Does Chess really improve thinking skills?

I responded to this question on Quora. I liked the thread. Here’s my comment:

As a person who likes to play myself – and am fond of blitz (10-minute games) online as a “multi-tasking” exercise when at the keyboard – I feel that it helps me :

  • see patterns (of position & movement)
  • appreciate dynamic patterns (how pieces work together)

Strategy & Tactics

Both of these “best practices” knowledge contribute to a certain approach to strategic thinking – tho in the blitz environment there’s not a lot of opportunity for deep consideration.

Related skills:

  • Identify and maintain multiple “what-if” scenarios and
  • “Triage” the trade-offs among strategy / opportunism, “best practices” / surprise, my advantage / opponent’s disadvantage
  • as well as technique-y stuff like speed, boldness, etc

Gaming

I agree that gaming in general is valuable exercise for us because it sharpens the mind and also helps us to deal – indirectly – with social and personal pressures. I believe that the skills you hone through chess are broad, measurable and have value beyond the gaming board

Transferability of skills

Like any experience or discipline, it’s what you make of it. I propose that the skills involved in chess are extensible to other arenas. Or not. Your call.

 

On the one hand / on the other : The Ugly Truth

I found this response from another contributor to be disturbingly resonant…

The amount I play chess has a direct influence on my interacting with people around me: the more chess the stronger the tendency to jump down people’s throats when they’re being wrong or missed a detail or don’t seem to understand what they’re talking about.

It took me a while to recognize this about myself but finally could trace the change in personality back to playing online chess. Every game again I’m very very concentrated on spotting anything even remotely looking as a bad / lesser or questionable move. If this happens I immediately try to take advantage (duh).

This way of hyper sensitive / instant reply thinking – although often useful I presume – also makes me a more aggressive person in everyday dealings. My ability to just let (small) things go decreases. Although it makes me sharper it also makes me a more difficult person to be around. If strong players experience something like it I guess that they learn to tone it down or switch it off entirely, otherwise they’d be very hard to spend time with.

— Mioch Kasugai

 

* The ink & wash picture “Checkmate” is from theGallery on my website.

 

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