Top 6 Benefits of Playing Chess

Top 6 Benefits of Playing Chess

Chess is a recreation and competitive board game played between two players. It is played on board with 64 black and white squares. Each player has 16 pieces that can be moved according to fixed rules.

People are introduced to chess in a variety of ways. Perhaps a family member is looking for a game or one of your friend plays. Recently many folks are taking interest in chess because of Corona. Due to lockdown people are at home. Many of them are into fitness. Along with physical, we need mental exercise too and chess is the best way to stimulate the brain and get entertained at the same time.

Dr Fernand Gobet is a professor of Cognitive Psychology and an international Master. He wrote his PhD dissertation on the memories of a chess player. He has written many books and articles about chess and psychology. He has been studying many aspects of chess psychology such as mental imagery, pattern recognition, and the study and playing patterns of chess players.

Meaning of Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive Psychology is the scientific study of mental processes such as attention, language use, memory, perception, problem solving, creativity and reasoning. Chess involves an intense intellectual challenge that’s very good for the health of the mind.

Here we are going to discuss few benefits of playing chess in day-to-day life.

1. Perception in Chess

An experiment was conducted to study the dynamic aspects of perceptual processes in an expert chess player. The first experiment was a short-term comparison task. In this, expert focuses their attention on the area of studied positions where they expect standard moves to occur.

The second experiment used a long-term recognition task. The result shows that experts made many false recognitions on the new positions that could be expected from the positions presented in the preliminary study phase.

Skilled chess player learns to anticipate opponent’s next move. To predict what another person will do next, a player must develop the ability to adopt another person’s perspective and infer what actions they are lightly to take.

2. Memory

“Chess player’s memory is a myth” Viswanathan Anand.

Chess players are broadly considered to have an eidetic memory. Some people might have a photographic memory but not all chess players. What most of us do is convert the situation into a story.

An experiment was conducted by the Dutch psychologist and chess player, Adriaan de Groot on the memory of a chess player. This experiment was quoted by Viswanathan Anand in one of his articles, the experiment tested four categories of players of varying strengths – Grandmaster, Master, Expert and Class ‘A’ Player. De Groot showed each one of them a chessboard configuration with 22 pieces from an unknown game. Then they were asked to reconstruct the game.

The Grandmaster and Master reproduced it almost effortlessly while Expert and Class ‘A’ player struggle a bit, missing detail in a couple of places.

But when the positions were randomized, making no logical sense whatsoever, each group, including the Grandmaster placed three or four pieces correctly. This shows that Grandmaster didn’t commit to memory of the position of individual pieces, rather they remembered pieces in groups, structures or patterns. The reason, the Grandmaster and Master were able to construct what they were shown the first time was because the picture made sense to them.

What I am trying to say here is chess players might not have eidetic memory but ‘Chess’ teaches us how to construct a scene to memorize it. It gives a lot of stimulation to your brain.

3. Problem Solving

Our brain is split into two symmetrical or equal parts right down the middle. The left side of the brain is responsible for the right side of the body, it performs the task of logic such as in science and mathematics. On the other hand, the right hemisphere coordinates the left side of the body, which has to do with creativity and art.

When we play chess both the sides of our brain get exercise so that our creative senses are heightened for solving everyday problems.

Jim Celone (president of the Connecticut State Chess Association) says, - “Through chess, we learn how to analyze the situation by focusing on important factors and by eliminating distractions. We learn to devise creative solutions and put a plan into action.”

Chess is quite similar to a large puzzle. In order to solve a chess game, a player must use problem-solving skills to yield the best results on the board.

4 Pattern Recognition

Chess patterns are certain tactical positions that regularly occur in-game. Chess masters are able to identify those patterns just by briefly looking at the board and recognizing how the pieces can work together for getting desired results. Once you know some patterns you need to practice solving tactical positions using those patterns.

Pattern recognition is one of the most important mechanisms of chess improvement. Realizing that the position on the board has similarities to positions you have seen before helps you to quickly grasp the essence of that position and find the most promising continuation.

You know, pattern recognition is a cognitive process, it occurs when the information is received and started into short-term memory, causing automatic activation of the specific content of long-term memory. A very basic example is learning alphabets in order. When we repeat A, B, C…. multiple times to a child, utilizing pattern recognition, the child says C immediately after hearing A and B in order. Recognizing pattern allows us to predict and expect what is coming.

5. Strategic Thinking and Tactics

“Chess is a war over the board. The object is to crush the opponent’s mind.” Bobby Fischer.

There are two concepts that all chess players must understand from the start, ‘strategy and tactics.’ The strategy involves recognizing competition and counter moves; moves that can only be guessed at unlike tactics, which is usually a one-two punch, strategy is about long-term goals. You need to think about the positional factors and come up with strategic plans that sometimes extend all the way to the end game.

It is like viewing the picture in the museum; the entire painting, examining it as a whole (seeing everything at once, like a helicopter view in a stadium), whereas in tactical thinking you are examining it on a more detailed level, such as brush strokes or colour relationships. Strategic thinking looks at the ‘big picture.' Once you see the ‘big picture,' it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get down to business, resolving the strategic problem with a fistful of tactics. From strategic problems comes a tactical solution.

I can imagine how amazing it will be to see the problems from a helicopter view and then make a strategy. The only thing left after the strategy-making is to implement it.

6 Patience and Sportsmanship

Paulo Coehlo says – “The two hardest tests on the spiritual road are the patience to wait for the right moment and the courage not to be disappointed with what we encounter.”

Skilled chess player has perception, good memory, problem-solving skills, pattern recognition and strategic thinking. All these qualities, to be a good chess player or to win a game are incomplete without patience and sportsmanship. In the game of chess when you are playing well and not getting the results is frustrating. In such a situation, there is only one constructive thing you can do to be patient. Keep on playing the game. It doesn’t matter, what happened before.

Not only chess but ‘sports’ teaches us patience and sportsmanship in the play-way method. It’s like fun learning. Chess teaches us how to win and lose. Of course, everyone likes to win, but it is just important to learn how to accept losing. Sometimes you give the lesson, sometimes you receive the lesson! Most important is to try to learn from those losses and come back a better player. Just like in life we need to get back up when confronted with failure and come back wises and stronger. Chess teaches how to win gracefully. The wonderful part of this game is, there is room for everyone’s style.

        Chess is not just for smart people, but anyone who plays chess definitely becomes smarter. As Benjamin Franklin said – “Chess teaches foresight, by having to plan ahead, Vigilance… having to keep watch over the whole chessboard…. Caution, by having to restrain ourselves from making hasty moves….and finally we learn from chess the greatest maxims in life, that even when everything seems to be going badly for us, we should not lose heart, but always hope for a change for the better, and steadfastly continue searching for the solutions to our problems.”