Is Chess All About IQ? The Complex Relationship Between Chess and Intelligence

Is Chess All About IQ? The Complex Relationship Between Chess and Intelligence


Is Chess All About IQ
Is chess all about IQ?

IQ is the acronym for Intelligence Quotient. It is a measure of the ability to reason. A person’s IQ is supposed to gauge how well they can use information and logic to answer questions or make predictions. Similarly, chess is a board game that requires reasoning and logic by two players with an equal number of pieces, with the sole objective of checkmating the opponent’s king. With these definitions, it is clear that a person will need to implement their intelligence quotient to play chess. However, since the two concepts are interrelated, one may ask, “Is chess all about IQ?”

Is Chess All About IQ?

This article will examine the relationship between Chess and IQ.

Intelligence Requirement For Chess

The intelligence requirement to learn the game of chess is not very high. This is because the game of chess is not a complicated game to learn. It is relatively easy. However, mastering the game of chess is difficult. The basic knowledge required to understand how to play chess includes the following:

  • Names of the pieces
  • The board setup
  • How the pieces move
  • Checkmate and
  • Other special moves like castling, promotion, en passant e.t.c.

Intelligence in chess can also consist of components that include:

  • Sharp Reasoning: This is the ability of a player to solve new problems and identify patterns on the chessboard.
  • Comprehension: This refers to the ability of a player to understand the rules they have learned.
  • Calculating speeds: Calculating speeds refer to the amount of time a player uses to deduce what moves are to be played in a particular position.

Does Chess Improve IQ

Chess is a game that relies on the brilliance of the mind. Therefore one of the biggest theories is that playing chess can improve a person’s intelligence quotient.

Intelligence Researchers Hernstein and Murray referred to IQ as:

“The best single predictor of virtually all criteria considered necessary for success in the Western part of the developed world.”

Going by this, it is easy to imagine that if chess can indeed increase one’s IQ, then it should be a game that everyone plays. But does chess improve one’s Intelligence Quotient? Before we delve into the matter regarding the question “Is chess all about IQ”, it is necessary to establish that chess and Intelligence have a connection.

A study in Belgium suggests that playing chess indeed has a connection with Intelligence.

33 tournament level players were given IQ tests and found to have average IQs of 121, putting them in the top 8% of the population. An interesting fact is that, on the verbal part of the test, the participants’ scores were only slightly above average. However, on the mathematical aspect, their average scores put them in the top 2% of the wider population.

These findings seem to suggest that Intelligence is indeed related to high-level chess. The question that now arises is whether the players were players more intelligent because they played chess or did they become excellent players because of their naturally high IQs.

A study involving 4,000 British schoolchildren suggests it’s the latter. In the study, the students were given 30 hours of chess training in the hope that the skills learned there would result in greater academic achievements; this process is known to psychologists as “transfer.”

Unfortunately, there was no evidence that the training affected mathematics, literacy, or science.

These findings suggest that highly intelligent people are very likely to become chess masters due to their superior Intelligence and that it is unlikely that playing chess can actually make you smarter.

Chess Players with High IQs

Top chess players have been known to have IQs well over the 100 mark. This is due to the high level of Intelligence required to become a master at chess. The IQ scores of some top chess players are:

Garry Kasparov  – 190

Magnus Carlsen  – 190

Bobby Fischer     – 187

Judit Polgar   –  170

Robert Bryne  –  170

Nigel Short – 130-140

Going by these scores, it is apparent that top chess players are very intelligent.

Chess Engine IQ

A chess engine is a program that is created to analyze chess positions and determine the best moves to be played. Chess engines are very accurate when it comes to game analysis. To determine how intelligent a chess engine is, we will use two criteria: Sharp reasoning and Calculating Speed. The chess engine Stockfish will be our test subject.

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Is chess all about IQ: Stockfish logo

Sharp Reasoning

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Is chess all about IQ: Stockfish analyzing a position

When evaluating a position, humans tend to have a mental conversation like, “what happens when I play this?” “What if my opponent plays this move or that move?” Chess engines like Stockfish do the same thing; Stockfish assesses the current position and looks for the best candidate moves. However, unlike humans, Stockfish does this almost a million times faster by reducing the problem to a mathematical formula.

Stockfish evaluates a chess position using a complex formula called an algorithm. For example, if a chess game goes: e4, e5, Nf3, Nc6, d4? Stockfish will refer to its algorithm to devise a numerical evaluation of the position and find the best move. Many factors are considered in its evaluation. These factors include the number of pieces, squares controlled, and pawn structure (factors it considers when it comes to pawn structure are pawn islands or backward and isolated pawns). King Safety is also considered.

Each factor is assigned a number, and when the numbers get inserted into the algorithm, the calculations are made, and the best move is suggested. In the game notation we provided, after 3.d4, Stockfish will evaluate every possible reply, assign a numerical evaluation to every board position, and then choose the best move. It continues effortlessly doing this until the game ends.

Calculating Speed

Stockfish can calculate about 130 million positions per second. This ability is light years ahead of any human grandmaster.

It is due to Stockfish’s incredible ability that it has consistently ranked top in the chess engine rating lists, and as of 2022, it is the strongest chess CPU in the world. Stockfish 15 has a rating of 3620 on the FIDE scale. The highest rating ever achieved by a grandmaster is 2882 by Magnus Carlsen. This shows how incredible the IQ of a chess engine is.

And there you have it. Now, you understand the relationship between Chess and IQ and know how to answer the question, “Is chess all about IQ.”



















































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