The stereotype of the chess player is someone who is smart, logical and good at maths. This is why so many parents around the world are keen to get their children playing chess – in the hope that the game might help to boost their son or daughter’s intelligence levels and help them succeed in a wide variety of subjects.
But apart from chess being a great game, its history rooted in eastern India military, is there actually any evidence to show that playing chess can make you smarter?
In a previous article, we showed that chess players exhibit, on average, superior cognitive ability compared to non-chess players. And the skills needed to play chess have also been shown to correlate with several measures of intelligence – such as fluid reasoning, memory, and processing speed.
But while the existence of a relationship between general cognitive ability and chess-skill is clear, is this simply because intelligent people are more likely to engage in the game of chess, or does engaging in chess make people smarter?
The notion that playing chess makes you smarter goes something like this: chess requires concentration and intelligence, and as mathematics and literacy require the same general skills, then practising chess must also improve one’s academic achievement.
With this idea in mind, the Institute of Education conducted a large investigation to test the effects of chess instruction on the academic skills of nearly 4,000 British children.