Does Playing Chess Make You Smart?

I love this question because a lot

Playing Chess Make You Smart

I love this question because a lot of people ask this question, but believe me, they don’t ask it the way you think they’re asking it. You’re probably thinking that they’re asking it as some sort of compliment or like they’re trying to figure out the secret to being smart. No.

Most of the time, and I would say 9 times out of 10, people ask this question in a sarcastic way. They’re basically saying, “Oh, you think you’re smart just because you play chess?” Talk about missing the point.

That’s like asking, when you look at the ground and there are ants nibbling at a pile of sugar, you’re asking yourself, at some level or another, did the sugar cause the ants or did the ants cause the sugar? Talk about correlation issues.

For the longest time, a lot of people are under the impression that only smart people play chess. This is absolutely wrong because chess really is not necessarily all about smarts the way we normally define smarts.

Now, you’re probably scratching your head and just saying, “this guy’s crazy” or “This guy is out to lunch. What the hell is going on?”

Well, think about it. In the western world, intelligence is often defined in terms of communication skills. If you don’t believe me, look at the statistics regarding the SAT and look at the career of people who scored well on the verbal or English section and sucked at the math section.

You can also do it the other way around. You can look at the careers of the eggheads that did well on the math section and see how they stacked up against the ones that did well on the verbal section.

The bottom line is American, Australian, New Zealand, Canadian, Western European culture in general pay a big premium for effective communication. If you’re able to take what would otherwise be a complicated and hard to grasp concept and you are able to communicate it in plain English black and white terms, people will pay you a premium. Not so much with technical expertise. The amount of money you make can only go so far.

So when it comes to CEOs, movers and shakers, the men behind the men behind the men, these are normally verbal people. That’s how things are. That’s what defines smart in the western world. It’s your ability to communicate.

Is this fair? Absolutely not. If you’re great at math or if you’re great at spatial logic, this would suck. You feel under-appreciated. You feel almost disrespected. But that’s how it goes because people are fairly superficial.

When was the last time you came across somebody who did a mathematical equation in front of you? I would say, never. Most of the time, you come across somebody who is very easy to talk to, but would start connecting the dots and start relating what you’ve said back to you and jogging you through certain revelations about yourself, what you said, or about some sort of concept you’ve been struggling with. It can also involve some sort of current events.

Whatever the case may be, your mind is blown. And it is not because this person is a super genius or something. It’s not like this person is like a super computer on two legs. It’s just because they know how to communicate concepts that can be quite slippery in easy to understand terms.

That’s how you become an expert salesman. That’s how you attract a lot more members of the opposite sex. That’s how you get a lot more people to do what you want them to do.

Now, does that necessarily mean that you’re smart? Well, it all depends on who you ask. So this idea of playing chess making you smarter is really asking the wrong question. It’s really all about what symbols you choose to work with. So if you play chess and you just exercise your spatial reasoning and logical skill, good on you. But please understand that it has its limits.