Chess can definitely have a significant impact on your mental abilities, from logical planning and creativity to memory and concentration.
The answer isn’t that simple, though. Other elements factor into answering that question.
So, in this article, we’ll give all the details you need to answer the long-asked question: does chess make you smarter?
Does Chess Make You Smarter?
Let’s see if chess actually has a positive effect on your mental abilities or not.
1. Improves Your Logical Planning Skills
Chess depends heavily on logical planning. A chess player analyzes and evaluate a position in order to come up with the best move over the board.
Not only that, but they need to think of the outcome of different combinations and come up with the right strategies to outwit their opponent.
That way, they can shut down their opponent’s counterplay leaving them with a passive position.
Such a mind-challenging activity can only stimulate one’s critical thinking abilities. It makes it a habit to engage the logical side of the brain in solving complex puzzles. This gives you the exercise you need to improve your logical planning skills.
They may have taken a long time to make their moves on that test, but at least they got better scores! Patience is a pivotal part of chess, after all.
2. Guarantees a More Creative Mind
For the longest time, chess has been associated with logic. People believed that creativity has no place in that game. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
It’s true that chess challenges the left side of the brain, the logical one. But it also stimulates the right side, the creative one.
After all, when you’re trapped in a chess match and need to come up with a plan quickly, you can’t always depend on the strategies you’ve memorized.
These strategies work in specific situations and may not be suitable for the one you’re in. You’ll have to come up with an original plan. That’s where creativity comes in!
Robert Furgeson has conducted a study in which he made chess students and non-chess students take creativity tests. The result wasn’t that surprising. Students who played chess scored higher on every test.
In fact, originality was the area where chess students thrived the most.
That’s only natural, as engaging in an activity that challenges you to come up with original ideas all the time can only strengthen your creativity. It becomes a habit.
After all, creativity is a skill that you can train and improve in.
3. Sharpens Your Memory
This might seem surprising to those who aren’t familiar with the game.
Chess is about strategizing and decision-making. So, where does memory come in? Many chess players, amateurs and pros, memorize move sequences.
Amateurs usually start by memorizing openings. Then, they move to middlegame and endgame strategies.
This is an important part of chess.
You need to read the opponent’s movements and recognize what opening they are employing. This way, you’ll identify if the opponent is following a known opening strategy.
You can then recall what combination works best against that strategy.
Just like creativity, you can train and hone your memory. In an environment that constantly forces you to engage your brain in memory functions, you’ll have a superior memory than most non-chess players.
We can say that the same Furgeson study we mentioned earlier proves this point. But other studies have shown that, too. Whether it’s visual or auditory, chess players exhibit better memory functions than non-chess players.
4. Keeps You Concentrated
Chess is a risk-heavy game. You have endless combinations of moves, and one wrong move can cost you the match.
Not only that, but there’s a heavy mental toll on your brain, too. You have to plan your moves, come up with creative strategies, and recall the right combination to win.
To do all of these things without fail, you need to be in a state of deep concentration.
In the internet age, it’s harder to avoid distractions than it was before. With a game like chess, you train to isolate yourself from all the noise and stay in the zone throughout the game.
If you can actively and consciously stay focused in a chess game, you can easily maintain that focus in your everyday life.
The interesting thing is that chess can even have a therapeutic effect. It can help people with mild ADHD manage their concentration issues.
5. Enhances Spatial Awareness
With chess, you need to read the entire board and connect every move your opponent makes with the previous one to predict their next move.
This allows you to not get caught up in the small details and learn to see the big picture.
More importantly, it teaches you how to see from other people’s perspectives.
6. Helps With Academics
Does chess make you smarter academically? Yes, it can improve your academic performance, but only to a certain extent.
Students who play chess can use all the improved skills mentioned above in their academic life. So, they thrive in subjects that require logic and problem-solving, like math and science.
Academics aren’t just about math and science, though.
For example, it’s difficult to say that chess can help you boost your performance as a literature student.
After all, chess doesn’t give you the philosophical and humanistic mentality associated with studying literature.
7. Can Cause Mental Stress
Yes, chess can have a positive impact on your mental abilities. However, it can also be harmful in many ways.
In a game where one wrong move can cost you the entire match, stress can overwhelm you at one point.
Besides, you can get into the habit of overthinking every move. What is my opponent thinking? Why did they move their pieces this way?
This can reflect on your everyday life, causing a heavy mental toll on your brain.
So, does chess make you smarter? In many ways, chess can sharpen your mental abilities.
By playing chess, you’ll gain the skills to assess different situations, adapt to the unexpected, and come up with original solutions.
Besides, you’ll have a sharper memory, superior spatial awareness, and better concentration than the average person.
These skills will help in your studies, although not all of them. However, you’ll notice a significant improvement in math and science.
That said, be careful of the downsides of delving deep into chess. Stress and overthinking can have a mental toll on you after all.