Does Chess Increase IQ?

It has generally been accepted by most people that those who play chess have a higher IQ than most. It is a difficult game to play, which is why so many people look up to chess players as intelligent beings.

Does Chess Increase IQ

But, do you have to be academically intelligent to become good at chess? Or, does playing chess increase your IQ, helping you to become a smarter person?

Let’s find out.

Can Playing Chess Increase A Person’s IQ?

It is no secret that chess is a challenging game to play; while it is believed that 70% of adults will have played it at some point in their lives, even less people are able to play it sufficiently.

It is believed that an average of 600,000,000 people know how to play chess at a basic level, which is only 7.5% of the earth’s population.

This means that, out of the 70% of adults who have played chess, only a small percentage of them know how to play properly.

This could be viewed in two ways: only clever people play chess because they are intelligent enough to understand it, or those who play chess gain intelligence overtime.

The notion that pursuing chess can raise a person’s IQ has been the belief of many people for the longest time, and there is actually some truth behind it.

In fact, this notion has been supported by a number of studies over the years. 

The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children was used in the Learning to Think Project, a Venezuelan experiment conducted during the late 1970s to early 1980s to determine whether chess could increase elementary-level students’ intelligence. 

After learning chess regularly for less than a year, the children’s IQ levels increased, supporting the notion that learning to play this game really can improve a person’s intelligence.

The government of Venezuela was so pleased with the overall results from this experiment that chess lessons were actually instituted in all Venezuelan schools by the end of the 1980s. 

Do You Have To Be Smart To Play Chess?

One may assume that, in order to be a chess player, you have to already be a somewhat intelligent person with a higher IQ than most.

The thing about chess is that while it is, on the surface, a board game, it involves a lot of mental strength and stamina to play, let alone win against another opponent.

It can be difficult for any new player to adjust to having 16 parts to play with, made up of 6 separate pieces, and an infinite number of possible move combinations per game.

Even if someone with a genius-level IQ were to sit down and play their first game of chess, without knowing any of the rules prior to playing, it would take them a little while to get used to the rules. 

Therefore, an intelligent person would not automatically become one of the world’s greatest chess players during their first play through.

Just like any sport, it takes a lot of practice and patience to become good at it.

The same can be said for the opposite situation.

A person with a lower IQ, or a lower level of intelligence overall, may have the mental capacity to pick up the rules of chess much faster than someone smarter than them in other aspects of life.

Does Chess Increase IQ

Intelligence is a spectrum. What makes a chess player more intelligent than a dart player, or a football player?

All sports require intelligence in order to succeed in the activity being played, and playing a sport frequently necessitates knowing winning tactics over having academic intelligence.

So, no, you do not have to be ‘smart’ to play chess, per se. Although, it definitely does not hurt to be naturally intelligent if you’d like to become a professional chess player some day.

The Effects Of Chess On The Brain

Chess is one of the most effective instructional games that can improve mental acuity in its players.

This is because it teaches players how to deconstruct and resolve challenging situations while playing the game, as they work out which moves will help them advance. 

Additionally, chess playing can improve academic outcomes, such as mathematic skills, language arts, and proficiency in reading, which then in turn improves intellectual abilities that raise their overall IQ. 

There have also been studies that support the fact that playing chess can improve a person’s memory, encourage creative thinking, and stimulate and strengthen the player’s brain growth.

The most impressive fact of all, however, is that playing chess can actually help those who are suffering physically with illnesses.

There have been reports of patients who have suffered from strokes, or other brain injuries and/or disabilities, that have physically and mentally improved after learning to play chess.

Playing chess can also reduce your chances of developing dementia in the later years of your life. Therefore, learning how to play this game has the potential to, ultimately, add years onto your life.

Professional Chess Players With The Highest IQs

Magnus Carlsen, who is presently the world chess champion, earned his first grandmaster title in 2004 at the astonishingly young age of just 13.

He has an IQ of 190, which is an exceptionally high score.

Another grandmaster, Sergey Karjakin, has an IQ of 160. The IQ of Mikhail Tal, who achieved his first standard at the age of 13, is 175 points.

The key here is that each of these players started competing at young ages, becoming famed for their impressive skills at such a young age. 

It can be challenging to tell whether these players’ chess prowess came from intelligence that they already possessed, or whether learning to play the game at such an early age made them smarter.

Either way, the IQs of most, if not all, grandmasters are all above 100, which is the average IQ score. The majority of them, however, have a much higher IQ score than the national average.

Final Thoughts

It appears that the secret to becoming one of the greatest chess players of all time is to start playing at a young age, whether you are already naturally intelligent or not.

This will not only help you become a better player, but it will also increase your IQ score.

You do not have to be naturally intelligent to learn to play this sport, although it definitely doesn’t hurt to be.

Either way, playing chess will increase your IQ, and strengthen your brain in ways that you would never even think about.

Jenna Ostria
Latest posts by Jenna Ostria (see all)