CHESS Make your IQ higher!


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IQ and Chess


Playing chess is one operation that fully exercises your mind. Chess is quite like a brain tonic which enhances concentration, patience, and perseverance, as well as develops creativity, intuition, memory, and most importantly, the ability to process and extract information from a set of general principles, learning to make tough decisions and solving problems flexibly. Most importantly it teaches one, a golden virtue -- the virtue of Patience.


Concentration, Patience, and Perseverance


You require immense concentration to play chess. Some of the world's ace players, appear distracted, sometimes scratching their heads, taking a break between moves to walk around. However a closer look reveals that most of these players are actually absorbed in thought, relying on strong visual memory to plan and calculate even when they are away from their game. Chess is a teaching tool that instantly penalizes you for any lapses. One slip in concentration can lead to a blunder, costing you the game.


Analysis, Logic, and Problem Solving


Playing chess well involves multiple aptitudes. Dr Albert Frank found that learning chess, even as teenagers, strengthened both numerical and verbal aptitudes. Some studies have even claimed that playing chess can strengthen a child's memory.


A 1990-92 study in New Brunswick, Canada, found that by integrating chess into the traditional mathematics curriculum teachers were able to raise significantly the average problem solving scores of their students. These students fared much better on problem solving tests than ones who just took the standard mathematics course.


Verbal skills


How could chess possibly improve English skills? The young students learned to make connections based on chess moves; This helped them connect different aspects of what they read in English courses & texts. Thus, the ability to make connections improves the overall IQ score.


Spatial intelligence


The ability to perceive possibilities for movement is particularly crucial to chess thinking, as is the capacity to build up a system of knowledge and experience. Chess thinking often involves a complex, hierarchical structure of problems and sub-problems, and the capacity for retaining and manipulating such complex structures of data concurrently never deviating from the goals, all correlate with having a high IQ.


Chess and IQ


Chess has been shown to raise student's overall IQ scores. A Venezuelan study involving 4,000 second grade students found a significant increase in their IQ scores after only 4.5 months of systematically studying chess. Tournament chess games, which bind each player to make his move within the stipulated time, hone one's ability to perform under pressure, mimicking environments of most school and competitive exams.


From gifted to retarded chess have benefits for all


Dr Ferguson's four-year study reported that after spending 60-64 hours playing and studying chess over 32 weeks students exhibited significant progress in critical thinking. He further found that chess enhances "creativity in gifted adolescents." Chess benefits are not restricted to gifted children. Chess teacher Michael Wojcio notes that "even if a slow learner does not grasp all of the strategies and tactics in chess, he/she can still benefit by learning language, concepts, and fine motor movement." This often ignites in them a passion for learning.


Age no bar


Chess tournaments are not divided by age but by ability (unlike other sports). Young players can many a times outperform seasoned ones. In 1999-2000 in Australia, for example, a thirteen-year-old won the New South Wales championship, a fourteen-year-old won the South Australian championship and a fifteen-year-old won the Queensland championship.


From gifted to retarded chess have benefits for all


  • Visual-spatial processing
  • Quantitative reasoning
  • Working memory
  • Fluid reasoning
  • Nonverbal IQ
  • Knowledge


Chess studying and playing involves six out of seven factors of the modern IQ test model. Hence subscribing to it would warranty improvement in your performance in IQ tests as per the verdicts of researchers. So if you have never felt the chessboard its time you start arranging your pawns!


IQ and Chess Strength

The following is taken from Jonathan Levitt's Genius of Chess and from an article by Bill Wall on IQ and Chess, poured into a blender to create my delicious lesson smoothie. These excerpts include some interesting anecdotes and case studies of IQ in relation to chess abilities.

