Winners of the national inter-school chess finals are applauded by their schools and counterparts but receive little national attention - and there is no funding for medals.

Chess is a compulsory part of the curriculum in many European and Asian countries but in New Zealand advocates feel they are "banging their heads against a brick wall" when they ask the Government to back the game.

The New Zealand Chess Federation is struggling to spark the interest of both education and sport and recreation representatives in order to promote chess through all New Zealand schools.

The federation's president Paul Spiller said that if the game was recognised as a sport and received Government funding, the federation could pay for international coaching and send more New Zealanders to international competitions.

There are currently four New Zealand students competing in a world chess olympiad in Turkey but they had to pay for the trip themselves, he said.

More than 100 pupils from all over the country descended on Palmerston North for last weekend's tournament, with Auckland Grammar School winning the national title for the sixth time in eight years.

Thirteen-year-old Daniel Shen, who heads Auckland Grammar School's leading chess team, has been playing since his dad bought him a set when he was 7 years old and has already represented New Zealand twice.

He is sure that chess has taught him to calculate quickly in his head and that it taught him logic.

Daniel said he thought more children should learn how to play chess at primary school.

Bob Grover, who is in charge of chess at Auckland Grammar School, said the game taught students discipline and respect for their opponents as well as literacy and numeracy skills.

He "absolutely supports" the recognition of chess as a sport but said it was a struggle because the game had such a small player base.

Boosting its profile in primary schools would lead to more students joining secondary school chess teams, he said, and would also add to the diversity of people who generally take up the game, Mr Grover said.

Tomorrow, teacher Gary Judkins, head of mathematics and chess coach at St Paul's Collegiate School in Hamilton, will urge a conference of New Zealand maths teachers to incorporate chess into their lessons.

He will speak about the widespread findings that chess stimulates and engages students' minds as well as boosting their critical thinking, academic achievement and empowering them to succeed.

Mr Judkins said he has seen huge changes in the students he has introduced to chess.

When he first introduced it to a "really tough class" of kids in Tokoroa he had parents coming up to him asking what he had done to suddenly motivate their children.

Parent Edward Lee, whose children have also benefited from playing chess, said he had tried to get the previous government to class the game as a sport but was told it did not qualify as it was sedentary. Over the years he has been passed from the Ministry of Education to the Ministry of Sport and Recreation and back again.

No ministry representatives were willing to come along to the international chess conference in Italy despite his sending scores of studies and real-life examples showing the benefits of the game. "It's like beating your head against a brick wall," he said.

A spokesman for Sport and Recreation Minister Murray McCully said chess was not recognised as a sport and there had been no approaches from the national body for funding since the election.