I played chess when I was a child, but never got into it seriously (I didn't know it was possible at that age). Nowadays I'm playing regularly as a hobby and I'm interested in how this can affect my performance in other aspects of my life (specially in my job as a mathematician and a computer scientist).

Now I know it is highly beneficial to play chess as a child but I wonder if there is any research showing any benefit from learning chess as an adult (it's obvious that professional players and even amateur players are intelligent and have developed amazing mental skills... but they usually start playing at an early age).

Also, what different approaches could an adult take to learn chess? (if there is any research about it).

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    Please take a look at my related answer here Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 11:13
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    My biggest benefit in terms of work (in software) is that people see something regarding chess on my resume (regarding teaching chess to kids in college) and assume that it makes me smart. People seem to love it as an 'extra' to enhance my resume. I had considered not putting it at all, but it always seems to get a good comment. People see it in a positive light.
    – Alan
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 14:11
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    While not specific to chess alone, recent studies have shown that increased intellectual activity as we age may stave off the onset of dementia. theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/06/…
    – Lumberjack
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 14:16
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    Those are some interesting points of view. Salvador Dali: No direct benefits from chess. Alan: Extra charisma and reputation points. Lumberjack: Protection against dementia as chess is an intellectual activity. I'm very surprised. Apparently there is no research showing any specific effect from chess in adults. Thank you for your comments.
    – mimetist
    Commented Jun 28, 2014 at 1:52
  • I find "what different approaches could an adult take to learn chess?" much more interesting than the first part of your question. Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 13:52

5 Answers 5


The benefit I like the most (I'm almost 60) is that it prevents, or slows down the onset of, Alzheimer's disease.




I think you are asking the wrong question. There's been recently a lot of (horrible?) marketing relating chess to Alzheimer's disease prevention, abstract reasoning skill improvement and so on. While this is all great, and very interesting from a scientific point of view, I'll say it's irrelevant!

The reason for that is that nobody plays chess because it's good for them. People play chess because they enjoy it, regardless of whether it serves them for any further purpose or not. By the way, pretty much any hobby you can think of has some type of benefit, and by choosing chess, you are therefore harming yourself in some way! The same principle applies to people who go to the gym. Either you enjoy your training our you will eventually quit.. And if you enjoy your training, then why do you need it to be beneficial?

With regards to the "which approach to choose for learning", just forget about research! If your goal is to play better chess, no scientist in the world can give you the domain-knowledge of an actual experienced chess coach... But you don't even need to hire a coach at all! Just learn by doing! Play a few games, analyse them (by yourself, not with a chess engine) and if you want to train some specific aspect, the best thing you can do is focus on the ones you will actually enjoy training!

In summary, chess will have an impact on your intellectual skills. But you have to achieve that as a side-effect, not as a target

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    Do you have any papers/articles to back up for Alzheimer's disease?
    – SmallChess
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 3:21
  • Of course I don't! I don't even care about whether it is true! For me, as already said in the answer, it's just (bad?) marketing
    – David
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 7:08
  • While I would agree with the "don't force yourself into something just because it's supposedly good" attitude, this is an extreme view. Maybe OP considers multiple hobbys that OP might all enjoy, but wants to use the type of benefits as one decision factor (possibly among others). I'm interested and enjoy a lot more stuff than I have time to regularly do. If I enjoy both, but one is helping me stay sharp longer and one is helping me get fat faster, that might influence my decision what to do (more). Commented Jun 28, 2020 at 19:06

From my own expierence , I started learn chess in my 50's. I also have dyscalcula (fancy word, it just means I don't visualize numbers so they get jumbled up for me, like how a dyslexic gets when they try to read words ). Chess is teaching my to watch the entire board, note how my actions can affect the actions of another, also notice how one action can have far-reaching consequences, like playing the wrong chess piece the wrong way (kinda like the chaos theory! ).

It helps me to understand that if I want to win, I have to look at the big picture (opponents set up, potential moves, can they check me , my set up , my potential moves, can I check them ) all at the same time, and on top of that, it's never the same game twice so I can't play on memory, I have to adjust every single time.

.......AND it's great fun too!! Just my two cents!


My case is a bit particular as I have Asperger Disorder, but I returned to chess as an adult after leaving it at 10 years old and I could say it might have saved my life. I would say I might not have graduated without chess. It improved my concentration when studying for exams, but it also taught me not to be so impulsive, which has helped me in most facets of life.

About your particular case, as mathematician you might improve your speed in calculus, especially if you do tactics exercises (a needed step, answering your second question), as well as have some other medical benefits like those related to Alzheimer's.

Understanding positional chess and strategy may also encourage your brain to better solve abstract math problems.

It might be positive for your profession and help you not to lose capabilities, as, note it, most of Science's extraordinary discoveries and works are done at a young age (around 25/30) and we all lose capabilities with age.

Also, if you reach a level to compete you can go to a club and socialize, which is always nice for health and happiness.

So if you like and enjoy the game, be sure it has some benefits for your brain and your health in general.


I don't know the answer to this question. However, I believe you might have made a wrong assumption about it being beneficial to play chess as a child so I'll write what I have to say about it. What does it mean to say it's bad to play chess as a child? That's very vague. I think it may be harmful to gain too much experience with chess before the age of 5 as I will explain later. People sometimes make mistakes. We don't know what's meant by "It's beneficial to play chess as a child." Even if we can determine what is meant, it's probably still only a theory that we cannot be absolutely certain of.

According to https://www.inc.com/bill-murphy-jr/science-says-were-sending-our-kids-to-school-much-too-early-and-that-can-hurt-th.html, students generally learn better from school when they're older. This too is probably only a theory. That might just be because when students start younger, they generally need longer to learn the basics and the teacher might move on from the basics before they're ready. However, I'm not sure it's not the case that there is also a slight tendency for students to sometimes misinterpret what they learned because they learned it too young and then later have trouble unlearning their misinterpretation and some people really are better off without the extra early learning of concepts than with it.

In one episode of the TV show "My 600 lb life," the overweight patient at the time she was 5 her parents or one of her parents kept saying "You're too fat. You can't have it," meaning dessert and she thought it was a punishment for being fat and got very depressed and kept on eating more to get her mind off the depression. It's probably because unconsciously, it can be deduced from the fact that she got a punishment that she did something wrong. An older person in that situation if their parents said something like that for the first time when they were older would probably figure out that it wasn't a criticism and tolerate that comment really well. That's probably how the parents of that patient thought of it and they probably didn't realize that she was too young to be able to figure out what they really meant by what they were saying. She probably thought they were thinking like the person who had his World of Warcraft account cancelled in the YouTube video Greatest freak out ever (ORIGINAL VIDEO). For her, she probably would have been so much better off without the early learning than with it.

Similarly, the article Too Young for Chess gives me a probable reason to think that kids in general cannot gain knowledge on how to play chess really well very fast before they turn 5. Maybe so much early learning and studying chess before the age of 5 for some people can even make it harder for them to learn things later than it would have been if they didn't do all that early learning and studying chess.

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