Some chess players discuss IQ
Back in 1988, there was an impressive chess festival in the small industrial town of St. John's, Canada. Two large and very strong Open tournaments were combined with the complete set of seven Candidates' matches in the World Championship cycle of the time. The English contingent were all on good terms and in good cheer (Nigel Short was making mincemeat of Sax in his match, likewise Jon Speelman of Seirawan) and usually formed, combined with certain selected 'foreigners' (like Spassky), a massive eating party which the local restaurants struggled to accommodate.

 I have a fair recall of the conversation on one such evening. Nigel Short was asked what he thought his IQ was. He was not sure, but (far too modestly) proposed 130 or 140. John Nunn, his second, suggested that with a little training, Nigel could knock his score up to at least 160. Speelman was not impressed by IQ tests generally, and everybody saw the inadequacy of any test which depended on how much practice you had had at the type of questions involved.

At this point, some bright spark (me) suggested that it might be a better measure of intelligence to do two tests and see how much the person improved. Quick as a flash, Nigel replied that this was a very bad idea since you could do deliberately badly in the first test! It took me a few seconds to grasp his meaning - that you could artificially inflate the difference in your scores and thus score better in the proposed test.

Everybody was fairly impressed by this quick and crafty answer and the conversation moved on. The story illustrates something important about the nature of the chess mind - how good it is at short cuts (no pun intended) and tricky ways round things. Mathematicians are usually less devious in their thinking - it is important to find direct ways to prove things.

The mathematician's approach to getting what you want
There is a story about a Turkish reformer who wanted to discourage women from wearing the veil. Instead of attempting to forbid it directly (the mathematician's approach), he issued a decree that all prostitutes must wear veils. This indirect 'trick' proved the workable, effective way to his objective and shows the sort of thinking which chessplayers are often rather good at.

In chess too, it is the result that counts, not how correctly it is derived. 'Players' like to try things out, and not to study other people's work diligently. Chessplayers are good thinkers but not always good students, as many university dons have found to their annoyance!

How strong is the connection between chess ability and IQ?
I discussed what is meant by intelligence at the start of the book (just after the introduction), and later gave it as a typical characteristic of the chess genius, but so far I have not really answered the question: 'how strong is the connection between chess ability and IQ?'. There are many reasons, some of them simply common sense, to believe that the two are strongly correlated. (A correlation of zero means that two things are entirely independent; a correlation of one means they are entirely related or dependent on one another. Mathematically speaking, all things are correlated somewhere between zero and one.) De Groot considered several of these reasons, and the next paragraph summarises some of his conclusions.

So wait…is there a correlation between IQ and chess strength?

Spatial intelligence is crucial for chess thinking. It's the ability to "perceive possibilities". This is important because you not only need to know what (a system of knowledge) but also know how (the system of experience).

This system must be stored (memory) and well managed - rules, analogies and operating principles must be constantly abstracted, adapted and improved (perhaps not always on a conscious level). Chess thinking often involves a complex, hierarchical structure of problems and sub-problems, and the capacity for retaining such complex structures of data (not getting confused), and for keeping objectives clear and well organised, all correlate with having a high IQ.

Before offering, very tentatively, my equation linking potential chess strength with IQ, I would like to say a little more about the IQ scale. Assuming, somewhat incorrectly as pointed out earlier (and it is true that from a false assumption you can deduce anything, but this sort of false assumption should be seen as just an inaccurate approximation), that intelligence follows the 'normal' distribution (mean 100, standard deviation 15), then how many really bright people would there be? The mathematical/statistical implications would be as follows:

16% above 115;
2.3% above 130;
0.13% above 145
0.003% above 160

This would mean only .003 percent of the population would have an IQ of over 160. This would correspond to approximately the following numbers of people above the given levels in England:

1,150,000 above 130;
65,000 above 145
1500 above 160.

Now that you have an idea of IQ and its distribution throughout a typical population, let's get to the good stuff - case studies of chess and its link to genius and intelligence.

Case Studies

Some say that the highest IQ ever possess by a human adult was Leonardo da Vinci, with an IQ of 220. Obviously, he lived before the development of IQ tests - so we can't say for sure.

