How Do Chess Players Think? Here Are The Facts!

Many people, in general, have this perception that chess players are geniuses and that they can see things way off into the future. There’s also been a film project called Chess Brains, a 1 hour long documentary about how chess players think and what makes them tick. So are chess players as bright and as intelligent as you think they are? And do chess players think in a certain way?

Probably not, while in general, most good chess players (at least ELO 2100) are pretty smart people (at least in my experience), they aren’t necessarily geniuses. For example, Garry Kasparov’s IQ was about 190, and Bobby Fischer’s IQ was about 180. But these two chess players were world champions, and even 190 isn’t even the highest IQ of all time. Indeed, world chess champions are probably all geniuses in their own right, no doubt about that.

How Do Chess Players Think?

I mean, chess has been shown to improve maths scores and school grades in general, so playing chess and learning how to plan and win games will help you become more intelligent. So I guess that’s not much of a surprise.

Another burgeoning opinion is that chess players are good at planning and strategic ideas. There is probably some truth to this, but it will be hard to create a standardized test that allows the person to demonstrate planning and strategic ideas. There is also artistry to planning and strategy, so this part will be hard to prove. But I agree with this.

Does intelligence correlate with chess?

A few people also think that chess players do nothing to play and think of chess all day long. One person thought that I had dreams of chess and “knights flying about.” Well, no, I have never personally had any dream (that I can remember) that was remotely related to chess.

I also do not think of chess all day long because I need to consider reality, staying employed, and living everyday life. So to think of nothing but chess all day long would be counter-productive to these “extra-curricular activities,” to say the least.

Back to chess and intelligence, the biggest question to answer in regards to this is, “does chess make you smarter, or does it just so happen that smart people play chess?” 

Maybe chess does make you smarter, and getting your kids or young people to play chess will help them improve their grades and become more successful in the future. Or maybe geniuses in lab coats, descendants of Albert Einstein, and extreme nerds play chess and commune in a dark basement to go to war with each other over an 8×8 board. Or maybe those homeless-looking people who play chess in the park are geniuses in disguise. Who knows?

But I would say that chess, for me personally, has helped me to think outside the square (no pun intended) and take more risks. “Take risks??” you might reply in bewilderment. “Isn’t chess a game where you run away from actual risks in real life?” you might also continue.

To play chess well, you need to take calculated risks and accept certain losses to gain an advantage.

Chess also makes me take more initiative since there is no motivation to attack, and thus, the game loses some appeal (to me, at least). As Wilhelm Steinitz, the first World Chess Champion, once said, “if you have the initiative, you must attack, otherwise you will lose it” or something like that (I paraphrase).

So does chess make you brighter and think better? I guess so, but then again, I’m not a genius. What do you think?

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