Does chess correlate with i.q.? Here are the facts!

Iq test is a standardized form of exam designed to indicate a number that would describe general intelligence. Some people believe that this is correlated with chess since it affects one’s ability to learn.

After hours of research here is what I know:

The I.q. tests specifically measure the participant’s visual-spatial, reasoning, abstract, auditory, process speed, long/short term memory, and crystallized/fluid capabilities which directly correlates to chess. It is a good measurement but not an absolute one.

I have wondered lately if this value (i.q.) has any bearings on chess success, and after researching I got some interesting findings. I am going to share all of it with you since this topic may be intriguing if you are just getting started with chess.

I feel so excited writing this article since I am actually bad at chess until I have decided to study seriously, this is sort of personal to me. And generally, it is just interesting, so here you go!

There is a lack of data on the correlation of i.q. and chess

If you’ve researched online for any hard statistics about the average or profiled I .q. of any chess player you are likely to find a rat.

There are actually very few verified numbers that have been expressed by the participants themselves, most of them are actually just rumors.

A regular grandmaster (highest official title in chess) does not usually take the I.q. test as a requirement therefore the lack of data.

This could be for the following reasons:

  • Time- performing in the pinnacle of the chess world takes a lot of time, so much so that I .q. tests become less important.
  • Money- grandmasters do not earn a lot of money from their pursuit and therefore cannot afford the cost of an official I .q. test.
  • Practicality- I.q. tests are administered to identify intelligence, data that is cool but cannot be used to improve.
  • Self-esteem- proliferating in the chess world is just hard and a low I .q. score can hamper confidence.

All of these reasons goes hand to hand with each other to form the lack of data we have today.

Unless there is an official sponsor that would handle the operation management, then I cannot see us getting an average I .q. of chess players.

Chess and I.q., Falsified I.q. scores from top players

On top of having a not-so-clear data set, people are actually manipulating some numbers to just give the impression that players are these “geniuses”.

This kind of misinformation is frankly annoying in my eyes, here are some of them.

PlayerAlleged I.q Scores
Magnus Carlsen190
Garry Kasparov190
Bobby Fischer187
Judith Polgar170
Robert Bryne170
Nigel Short130-140

Fun fact: An I.q. score of 100 is actually pretty normal, most people (about 68 percent) have an IQ between 85 and 115. Only a small fraction of people have a very low IQ (below 70) or a very high IQ (above 130).

This is ridiculous statistics even for players of their caliber very astronomical to be even called realistic.

In perspective, an I.q score of above 140 is considered to be in the rare genius level that few people can attain.

There’s only 0.5% of people on the entire planet who could even reach that high, so high in fact that this is the number that lets you skip grade levels and acquire scientific positions.

In comparison, Stephen Hawking one of the absolute geniuses in the field of astrophysics is impaired yet has spent all his life reading scientific books, founded some groundbreaking theories, has only an I.q. around 160-170.

160-170! An individual that has an equal if not higher score as the great Albert Einstein is nothing compared to the chess world champions?

Fact report: I did some digging and found out that Garry Kasparov (alleged I .q. of 190) has in fact already been tested with a result of 135, more truthful than the number on the table.

Chess has a correlation with the i.q. scores

Yes, we cannot correctly identify if there is a relation to the I.q. scores themselves and chess proficiency, but we could do so on the test themselves.

The i.q. test specifically measures various sets of cognitive abilities in order to formulate the score.

What we can do is to find those cognitive categories and infer if such applies to the pursuit of chess mastery.

If the expression of the score is related enough then it must mean that the skills within those circles should correlate to chess competence.

Cognitive abilities associated with I.q. and its relation to chess

The I.q. tests specifically determine the following:

1.) Visual-Spatial Intelligence as i.q. foundation and its relation to chess

Visual-spatial intelligence is the ability to recognize spaces in the context of observation and navigate based on those findings.

Crossing a pedestrian lane, avoiding hitting another car in traffic, or not crashing into a pole while walking are all related to the visual-spatial ability.

This is money when it comes to chess success since maneuvering pieces accurately into limited spaces is a common handiwork.

2.) Reasoning ability as i.q. foundation and its relation to chess

This is the capability to gather several important details and piece them together into a concrete framework.

Most people think that reasoning can only be verbal which is not true, reasoning is the process of thinking not the medium of communication.

Finding out the smallest possibilities of the position and map a plan based on those is also a form of reasoning.