In 1870, Hippolyte Taine (1828-1893) stated that playing several games of blindfold chess was an achievement in visual memory and high intelligence. Taine asked a chessplayer how he understood imagination and images, and how he played blindfold chess. Taine believed that the type of imagery used in chess was an "internal mirror" that reflected the precise state of the things being imagined.

In 1893, Alfred Binet (1857-1911) made a study of the connection between mathematics and chess. After questioning a large number of leading chess players, he found that over 90 percent of them were good mental calculators and had good memories. On the other hand, he found that some mathematicians played chess, but few were strong players.

In 1894, Alfred Binet conducted one of the first psychological studies into chess. He investigated the cognitive facilities of chess masters. Binet hypothosized that chess depends upon the phenomenological qualities of visual memory. He found that only chess masters were able to play chess successfully without seeing the board and intermediate players found it impossible to play a game of blindfold chess.

In 1925, three Soviet psychologists, Djakow, Rudik, and Petrovsky, conducted extensive tests on chess masters and came to the conclusion that their powers of memory were only greater than that of the layman as far as chess was concerned. In other areas, there was no difference. The researchers determined that high achievement in chess is based on: exceptional visual memory, combinational power, speed of calculation, power of concentration, and logical thinking.

In 1942, Leta Hollingsworth studied children with IQs of 180 or more. Included was a chess player who became nationally ranked (source not named). She found out that early talking and reading was what most differentiated these children from the average. She observed that high IQ children failed to develop desirable work habits in a school setting geared for average children. In such a setting, the high IQ children spent considerable time in idleness and daydreaming. Consequently, they learned to dislike school. She also noted that high IQ children found it difficult in finding companionship. Consequently, these high IQ children became socially isolated. Hollingsworth believed that high IQ children need to be educated for leisure and recommended that high IQ children play chess since it could be enjoyed by people of all ages and could potentially assist these children in bridging social gaps.

In a 1977-79 study by Dr. Yee Wang Fung in Hong Kong, chessplayers showed a 15 percent improvement in math and science test scores.

Some sources give Garry Kasparov, a renowned chess player, an IQ between 185 and 190. But in 1987-88, the German magazine Der Spiegel went to considerable effort and expense to find out Kasparov's IQ. Under the supervision of an international team of psychologists, Kasparov was given a large battery of tests designed to measure his memory, spatial ability, and abstract reasoning. They measured his IQ as 135 and his memory as one of the very best.


Chess Rating ELO and IQ Score Correlation PDF Print E-mail

Many people are curious if there is a correlation between one’s chess rating and IQ score. I did some information research, compiled facts and data and decided that it should be a good time to write an article about IQ score and ELO rating correlation.

If there is a correlation between IQ and ELO it would be also interesting to know how strong it is. Is it true that only people with high IQs can be strong chess players? Do all strong chess players have high IQs? We will try to answer those and other questions throughout this article.

First of all we need to figure out what is IQ. It is an abbreviation for intelligence quotient, which is a numerical score derived from one or more standardized tests. Most average humans have an IQ score of 100, while 95% of population has IQ between 70 and 130. But what do these tests actually measure, or at least attempt to measure? That something is called intelligence. Strangely enough there isn't any good formal definition for this word. Many understand what it means but only few can define it.

According to Wikipedia, intelligence includes the abilities, but not limited to:

1. abstract thinking

2. understanding

3. self-awareness

4. communication

5. reasoning

6. learning

7. having emotional knowledge

8. retaining

9. planning

10. problem solving

Again, this is not a full list, but just a few classical intelligence model characteristics. Which of this 10 abilities are needed to be successful in the game of chess?

Abstract thinking is definitely something needed for playing chess, the chess pieces can be visualized in terms of their relative pawn value and arrows to represent ability to move.

