I have read many times that Bobby Fischer had an IQ of 180. Did he really have that high of an IQ? Does anyone have proof that he was ever even tested (like a citation from an early book about him)?

Sure, Fischer was an intelligent guy, but I tend to think that someone once made up that number, and it just stuck. Lately, I have seen the same, suspiciously rounded, number given to Kasparov and Carlsen.

A 180 IQ is so rare that most people have probably never met someone, who was officially tested, with such a high IQ. Thus, maybe they just assumed it must be super high, and threw out a number. 180 is in the 99.9999712895 percentile. 140 is already considered a genius and is in the 99.3790320141 percentile.

How can one even tell by just listening to his interviews if he was that intelligent? Is there any legitimate way to prove that claim or disprove it?

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    Worth noting is that once the score gets high enough on IQ tests, the actual IQ of an individual becomes increasingly more difficult to estimate. Since there are so few individuals who are extreme outliers, there is no good statistical way to measure IQ for these extreme high achievers. Thus any IQ estimation, for any individual, should be taken with a large grain of salt if it's proposed to be beyond extreme.
    – Scounged
    Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 18:26

4 Answers 4


From Quora: What was Bobby Fischer's IQ? (2018):

Short answer: In 1958, when Fischer sat a Stanford-Binet test at the age of 15, his score was 180-187. But in today’s terms, Bobby Fischer’s IQ should be 148–155 on the Fifth edition of the Stanford-Binet test, and 150-160 on the WISC-V/WAIS-IV tests administered by Mensa.

The only reference provided for the 180-187 score is a link to the webpage The Mind of Bobby Fischer by Frank Brady where it states that

In previous writings I have cited Fischer's I.Q. as in the range of 180, a very high genius. My source of information is impeccable: a highly regarded political scientist who coincidentally happened to be working in the grade adviser's office at Erasmus Hall - Bobby Fischer's high school in Brooklyn - at the time Fischer was a student there. He had the opportunity to study Fischer's personal records and there is no reason to believe his figure is inaccurate. Some critics have claimed that other teachers at Erasmus Hall at that time remember the figure to be much lower; but who the teachers are and what figures they remember have never been made clear.

The given rationales for the deflation of the score per today's standard are the Flynn effect based on a large meta-analysis that every year general intelligence increases by 1/3 IQ points, and the revised editions of the S-B test.

  • It sounds like the answer is "not really". Would you concur? Commented Dec 21, 2019 at 16:37
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    Not in 1958 - he apparently did achieve 180 or thereabouts. I believe "180 is in the 99.9999712895 percentile" is what it is now, but the percentile would have been lower 60 years ago. In any case, he would have easily surpassed the current 140 and as you have said "is already considered a genius." Commented Dec 21, 2019 at 19:55
  • That percentile would not have changed. Yes, there were much fewer people, but the distribution, unless other things have changed like better schooling or "brain food", would not change. There would just be less people in any given percentile. Commented Dec 21, 2019 at 19:58
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    At any given IQ, its percentile would alter as time goes due to the phenomenon outlined by Flynn (more people at higher IQs than before). Though I notice the mention of a "reversed Flynn effect" in some countries. Commented Dec 21, 2019 at 20:05
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    Could an IQ test that he would have been likely to have taken at that time have been able to measure an IQ of 180? I took the WISC-R in the 1970's, and it was my understanding is that the max score that could be reliably reported from that test topped out somewhere around 150.
    – patbarron
    Commented Dec 21, 2019 at 21:23

First of all, that test is considered by some psychologists a pseudoscience that doesn't measure intelligence at all.

I have Asperger disorder and hypercalculia as Bobby supposedly had. I once did the test after coming from a pub, having drunk a couple of beers, and I scored 133.

Far from being a genius, I am very stupid in most of facets of life; that test just measures one of the nine types of intelligence (logical-mathematical).

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I don't know if Bobby scored 180, but I can trust it. Why so? My top pick on tactics trainer is 2400 on chess.com (while I am a poor 1800 ELO player, my spatial intelligence is really bad). Bobby probably would reach >3000 on tactics, and probably demolish that test, being close to the highest possible score, 200.

I guess many GMs or intelligence officers could score 180 if I got 133 drunk. Carlsen has 2900 ELO in blitz games, that tells a bit about his genius on logical intelligence and that test is also timed.

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    While it's true that IQ is not the best measurement, multiple intelligence theory is controversial and unsupported by empirical data. "Gardner’s theory has come under criticism from both psychologists and educators. These critics argue that Gardner’s definition of intelligence is too broad and that his eight different "intelligences" simply represent talents, personality traits, and abilities. Gardner’s theory also suffers from a lack of supporting empirical research" (verywellmind.com/…).
    – awe lotta
    Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 17:00
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    @awe lotta thanks for joining the site to leave your feedback. I am gelogist, my field is far from neurosciences but I read "Emotional intelligence" from Daniel Goleman and he also quoted several intelligences and critizied the test. Wikipedia spanish page is where I took the test is considered pseudoscience.
    – user18196
    Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 17:11
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    @Universal_learner The best primary resource for the current scientific consensus on IQ tests is Intelligence: Known and Unknowns, published by the American Psychological Association in 1995 (wikiwand.com/en/Intelligence:_Knowns_and_Unknowns) Commented Dec 23, 2019 at 13:15
  • @PhishMaster Thanks for editing this text. I needed to change a thing.
    – user18196
    Commented Apr 27, 2020 at 17:07


I met Fischer twice at age 11 and 13.

He displayed nothing at all, which indicated he was not any sort of genius. Back then, his chess was still only good, not outstanding.

He was more an idiot savant who exceeded at one thing and was quite average at best at so many other, more important, things than chess.

  • I can only smile. I have seen interviews, and he seemed brighter than average, but nothing special, as you say. Commented Dec 21, 2019 at 21:27
  • Well he learned "alone" how to beat russians in chess with no trainners. I agree he was probably handicaped in many facets of life anyhow.
    – user18196
    Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 12:06
  • Actually Bobby had some trainers early on before he really got strong. Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 14:39
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    I am not saying he hadn't any trainer, but be sure he had not the quality and quantity of trainers Karpov or Kasparov had. At his time chess was gouverned by russians.
    – user18196
    Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 15:40
  • No they were not. But they got him interested and motivated, and at the time they were better than Bobby was. Commented Dec 22, 2019 at 22:13

As a psychologist, I don't see how he possibly could have scored a 180 IQ on the Stanford-Binet. He was a notoriously lousy student at anything other than chess and that test measures knowledge across a broad spectrum. On interview shows later in his life, his vocabulary was equivalent to an average eighth grader. (He read in several languages but spoke all of them poorly--including English.) His understanding of the world was superficial at best. You have to be intellectually gifted in a number of areas to attain a genius IQ. This he was not. He fits into the category of idiot savant more than genius, and I've evaluated plenty of both.

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