Why Playing Chess is So Good For the Mind As Well as the Spirit
We all know the game of chess as the Game of Kings, enjoyed by people all around the world for hundreds of years. It’s also known as a great intellectual pastime that provides great joy and stimulation to people of all ages. However, the benefits of playing the game also extend past what it offers in terms of enjoyment, as there are a number of cognitive advantages that aren’t that widely known.
Chess boards and chess pieces can be used to help the mind, much in the same way that a dumbbell might help you tone your biceps or sit-ups help to flatten your stomach. Here we look at how possessing a chess set and using it can help preserve your long-term mental health can keep you sharp as a tack well into your twilight years.
Cerebral games like chess, when played regularly, can actively encourage the growth of what’s known as dendrites, which is an element that’s attached to the nerve cells in the brain and that help transmit electrical signals from the brain’s neurons. The more of these dendrites you have, the quicker and more efficient your brain becomes.
When you move your chess pieces around the board and strategise your next move, microscopic branch-like dendrites are created, speeding up how quickly electrical signals pass through the brain. A good analogy to use is to think of your brain like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger and more efficient it becomes at its job.
Left and Right Sides of the Brain
During the game of chess, the chess pieces are moved around the chess board and when this happens, it requires the brain to recognise different types of geometric shape. This involves the use of both the right and left hemispheres, providing an all over brain work out.
Anyone who plays the game will tell you that it’s much more than pushing chess pieces around a board, as there are many complex rules and moves that have to be memorised in order to overcome your opponent. The game also requires the player to recall the memory of mistakes they have made in the past, so as to avoid falling into the same trap once more.
Really good chess players will have a superb recall of past moves, strategies and the like and those who play often find that their verbal skills and memories are improved as a result.
Improves Your IQ Rating
It’s an age-old question - Does chess make the player smart or do clever people simply play chess more? There have been a number of academic studies that suggest that your IQ can be improved, rather than it being a case of chess sets tending to belong to intelligent people. Whether you’re talking about young boys and girls or seniors who are trying to combat the onset of Alzheimer's disease, those who regularly grab a chess board and play benefit from a game that as we’ve already mentioned, works both sides of the brain.
Your brain needs to be exercised, especially as you get older and chess can offer exactly what the mind needs to keep it active and agile.
As we mentioned earlier, the game of chess involves using both sides of the brain, which means that the creative or right side is also stimulated, improving a person’s creative side. The benefit of improved creativity is the ability to express oneself, and chess draws that out from the player, much like it would if they painted a picture or played some music. A simple chess board and a set of chess pieces can have a profound effect on your mental wellbeing, as its cathartic effects can leave you feeling balanced and mentally sated.
Enhances Problem Solving
The juxtaposition of the chess pieces on a chess board and how they need to be moved to win the game involves a great deal of fast thinking and the ability. Unlike other kinds of mental puzzles, the kind that comes from using chess sets requires an extra degree of thought and that’s because of the fact that your opponent is constantly moving their own pieces and changing the parameters.
To be good at chess, you need to be able to predict what your opponent is going to do next - something that adds another dimension to how it tests your mind.
Helps Stroke Victims Recover
When someone suffers a stroke, it affects their fine motor skills, as well as their thought processes. Playing chess not only stimulates the brain in a holistic way but it also encourages the player to work on regaining their motor skills, as they move the chess pieces around the chess board . Unlike draughts (or checkers if you’re from the US), chess pieces need to be moved in every direction, making it an excellent pastime for those in need of mental stimulation and the chance to work on recovering their mobility.
There is nothing so calming as an afternoon game of chess. The concentration and calm mind needed to play the game helps to reduce anxiety. Whilst the game also requires much in the way of skill and guile, what shouldn’t be forgotten just how relaxing playing the game is. Many enjoy partaking simply for the joy of playing and the pleasant aesthetic feeling of high-quality chess pieces between their fingers.
Chess is a wonderful game, illustrated by the fact that it continues to be played now, centuries after it was first created. As well as being extremely enjoyable, the game has far greater reach than that of a mere board game. We’ve seen that it can help you become quicker of thought, more relaxed, more intelligent and even help you recover after suffering a stroke.
So, the next time you think of getting out the chess board and having a quick game, think of how much your body and mind could benefit from doing so. You might just have some fun at the same time.