Understanding is defined as knowing about the object and be able to deal with it. That's also definitely needed in the game of chess. For example, all chess players know that a chess knight (an object) can move L-shaped and jump the pieces (behavior), the only way to stop threatened with a knight piece is to capture the knight (dealing with problem).

Self awareness is the ability to differentiate yourself and others: "I think, therefore I exist, as a thing that thinks." It's not directly correlated to the thinking process in chess, but it's common to all humans and even some animals like apes and elephants. I'm not sure what the elephant's IQ scores or ELO ratings could be, but they definitely possess some intelligence, according to this list.

Communication is technically not needed to be good at chess. However, it's very hard or nearly impossible to become a good chess player without communicating with others who play chess. Since reading a chess book, acquiring knowledge from the chess database or studying an endgame on is a form of visual communication, it is absolutely essential for success at chess. Let me take it back, communication ability is essential to be a strong chess player.

Reasoning is the capacity of humans to make sense of things, establish and verify facts. That's is definitely one of the very important abilities for chess players since they use it for many different things while over the chess board. Chess position analyses is one of the examples when reasoning plays a crucial role at chess.

Learning is acquiring new or modifying existing knowledge or skill. In chess it's actually both. Learning to play openings is acquiring a new knowledge. Sharpening tactics by the means of solving chess problems is modifying existing skill. Ability to learn is absolutely essential for a chess player.

Having emotional knowledge also plays some role in chess. For example, if a person hates losing at chess he we use that negative stimulus and prior emotional knowledge to avoid it in future. He can either learn and play better chess or stop playing chess to avoid loses.

Retaining is absolutely important for chess. Good memory can give a chess player a huge advantage against another player. Ability to memorize chess games, position, classical endgames and openings is essential for playing high level chess.

Planning is a key of any chess game. Chess is all about planning and strategy. In order to outplay your opponent you need to come up with a plan which is suitable for specific position and also execute it well. Wikipedia defines strategy as plan aimed for gaining (or being prepared to gain) a position of advantage over adversaries or best exploiting emerging possibilities. That's perfectly applicable to chess, since we want to take advantage of all the available resources on the chess board to actually win the game.

Problem solving is something that a chess player does literally during each move while playing chess. He has to make many decisions throughout the game and figure out ways to defend and attack, develop pieces and manage time. Tactics is also 100% problem solving.

As we can see from the list above 9 out of 10 intelligence characteristics are also very important for the game chess. From that we can make a conclusion that in order to be a strong chess player, one needs to possess a higher than average level of intelligence. But does that mean that a good chess player must have a high IQ score? That all depends on how accurately and reliably can IQ test measure one's intellectual abilities. Many scientists debate whether or not  an IQ test is actually an accurate enough measure of intelligence since it estimates IQ based on many false assumptions. Some scientists dispute the idea of IQ entirely since they believe that it is impossible to evaluate one's intelligence based solely on standardized tests.

As of my opinion, I believe that IQ test is not an accurate measure of intelligence, it's only a measure of how well a person can take  specific test (a skill which can be learned). Therefore, making a statement that a person with high IQ will necessarily be a strong chess player or a person with high ELO will have high IQ score is not correct.

Here is the IQ Chart from Levitt's Genius in Chess:

IQ 185  High natural neuro-kinesthetic control; high curiosity drive; anti trivia; in a hurry

IQ 180  New creation

IQ 175  Knows intelligent (and right!)

IQ 165  Formalization; beginnings of self confidence; less hiding

IQ 160  Interest in logic; paranoia; minor creation; recognizes good work; art; music

IQ 150  Trivial formalization

IQ 145  Below this level and often above is everywhere found a slavery to conditioning

Levitt states that the population of IQ distribution is as follows (100 being an average IQ):

16% above 115
2.3% above 130
0.13% above 145
0.003% above 160

Levitt comes up with a equation which relates ELO and IQ score:

ELO ~ (10 x IQ) + 1000

The "~" symbol means "given many years of effort will tend to be equal approximately".

