Chess as most things in life has its fair share of good things and bad. Looking at the good effects allows us to understand more efficient use of such activities, or even promote them.
Knowing the bad makes us aware of the possible damages that it can bring to us. This article will look into the benefits of someone willing to go or is currently in a chess-rich background.
I have been playing the game for a long time now and have the experience to create an article on this topic, which I will do now. This is an interesting one to me since I haven’t asked about this before (which I should’ve).
Chess gives both positive and negative effects
Before I begin I want you to stop and consider reading another article I wrote maybe after this one. It’s all about the big reasons why chess is bad for you.
I think I did a good job justifying my concerns about the obsession with this game. If you want to check it out click this link (will open in a new tab) and I’ll take you there.
Getting back to the topic, let’s start one by one of all the benefits chess can bring:
1.) Chess encourages belief in oneself
Chess is a very competitive environment where a player should perform at his or her utmost best. Possibly even more than any other sport out there, since there is no teammate that will save you from trouble.
If you’re playing basketball for example, your teammate could save you from having a bad game and that is not applicable to this one!
If you lose you lose by yourself, but that also means that if you win, you win with your own skill.
Not only that it rewards players who have confidence in themselves, but also prompts self-esteem from your own achievements.
2.) Chess helps in strengthening the “focus” muscle
One of the primary components of chess is focus and concentration. You have to gather all your attention on this particular activity in order to do well.
“Chess helps you focus. When you are a kid, you have energy bubbling around, but when you are playing chess, you have to channel that energy into focus”. –Junior Chess Player Michael Wang
This is a fact that will be purported several times if you ask any chess player, and frankly if you ever tried to play the game yourself.
You’re gonna get crushed if you’re someone that can easily be distracted. This necessary skill within the game allows you to sharpen the art of concentration.
3.) Chess can make you remember more things (mental capacity)
Most people will tell you that chess increases mental capacity through memorization, I can attest that this is not true at all.
That is the memorization part, chess in general is a good way to exercise remembering things. There are even times where I can recall certain positions from games months ago!
But memorization only through opening lines for example is more of contextual learning that hardly transitions into other facets of life.
So it helps with remembering things as it involves brain exercises, but the actual memorization mechanic within the game does not add value to this at all.
4.) Chess gives lessons on risk.
Risk is an important aspect of life. What most people think that playing safe and avoiding the consequences of risk as the “normal choice” is awfully the riskiest mindset of all.
Starting a business, participating in sports, music, or any industry always involves chances of failing.
Chess gives an exact treatment to those who play safe as it would be in life.
You may play well against really bad players, but you will soon encounter a plateau if you do not change the “safe” approach. Now, it is up to argument if this can transpose into other areas of pursuit, but I think it does.
5.) Chess teaches the value of competition
One of the arguments I made to how chess can be bad is the “toxic competition”. I still stand by my word and verify that it actually is, but not always.
There are definitely good rivalries in this sport, whether the environment is the one to blame for this toxicity is up for argument.
Such context can allow players to accept the reality of having to compete in order to win. This definitely is useful in your work, school, or anything in between, as you will have to perform sooner or later in life.
6.) Chess teaches sportsmanship
From the other article I’ve written, one of my criticisms is the nature of chess to undervalue sportsmanship.
Now, this is true to some extent, as you will feel bad when you lose and would likely not be a good model as a “sportsman”.
However, chess is usually played consecutively and fast, that you will have to learn to accept defeat and take it with a grain of salt.
After all, you would have to make preparations for the next game in spite of the previous result.
Showing sportsmanship in this case is not bad! You can actually see this in top chess games and would be glad to develop it as a common characteristic for any player as well.
7.) Chess applies brain exercises in the form of a game
Have you ever felt that brain exercises and discussions in school are kind of boring? Well, you’re not the only one! That’s actually the case for most people. Lifting the brain muscle without exhausting it is hard.
Chess however takes all the quality of those brain exercises and introduces them in a form of a game. This would make training so much more fun than other brain exercises, and highly likely to lead to satisfactory results.
8.) Chess hamper alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.https://www.nia.nih.gov
Alzheimer’s is a pretty spread wide condition that strikes most individuals in some parts of their life. There are about 44 million people affected by dementia (a by-product of Alzheimer’s), and that makes it a pretty serious thing.
Now, there are still debates perpetuating whether games like chess prevent Alzheimer’s, but at least the correlation is there.
Several large-scale epidemiological studies have linked participation in a complex mental activity to reduced dementia risk.
