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“Chess is the gymnasium of the mind”

So said Blaise Pascal, child prodigy and subsequent mathematician, inventor and physicist. And we can understand why.

Chess is often seen as a brain game for intellectually gifted people, rightly so, as it is exercises the brain.

Thanks to the runaway success of The Queen’s Gambit, the TV miniseries on Netflix, chess is enjoying a new found popularity and is widely played by young and old people.

Chess is what we could call a cerebral game and with it comes benefits for brain health.

It’s also a game you can play online or via an app if you’re unable to play a physical game with an opponent sat opposite you.

Here are some top line benefits of playing chess.

Stimulates brain growth

Chess and other brain-games challenges the brain and stimulates the neurons to form connections across the brain. 

More connections mean that neural communication within the brain becomes faster at an optimal state. 

Chess is an ideal example of how interaction with people can stimulate neural connections.

Promotes creativity

Playing chess activates the right side of the brain responsible for creativity, which unleashes originality among players. One study that lasted four years focused on identifying the activity that fosters the most growth in creative thinking. They had students from grades 7 to 9 to play chess, use computers, and engage in other activities once a week for 32 weeks. The results showed that the students who played chess scored higher in all measures of creativity and interestingly, their biggest area of gain proved to be originality. 

Improves memory

Playing chess can improve your memory because of its complex rules which players have to remember when playing.

When it comes to making your next move your brain also uses your memory recall function to help you avoid previous mistakes or help you remember the playing style of your opponent. 

Good chess players have an excellent memory and it can significantly improve a person’s memory and verbal skills.

Improves problem-solving skills

When playing a game of chess, players must think fast, and their problem-solving skills must be first rate because the opponent constantly changes the parameters as the game evolves. 

It’s a game of combinations and players must be adept at understanding what can be at times, complex rules.

According to a 1992 study in New Brunswick conducted on 450 fifth-grade students, those who played chess have significantly higher scores on tests than those who did not play chess.

Increases IQ

A study of 4,000 students from Venezuela showed that playing chess can significantly increase the IQ scores of both boys and girls after four months of playing the brain-game. That means that it is possible to increase IQ by playing brain-games such as chess.

Exercises both hemispheres of the brain

study in Germany found that both left and right hemispheres are activated when chess players are asked to identify chess positions and geometric shapes.

Children also benefit from learning to play chess at an early age.

And for those of you who’ve not watched the Netflix series and are wondering what the title refers to, it’s a chess move. 

Specifically, “The Queen’s Gambit refers to a move in chess, the oldest opening move in its history. It dates back to the 15th century, and sees white move their Queen’s pawn to the middle of the board, then sacrificing its adjacent pawn in the next move”.