Autistic spectrum disorder and chess ability


I have ASD and I've been playing for about 15 months from scratch. I am 43 years old. I'm a beginner at the moment but I'm hooked. Chess feels very secure and I know where I stand. No luck involved. That's good for us 👌👌


People with austism have an extremely varied spectrum of manifestations of the 'condition.' Some are extremely good at memorising by rote, some are exceptionally good at pattern recognition relating to anything that piques their interest. Of course that translates into an advantage when it comes to learning chess. I suspect that a lot of pros, and casual players that are good, have mild versions of high functioning autism. For the most part autism is a difference in social functioning, and a related difference in attribution of value to everyday objects and social institutions, which results in 'divergent' emotional responses and communications. Consider some of the very famous streamers, then imagine them at a party with your average one-dimensional strangers... coaches.png


i have no doubt they are decent correlations.  If you watched some of Temple grandin's ted talks she mentions how being a high functional autist in her case means having a very concrete imagination e.g, if you tell a kid to picture a church they will imagine the representation of a church, like say the symbolic house of square, triangle and cross on top. She would picture a specific church and add/remove features in her brain as the thought experiment moves along.

a lot of chess improvement is moving from mastering abstract chess principles to more concrete evaluations of case by case analysis. A lot of visualization improvement is to master being able to hold the whole board in view . I can tell you that even as a master when  i play blind half the time feels more like looking around an imaginary board with a telescope then a clear idea of where all pieces are at once. These are the skillsets someone on the spectrum with strong spatial intelligence would strive in. 

i believe GM Navara is rumored(?) to be on the spectrum and IM lakdawala came out the asperger closet in a podcast. They are good cases to be for morphy, fischer, Ivanchuk and a few other but its all speculation. If Temple Grandin is to be believed, undiagnosed autists are over-represented in the higher strata of sciences and the arts, so its not just a chess thing. 


I honestly think we are all a bit on the spectrum... 

My mom is a professor on autism and wrote books about it etc... But my completely un educated opinion is that SHE herself is very much on the spectrum, and actually ... We're just all on some spectrum... I mean no offense IDK if this is legit to say this, just my opinion...


I feel like some people on the spectrum do tend to see details rather than the bigger picture, which may or may not be helpful in this aspect.


i can relate

naturalproduct wrote:

I'm not an expert, but I don't think Autism and chess have any correlation. If you're talking about savants, then they typically have genius like qualities in a single area (like memory, drawing, division, etc.); however, they pay for it dearly in being severely mentally impaired in other areas. I think with chess, there are too many factors that one needs to be great at. I would love to see a documented case of a chess savant though....I just doubt it.


You’re misinformed about savants, they can be highly specialized in any number of complicated tasks that require an array of different skills. Medical doctors can be savants, musicians can be savants etc. etc.



Those on the spectrum don't necessarily have "elevated chess abilities". What they may have, though, is a greater tendency to engage in certain kinds of activities and behaviors. Sometimes this becomes a routine, or even a ritual.

A neurotypical child might play alone with a coloring book for a few minutes, for example, before getting bored and wanting to do something else, or before wanting someone to socialize with.

A child on the spectrum, however, might be content to play alone with that same coloring book for a much longer period of time ... and might become upset if you attempt to redirect them onto something else ...

For those unfamiliar with Fischer's backstory: his mother found it so concerning that young Bobby obsessed so much over chess, alone in his room for hours and hours at a time, that she began asking strangers to provide socialization opportunities for him ...

It doesn't seem too unreasonable to suggest that he may have been on the spectrum, just unidentified ...

officialtroll wrote:
Is Hikaru autistic?

i remember there was a recent clip where someone asked that and he joked with a reply


i am as well, a fan said that in his chat and he joked with a reply


Bobby Fischer probably is why he was acting weird

officialtroll wrote:
I’m asking if he is?

no idea