A systematic review of 22 longitudinal cohort studies found that individuals with higher levels of education, occupation, or engagement in complex cognitive activities were at 46% lower risk for incident dementia than those with low levels.www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov : Harnessing brain and cognitive reserve for the prevention of dementia.
This makes make sense since the use of the brain (target of Alzheimer’s) may sharpen the brain enough to resist developing dysfunctional traits.
9.) Chess cultivate dendrites in the nervous system
Imagine there are a bunch of towns. These towns have different purposes some are commercial, some are for residency, maybe parts are agricultural. If people in this town wants to interact with each other then they need roads, that road is the dendrites.
The towns are the neurons and in order to build those roads, you need to engage in mentally stimulating activities.
Take this pdf for example, taken from sbdif.org by Daniel Golden. It even says to try tournaments of bridge, sailboating, and Chess! Chess of course is a good brain exercise that will allow these said dendrites to grow, making an individual mentally healthy.
10.) Chess enhances the intelligent quotient
There’s a large study in Venezuela where over 4,000 2nd grade students were prompted to study chess. Researchers found significant growth in the student’s intelligence quotient hence why there are chess lessons currently in Venezuelan schools.
There’s another one in Pennsylvania around 1987-88 where pupils (6th-grade students) get to study and play chess in a set amount of time, and the results are outstanding!
Most students especially the competitive ones score higher on memory and verbal reasoning skills, a signature of high I.Q. All of this of course (higher I.Q.) will relate to the person’s normal or professional obligations.
11.) Chess will improve your Problem Solving ability!
The ability to solve a problem is a critical life skill since well, there will always be problems, and you will always have to find ways to solve them.
As someone who’s been playing this for years now, I can definitely say that problem solving is one of the most basic components of this game.
Memorization can only go so far, and sometimes you have to deal with issues using ingenuity. That mechanic will definitely be useful when dealing with more problematic and challenging scenarios.
12.) Chess will develop your spatial ingenuity
Spatial ability is a unique type of skill to recognize space and act accordingly upon them. This type of skill is important for recognizing distances, balance, and dealing with anything that involves space, basically everything.
Things like using a map to navigate unfamiliar locations, positioning in high-paced traffics, or just not bumping into anything while walking. Chess is a game of space, moving pieces and positioning them for the greatest effect.
It’s hard to pinpoint whether this actually increases spatial ability in any way, but I found sources that say it does. Visual representations of solving anything that involves space can increase spatial recognition (see source here).
13.) Chess will improve both sides of the brain
There has been no actual study that can confirm this, but logic tells us that it does. The right hemisphere of the brain encourages creativeness, spontaneity, along with feelings and emotions.
The left hemisphere has the logical side that makes you analytical and rational, and both are extremely important ingredients for chess finesse!
As they say, you need creativity to make tactics and logic to build strategies, both of which are foundational in this game. That is convenient since you can hit two birds with one stone.
14.) Chess expands creativity
And that brings us to the next point, creativity! Unless you memorized and used large amount of lines throughout the game which only selected people can do, then you’ll likely need creativity.
“I have come to the personal conclusion that while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists.” –Marcel Duchamp
Making artistic ideas from imagination is not easy, but is very important in our daily lives. And even in our field (career), you’re most likely to need some creativity to solve recurring problems.
15.) Chess instructs the art of Planning and Insight.
After creativity of course, there’s logic. It allows us to make sense of things that we have previous knowledge of and use them to our advantage.
The biggest application is of course planning and insight! We use ideas from previous experiences to plan ahead in the future, while such also gives us insight in the form of arguments.
Planning and analysis is the best way to improve regular practices and make anything more efficient. Chess is a good step to improve logical thinking.
16.) Chess bolsters the Reading “Curve”
There was this study conducted on elementary school students from New York City (1996) that test correlation between reading skills and chess. Educational psychologist Stuart Marguelis found that those that play chess scored 10% higher in reading aptitude more than everyone else.
There was another in Bronx, where kids that took chess lessons have been shown to score higher in reading tests. This is most likely the result of using chess notations, you know those things that you write to describe moves.
As players get to write their numbers and letters it may have triggered their ability to recognize them. So chess and reading, pretty interesting.
17.) Chess grant meetings with wonderful places and people
This is a perk that all participants of a sport share, interaction. Chess more than any other sport requires you to travel long distances. This enables you to encounter astounding places and people that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
The prestige is valuable enough adding to the fact that you’re actually meeting someone of the same interest, and of course, be more likely to resonate with them! That is awesome in my opinion.
18.) Chess demonstrates the nature of winning and losing
Winning is one of the greatest sensations in life and we all strive to work for it. What most people don’t realize however is that winning can only be acquired by losing.
