Chess and intelligence

One of the few social advantages of being a chess player is that people assume you must be intelligent.  Chess players, of course, know this is simply not true.  I've known plenty of players who could barely string two words together and were so dumb they probably needed an instruction manual to go to the toilet.


Me?  Well, I'm a mathematics graduate, an accountant, and have an IQ of around 130.  So I'm not exactly Einstein (pictured) but I can tie my own shoelaces.  However, as a chess player I'm utterly mediocre.  Chess requires a very specific set of knowledge and skills, so there is no guarantee that being smart will mean you are a budding Kasparov.


Of course, the opposite also applies.  You don't have to be smart to play good chess.  This is the big secret that the non-chess paying world doesn't know.  You are all sworn to secrecy - I mean it!  If word ever gets out it will be the end of one of the few perks we chess players have.  So if someone asks you if chess players are smart, just answer in the affirmative and point them in the direction of your license plate. Laughing


  • 2 years ago


  • 3 years ago


    @ MrWizard - thanks for a thoughtful response to this very old blog post of mine.

    I think I was being rather facetious, and quite agree with your comments (and Batgirl's) Smile.

  • 3 years ago


    High level chess requires the following abilities:

    Broadly speaking, recollection of the same or similar positions and how to proceed from them...

    This can be of a tactical or strategic nature [or even creative], which in turn is dependent on the ability to visualize and manipulate objects in the mind [tactics] or apply a learned [or independent] algorithm for winning in multiple situations...just as a mathematician would quickly assimilate the essentials of a problem to go about applying method x,y or 'novel' in its solution.

    The fact that we know individuals we perceive to be less smart than ourselves who can play better chess could mean a multitude of things, one possibility being that the 'stronger-than-you-chess-player' might find the world outside of chess to hold little attraction for him, the result being an under-achiever in real life due to self imposed restriction on learning.

    I find it somewhat irritating when I read that guys with a high-IQ are mediocre chess-players and therefore, high level chess must require 'something' outside 'real intelligence'. Maybe such people just haven't put in enough hours of study, or are not enthusiastic enough, lack the 'competive-edge' [will to win]. Maybe such people lack just one of abilities indicated above.

    Batgirl made a lot of sense [as usual]

    The 'Battle of the Brains' testing where Susan Polgar [IQ 170] failed to impress was inevitable. Excellence in Physics draws on many areas of endeavour in the 'real world' such as math, language, visualisation, engineering, mechanics which are used on a daily basis, Susan's [and many women's abilities do not include engineering/mechanics unless they undertake study in the just wasn't a fair comparison! 


    [apologies for my non-American spelling...we learn English-English down here Cool ]

  • 4 years ago


    There is generally a simple shortcut to finding out opinions on such matters. If a person is good at the said thing, it is the meaning to life, the universe and everything, lol. If not, it does not mean anything at all. So funny.

    In relation to the above, characteristics of individuals are mentioned that have no bearing on intelligence at all !

    Very average at chess, so nothing to prove here.

  • 5 years ago


    I have been long time interested in chess and intelligence and I can confirm this thread, that smart in chess does not mean smart in life. And another thing - most good chess players are incredible dumb, I have spoke to many titled players.

    I have a friend who is stupid in life he understood chess much much better than me. I can`t understand why he is smarter than me in chess he does not read books or use engine. I can write a huge list of things that I misunderstood or did`t understood at all in chess when I used to be a 1850 fide player (now 2150) but one thing he did`t understand is how to evaluate who stands better and that its bad to attack from worst position which results that he often overpushes worst position but he has strong calculation so he compensates but against strong opposition he goes down in such cases. Also he tends to believe that Knights are superior to Bishops which backfires some times.His fide 2190 - already for 8 years........

  • 6 years ago


    Its been a long time since anyone has commented on this...hope im not too lateLaughing.

    Anyway, regarding this topic i reccomend for those of you  interested in watching BBC'S Battle of the Brains program. It involves several differant personalities who are at the top of their respective fields bieng put through several Intelligence tests. The personalities consisted of  an IQ  specialist, Fighter jet pilot, Dramatist, Artist, Quantum Physicist, Music prodigy and a Chess Grandmaster (Susan Polgar).

    The program concludes with the quantum physicist scoring the highest number of points, while susan polgar being unable to cut through to the top3 on all of the individual tests.

    My personal view on this matter is that a high IQ will certainly help chess players when breaking through to the higher Fide ratings, but any person of average IQ may be able to reach master level given the right amount of time and effort on the subject.

  • 7 years ago


    there is not a direct relation with chess and intelligence. But I promise you if you play chess you will be smarter...chess does not give you a super brain, or you dont need a super brain to be good at chess, but there is a correlation with kids that play chess tend to do better in their courses specially math. not becuase chess is number but because chess is logic, and math is logic. Chess helps a person foresight patterns, and solve problems logically. these will give your IQ some points.but also there are different types of intelligence. thats why intelligence is a touchy subject...also I want to point out I read that Kasparvo's IQ is around 196 not 135. Bobby fisher IQ was 180 but he was a different case experts suspect he had a form of autism, which explains his severe obssesion with chess. there is a correlation but one does not lead to the other

  • 7 years ago


     Kasparov's IQ is 135, which is 13 points less than my own. However, I am a terrible chess player, and Kasparov is arguably the greatest of all time. Granted, I don't know how reliable those tests really are, but in any case, I think chess, like many subjects, has more to do with study than innate talent.