3.) Abstract profoundness as i.q. foundation and its relation to chess

This is the capacity to form concepts that are still not present in reality in order to prepare for some kind of execution, basically our imagination.

Again this is highly applicable in chess profoundness, subtle creativity is necessary for higher levels of play.

Maybe it’s a theoretical novelty, unsound pawn sacrifice, or even a gambit, all taps into the power of abstract creation.

4.) Auditory Processing as i.q. foundation and its relation to chess

This refers to the skill of relating different frequencies of sound and making sense of its nature along with the speed of the interpretation.

This one is absolutely not related to chess in any way since the board game is more visual in nature than auditory.

This is a trash category in the I .q. score if we’re only going to measure its relevance to chess, so this is out of the question.

5.) Process Speed as i.q. foundation and its relation to chess

This is the rate (speed) to how much information can be acquired and processed over a period of time.

Chess is played in various time controls, where people with good process speed can definitely benefit during time troubles and fast play.

I think though most players acquire this intelligence from experience rather than inherently having it the first time, but should still be relevant in the nature of our question.

6.) Long-term memory as i.q. foundation and its relation to chess

This is the tendency to remember things over a long period of time possibly years even when new memory gets added frequently.

This absolutely applies to most chess activities such as the memorization of lines, games, or endings that could potentially transpire on the board.

These kinds of realization don’t usually fade even with the crossing of time (although a little bit) and therefore is an applicable variable from the I .q. test

7.) Short term memory as i.q. foundation and its relation to chess

This is the span of memorization that is quick but doesn’t last a long time (like cram memorizing studies for an exam).

Whether identifying spur-of-the-moment lines in between tournaments or witnessing a novelty needed to be recorded are all short-term based efforts

This is not frequently practiced though compared to long term memory but is still essential for chess expertise.

8.) Crystallized Intelligence as i.q. foundation and its relation to chess

Crystallized intelligence is a form of knowledge that can be learned or memorized meaning something you can study.

There’s plenty of very good examples of crystallized learning involved in chess pursuit (opening theories, tactics, endgame).

Therefore any findings regarding this category should also translate the better chess capability.

9.) Fluid Intelligence as i.q. foundation and its relation to chess

Fluid Intelligence is the ability to solve problems proficiently without prior experience or interaction, something that cannot be studied.

Although a lot of things can be studied, there are tons of surprises that can occur on the board that demand on-the-spot decisions

Genius level individuals usually have high amounts of fluid intelligence, and of course are still relevant to chess.

Correlation of i.q. categories to chess

Based on all the directories the I .q. exam tends to measure, only one can be considered as non-essential being the auditory.

This means that up to 88.89% of all the variables are directly related to a person’s chess understanding.

Statistically, this qualified in the statement of “test I .q. scores should correlate to chess” since almost 90% of data directly translate to its relatedness.

However the I .q. test themselves are a little bit flawed than what we give them credit for (although they are good in estimation just not in the specification).

Here are the following reasons why I.q. scores even if conducted may a little bit off in its relation to what we’re looking for:

  • Strategy matters- later participants are more likely to acquire higher scores since they’ve already formulated their strategy.
  • Motivation during the test- whether it’s getting an early sleep for having some sort of inspiration, motivated individuals will score higher.
  • Flawed interpretation of the test- the scores are more of estimation rather than definitive and shouldn’t be considered hard data.
  • The I .q. model is still limited- although pretty good, the model is still not precise in some of its categories (although we are learning every day).

With all of these conditions in place we cannot accurately state that the test is 100% foolproof.

A grandmaster who might have taken the exam can score higher or lower than his or her own capabilities.

Intelligence quotient on chess success

But shrugging all this out of the way what does this mean to us? does having a lower I .q. prevent us from being a better chess player?

Absolutely not, there are tons of ingredients to chess success that are being overlooked by this data.

Stuff like persistence, patience, diligence, confidence, compactness, passion, and dedication are usually what takes people to the place they are trying to go.

If you have a below than average natural abilities but work harder than everyone else, you will still win in the end.

Final thoughts

I.q. tests definitely are an interesting way to look for chess potentials and gauge our status.

We shouldn’t however think that this is the only precursor to success since reality is much more unforgiving than that.

I recommend not even worrying about the I.q. at all (even if you have taken it) and instead should be taken as a challenge to prove skills by actions, not by exams.

Hope you had a good read, sleep well and play chess.