Chess and intelligence

One of the biggest factors that invited many people to reach out for the game of chess is the factor of intelligence. Namely, chess is a game that’s associated with brains and smarts, and when we see a person playing chess we automatically assume that they are smart. Moreover, some of the better players in chess are shown to have higher intelligence quotients than normal. But as many of us fail to realize – correlation does not mean causation. So, it could be the other way around – people that are highly intelligent by default could opt for the game of chess in increasing numbers, while people that are of lower intelligence can be repulsed by it. It’s not certain that chess is something that you can learn and get more intelligence as a result. So, which one is it?

chess and intelligence

Well, there are several studies conducted on the subject. There are big samples of people that were told to play chess, and then they were compared with a control group that didn’t play any board game, and a control group that was told to play another board game different from chess.

These studies consistently show that chess is in fact not linked to the increase of intelligence in many of its forms – fluid intelligence, processing intelligence, spatial reasoning, etc. This comes as a surprise because of the fact that people typically would like to believe that if they invest time and effort into the game of chess, that they will get something in return for their efforts, in the form of increased intelligence. It makes sense, right? You stimulate your mind to think in different ways while you’re playing chess, all the while you’re focused solely on the game.

Well, these studies show that the sole thing that you will be improving from playing a lot of chess – is your skill in chess. The knowledge that you will get for this game will simply not translate to other subjects of interest (most likely.) The same holds true for other methods that were touted as intelligence boosters – you won’t increase your intelligence by playing so-called brain games, or by studying music, or by playing video games. What you will do if you practice all of these things is getting better at all of these things in particular. So, the trick in life is to find what you want to learn and then learn it.

But are things so bleak? Is there nothing to learn and improve in your life by playing chess? We wouldn’t say that this is the case. There are many lessons that you can take from the game of chess and implement them in your life. For one, the discipline that you will develop from playing chess on a daily basis can be transferred to other endeavours in your life. There are also numerous analogies about attacking and defending, protecting your stronger pieces, and in some cases sacrificing them to win the game – that can also be implemented in other areas of life. So, after all, you can learn a lot about life by playing chess. Just don’t think that you will get more intelligent by playing this game.