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Does chess raise IQ?

Whether chess can directly raise your IQ score is a complex question with no simple answer. While studies suggest positive effects on cognitive abilities related to IQ, definitively linking chess to IQ increases remains challenging. Here’s a breakdown:

Potential benefits of chess:

  • Improved cognitive skills: Research suggests chess can enhance memory, concentration, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. These skills are often associated with higher IQ scores, leading to the belief that chess might raise IQ itself.
  • Brain development: Studies using brain imaging show increased activity in areas related to planning, decision-making, and spatial reasoning while playing chess. This suggests potential for neurocognitive changes that could support cognitive abilities.
  • Strategic thinking: Chess trains you to think several moves ahead, evaluate options, and adapt to changing situations. This strategic thinking can benefit various aspects of cognition, potentially influencing performance on IQ tests that measure similar skills.

Challenges in linking chess to IQ:

  • Correlation vs. causation: Studies often show correlations between chess and higher IQ scores, meaning players with higher IQs tend to play chess more. However, it’s difficult to prove causation, meaning playing chess directly increased their IQ. Other factors like pre-existing cognitive abilities or socioeconomic background might influence both chess participation and IQ scores.
  • IQ test limitations: IQ tests measure specific cognitive abilities, but they are not perfect measures of overall intelligence. Their limitations and cultural biases mean any potential chess-related improvements might not fully reflect in IQ scores.
  • Individual differences: People respond differently to cognitive training, and the impact of chess may vary depending on age, starting skill level, and training intensity.


While chess offers valuable cognitive benefits and can enhance skills related to IQ, it’s difficult to say definitively whether it raises IQ scores themselves. More research is needed to understand the causal relationship and consider individual variations.

However, beyond IQ scores, the mental stimulation, strategic thinking, and problem-solving skills developed through chess are valuable in themselves, making it a worthwhile activity for everyone.

If you’re interested in improving your cognitive abilities, chess offers a fun and engaging way to do so, regardless of its impact on IQ scores.

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