Can chess help you train the brain

Sports : Ingenious through brain training

In our series we focus on parts of the body that are important when practicing a sport. Today we end the series with the brain in chess.

Playing chess is like speaking in a foreign language. Move by move, the players have to remember the most important positions and combine them with each other. “It works like learning vocabulary and putting it together into whole sentences,” says Thomas Elbert, brain researcher at the University of Konstanz. Grandmasters use their brain in a special way: They store the information directly in the cerebral cortex, the network of the brain. Players like world champion Wladimir Kramnik have noted between 50,000 and 100,000 chess constellations there. Researcher Elbert says: "Grand masters are geniuses, you can compare them to Goethe." The writer had 50,000 words stored in his brain and systematically expanded his vocabulary.

The most difficult thing in chess is linking the constellations. The more active a player's cerebral cortex is, the better he can combine and imagine upcoming moves in his mind's eye. Experiments have shown that professional players can even memorize any set-up on a chessboard if they just looked at it beforehand. The only condition: the pieces must not be set up randomly or contrary to the rules, the arrangement must make sense from the perspective of a chess player.

"Recognizing and devising strategies quickly - that is what makes a chess player so ingenious," says Elbert. The neuropsychologist, who likes to play chess himself, found out in a study that amateur players use their brains differently. They too try to memorize the traits like vocabulary, but cannot store them permanently in the cerebral cortex. You are only able to think two or three moves in advance. Your brain cells quickly break down the connections.

Professional players train their brains every day with new game variants. They don't get a headache from it. “All that thinking can only be harmful if you don't sit down and relax,” says Elbert. "Then a chess player's head can hurt too." Ide

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