Does Chess Make You Smarter?
It’s commonly believed that great chess players are also geniuses. Some notable examples include Polgar and Kasparov, who have IQs of 170 and 190 respectively. Despite the public perception, it’s still an important question to ask. Does learning to play chess make you smarter? Or are smarter people naturally better at playing chess?
Because this question has captivated so many people, there have actually been dozens of studies that investigate whether playing chess can make a person smarter. Most of these studies have focused on children, whose brains are still developing, and the elderly, whose intellectual capacities may be in decline. Though there has been no smoking gun that directly links chess with making you smarter, in almost every study, researchers have found that playing chess did have an effect on certain skills.
When performing some of these studies, scientists used MRI scans to examine the brains of chess players and non-chess players to see how they reacted differently. These MRI scans showed that more areas of the brain were active in chess players, and they were able to process information through several areas of the brain at the same time, allowing them to answer questions more quickly.
Further studies have focused on specific types of skills to test if there was a direct relationship with playing chess. Several studies have shown big relationships between critical thinking skills and visualization skills with playing chess. Some studies have even shown a connection between playing chess and improving your verbal skills, mathematical skills, and IQ.
Whether you’re young, old, or somewhere in the middle, learning to play chess can be a great way to exercise your brain. If you’re not quite convinced of its connections with intelligence, try playing a few games. Visualizing all of the different strategies, scenarios, and outcomes will likely give you a bit of a headache as you give your brain a serious workout.