“Chess has all the beauty of art and much more” -Marcel Duchamp
Chess is a wonderful game. There are so many possible ways any one game can go. More than nine million after the first three moves, to be exact.
Chess players have always had the reputation of being especially intelligent, and with good reason. Watching them play can be fascinating to an outsider. Those who really know their stuff practice unbelievable skills – holding an invisible psychological battle with the person sitting right in front of them. A conversation that only those can keep up with can be let in on.
Well, be prepared to be proven right, regular chess players, because studies have found that you might well be smarter. Here’s how:
Chess improves your memory
If you play chess, you are likely to have a better memory than those who don’t. Not only does it mean that you are less likely to have Alzheimer’s than your peers, it also means that you simply develop the part of the brain related to memory more.
This is because when playing chess you have to remember several things: the complex rules, how you messed up in past games, many different games played, different algorithms for the next right move, as well as remembering typical patterns of the opponent sitting right in front of you.
When you are an expert, this information sits comfortably below the surface of your subconscious, meaning you don’t even have to wonder for too long about which complex move to make. It becomes instinctual.
Chess improves your ability to plan ahead
To know how to make a smart move in chess, you have to be able to foresee what your opponent might do, as well as your possible options to respond. It encourages much more patient forethought on the side of both players than most games. Indeed, without this skill, chess cannot be played well, and you are likely to lose.
This in turn led to teenagers who practiced chess to be more thoughtful about their life decisions, choosing more responsible options, rather than opting for the quicker, riskier choice.
Chess makes you more creative
To be a good chess player is to be creative with your moves. The more original, the more you catch your opponent off guard. One study found that playing chess can actually improve your creative abilities. When students from grades seven to nine were tested against a control group who invested in other activities, the group playing chess were found to have higher levels of creativity, and scored particularly high in how original they were.
Chess raises your IQ
Whether chess is chosen to be played by those who are already smart is yet to be seen. What we do know for sure though is that those who do choose to play it are likely to see a significant increase in their IQ. Time and again, studies have shown this to be the case. Having been given eighteen chess classes the children were found to have higher IQ scores after compared to those who did not.
After four months of chess instruction, Venezuelan boys and girls’ IQ levels had clearly improved. Another study in Australia also found that the children already playing chess regularly at a competitive level had higher IQs than those who didn’t play.
When playing chess, you use both sides of the brain
A German study found that when elite chess players are thinking about making their next move, they are using both sides of the brain at the same time. This is because they are both visualizing moves from past games (using the right hemisphere) as well as planning logically what they are going to do right now in the moment (left hemisphere). When using both sides of the brain, as you might imagine, you become a stronger thinker all round. Much like doing a full-body workout, it will make you stronger over all; chess is a great work out for the mind.
Chess helps you to connect the dots
Chess promotes the growth of dendrites. But what does this mean? Dendrites help the neurons in your brain to connect. So the more you have, the better. In real terms, this is a bit like saying you have just upgraded from 2G to 5G in terms of Internet speed. The connections in your brain will be able to connect a lot faster and more efficiently. You can look at more pages than ever before. Put simply, the challenging nature of chess makes your brain work more efficiently, ideas connect more easily, and you can hold more of them in your mind at the same time.
Chess can not only be good fun, psychologically challenging and a workout for the logical part of your brain, it can actually boost your IQ and stave off memory problems when you are older. So, you can feel smug if you’re already a grandmaster, or if you’re a newbie, why not try it out if you are looking for a new hobby? -Anyone for a game?!
Featured photo credit: Movie still from X-Men: First Class via masterchessopen.com