Does a Chess Set + a Talent for Maths = a Great Chess Player?

The first recorded instances of a rudimentary form of chess can be traced back as far as 6th Century AD, with an approximation to the chess set up as it exists today, being seen around the end of the 12th century. Mathematics is something with an even longer history, with maths disciplines like geometry and algebra dating back 5 millennia.

In this blog, we look at the relationship that these two ancient concepts have with each other. We’ll also look at whether an aptitude for mathematics gives you an advantage on the chessboard. So, without further ado, let’s dive in and see what’s what.

The Associations between Maths and the Chess Set

The necessity for deep thinking is something that links mathematics and even modern varieties of chess equipment like a themed Star Wars chess set. Whatever you play the game with, it requires a high degree of planning, patience and high order thinking. It also involves adhering to the rules and learning from the errors you make.

That said, the game of chess is not like math-based card games like Blackjack, which is akin to one big mathematical problem to be solved. So, are these deep thinking connections sufficient to make anyone who is good at maths, equally good at chess?

Danish Research into Chess Study & Mathematics

Well, in order to determine the answer to that particular question, we look at a Danish study that concerned itself with the cognitive links between maths talent and the knowledge of how to set up a chessboard. The study actually took the opposite perspective, asking whether being good at chess meant you were good at maths.

The study involved swapping out the maths lessons of 6 to 8-year-olds for chess lessons and monitoring the results. What was uncovered was that the children taking chess lessons enjoyed an overall improvement in maths scores, whilst at the same time reducing levels of boredom in the classroom.

What’s more, they discovered that moving the pieces around the geometric ranks and files on a chessboard required constant and ongoing calculations. Whether using a marble chess set or a wooden chess set, the principle is the same - chess helps to develop attention span, visual memory and spatial reasoning.

Transferring Skills from the Maths Book to the Chess Set

With similar cognitive abilities required to be proficient at both chess and maths, it stands to reason that being good at one will help you with the other. The same principle can be seen with athletes who often have a similar level of skill across a number of different sports. It also follows that as your knowledge of how to set up a chessboard grows, so does your maths ability.

The ultimate finding of the aforementioned study was that the cognitive requirements of both maths and chess were similar enough that developing in one would help in the other. It also went on to say that regularly practising both had a compound effect, with an increased acumen in both, the result.

Maths Disciplines that Help With Playing Chess

All of that said, there are some direct concepts from mathematics that help you when playing with your chess set and they come from the field of geometry. Something known as the ‘Rule of the Square’ comes from geometry and it helps a player to plan ahead in such a way that a foothold can be gained from which to win the game.

Also highly useful in the game of chess is something known as the ‘rule of Bahr’, which is a concept that concerns itself primarily with the diagonal lines that intersect on a chessboard. The value of this concept lies in the understanding of the consequences of any given chess board set up and the moves that need to be made further down the line.

Mathematics & the Digital Chess Set (a.k.a. Computer Chess)

Since the very early days of home computers, those who have created them have investigated the possibility of programming them to think as humans do. One notable way in which this was attempted was by designing computers that were able to play humans at games. The most popular way this has been done is by creating chess computers.

By far the most well-known of these computers is ‘Deep Blue’, which was created by IBM in the mid-1990s. This chess computer was put up against the Russian Grand Master, Garry Kasparov on two occasions in 1996 and 1997. The first match was won by Kasparov, however, Deep Blue was victorious in the rematch after having been upgraded.

Essentially, the upgrade made to Deep Blue was an improvement to its mathematic reason algorithm, meaning that it had a firmer grip of chess set piece strategies and how they were positioned throughout the game. Whilst this is a computer-based analogy, it certainly shows that an improvement in maths ability equates to an increased ability on the chessboard.

In Summary - Maths Helps, But You Still Need to Play!

So, there you have it, there is a direct link between your maths ability and how proficient you are at the amazingly popular game that is chess. It helps with reasoning, planning, strategy and positioning, however, you won’t simply develop at chess by hitting the maths books, as it also takes experience and understanding of the game.

In order to get that experience, you need a high-quality chess set and there’s no better place to get yours than at the Official Staunton Chess Company. We offer the finest chess sets around, so whether you’re after a top-quality marble chess set or a beautiful mahogany wooden chess set, we’ve absolutely got you covered!

If you’d like a closer look at our comprehensive range of chess equipment or you’d like to know more about us, just take a look around our website Alternatively, if you have any trouble deciding on which chess set is right for you, call our friendly experts on 01948 880 060 and they’ll be delighted to help you out.

Thanks for reading our blog. We hope that you enjoyed doing so. We’ll be back with more from the home of the finest chess equipment again soon.
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