The Psychological Benefits of Chess: Stress Relief and Focus

Would you love to stay healthy and fit till you grow old? Of course! Who wouldn’t? But do you know the concept of holistic health covers a lot more than just physical fitness? Well! Your overall health covers your mental and emotional health as well. That’s where games help. And, here, we will discuss the psychological benefits of chess.

The game of kings (as it is known), chess does a lot more than add an element of fun to your dull days. The advantages of playing chess are remarkable and openly available to people of all age groups. All you need to do is get a chessboard, find a partner, and start playing.

However, before jumping into your options for finding a partner and playing, let’s go through the chess brain benefits.

Better Concentration

16 pieces to manage on a field of 64 squares while keeping an eye on the other 16 coming to attack yours. And, not to forget, every turn opens up countless possibilities. That demands a high level of concentration and focus. Chess players develop this ability to avoid distractions and stay attentive throughout the game. And, this level of intense concentration comes from practice. This enhanced mental engagement level improves cognitive abilities by stimulating specific brain areas.


A study on the effects of playing chess on concentration was published on Research Gate. It was conducted on 14 students of 11–13-year age groups with ADHD from two schools with inclusion. The students went through a twice-per-week chess training schedule. Conner’s Teachers Rating Scale was used to compare the impact of concentration tasks and language listening test scores. Measurements before and after training showed better listening scores and concentration skills.

Chess demands time and effort to analyze the situation, opponent’s moves, and available moves for a winning strategy. When you make your brain work like this, you not only win games but also improve your concentration. And, for life outside the 8x8 board, these skills help a lot. You become a wise decision-maker, an efficient problem solver, stress-free, and more productive at work with better focus. Interested in exploring what are the benefits of playing chess other than better concentration? Keep reading to find out.

Relieving the Symptoms of ADHD

Imagine Dory playing chess in “Finding Nemo.” Since Dory exhibits ADHD-related behaviors and moods, do you think playing chess would have helped her? Well! Reports suggest that chess helps alleviate symptoms of ADHD. If you aren’t familiar with the term, ADHD is a developmental disorder that starts in childhood and continues with age. This condition leads to challenges with focusing, impulse control, and prioritizing tasks. ADHD makes it hard to keep track, complete tasks, follow directions, listen attentively, and meet deadlines.

Moreover, the advantages of chess are related to each other. As mentioned above, training for the game improves concentration and focus, which reduces the core ADHD symptoms. The game helped students control and delay their disruptive behaviors. These chess benefits for the brain are the results of induced habits of staying attentive and action control while playing the game. Another study showed a 41% decline in over-activity and inattentiveness among students with mild ADHD by playing chess regularly.

Among the various benefits of chess is its use as an approach to treat ADHD. The sense of mastery and accomplishment with the game’s progress is what helps here. A 2012 documentary, Brooklyn Castle, wonderfully demonstrates this. It shows Patrick using chess to overcome ADHD while the school goes on to win the chess tournament.

Boosting Self-Confidence

If you are stuck in the “I can’t do it” phase and can’t figure out how to move to “I can do it,” try chess. Yes! This board game can bolster your self-confidence by a large means while you work on winning tactics and strategies. This comes from the intellectual growth that develops while developing pieces on the board, enhancing your problem-solving skills.

Similar to a soccer fan kicking small objects (or nothing in the air) when not on the ground, a chess player mimics planning and problem-solving in life outside the game. With time and practice, chess players develop a habit of analyzing situations and making informed decisions. This helps them confidently take on challenges in real life in both personal and professional realms.

Moreover, you experience another confidence boost when you start playing better with time and improve your win ratio. This also helps increase self-esteem. However, achieving this level requires investing in knowledge and training. You can find numerous tools and resources to learn opening and ending theories, analyze your games, and more. With time, you can also put chess playing benefits to use in daily life.

Stimulating Creativity

But how would a game of battle strategy stimulate creativity and innovation? Is it worth putting this on the list of advantages of playing chess? Let’s understand with an example. During the Kosovo War in 1999, Yugoslavia learned about a NATO attack and used a creative defense strategy. They created a fake military base using cars disguised as tanks, fake plastic planes, tanks, and fake fortifications. The innovation worked and the enemy dropped a lot of ammo on this fake base. And, that’s not the only case in the history of creative battlefield strategies.