This makes sense since having an experience of loss would make it more likely to know what not to do, therefore improvement follows.
“You may learn much more from a game you lose than from a game you win. You will have to lose hundreds of games before becoming a good player.” -Jose Raul Capablanca (3rd Official World Chess Champion)
This is of course reflected in the skills needed to be developed in order to be good in chess, and trust me, you would lose a lot of games before becoming good. Having a good grasp of what it really takes to win will make it more likely to actually win in life.
19.) Chess supports both adult and kids in learning consequences
Every action in anything has consequences and if you made the wrong choice, then things could get really bad. Such a concept actually is one of the main characteristics of chess.
“One bad move nullifies forty good ones.” –Bernhard Horwitz (Chess Master)
Remember that saying where people only recognize that one mistake and not the other 50 good ones? That is harsh and depressing, but it is true and we must accept that.
Not that we should be afraid of losses as that would be contradicting the benefit in #18, but we should still do our best to avoid them! avoiding mistakes is always a part of any chess engagement.
20.) Chess make kids involve more in school activities
According to this source, participants in the study about extracurricular activities in relation to attendance brought promising results. People within the study have been documented to have better attendance (unexcused absences) than their non-participating classmates.
Chess of course is an extracurricular activity under the category of sports though debatable if chess is a sport (link to my other article), and this should apply to it as well. Now, whether the side effect of sports immersion can cause a distraction to academic performance is up to debate.
But it really is relational and can vary depending on the attention balance between the classroom and the sport. Still, people are more likely to be encouraged attending school if there is added motivation than when there is none.
21.) Chess is a good way to release stress
Doing something you love in anything will of course release pressures in life. This does not only apply to chess but to any pursuit of hobby and interest that you can find entertaining.
Personally, I find peace playing a game of chess whenever having a bad day and maybe you can too! Taking a break from something to relieve stress is sometimes more beneficial. And chess is a good way to do that!
22.) Chess teaches calmness under heavy stress
The ability to deliver in spite of heavy stress is a common scenario within our careers. Not even our careers, but our day-to-day life involves something that is challenging. That is an encounter you’ll usually get over the board, even at the start of the first move!
Maybe your opponent is higher rated, you forget your opening, or you lose a pawn, all of which is very likely to find yourself every now and then.
23.) Chess may help in dealing with schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a very serious condition suffered by really unfortunate individuals.
They cause extreme cases of hallucination, delusion, and dysfunctional thinking that don’t allow these individuals to live their normal lives. This is another brain disorder, and you guessed it, playing chess can actually alleviate it.
“Chess is a classic board game that relies on simple rules and complex cognitive strategies. At the same time, there is a growing body of evidence demonstrating the efﬁciency of targeted and standardized cognitive interventions for restoring altered cognitive functions in patients with schizophrenia”https://www.researchgate.net.
Now this is not a cure, but at least it can show improvements that help prevent stronger syndromes of the condition. That for me is noteworthy enough.
Being able to calm your nerves down and play through is a good trait that will help you to tackle bigger complications.
24.) Chess is a good rehabilitation and therapeutic tool
There has been an old saying within my own community that chess is the game for old people, and I’m pretty sure there’s something similar to yours.
People who have gone through some form of abuse especially mental (old people are more likely to have regrets), can have a lasting effect when being exposed to the game.
Take this commentary by Conor Sheridan documenting how chess is used as a rehabilitation and therapeutic tool in Toronto rehabilitation institute (TRI).
They even have a freaking chess lesson inside! One insider stated the game help him engage with other mates and help him to stay “straight and narrow”.
That is so cool! This should be explored further since it apparently has unique uses.
25.) Chess encourages patience
Being able to wait silently in order to prepare the right time to strike is a very essential life skill. In business especially, it just takes time to achieve things and if you’re not willing to wait, you may never stay through long enough to see success.
That is patience, taking the time to do things extensively even without results for a long time. It is the exact equation that allows you to play chess positionally!
“If chess has any relationship to film-making, it would be in the way it helps you developStanley Kubrick (Film Director)
patience and discipline in choosing between alternatives at a time when an impulsive decision
seems very attractive.”
Being able to wait until the right opportunity comes and being able to strike, can teach a lot how to approach things that we do with our time.
26.) Chess inspires the imagination
Earlier, I’ve stated how chess can work on both sides of the brain logical and creative.
There’s actually another faculty that I have overlooked from the creative, imagination! Imagination allows us to visualize things that we could possibly not realize in reality yet, thus opening a branch of possibility.
