Beyond the Board – Benefits of playing Chess

Chess has been around for centuries being known for its strategic and intellectual challenges, but in recent times it has seen an incredible surge in popularity. The Netflix series “The Queen’s Gambit”, which was based on a novel by Walter Travis, has played a major role in this resurgence. The series tells the story of a young orphan, who becomes a chess prodigy and has increased the awareness of the game, making it seem more accessible and engaging and by that encouraged many people to learn chess. But while The Queen’s Gambit for sure has been a major catalyst in the uprise of chess in recent years, it has not been the only factor. When being on lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic many people were stuck at home with nothing to do. With schools and universities closed, home office time, and a lack of social interaction everyone started to look for something to stimulate their mind and keep them entertained. With chess already being already all over the media thanks to The Queen’s Gambit it seemed like a good choice to start learning the game or to finally pick it back up after a break – especially because websites like make it easily accessible for everyone these days. Now that the lockdowns are over, the number of chess players is slowly dropping again. University and schools reopened, employees have to go to work again and everyone is back on track when it comes to their social lives. Many decide to cut back on chess or even stop playing at all because they have too little time. Isn’t chess worth making some time for it?

One of the most obvious ways that chess can improve our lives – everyone and their mother has probably told you at least once in their life – is by improving our cognitive abilities. Many studies have shown that practicing chess regularly even on a non-competitive level can enhance our problem-solving capabilities and also our ability for logical thinking. This can be useful in our everyday life as it can help to raise our performance in school, university, or at work. It can as well be used to exercise our memory, which is why it is also a great way to reduce the risk of cognitive decline as we are getting older. And if you sometimes have problems concentrating (which an increasing number of us do thanks to social media) worry not – chess has also been proven to increase the attention span of a regular player. Nowadays they even use chess as an addition to psychotherapy for patients with ADHD or similar disorders and in comparison, to non-playing patients, the psychotherapy turned out to be more effective.

In general, chess has been shown to have positive impacts on mental health in several ways. Playing chess can be a form of relaxation and a way to distract ourselves from the stresses of daily life. By focusing on the game and strategy, we can take our minds off of other problems and feel more at ease. Chess can be a fun and stimulating activity that can boost our mood and improve our sense of well-being. It can also provide a sense of accomplishment when we win a game or improve our skills. Of course, chess is no magical cure, but as Siegbert Tarrasch once said: “Chess, like love, like music, has the power to make men happy.”

Another way that chess can impact our lives is by teaching us valuable life lessons. The game of chess teaches you to think strategically, you have to think ahead and plan for the future and take the consequences of your doing into account, rather than just reacting to the present. It also teaches you to be patient and think through your decisions before making them. This might make chess sound boring, but while there is a lot of chess theory you could study (you can also just start playing) chess is also a game for outside-of-the-box-thinkers. The more novel and innovative your strategies are, the more you can surprise your opponent, which might give you a chance to win. Thinking creatively can help you with finding more opportunities to gain an advantage – not only on the board – but also in life.

Chess also teaches us how to handle failures and setbacks. In chess, as in life, we will experience defeat and failure and that’s valid. Playing chess can teach us to learn from our mistakes, be a good sport, and move forward. It can make you more resilient and train you to keep a cool head when ending up in a difficult situation. These are valuable skills that can help us in many areas of our lives, including relationships, finances, and career decisions.

Simon Williams once said, “The beauty of chess is it can be whatever you want it to be. It transcends language, age, race, religion, politics, gender, and socioeconomic background. Whatever your circumstances, anyone can enjoy a good fight to the death over the chess board.” Nowadays chess is accessible to almost everyone as you can play it traditionally in person on the board, against chess computers, or even online. The basic rules are quite easy to learn, and you can find them almost everywhere for free. It is estimated that at least 10% of the world’s population plays chess. So, another beautiful impact of chess is its ability to connect people no matter their background.

In conclusion, chess is a game that offers numerous benefits to those who take the time to learn and play it. From improving cognitive function and decision-making skills to reducing stress and providing a sense of accomplishment, chess has something to offer everyone. It’s a game that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels and can be played online or in person. The game has been around for centuries and has stood the test of time, proving its value and relevance in today’s world. So, whether you’re looking to improve your mental health, pass the time, or simply have fun, chess is a game that should not be overlooked. It’s a game that can change your life for the better, and one that is truly worth your time and effort. To borrow the words from Hans Ree, “Chess is beautiful enough to waste your life for.”

Angelina Berndt


“Investigation the impact of chess play on developing meta-cognitive ability and math problem-solving power of students at different levels of education”; “The architecture of the chess player’s brain”; “the benefits of chess”; “how popular is chess?”

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