Chess also involves devising strategies and using logic and you thought this doesn’t link to creativity. Didn’t you? However, playing chess impacts the creative abilities of individuals positively. Pushing your brain to think of multiple steps and possibilities ahead before making a move stimulates its creative side.

If you are not someone interested in science, you could find the next part fascinating or boring. If you didn’t already know, our brain is divided into two parts, namely the left and right hemispheres. While the left one deals with logic, sequences, and maths, we use the right one for imagination, visualization, and arts. To make the best move, you need to use logic & calculations and visualize how the game will progress.

When you imagine the game, it helps improve the right brain and boost creativity. Research on ‘Cognitive Benefits of Chess Training in Novice Children’ supports this. It involved giving 10 weeks of training to 20 novice chess students, followed by a literary creativity assessment. Students with chess training showed weighty improvements when compared to those not trained. The use of divergent thinking, taking risks, and problem-solving skills during chess boosts the overall creativity of individuals.

Prevention of Alzheimer's Disease

Look at older people around you. See how they look different from the younger ones. What you see is the impact of age on our body and skin. But things don’t end here. Aging also reduces our brain’s power and cognitive wellness, leading to Alzheimer's and other age-related diseases. However, following the right diet and exercise routines helps prevent or delay these. And, chess is one such game that makes your brain exercise and stay good for many more years.

The concept of cognitive reserve relates to how activities like chess and crossword puzzles help prevent brain diseases. It refers to the ability of the brain to create and maintain neural connections. Participating in mental exercises helps strengthen brain muscles and cognitive reserve, thereby reducing risks of related diseases.

If you believe in calculations and numbers like chess players do, here’s an interesting one for you. Regular engagement in mental acuity tasks is shown to reduce the likeliness of developing conditions like dementia by 11%, research states. During a study of scientific literature, Lillo-Crespo, Garcia-Sanjuan, and others found a report stating a 15% decline in the risk of developing dementia by playing board games.

Raising Your IQ

Einstein’s IQ is 160 and so is Stephen Hawking’s while Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and others also have similar IQs. Does playing chess increase IQ? Well! Some chess players have relatively higher IQs. For instance, Garry Kasparov scores 190, and Judit Polgar, the best female chess grandmaster, is at 170. Besides, the game also teaches emotional intelligence as players learn to manage varied emotions during the game.

A study on Chess and Intelligence by Frydman and Lynn (1992), reported young Belgian chess players’ average IQ at 121. Then, the mean IQ of the population was 100. However, the effect was significant on performance IQ which was way more than the verbal IQ.

Wondering how chess helps improve IQ? It instills a foresight ability alongside visual-spatial, attention control, and better memory. These enhanced cognitive skills turn chess players into better problem solvers outside the game of board. In addition, it also improves metacognitive thinking, the ability to recall and avoid past mistakes. Overall, the skills of the game boost IQ and are applicable in other areas of life.

Enhancing Patience and Resilience

 

When they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” they mean staying patient can help get exceptional rewards. Patience and resilience are the demands of playing chess the right way. When you started playing, how often did you make a bad move and realize it later? Then, you would think you could have played a better move by taking more time to think. And, the next game sees a more patient version of you. That’s how chess builds the trait inside you.

In addition, resilience is another trait that playing chess cultivates. Similar to a battlefield, the game also puts you through numerous challenges. At times, players have turned the tables around and won battles from points where victory seemed impossible. Although hard to master, chess demands patience and resilience to master to find areas of improvement with continuous analysis. Mastering these skills helps go through life’s ups and downs by using these benefits of playing chess.

Conclusion – Is Chess Good for Brain?

Did you lose focus while reading this piece? It was a bit lengthy. Let’s play chess and improve concentration with time. Who wouldn’t love gaining important skills and traits while playing a game that can be fun and mental exercise? Chess is fascinating as it helps enhance concentration, IQ, patience, resilience, and creativity. In addition, it also prevents or delays brain-related conditions like ADHD and Alzheimer’s disease. Which one of these benefits of chess was the most attractive to you?

We’re not saying it just because we sell chess but because we believe it actually helps. Researchers have also proved the points from time to time. You can have fun playing games online with chess lovers. Or you can buy a chess set and play with your family and friends for more fun. Not sure which one to pick? Check out our collection of wooden chess sets to find an amazing piece for you.