10 Cognitive Benefits of Playing Chess

The traditional and historic game of chess, dating back to the 6th century AD, has always been known for its reputation as “the game of kings”, and indeed the rulers of a kingdom had to rely on their great qualities as strategists in case of wars and battles. The peculiarities of chess are the composition of the pieces, the playing area, the rules and action strategies, these characteristics make it a highly challenging game due to the skill required to beat the opponent. An experienced chess player has acquired targeted knowledge that competes action strategies, but at the same time he must also enhance a range of cognitive functions involved in this analytical and executive process. Among these skills we find the spectrum of executive functions residing in the prefrontal lobe such as selective and divided attention, working memory, planning, flexibility in changing strategy, forecasting, planning and decision making. In addition, complementary functions must be enlisted for the correct execution of frontal functions, such as memory, visuospatial capacity, spatial orientation and bottom-up attention. All these numerous cognitive functions can therefore be stimulated by playing the game of chess provided that we apply ourselves with the right commitment.

Here are the 10 benefits observed in the various studies that have dealt with chess players and the use of chess.

1. It can boost your IQ

Chess has a significant stigma problem, it is considered by the community as a type of game for people who are predisposed to play it or who already have a high degree of IQ, keeping those who don’t feel like it at a distance. Studies have shown that applying chess can instead help increase IQ. In a study of 4,000 Venezuelan students, they found a significant increase in the IQ score, for both boys and girls, after only 4 months of chess lessons.

2. It can prevent Alzheimer’s

Since the brain works like a muscle, this requires exercise as if we were training a biceps or quadriceps to benefit them in health and avoid injuries. A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that people over 75 who have tried their hand at cognitive training with activities such as chess are less likely to develop dementia than their non-player peers.  As much as an unused muscle loses its tone, Dr. Robert Freidland, author of the study, found that even a less active brain is doomed to loss of brain tissue, called atrophy, and therefore to a decrease in cognitive potential.

3. It is an exercise that involves both cerebral hemispheres

In a German study, researchers compared experienced players with novices in the skill of processing geometric shapes and the position of chess pieces. Their object of study was response times and the measurement of brain activity in the two hemispheres. The researchers found that players experienced in the recognition activity activated both hemispheres and responded faster to exposures than the inexperienced sample.

4. It boosts creativity

Creativity and imagination are qualities that are attributed to the processing skills of the right hemisphere, a feature of the brain that has always been documented in several studies, among which it was also discovered that chess has the ability to stimulate one’s originality. . In fact, a four-year study, carried out on students aged 7 to 9, compared various activities such as computer use and other activities carried out at least once a week for 32 weeks, with the aim of determining which was the one capable of enhancing creative thinking.The group of chess players achieved higher scores in all measures of creativity, with a marked improvement in the area of ​​originality.

5. Improve your memory

Chess players know that playing chess boosts memory. Being a good chess player means having to remember how your opponent has already played in the past, in order to be able to recall the moves that made him win in previous games. A 1985 study, lasting two years, was conducted on young students who were given the opportunity to play chess regularly. These have improved in skill over time and their teachers have found memory enhancement as well as better organizational skills. Another study in Pennsylvania with elementary school boys found similar results. In addition, students who had never played chess before the study gained memory and verbal skills improvement benefits after the period of play.

6. Increase problem solving skills

A game of chess is very similar to the goal of having to reassemble a puzzle and having to solve the disorder that is generated by our opponent, who constantly changes the parameters. In a 1992 study in New Brunswick, roughly 450 second-year high school students were divided into three groups. Group A was the control group. Group B in addition to the ordinary math lessons of Group A also received chess lessons. In Group C, classes had started in the first year of high school. Subjected to a standardized test, the results were: Group C with votes above 81.2% compared to 62% of B and 21.46% of Group A.

7. Increase your reading skills

In a 1991 study that is often cited, Dr. Stuart Margulies studied the reading performance of 53 elementary school students who participated in a chess program and were subsequently tested by comparing them to other non-chess students in the neighboring county. The doctor, following the standardized evaluation, showed better reading results in favor of the chess group. In addition, in a region where the average of students was below the national average, the students of that region who played chess had above average results.

8. Improve attention

Some chess champions may seem like real experts. In reality their skill in the game lies in their great ability to concentrate which is required in the game in order to win. Even a brief distraction by looking elsewhere or thinking about something else can be fatal to the game, such as if your opponent completes the move without your paying attention. Numerous studies by students from the U.S., Russia, China and other regions have shown on all occasions that the ability to fix the focus of attention is a prerequisite for this game.

9. Produces a proliferation of dendrites in the cerebral cortex

Dendrites are like the branches of a tree which are conductors of electrical signals from other neurons to which they are connected. This suggests that the greater the coverage of the dendrites, the better the efficiency of the interconnection between neurons. Learning a new skill like the game of chess generates the proliferation of new dendrites. Furthermore, this connective increase does not stop once the game is learned, even the challenges with other players fuel and contribute to the dendritic proliferation.

10. Teaches planning and forecasting

Getting teenagers to play chess can save their lives. Let’s understand why: the last part that develops in the brain is the prefrontal cortex, the area of ​​the brain that is responsible for planning, judgment and control. Teenagers are considered immature as long as this part of the brain has not fully developed. Strategy games such as chess can promote development of the prefrontal cortex and help them make extensive decisions in all areas of life, such as keeping them away from careless decisions. Risk appetite is a characteristic that has always been associated with young adolescents.