social circumstances but also thinking tools like metacognition, learning to reflect, critical thinking.

For developing teaching material all kinds of sources were used, for example the booklet Thinking Moves, Metacognition Made Simple by Roger Sutcliffe. “But much more could be done,” Nørgaard says. “I have the feeling we only scratched the surface of what is possible. We want to develop more insights and material. But the problem is time, it is always about time. But we’ve come a long way and the results are very promising.” A sample lesson from the programme can be viewed here.

Dansk Skoleskak invited 49 schools with children and young people in special classes from 2021 to 2024, with the support of the Obelske Familiefond, to participate in the learning effort the Brain in the Curriculum (HPS – Hjernen På Skemaet®). HPS uses school chess and play-based learning to develop students’ mental health and raise awareness of why it is important. HPS builds on experiences from the SKAK+MAT® learning program and SFA – Skoleskak For Alle® aimed at students with ADHD, autism and general learning difficulties.

Several publications offer insights in the project, see
Research organisation Epinion has evaluated the project. Conclusions are:
– HPS is an effective tool that has brought about positive changes among many of the students who participated in the effort.
– 76 percent of teachers’ answers indicate that HPS has helped change students’ perceptions of what they can do.
– HPS creates successful experiences for a large number of students and can be easily adapted to the level of the individual student.
The report can be downloaded via
There are some pitfalls with such qualitative research, Nørgaard says. “In three years kids get older, some drop out, so pure quantitative measurement of effects is tricky. That’s why personal evaluations by teachers, parents, students and experts can give a good idea about the effects of the program.”

Dansk Skoleskak cooperates also with organisations for special needs groups. They made for example a special issue about chess and autism with the Danish organisation Landsforeningen Autisme (a national NGO that works for the benefit of people with autism). It can be downloaded via

Dansk Skoleskak has a number of other activities. There is an Annual Scholastic Chess Day (this year it was on Friday 9th on 336 schools with 56.124 participants). It is a sort of brain exercise day with social events. Dansk Skoleskak helps schools with suggestions, teaching material, and public relations. See There was extensive media coverage from newspapers and television this year – one of the big national networks made a large news segment about a special needs student who has benefited very much from scholastic chess. Anton is his name, and because of scholastic chess he has left the special needs class he used to be in. He is now mainstreamed into regular education classes.

There are many chess championships, a learning festival, girls’ activities, camps, and large events throughout the country. And Dansk Skoleskak has their own chess shop, On the site, teaching material, research and publications are all in Danish, although the information can be understood via Google Translate.

Dansk Skoleskak has exchanged much information with past participants in the London Chess Conferences and contacts with other organisations too, for example the Saint Louis Chess Club. Dansk Skoleskak also exchanges ideas with the FIDE Education Commission regularly. These international contacts as well as research and publications will be extended, Nørgaard says. “School chess and associated activities have much to offer for personal development of children, and also adults. Especially for special needs groups. The more we work internationally together, the better.”

Skakkens Hus – the brain gym

Opening of the House of Chess, Skakkens Hus, is a huge development. It is meant to be a “Brain
Gym,” where everybody is welcome. Not only school classes, but also especially people who can use social and emotional support, such as lonely elderly persons and people with mental health problems. Via activities and special events Dansk Skoleskak wants to offer them a sense of belonging, coping and thinking skills. “Everybody is welcome, there are special hosts who will make people feel at home. They also teach the rules of chess or minigames.” Entrance is free. A game and culture of chess are inviting by themselves, you just can come in and play or watch a game of chess. Or participate in some activity. So people can develop new social networks. For exchange students it could be a good opportunity for getting to know Danish people. New initiatives will be developed, for example with prisoners who can resocialize via volunteer projects. “We continuously evaluate our projects by research and interviews to improve the quality and develop new projects,” says Nørgaard.

The idea to start the house was conceived by Dansk Skoleskak General Secretary Mads Jacobsen almost ten years ago. It is also Jacobson who has been the driving force behind funding the house.

Some more money for initiatives is in the pipeline, thanks also to ambassadors like Magnus Carlsen. Last September, for three days a week, some activities started, but a big renovation will happen this year 2024 and probably the whole building will be ready at the end of the year or early in 2025.

Skakkens Hus is promoted via The initiative might be extended by creating the same kind of chess houses in other towns and cities in Denmark. At the moment, the house is promoted by two chess vans that visit schools all over Denmark.

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