Playing Chess by Yourself: How It Benefits Your Brain

Posted on - in Culture & Communication
playing chess by yourself: how it benefits your brain


Chess is normally thought of as a two-player game. You need an opponent to plan and execute your strategies against for the game to be enjoyable right? Surprisingly, the answer is actually “no.” You can play an entire game of chess yourself by controlling the movement of both set of pieces. How can you play chess by yourself and how does it benefit your brain?

The Benefits of Chess

First, how does chess benefit you if you play regularly? Scientists have found that playing chess can:

  • Improve your critical thinking skills: The game itself is based on logic. Chess players have been shown to have improved decision-making skills, critical thinking, pattern recognition and more.
  • Enhance your memory: Chess requires the memorization of thousands of moves and strategies. Brain scans of chess grandmasters have shown that this memorization changes the way the brain functions, improving your overall memory.
  • Boost your IQ: Several studies have shown that teaching children how to play chess can help to improve their IQ, in addition to improving analytical and critical thinking skills.
  • Help protect you against degenerative brain diseases: Playing chess and other activities that provide mental stimulation help protect elderly minds from the effects of degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Playing chess is a great way to keep your mind sharp and improve your problem solving and pattern recognition skills over time.

How to Play Chess by Yourself

While it’s true that chess is traditionally a two-player game, it’s certainly possible to play by yourself as well. How can you play this two-player game by yourself? Here are the steps involved:

  1. First, set up your board. White always goes first, so move your pieces accordingly.
  2. Make your initial moves for both sides. Set up your pawns, get your bishops and knights out on the board, and castle — swap your king with one of your rooks — if it fits your strategy.
  3. Play the game, but take your time. A solo chess game is a logical battle against yourself. You know which moves you’re planning to make, but it needn’t be done in haste. Move your piece, then take the time to contemplate your “opponent’s” move.
  4. Walk away between turns. This gives you some time to think about your next move but also prevents you from planning too many moves ahead.

It’s not easy, but playing chess by yourself is possible — and rewarding.

Why Should You Play Chess by Yourself?

Whether you’re interested in learning how to play chess or you already consider yourself a master, there are plenty of benefits to playing chess by yourself, including:

  • It gives you an opportunity to try out new strategies and moves before you employ them in an actual game.
  • It encourages you to think outside the box. You have to come up with a strategy to beat yourself, which can be tricky when you know all of your own moves.
  • You get all of the benefits of playing chess, without the need to find an opponent.
  • It expands your mind by putting you into a logic battle with yourself.

Playing chess is a fantastic way to learn self-improvement while also boosting your cognitive skills, increasing your creative thinking and problem solving, and even protecting yourself against degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s. If you don’t know how to play or never learned, consider picking up a cheap board and playing a few games against yourself. You might be surprised at the outcome!

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Kayla Matthews writes Productivity Theory and is constantly seeking to provide new tips and hacks to keep you motivated and inspired! You can also find her on Huffington Post and Tiny Buddha, and follow her on Google+ and Twitter to stay up to date on her latest productivity posts!


  1. Ridley Fitzgerald

    I love the idea of playing chess more often. It’s great that it can make me smarter and boost my IQ. The problem is, I’m terrible at it, so I’d have to get some training to get better.

    2 years ago
  2. Peter

    I’m an ancient beginner…. I’ve just got started with Learn Chess by John Nunn and I strongly recommend it as a good way to get started.

    1 year ago
    • Kayla

      Thanks for the recommendation, Peter!! 🙂

      1 year ago
  3. Sarah Packer

    My son doesn’t like sports very much but I want to make sure he isn’t turning his brain to mush not doing anything. I didn’t know that brain scans of grandmaster have shown that the memorization from chess changes the way the brain functions, improving overall memory. Enhancing your memory is never a bad thing and I’m sure my son would really like chess so I’ll look into lessons or online chess games he could play.

    10 months ago
  4. JA

    Excellent article! I was recently challenged to a game of chess by a student of mine and ever since, I’ve got the chess bug. No signs of it going away anytime soon either… how exciting!

    3 months ago

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