Chess presents players with innumerable puzzles and decision-making tasks that have to be carefully considered, thought out, and implemented with courage, but does chess make you smarter?
Although research has suggested that there is no definite correlation between IQ and chess-playing ability, it does conclude that playing chess can improve IQ; and indeed many of the greatest players of the game can claim above-average IQ scores and becoming smarter thanks to chess.
While studies conducted on young children show that chess has next to no impact on their overall cognitive ability, it is a game with a huge number of benefits.
Already a chess lover? Or perhaps you’re thinking about getting into the game? Whichever camp you fall into, you should be playing chess because it may make you smarter.
Let’s take a look at studies on the subject and some benefits of playing chess.
Can Playing Chess Increase your IQ Score?
Though the science isn’t hugely definitive, professional chess players (or avid lovers of the game) do attribute their high IQ and ability to succeed in other areas of life to the board.
After all, to be good at chess, you need to be able to predict moves and create efficient offense counterattacks to win.
Ultimately whether you are in the ascendency in a game or defending your king for all it’s worth, your entire purpose is to try to solve the situation you are in, make a decision and then a move of a single piece, and make it better.
You are not able to make this decision through trial and error, or practice, you can’t use a pen and paper or a computer to make notes, every consideration, move, and potential consequence, often many moves ahead, are all played out in the mind.
This all takes place whilst being aware and considering the time it is taking to come to a conclusion as to what you are going to do next. The stress can be crazy!
IQ scores are a measure of a human’s ability to reason with the supply of information whereby logic is used to solve a problem, puzzle, or make a prediction.
If we can improve just about any skill through practice, and chess can be viewed as practicing the very skills that are measured for IQ testing, then it has to be true that regular chess play will improve your ability to logically solve problems and make predictions based on the information at hand, and therefore increase scores achieved in IQ tests.
Online Chess or Face to Face Chess?
The question arises as to whether there may be a difference in how smart you can become by playing chess with another person or against or on a computer.
Online chess has improved with technology and is now at a stage whereby you can play against just about anyone in the world if they are connected to the internet and are looking to play someone online at the same as you.
So the difference between face-to-face chess and online chess is much smaller than it would ever have been before in so much as the only thing really missing is the board, the pieces and the poker face!
Whether playing either option would make you smarter than the other is up for debate.
When playing on a computer, you have the ability to even multitask with prepared notes, take live notes and write considerations, or even [and it’s particularly unethical], work in tandem with a predictive model to decide upon the best move possible.
Plainly if you are playing online chess and using a predictive model to help you win, you are not solving problems and making predictions yourself so this would not be positive for IQ training for sure.
When playing an opponent across a board and sitting directly opposite, you have no helping hands available other than your mind, your experience, and your will to win, all working in tandem with your cognitive abilities.
Ultimately, if you are playing chess in an honest matter with a desire to beat your opponent fairly and employ all of your cognitive skills, either online or face to face chess will make you smarter. Even if you use artificial intelligence to assist you, it could be argued that it is a learning process that will also help you get smarter at chess.
Chess Training to Make You Smarter.
Chess masters do not become grandmasters just by playing a few games of chess and having a natural ability to play well. It takes years and many thousands of games of chess to become a master, and expertise is built over time.
Chess training will be part and parcel of any ambitious player’s plans to improve, and planning training sessions and friendly chess games will be a part of the route to becoming smarter through chess.
Taking chess classes may also be a part of a beginner’s routine if they want to expedite the learning process and get smarter at the game more quickly.
Smart People do not Make Smart Chess Players all the Time
It is not given that a smart person may be a good chess player. Before becoming a chess expert, you have to have a desire to play the game and at least a passing interest. You’ll need a passion to transfer your brain power to your strategy on the board.
It is very conceivably the case that a smart person will not hold enough interest in the game to play or become good at chess.
Conversly, it is hard to imagine someone who does play chess well and to a good level to not be a smart person outside fo the game, although not entirely impossible.
Should the interest in chess be that at the total exclusion of everything else, then that person may only know chess, and toasting a piece of bread a major task.
I jest but it is a consderation.
How Does Chess Make You Smarter?
Now that you know chess can indeed make you smarter and boost your IQ, the question changes from “can” to “how does it make you smarter?”. Well, let’s dive right in!
Chess Uses Both Sides of Your Brain
Scientists in Germany conducted an experiment to see whether they could turn this previous theory into a validated fact.
They showed both chess newbies and experts various shapes and chess positions. The researchers then measured how each person identified them.
They hypothesized was that the left hemisphere of the expert’s brains would be more active than the novices. However, they were not expecting the right side fire up too.
The conclusion? Expert chess players used both sides of their brain to more quickly determine the chess-related questions. Novices, on the other hand, did not use the right hemisphere.
