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The intensity of a player’s face and their devotion to a set of wooden or plastic figures placed on a board shines light on the value of a game know to all as Chess. The delicate and beautiful game of chess has brought people together on the opposite sides of a board for millennia now, and will undoubtedly do so for many more to come.
Since the dawn of time, humans enjoyed versatile challenges, in our case we will explore the benefits behind one of the most widespread. The challenge to the mind through the art of chess. Let’s dive in together into the discovery of how chess can help improve your life.
Chess will always make you question the reality of another’s mind, it will guide you away from your perspective into the one of your opponent. Great chess players are masters of anticipation and prediction. For a person to establish healthy and functional social relationships understanding others is a crucial tool! Sitting across a person for a game of chess will be the greatest test and learning opportunity for your empathy.
This is called ‘’the theory of mind’’ described by behavioral scientist as the ability to see from another viewpoint. A study conducted in 2019 discovered that chess develops this perspective-taking ability in children who practice the game.
It should come as no surprise that chess players have an excellent memory, if you stop and think about all the possible combinations that are involved in a game of chess to a beginner the possibilities seem endless. An interesting fact is that experienced chess players show two specific types of memory: auditory and visual memory.
A research done relating to the auditory memory showed that chess players remember what they have heard a lot better than those who have never played the game, by using lists of items that they need to recall after hearing them.
A research of the visual memory showed that experienced chess players were better at recognizing patterns than those who never played chess, this is mostly likely due to remembering complex chess positions.
Being fully immersed in a challenging task is simple explanation to the flow state. Many successful artists, athletes and performers describe the flow state as a state of total and complete focus on the task at hand, where the rest of the world seems to blur out and disappear.
A study using EEG technology discovered that theta waves were heightened in people who are in the flow state. Studies show the same high levels of theta waves in brain scans of experienced chess players during increasingly difficult chess matches. So chess can put you in that sought after flow state and show you how focused your mind can really be!
A study conducted in a school in India took two groups of children and tested their creative thinking skills by telling them to come up with alternate uses for common items and to interpret patterns and meaning in abstract forms. One group consisted of children who played chess while the other group did not.
Children who played chess scored higher on the test, due to this result researchers concluded that chess was the reason for the one group being better at creative and imaginative tasks!
Chess games are known worldwide for that moment of contemplation and planning that each player has during their move. Constantly trying to anticipate and counter a move created a very healthy planning patter for the player!
Cognitive health benefits of playing chess were show in a study conducted by behavioral scientists where they gave the participants the Tower of London task (a cognitive functioning planning task with pegs and beads ). The group of people that played chess demonstrated significantly better planning skills than the group that did not. Also, people in the chess group spent a lot more time making decisions during the test.
Some mental health professionals have started using chess during their session in order to improve their relationship with the patient and to allow for a more natural display of responses.
These responses are shown as the match progresses, as stress rises and the task changes, the patient can have the reaction and then have their therapist guide them through the discovery of why their reaction was a certain way and how to improve it!
A study into the effects of chess on dementia allowed researches to conclude that the complex mental flexibility that chess demands can help protect elderly people from dementia!
They found evidence that the game, which challenges , visual-spatial skills , calculation, memory , and critical thinking abilities, may help reduce cognitive decline and postpone the effects of dementia as you age.
A study conducted in 2016 with children who were at one point in their lives diagnosed with ADHD discovered that after playing chess as part of their treatment, they saw a 41% decline in inattentiveness and hyperactivity following the treatment!
So if you have ADHD or know someone who does a friendly game of chess could help you live more comfortably and express yourself in a fun and mentally challenging way!
There are no major studies as of yet regarding this benefit. However, a case study conducted in 2017 showed that playing a chess app helped the patient become calmer and keep the panic attack under control and stop it from progressing!
This benefit in particular makes a lot of sense in terms of defocusing the person. Chess has a way of pulling you into its own checkerboard reality and once you are in that state of mind, all around you seems to slowly become more manageable.What we can say in the end:
As we now know, the cognitive benefits of chess are developing your:
Chess helps with the symptoms of a number of health conditions, including dementia, ADHD, and panic attacks. In addition, playing can help you find a sense of flow or improve the effectiveness of your therapy sessions.
Along with all of these benefits playing the game can also be very stressful, and it requires a significant time investment from its players and those who wish to become successful in the world of chess. Whether these drawbacks outweigh the potential cognitive health benefits is something you’ll have to determine for yourself. Your move, make it a good one!