“Every good mathematician should also be a good chess player and vice versa.” -  Henri Poincare

Many a family, around the world, has hunkered down on a chilly night around a board game. One such game, however, has caught the imagination like no other. What game am I referring to? No matter the nationality, age, language, culture or religion, the hearts of millions around the globe have been captured by the unique game of chess.

This is a game that can be played against a highly competitive opponent or on your own as you brush up your skills. It is also worth noting that chess has so many gambits and strategies that one individual can spend their entire life perfecting their game and skills.

On top of that, in the technology-driven space that we now occupy, you could play chess virtually against anyone in the world on a well-reviewed website.

It must, however, be stated that, since chess relies heavily on logical reasoning and strategy, many people believe that being good at math is a prerequisite.

Is this true?

If yes, are there parallels between chess and mathematics?

Read on on to uncover the math behind chess!

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To Do Well at Chess, Must You be Good at Maths?

For the longest time people have believed that there is a very strong chess and math association- that an individual has to be proficient at mathematics to be able to play chess.

Is this indeed so?

Without having great maths skills, will I be able to win a chess game?

Simply put, yes!

Many people who have battled with mathematics at school are still able to enjoy a good games of chess, because it encourages logical thinking and the anticipation of things to come.

Since chess is a game, it shouldn’t cause the individual as much anxiety to perform and do well as would a maths test. It is, thus, possible for the player to enjoy the game’s beauty without having to consider the math behind chess.

It is also worth mentioning that quite a number of the best chess players in the world were mathematicians or did very well at maths while at school.It is the logical reasoning which maths relies on that is helpful in chess, as opposed to the headache-inducing formulas of algebra, calculus and trigonometry.

A good deal of Grandmasters improve by playing on a regular basis and not because of their maths skills.

At the end of the day, everyday players shouldn’t worry that, if they are not proficient at mathematics, they won’t get to play games with friends regularly. A good social game is not a World Chess Championship!

However, most seasoned chess players believe that a good knowledge of maths will benefit a novice to the extent that they can face far more experienced players, since there are a number of congruencies.

For instance?

Keep reading to find out more about the congruencies between chess and mathematics!

The Shared Characteristics of Chess and Maths

Whilst we have stated that being good at maths isn’t a necessary requirement to learn to play chess, it is helpful since knowing some of the similarities make a knowledge of maths useful. The chess and math association comes out strongly in the list charactyeristics and activities below:

  • Planning
  • Concentration
  • Self-control
  • Learning from mistakes
  • Logical thinking
  • Problem-solving skills.

All of these aspects mentioned above come into play, both when solving a maths problem and when playing a game of chess.

Also, a number of mathematical values are recognised when chess is played. For example, central squares, active pieces, the relative importance of pieces, changing values of pieces depending on how they move, squares related to particular pieces and end-games.

intimidation of maths
If you aren't intimidated by maths and you're good at it, we highly recommend learning how to play chess. (Source: Unsplash)

From start to finish, a chess game can be viewed as an intricate mathematical equation. The amount of control and logic needed to win a game are but some of the mathematical aspects also seen in chess.

Additionally, courtesy of the exceptional research carried out by Pepe Cuenca, affiliated to the Louis Public Radio, chess practitioners will find that the similarity between mathematics and chess is reflected in the following ways:

  • Players are introduced to geometric concepts such as rows, file and diagonals,
  • The development of recognition and memorisation abilities,
  • Players hone their spatial reasoning capabilities,
  • Correlation and deciding which piece to sacrifice at a particular juncture,
  • Considering future plays and moves and the ability to think past the situation in front of you,
  • Constant calculation and concentration from start to finish

It is important to note that, while chess makes use of mathematical concepts and reasoning, mathematics does not make use of chess at all. The influence is really one way.

Any player new to the game of chess, must realise that becoming proficient at chess will depend quite a bit on circumspection, creativity and probability. These all come into play when thinking logically and attempting maths problems.

If you’re not really good at maths, the analytical skills that you learn while playing chess will help to make sense of many a maths problem.

Are there any significant variations between chess and mathematics? You bet there are. Keeping reading to discover what they are!

Important Differences Between Chess and Maths

As there are similarities between maths and chess, so there are differences that players should be aware of from the outset. For example? Below are some ways in which chess is different from maths:

  • Chess is limited; Maths is not: an individual can attempt to solve a particular mathematical problem and never arrive at a final answer – some math problems require years and even centuries of non-stop enquiry. A chess game, while having the potential be long and drawn-out, must come to a conclusion.
  • The aim of chess is victory: the aim of mathematics is to find a solution to a problem; chess players, on the other hand, don’t want to discover fresh moves, but wish to get the better of their opponent.
  • Maths rules are not clear: the rules of maths are not always clear to everyone; while chess has a set of rules which are all known up-front and are abundantly clear.
  • Maths rules have application everywhere: mathematics helps us to understand the world we live in so much better and applies everywhere – even in the layout of the petals of flowers. Chess and its rules, on the other hand, cannot be applied outside of the game to make sense of anything unrelated to the game.

Have we got you curious to find some tricks and tips to aid you in becoming a better chess player?

If yes, read the insights below to discover more!

Pointers for How to Become Better at Chess

chess match
As a beginner, there is increased enjoyment of the game of chess when everyone knows the pieces. - Source: Pexels

Tips and advice from experts are always welcome, especially when learning a game as intricate as chess. Magnus Carlsen, one of the world’s top players, tops the FIDE (The International Chess Federation or World Chess Federation) rankings and is the current World Chess Champion. At 30, he is young and successful at the game and, thus, any advice from him is sought-after!

So, what are Magnus Carlsen’s top tips to give you the edge in any encounter?

  1. Practise continuously: The first tip from Carlsen is to play daily so as to sharpen the moves, strategies and instincts needed to play like a professional. Engage in quick games against a computer and longer games – everything contributes to your growth!
  2. Read: To develop your chess skills, you should read as much as you can about the game, be they chess books, magazine articles, blogs or websites. You will glean lots of invaluable tips and tricks if you read about how the world’s best players have won games and tournaments.
  3. Learn simple mating techniques: find out how the rook and the king play against each other or the queen against the rook. Carlsen proposes that you familiarise yourself with mating techniques in order to feel more assured in your end game and easily achieve a victory against your opponent.
  4. Study past Grandmasters: Carlsen has learned a tremendous amount from previous greats! Studying the games of previous Grandmasters is a wonderful way to give your game an exponential boost, since you may be exposed to some great moves others may not have seen!
  5. Enjoy your journey: your practising and training should always have an element of fun. Carlsen always felt that you should enjoy all your preparation and practise – be it watching a chess video, playing a short or a long game or reading articles on chess. The enjoyment of anything negates the feeling that it’s a chore!

In closing, the parallels between chess and maths cannot be denied! Whether you’re a novice or more experienced, it is a wonderful idea to engage in playing chess to sharpen your reasoning and maths skills. You could be on your way to becoming a Grandmaster.

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Trevor

Career teacher turned writer. Passionate about family, running, and the great outdoors.