  • 9 years ago


    All right ill volunteer for my own  experiment to find out once and for all, what the realtionship between IQ and chess is, if any. I gave a few IQ tests  which seemed to be genuine; unlike the fake easy ones available online, and consistenly scored between 125-130 . I expected higher scores firstly becoz im an engineering student and am comfortable with  analytical,logical problems(so what if i flunked a couple of courses), and of course i am a genius i know it-just have to cut out on the vodka binges and pot parties.

      I have played a few chess matches before when i was younger (i was pretty bad at it and still am.). But now I will relentlessly practise and try to improve in chess for the next 6 months (i have nothin better to do with my time) and see if they are mutually dependent/affecting. So will post the conclusion after 6 months.That is if i dont overdose myself and get wasted. Any one care to join me with the experiment is welcome. By the way any idea how much mediocre-professional chess player earn?? i mean, just in case im thrown outta the college :/

  • 9 years ago


    Are chess players intelligent? A stupid question. A lot of chess players are absolute morons when it comes to performing other skills.But of course most of us chess players - patzers ( like myself ) and perhaps GM's,would like to perpetuate the myth that it takes superior intelligence to play good chess!
  • 9 years ago


    Hi, SonofPearl.  No I have no Welsh connection. I wish I have. The Welsh people have a long and interesting tradition which I admire. I suppose those of us who like maths also like to play chess. I too am a maths major. Dr. Max Euwe, World Champion who once defeated Dr. Alekhine was a mathematician. So was Dr. Emmanual Lasker. Are mathematicians intelligent people?  Is chess an art form or a science? This should open for us an interesting topic for discussion here!  
  • 9 years ago


    I would be very interested in an anonymous survey to see what is the average IQ of members. I would hope that we'd all be honest if our name is not linked to our response.
  • 9 years ago


    What people need to remember is everyone is intelligent in some way, the question is not who is more intelligent but whose intelligence most fits that particular field. Which is why a person "with a good heart" can be just as intelligent as Einstein, their intelligence is simply in a different area, ie. empathy and interpersonal. As for chess=intelligence, as chess is a game of the mind, any person playing chess on a regular basis will find they have some inprovement in their thinking skills, the same as any person playing poker or writing the crossword. Exersie for your brain is just as if not more important then exersie for your body, chess is simply one among many ways to do so.
  • 9 years ago


    I think both are important. After all, according to Dante, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.  The mind and the soul, or the heart and the brain, must work in unison and harmony.

    In chess, though, intelligence trumps benevolence.

  • 9 years ago

    NM TheOldReb

    There is something worrisome about this whole "intelligence" thread to me. In today's society it seems the "intelligent" people are admired and respected, simply for being "intelligent". On the other hand people who are not intelligent seem to be looked down upon. Isnt whats in a persons heart more important? I mean there are people who are not very intelligent who do good and help others and never harm anyone , while there are intelligent people who do the opposite. Serial killers are above average IQ and some are even geniuses. Understand my point ?
  • 9 years ago


    Intelligence is a form of measurement. Since we are all online and communicating, we are intelligent. Some people are gifted more than others in certain areas which helps to expand their intelligence level in that area. Keep in mind that measurements can be misleading. When you measure knowledge you are not measuring intelligence per se, you are measuring sombody's capability to memorize. There are savants that can remember thousands of combinations of numbers that can't hold a conversation or feed themselves. Remember Rain Man? Was he intelligent? 
  • 9 years ago


    Trying to define "intelligence" and saying someone has skills without intelligence...those are slippery rocks I wouldn't play on. As far as intelligence goes, there are people who don't have high-school degrees and could be classified as intelligent. Well that's enough philosophy from me.
  • 9 years ago


    My 2¢; There are different kinds of intelligence. I'd imagine that any excellent chess player would score well beyond the mean on the portions of I.Q. tests which measure pattern recognition, short term memory and spatial visualization.
  • 9 years ago


    I don't think there are any cause/effect issues between chess and inteligence, so I don't buy that anyone is smarter because they play chess, but I do bllieve that exercizing the mind is good for it and that chess, when played properly (that is, one evaluates the board, establishes a plan, or having a plan, refines it, looks for tactical nuances, choses candidate moves, calculates, pares down to the best move by reason and logic, etc.) does help develop correct, careful and logical thinking which in turn makes one seem more intelligent.


    I also think that anyone who excels in any game of the mind, checkers and poker included, must be intelligent. I don't think you need a high IQ to play great chess, but I consider that the weakness of intelligence testing rather than a lack of need of higher intelligence to play great chess.

  • 9 years ago


    Thanks for the post. Very interesting. Batgirl, nice comment. My position, today, is that a fairly good Chess player, like me, is intelligent. May be more intelligent than the average non-chess-playing individual. I used to doubt it (it=the superior intelligence assumption) when people called me all sorts of nice things - genius, for example. I doubted it further when it came from people who knew nothing about Chess. However, along the way, I have been forced to reconsider and just accept that at a minimum, I am intelligent. I am yet to resolve the issue of whether I play Chess because I am intelligent, or I am intelligent because I play Chess. Is Chess the expression of my intelligence? Like you, SonOfPearl, I was a Math Major, now I am an accountant. I am not sure how Chess is related to Math, or Math to Accounting or Accounting to Chess. I just accept the fact that I can do them all, decently. But I am just one individual among billions!

    Here are some benefits of playing Chess; you will find some links research on the relationship between Chess & "intelligence": 

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