Skip to Content

The Game of Chess: Does It Make You Smarter?

The game of chess is loved by many across the globe. No matter which country you live in, people gather in plazas, pubs, libraries, and living rooms of their homes to test their wits on the checkerboard.

Researchers found that playing chess improved childrens’ problem-solving and deductive reasoning. Their study also noted the improvement wasn’t statistically significant, but it’s still encouraging. So there is evidence suggesting it improves your brainpower; however, this doesn’t always translate into higher test scores.

You might know parents that encourage their kids to play Chess for better mental development and cognitive abilities. No doubt, the game involves intellectual challenges and is an excellent brain exercise, but does it make a person smarter? Let’s find out how chess influences intelligence capabilities.

Picture of a boy staring at a chess board.

The History of Chess

Chess is an ancient board game that originated from Chaturanga, which was most likely invented to develop tactical skills and strategic thinking for battle situations. The board represents the battlefield and each side is a Kingdom represented by a King, Queen, and protectors.

The history of this game is more than 1500 years older than its predecessor, called Chaturanga in India. But any pre-history of this game is all speculation.

The game went from India to Persia, and then it became popular with the Arabs. The Muslim world took the game, and it spread across Southern Europe. In the Medieval period, chess was immensely popular and developed into its current structure.

The predominant Romantic Chess-playing style, developed in the late 18th Century, involves quick and tactical maneuvers that overtook the long-term strategic playing style of earlier years.

In the latter half of the 19th Century, chess players began organizing tournaments, and the first World Chess Championship took place in 1886. The following 100 years saw brisk developments in chess theory and play.

Eventually, various chess groups agreed to collaborate, and they established the World Chess Federation in 1924 in Paris. Finally, in 1997, the IBM supercomputer defeated Garry Kasparov in a famous match that ushered into the computer domination era.

Does Chess Make You Smarter?

Chess can improve your overall intelligence quotient (IQ level) if you play it for recreational purposes. Competitive chess might be too harmful, but you can gain mental strength by playing chess.

A study has found that the game of chess allows you to use both sides of your brain and prevents Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

As you are thinking about checkmating your opponent, your creative skills are in action. So, chess also enhances your overall creativity. And there are plenty of studies available that suggest chess is good for your memory. It is because you consistently recall the previous moves that helped you win any games in the past.

Another study suggests that the game of chess improves your problem-solving skills and helps improve reading skills. It is beneficial in improving your concentration and teaches foresight, planning, and strategizing. So, the game of chess does make you smarter, it might not directly impact your IQ level, but it does have some positives to offer.

Basic Chess Rules

One team is white and the other black. White always starts the game and players alternate after each match. To determine who starts with white, hold a game piece of each color in your fist and your opponent chooses a hand. If they pick white they are playing first.

There are two sides, and each side has six different chess pieces, including King, Queen, Rook, Bishop, Knight, and Pawn. Each side has a King, a Queen, 2 Rooks, 2 Bishops, 2 Knights, and 8 pawns.

  • The King can move 1 square in any direction as long as no other piece is blocking its path.
  • The Queen can move in any number of squares diagonally or straight in any direction.
  • The Rook can move in a straight line vertically or horizontally by any number of squares.
  • The Bishop can move diagonally in any number of squares.
  • The Knight is the only piece that can jump over another piece, whether your own or your opponent’s. You can move it to any square in an L-shape.
  • The Pawn can move one or two squares straight ahead on its first move. But later, it can only move one square forward or backward.

A player can use other special moves as a defense or attacking strategy. These are as follows:

Castling

To castle in chess involves moving the King towards the Rook two squares and the Rook Jumps over the King on the square opposite and next to the King. You can not castle when the King is in Check or a piece is between the King and the Rook.

You can only castle once per game. nor can you castle if it puts your King in Check. Similarly, castling is not possible if one of the squares in the King’s path is under attack. Plus, you cannot make this move if you have already moved the King or the Rook.

I consider castling an advanced Chess move and recommend that beginners learn the basic rules of Chess before attempting to castle.

Check

The King is in Check when it is under attack by an opponent’s piece. The King must get out of the Check or the game is over. You can get it out of it by moving your King to a safe space or by capturing the piece that gave the Check.

You can also block a Check with one of your other pieces. But this is not possible if the opponent’s Knight gives the Check.

Mate or Checkmate.

The game is over if the King cannot escape from Check, Mate (Checkmate). The player whose King is Checkmated gets no points, and the player who gave the Checkmate gains one point.

Stalemate

Stalemate is a draw, and neither of the two players wins or loses. Stalemate is when a player cannot make a legal move and his King is not in Check or by moving a piece they would place their King in Check.

Moreover, Stalemate also occurs on three perpetual checks and three repetitions. The Stalemate also occurs when there are not enough pieces left on the board to give a Checkmate.

Sometimes playing for a stalemate is the best strategy. I play against one person that is a master at getting stalemates. In a recent game, I had six pieces on the board to his two and he caused a draw by forcing a stalemate.

Why Is Chess Bad for You?

