Are Chess GMs smart people?

Do Grandmasters really have 220 IQ? Or are they normal people like you and me, who just got better through practice? Scientists have been doing research on this for years, and on the internet you’ll find articles telling you how chess makes you smart. This article though, will be different.

Here, I’ll share some unheard stories of famous chess personalities. And along with that, share how playing chess sharpens your mind. In my opinion, the 7th point on the list is perhaps why chess players are a little more smarter than the average person.

Hint – It’s not because they have better memory or better focus. It’s something that you wouldn’t expect from a chess player.

What’s that? Keep reading and you’ll find out!

1. Better memory

Recently, I was watching a stream where Garry Kasparov was invited to show his best game. He showed some truly fascinating lines, like one would expect of him.

But what surprised me was his ability to remember novelties he prepared during his prime and the incident behind them!

In one such story, he explained how he had prepared a strong idea against Karpov, but had to play it against Vassily Ivanchuk. And when he showed the position, he was able to recollect where the pieces go, how the attack continues even after 20+ years!

Also have you heard about Magnus Carlsen’s famous story? Legend has it that he could name the capital of every country by the time he was 6 years old! And this is just one of his small feats!

Most chess players have a good memory. They remember things which are important to them! Maybe not as well as Kasparov or Magnus, but better than your average person next door.

2. Better spatial ability

Research done on Samuel Reshvesky, one of the top chess prodigies in the 1940s revealed Reshvesky’s remarkable spatial ability. You might wonder what it is in the first place? It’s simply the ability to understand space between two objects. For chess players, a well developed spatial recognition ability helps them visualize better. You can ‘see’ the pieces in your mind well without moving them.

And since most coaches ask their students to solve chess puzzles, this skill gets strengthened more and more!

Note: If you’re looking for an experienced chess coach who’ll ask you to solve tactics, get in touch with us.

3. The Tale of 3 World Champions who were great at maths

There are 3 world champions who were also mathematicians. They were – Mikhail Botvinnik, Max Euwe and Emmanuel Lasker. Now this doesn’t mean that because of chess, they were better mathematicians or vice-versa. But definitely, there has to be some correlation.

See, chess players spend so much time calculating the lines – “Like this piece goes here, that goes there, and if I take 2 of his men, he takes 1 one mine, what am I left at in the end?” Asking such questions over and over during the game is going to improve the mathematical ability of players. Maybe not in the most effective fashion, but it certainly does the trick.

4. Improved focus

Yeah, this one has to be there on the list. It’s no secret that chess requires concentration. When you see Grandmasters play, you’ll see how quiet and focussed they are.

This same skill helps them in their studies. It makes them more focussed and helps them stay on track! I wouldn’t convince you on this one because this is probably the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of chess.

At Saswath Academy and Mind mentorz,

“It is about offering ample opportunities for the kids to explore, grow and perfect the art of playing chess”, says Praveen Sagar. “For the budding chess players, it is important to strengthen the skills and have the right perception about the broader canvas of chess before plunging into competitions. We help them approach the game from different angles and challenge their skills at various levels through competitions.”

Praveen Sagar, Coach,
Mentor at Mind mentorz and Saswath Academy

5. Chess players are curious

Chess is a game of unlimited possibilities. Even after it’s existence for so many centuries, no one has solved the game. There are endless possibilities that still need to be explored. All of this makes one very curious.

When you apply the same mindset to academics, it makes you thirsty for more knowledge in the subject of your liking.

Many strong players follow other sports and have other interests. One such example that comes to mind is Vishwanathan Anand. He has an interest in astronomy, poker which are outside the realm of chess.

6. Chess players can sometimes read minds

Our coaches often teach the concept of prophylaxis — where you understand what your opponent wants to do, and make a move to anticipate that. And in chess, the skill to read your opponent’s mind is gold.

So, I know when you clicked on this article, you probably wanted to hear something apart from chess improves IQ, makes you a strategic thinker and all the vague terms which just add fluff. How did I do it?

Because I was using prophylaxis! 😉

Moving on, as I promised, the 7th point is in my opinion the secret sauce which makes chess players smart.

7. Gritty Grandmasters

Most people will be surprised by this. But Grandmasters show a lot of grit and fight during difficult moments. Today, chess has become a sport. So a chess player requires all the mental skills that a track and field athlete possesses. When you fight in chess, people don’t see it. That’s because you get neither bruises nor sweat. You could look as cool as a cucumber even after resisting pressure for 6 hours!

Think Karpov, or Sergey Karjakin.

But to put that kind of a resistance, you need to have the mindset of a hardened warrior!

And this is what helps chess players tremendously in their academies.

If they don’t find a solution to a problem, they won’t give up. They’ll ask for help and they will find a way!

If they know they have to complete their homework after finishing a tiring tournament, they’ll do it.

They know how to fight peacefully, they know what mental perseverance looks like. So they know how to stick around when things get tough.

It’s this grit which makes the most difference.


Learning to play chess at an early age can definitely be one the best investments you can make in your child’s future. If they play well, they get to meet new people, travel the world and do everything that most people could only dream of!

If not, it’ll always benefit them tremendously in their studies and life, years down the line. It’s a win-win!

Fill out the form here and book your first demo class, and let’s kick off your child’s chess journey!

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