If we plug in 100 IQ (average IQ score) into equation we will get 2000 ELO, meaning that an average person should be rated 2000. However, some chess players (actually most chess players) play their whole life and never reach even 1700, making 2000 mark fall into top 4-5% of all chess players on planet. So, maybe this '1000' term in the equation needs to be decreased somewhat.

Here is an (estimated) list of IQ scores of famous chess players:

Garry Kasparov Chess player Russia 190
Bobby Fischer Chess player USA 187
Donald Byrne Chess Player Ireland 170
Judith Polgar Chess player Hungary 170
Robert Byrne Chess Player Ireland 170

International team of psychologists have attempted to measure IQ score of Garry Kasparov and after many tedious tests has concluded Kasparov's IQ to be 135, making him fall into 'moderately gifted' category. According to the Levitt's equation Kasparov's ELO should be 2350 and not 2850 as it is in reality.


1. There is a direct correlation between the intelligence level and chess ability

2. IQ tests are not an accurate measure of intelligence level and therefore cannot be accurately compared to ELO

3. Levitt's formula, correlating IQ to ELO, is not accurate and the '1000' coefficient should be somewhat decreased.


Good stuff


I think that playing chess only develop your thinking in better playing chess, so if you want versatile development you must diversifies you tasks. Even playing in simple game like this is good for you.


Ah feels smartr allredy!


I got bored during the long journey scrolling down without reading this article.




I agree that the adverage person lacks the ability to extract and apply skills in one area to another but that does not mean there is no intrinsic value to the skills them self just lack of a dynamic perception. I dont know about the "quality" of life of others but I do know as a adult the skills I polish in chess directly effect my life, the aboves mentioned skills also self awareness most of all, If your not intelligent enough to know that focus and patience is necessary to succeed in life as well as determinaton then your really not to bright.

Quote,"Playng good chess won't make anyone smarter." Maybe for children because they lack experience and desire to be able to put things together that seem unrelated.

I think the problem is not base IQ or natural given skill but nurture, the way society and institutions approch, observe and cultivate skills.

But i do fall into the average or below average range of chess playing skill yet i have seen a dramatic improvement in my life which i attribute to my wanting to get better in chess. I think diffrently now, im able to hold my focus much longer and that helps tremendously in the aquasition of new skills and ideas which in turn affect my actions.

So in a way i agree and disagree Jengaias which lead to a more subjective rather then a objective out look at life. 

Some pennys are shiny and new others are dull and old yet both are worth only 1cent but the copper in those pennys are a major foundation to our world in things like wires and pipes.


I'm playing chess from age 6 and till date observed no improvement in my IQ, hell I must be doing something very wrong... :(


"People that are determined to find their way , they find it." excellent point indeed. But people are attracted to their outlet due to some appeal to their inclinations.

Ofcourse there are many factors and chess being the more superficial/ practical observable one.

 And your right i could maybe say instead of chess, working out(gym), great job, good home life. The diffrence though is chess and working out are active things that require the person to be involved, where as family life/enviroment is some thing we are subject to at least for a time.

You make a reasonable argument. I enjoyed thinking about what you said.


Why would anyone have bumped this massive pile of gibberish?

I loved the part where the OP claims Da Vinci has the highest IQ in history at 220, but then adds the disclaimer that there weren't IQ tests back then ;)...


all this is actually nonsense


you can almost never increase iq









Hello all new member here chess player growing up , probably not S good as a lot of u be i am pretty good at standing on my own.




This thread would have been more valuable with links to the mentioned studies.


gareththomasnz skrev:

This thread would have been more valuable with links to the mentioned studies.


It wouldn't. Already in the first paragraph you can see that most of "effects" could be found in almost all activities where you participate seriously and try to learn more about what you're doing. Martial art, body building, growing flowers, playing drums, speedrunning mario and so on. You'll have to study, try for a long time and wait patiently for the result.