Imagination although more prevalent at a young age is usually partially lost through adulthood. It is such an important skill that it actually is a shame! Chess allows us to tap into this world since we kinda have to do it every time.
27.) Chess promotes quick thinking
The pressure of time! We shouldn’t only be able to tackle problems efficiently but also quickly. Problems after all are usually recurring and after solving one, it’s likely that there’s another.
This is of course a common experience in any chess game ever played where the time stresses you to make moves usually within seconds.
You will develop quick-thinking one way or another, which really relates to any activity that involves decision-making. I personally think that this is really important!
28.) Chess helps in reinforcing one’s psychological strength
One of my criticisms for this game is its physically and psychologically draining nature, but that might actually become a strength. You see it’s hard, really hard.
You would sometimes play with opponents with really high ratings, a tournament with important people, or trying to win a deciding game whatever. These are all common occurrences and psychological strength is a must if you want to survive!
The strength acquired from doing hard things is usually rewarding, and yes, chess is psychologically hard.
29.) Chess fosters decision-making
You would be making decisions all the time, that’s basically what chess is. Choosing the right opening, pawn structure, or preferred endgame are all results of single little individual decisions. I’d probably say every move has a bit of decision power behind it.
Imagine that! most games last for 30 moves, and you would be making decisions on all of that. It’s like having to make 30 decisions every game. When you do that, yes you will be good at decision making since you will do many of them.
30.) Chess gives a dose of analytical skill
Being able to process and see the whole picture than what is expected at first glance is the signature of an analytical mind.
And that is also a sign of a chess player! You would be analyzing your own games, opponent’s games, and all those that are played at the top level. This is not referring to only being able to watch, but also analyze what’s actually going on.
It’s hard to identify whether analyzing chess games can make someone an analytical person, but it definitely takes some flakes of the skill to be able to perform it.
31.) Chess provides a sense of purpose
Like many other sports, chess can provide a sense of purpose for individuals seeking to pursue something noteworthy.
And although sometimes it can be a waste of time (one of my criticisms of chess), there are definitely individuals that found the right strike of balance to make it beneficial.
Don’t get me wrong, pursuing the sport as a road to achievement is great! But be wary as there is a fine line between purpose and delusion. Still, being able to compete and win in a fair setup and be rewarded doing so will give the inspiration to continue living in general.
32.) Chess makes you value time
Time is a very important element of success, and you should not waste it. Chess in general is commonly played with time control, basically you are under time pressure.
A player who does not recognize the value of each second on the clock is on the path to doom, the same as how life basically treats everyone.
Having the ability to recognize things to do and why by the moment is key, and that is what we learn from chess. I have to repeat it, do not waste time!
33.) Chess shows people what it’s like to work hard
You see, being good at chess is hard, so hard in fact that you could spend all the time in the world and still be bad at it. This is why I say you should find the right balance between determination and delusion since it might actually take your time invested in doing better things.
But the hard work of being a skilled player has taught me personally about the amount of what it takes to be good at the things you love.
This would apply greatly in building businesses, improving your craft, climbing the ladder of your job, or just winning in anything you do. In chess, you learn to work hard.
34.) Chess can help people deal with Depression and Anxiety
There is no direct evidence indicating chess as a medium to cure anxiety, which every other website tells you. Real depression and extreme anxiety are real psychological disorders that can hardly be cured by just participating in one or two activities as the actual therapy is an extensive process.
The other benefits of chess however may help to alleviate problems, helping the speed of the recovery.
Things like the game being a good rehabilitation and therapeutic tool, able to give a sense of purpose, and making individuals meet places and people that they wouldn’t have encountered otherwise.
These are all signatures of someone stepping out of depression, and such may actually help stricken people.
35.) Chess gives an equal platform that allows girls to compete with boys
Last but not least, having a platform that allows competition with both genders is important. Chess is exactly like that, there is no hidden mechanic within the game that favors one gender over the other, you’re good if you get good at the game.
Now, there is a separation between male and female and chess which I’ve gone through in detail in my other article. It’s not what you think, and you might be surprised why it’s been put in place. Here’s the link to that article if you’re interested.
Getting back, a medium that is skill-based and not gender is always the best place to find opportunities for all people. Chess is like that, so if you’re a girl, you can compete too!
A lot of things I’ve presented may have a good value, but something you have to take with a grain of salt. Again, chess is beneficial if used correctly and destructive when not. You have to find the fine line between determination and delusion.
If you can do that, you could enjoy all of these to your heart’s content! Sleep well and play chess.