You might have heard that the game of chess sharpens your ability to plan and strategize. And to some extent, that is true. But chess players especially professionals deal with anxiety about how they perform during their matches.

Some players have even mentioned it as mental torture, as they deal with stress over their competitive rankings or overall performance. It can also influence your sleep. I dealt with this when I was in the Navy and stationed in Antarctica.

As you can imagine we had a lot of time on our hands, so we played tournament Chess. I got so into the matches that I would think all night about strategy and mistakes I made. Of course the next day I would be physically and mentally exhausted.

Multiple studies have proven that chess might improve your cognitive, math, and memory skills, but it doesn’t necessarily translate into higher test scores.

Above all that, becoming a chess expert requires a significant investment of your time. You will have to deliberately practice the game of chess and often alone to become a top player. And you might have to give up on your other activities because chess games often last for hours.

Best Online Chess for Free

1.   Lichess.org

Lichess is your number one website to play online chess for free. It has a clean interface, and the best part is that you will not have to deal with any ads or registration processes. You won’t need any plugin to install. You can play chess with a computer or with your friend using this platform. And the best part is that it is entirely free.

2.   Chess.com

This website is the best for the competitive online chess experience. It has everything you need. You can learn and grow in your skills, and there are various articles you can read to learn even more. You can also find different video lessons to sharpen your skills in the game. There are some premium features for which you will have to pay. But for the game itself, you can enjoy it for free.

3.   Chess24.com

This website might be slightly lower than the other two in terms of playing experience. But you can still play chess for free on this website. Apart from that, you can access different lessons and videos on improving your skills at the game.

They also have a slightly inferior tactics trainer. You can only play standard chess with time controls on this website. Besides that, there is no weakness Chess24 has.

Best Chess Set for Beginners & Advanced Players

A standard chess board works well, you don’t need anything fancy to have fun and play. However, the most important feature for most players is storage. Do you want a game you can travel with, keep in your closet, or display? My favorites are the roll-up chess sets with two sides, green and black.

Here are some other great sets you can find online.

Chess set for beginners

1.     Wegiel Junior Chess Set

This quality chess set is 16-inch and has a folding wood board. The compact board makes it easier for you to take it anywhere you go. The board is made of quality birch wood, and the pieces give it a nice look and durability.

It has numbers and letters horizontally and vertically. There are metal clasps that will keep your board securely locked when you are done playing.

This board has secure chessmen compartments that provide plenty of room for you to store your chess piece and keep them individually protected within the board. It weighs around 3.5 lbs. You can carry it conveniently on the go.

2.     Amerous Wooden Chess Set

Another good-looking chess set you can go for is the one by Amerous. This is a 2-in-1 set that allows you to play chess and checkers without carrying separate boards for each game.

You will also get two additional queens and receive the board in a beautiful gift box. It is a folding board with chessmen storage. Therefore, you can compactly store it and keep your pieces safe with individual storage. It is a top choice for kids and adults new to chess.

The board’s dimensions are 15-inch x 15-inch x 1-inch when open and 15-inch x 7.5-inch x 2-inch when folded. You can conveniently use it indoors or outdoors. It is made of premium quality pine wood, and it will last for many years allowing you to train yourself at the chess game.

Chess set for advanced players

1.     Medieval Antique Copper Metal Chess Set

This extraordinary-looking chess set pays homage to the Medieval British Army. It features chess pieces made of copper metal with an elegant finish. Each piece is handmade, while premium-quality wood is suitable for the board.

The board is not foldable, but it has storage that you can use to place your pieces when you are done playing. So, this chess set is not compact. But it does come with aesthetics to keep it on your desk and start playing whenever you want.

The chessboard has a fancy motif to add to its looks. Therefore, your board is not going to lose its looks ever. The board’s dimensions are 15-inch x 15-inch x 2.55-inch, and on the inside, there is a plastic housing that will store your pieces.

The metal chess pieces are made in Turkey with quality modeling materials. This chess set is not only for playing, but it also has an aesthetic sense. It is a perfect choice for a gift to chess lovers.

2.     ChessGenius Electronic Chess Set

The ChessGenius Electronic Chess Set is a fantastic chess set that features auto-sensing wood pieces. The board is of quality wood. Thanks to the automatic chess piece recognition sensor and quick RFID technology, it allows you to focus entirely on your game.

With this technology, you can enjoy your game of chess. If a piece falls over, the square that it was on will start flashing. You can switch your view comfortably between displays.

You can also enjoy playing at different difficulty levels to challenge yourself. It has a modular design that allows you to connect it will Chess-Link and play with other players across the globe. You can also combine it with your mobile devices and engines.

However, it doesn’t come with a folding board, so storage might be wanting. But it has an aesthetic feel, so you can place it on your desk and play whenever you want.

Conclusion

The game of chess is pretty competitive. It requires time to master, and it certainly influences your cognitive abilities and creativity. On the other hand, the board game might not significantly impact your IQ level. Instead, it sharpens your strategic and planning skills. But be careful not to get too competitive, or it might cause stress and dementia.

More Game Table Gear Reviews