Your Memory Will Improve
Ask any semi-professional chess player if the game has boosted their memory, they’ll undoubtedly say yes. To be good at this skill-filled activity, you need to be able to recall your opponent’s strategies and the moves that you’ve won with previously.
But you don’t have to rely on someone’s word. There is substantial evidence to back this pretty wide claim up.
Back in 1985, a study spanning two years was conducted on school-age children. Some of them were regularly involved in playing chess while the others were not. All of the children who were in the former test group improved their memory, grades, and organizational skills.
A few years after this, sixth-grade children in America were tested using the same experiment. Again, the results were incredibly similar. Children who had never played chess before the study especially improved.
It Helps Your Problem-Solving Skills
Chess is a game with constantly changing parameters. No two turns are the same. So, those who play have to be able to solve problems on the fly with almost no prior warning.
That’s not to say non-chess players are less able in these measures of intelligence, but we are considering human cognition and patterns, positive effects, and potential academic benefits of playing chess.
Of course, those who play professionally (or just like to play chess regularly) will understand the moves and various strategies that their opponent might make. However, the board is still presenting ever-changing problems.
Therefore, it’s only natural that players’ problem-solving skills will progress as they adapt to the new environment.
Sluggish Reading? Chess Will Help
Dr. Stuart Margulies looked into the reading performances of children who played chess against those who did not play the game. His findings were very conclusive.
He found that children in districts where the reading level was below the national average, those who played chess were reading at a grade higher than the national average.
There haven’t been any studies into whether this would help your reading level as an adult, but it’s always worth a shot! You’ll find that reading at a higher grade will increase your IQ and overall smartness too.
Chess Increases Your Neuron Dendrites
Consider neuron dendrites the satellite dish (or antenna) of your brain. They are shaped like roots and ensure the signals from your cells are picked up. Put simply, the more dendrites you have, the more signals you’ll receive.
If you haven’t played chess before, learning it will grow these dendrites. This growth will continue even after you’ve mastered the game so it’s a win-win!
Will Chess Make Your Child Smarter?
There has been an Institue of Education investigation to test the effects of chess playing on British Children’s academic skills.
The results of the investigation would suggest that subsequent skills in other core subjects were not affected by chess playing skills, although this has been widely questioned given conflicting investigative results in Spain.
If your child is a chess player, then there is no doubt through chess instruction, the mathematics involved in chess, and the impact on their learning abilities you might expect them to be smarter than average.
They will be practicing a broad range of skills on the chessboard, including geometrical skills, processing speeds, pattern recognition and not to mention common sense. It may be argued that there are educational benefits to having chess on the school curriculum, and it is often encouraged as a downtime activity between lessons in some schools.
If a child is adept at chess, it is not to say that they will excel in all subjects in school, I can say from my own experience, that whilst I was very adept at as a youngster, [at 8 I could beat the entire Junior school with little effort in the regular tournaments], I sucked in subjects at school like a sponge but only those that caught my interest.
If I wasn’t interested and passionate about a subject then it was very hard for me to take in the information and retain it – I’d rather be playing a game of chess!
So the effects of chess can be both positive and negative. Become too interested in chess to the point where it is the primary concern and interest and the benefits of chess making you potentially smarter can be wasted on lack of interest outside the game. That’s not ideal.
It was certainly the case with myself, becoming less and less interested in academia, I finished up interested only in Math, English, and Chess. After sailing through exams on my subjects, I promptly gave up playing chess, only to rediscover my passion for the game some 35 years later!
From a scientific standpoint, it is unclear whether playing chess can make you smarter in other areas and as disappointing as this may sound, we can liken the situation to that of someone who is skilled at computer games or a solo sport whereby individual skills for one activity do not guarantee transferable skills in other areas.
Are chess skills transferable then?
Training in chess and improvement in your chess paying will not make you a better engineer for instance, although there may be some overflow to other geometric or probability assessing skills in other areas.
Does chess make you better at math?
Chess is not going to improve, your division or multiplication skills, although the top players will be considering implied probabilities and perhaps converting them to fractions in their heads as they plan the potential moves at their disposal.
So chess may help improve your decision-making on probabilities, so that falls into the math category for sure.
Does chess make you a better strategist?
Different situations call for different types of strategy and whilst you may be adept at out strategising opponents across a chessboard, it is not given that you will be able to employ great strategies in other problem/solution scenarios. Playing chess will make you a better chess strategist though
Is Playing Chess Good for the Brain
Chess provides activity and practices for cognitive function and as opposed to not stimulating the parts of the brain required for the purposes, then it has to be considered that chess as a form of stimulus has to be good for the brain and its function.