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How playing chess can boost memory, mental health

A game of chess can turn any dull day into an invigorating and fun-filled one. The game not only engages but also makes sure you put your thinking cap on and provide the much-needed workout to your brain. Especially if age is not on your side, and you have reached a phase where your brain needs constant stimulation, chess is the perfect game to play to avoid age-related brain disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Neha Kapoor – Associate Director & Head-Neurology, Asian Hospital Faridabad on the occasion of International Chess Day (July 20), shares how the game can help improve cognitive abilities and boost overall well-being.

1. Improves memory

Playing chess can help you remember things better as while playing the game a player has to remember openings, strategies, and past moves, all the while anticipating future moves and planning. This mental exercise serves as a fantastic workout for the brain, enhancing both short-term and long-term memory. Regular chess practice can improve your ability to recall information, which prove to be beneficial in many aspects of life, such as academic pursuits and professional endeavours.

2. Critical thinking and problem-solving skills

Chess is renowned for its ability to enhance critical thinking and problem-solving skills. When playing chess, individuals must analyse the game’s current state, anticipate their opponent’s moves, and devise effective strategies to outmanoeuvre them. This constant mental engagement strengthens one’s ability to think critically, assess situations, and make informed decisions. These skills are transferable to real-life scenarios, helping individuals become better problem solvers in various domains.

3. Concentration and focus

Chess demands unwavering concentration and focus throughout the entire game. With numerous pieces on a board and countless possibilities at each turn, players must maintain their attention and avoid distractions. Regular chess practice can significantly improve concentration levels, making it easier to stay focused on tasks and goals in other areas of life. Enhanced concentration can also contribute to improved productivity and performance, whether at work, school, or personal projects.

4. Emotional intelligence

Chess is a game that teaches emotional intelligence and resilience. During a game, players experience a range of emotions, including excitement, frustration, and disappointment. Learning to manage these emotions and remaining composed under pressure is a valuable life skill that chess can help develop. By honing emotional intelligence, players can better cope with challenges and setbacks, both on and off the chessboard.

5. Stress relief and mental well-being

Engaging in chess can provide a welcome escape from the stresses of daily life. The intense focus required during a game diverts attention away from worries and anxieties, allowing players to experience a state of flow and relaxation. Chess has also been found to reduce stress levels and promote mental well-being by stimulating the production of dopamine and endorphins, the brain’s ‘feel-good’ chemicals. Additionally, chess can serve as a social activity, fostering connections and providing a sense of community among players.

6. Brain health and longevity

Research suggests that chess can have positive effects on brain health and contribute to cognitive longevity. Regular chess players have been found to exhibit higher brain activity and improved brain function compared to non-players. Chess engages multiple cognitive domains simultaneously, exercising memory, reasoning, problem-solving, and visualization skills. This mental workout may help reduce the risk of cognitive decline and age-related neurodegenerative diseases.