Serious chess players take care of their brains. Do you?
Let’s see how to boost brain power for chess!
Table of Contents
Exercise will always feel like a chore but this has great benefits. The benefits of exercise can never be found and never be equaled to any other pills you will take.
The feelings you’ll get after a 5 hours or 30 minutes of exercise will generally relax your mind and be resistant to depression, anxiety, and nervousness. Exercise is also used by elite chess players to deplete the stress after the game.
Most people don’t know this but chess players have to be physically fit because of the high-calorie consuming tournament they’ll undergo. Anything that uses too much of your brain activity can consume calories just as writing this article.
Vladimir Kramnik loves swimming exercises, Alexandra Kosteniuk on running, Magnus Carlsen on soccer, and Robert James Fischer on exercising inside his house while watching his tv.
“Training your brain is just as important as training your body. It’s just like a muscle—if you’re not using it, you can lose it.” – Magnus Carlsen
Diet boosts a lot of your brain functions just by eating the right foods. Diet gives you energy and the right food can ease your mood.
Eating sweet desserts also eases your mood and makes you want more sweet foods. Unfortunately, too much sugar is a poison when taken excessively causing diabetes, weight gain, and tooth decay. Omega-3 containing foods found on fishes and nuts have DHA and ELA that helps boost brain activity and is used to ward off Alzheimer’s disease.
A planned diet is needed to combat the amounts of calories burned through one tournament. Elite chess players go as far as hiring a personal chef to monitor and make the dietary foods they need.
Supplements are like foods but in a pill. Supplements help you to maintain your brain’s efficiency and also increases its activity. Be careful on choosing a supplement because FDA doesn’t require makers to prove the supplement’s effectiveness.
Nootropics are used for targeting the brain’s cognitive performance. Mood, mental stamina, and heightened focus are some of the desired effects that you’ll need and you’ll get from nootropics. With the use of nootropics, it can help you play long-hour games and maintain a laser-like focus.
There are also ingredients prohibited in a chess tournament such as amphetamines, ephedrine and methylephedrine, pseudoephedrine, and modafinil. Read more about the Chess WADA Anti-Doping Policy here.
B Vitamins like B6, B12, and B9 (folic acid) slows the progression of cognitive decline. Polyphenols can be found in plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, wine, etc. Polyphenol’s active concentration of active substances is much higher in supplements. Polyphenols have consistently been associated with a reduced risk of developing dementia, improved cognitive performance in normal aging, and improved cognitive evolution (Vazour, 2012).
One of the ways to learn that is applicable not only in chess but in all other manners of the field is deliberate practice.
“You want to know the difference between a master and a beginner? The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.”
I can personally thank practice because I don’t have any formal coach. My only coach is my grandfather and sometimes myself. This is why in the majority, chess players are born from another chess player. They only have themselves and their family to play chess with.
Continued practice even though you keep losing to that computer you are trying to beat. Make practice as a habit and train your mind to keep playing when you keep losing. There is a strong correlation between chess skills and the number of hours of practice (Campitelli, Gobet 2008).
Using books and computers for reinforced learning can also enhance your brain as well as your chess skills. The early you start playing chess, the higher you’ll go in terms of chess career because of long practice hours.
Meditation helps you to be mindful and be aware of the surroundings. Meditation helps you to calm your mind if learned the right way. The anxiety, rage, frustration, nervousness, and psychological impact when playing with opposing players can be eased if you know how to meditate.
Magnus Carlsen, at 13 years old, got a draw against Garry Kasparov. He has a winning position against Kasparov but instead, he got intimidated. Kasparov draws out his experience and managed to equalize the position and draw the game. The emotions coming from losing to your long-time rival, losing a game because of time, losing because you miscalculated, losing because of touch move, and losing because you blunder can be helped with meditation.
Tibetan monks were subjected to experiments to see the activity of their brains. then compare the results to an average person. These monks are Buddhist practitioners with an estimated 10,000 to 50,000 hours of meditation. Brain waves of the monks are more coordinated, organized and a higher flow of brain activities are picked up from the electrodes attached to the monks.
Probably out of the elite chess players, only Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So are morning larks. A good night’s sleep will help you a lot in terms of brain activity compared to a sleep-deprived state.
Sleep deprivation can significantly reduce your IQ and will hinder your performance when playing chess. The effects when being sleep deprived not just depletes your IQ but also your motor skills.
Sleep is needed to free up your mind from toxins and repair cells and store energy which is beneficial for your brain’s optimal health. Quality sleep can improve your mood and emotions when handling difficult tasks ahead of the day.
Bobby Fischer listens to rap songs when studying chess because it can get boring very quickly. Even Hikaru Nakamura plays music on his stream when playing bullet chess games. Listening to music helps you to learn subjects depending on the music you are listening to.
Listening to your preferred music can decrease your performance compared to listening to sedative music. People who listen to no music at all perform best because of the high cognitive demand when learning and there’s no distraction when thinking.
Music also helps your mood, reduces anxiety and blood pressure, improves your sleep quality, and mental alertness. There is also an influence of your personality type on how music affects your performance. Introverts tend to perform worse when listening to music compared to extroverts.
I am not saying not to play music at all, but it has its benefits and must be taken advantage of. When you feel discouraged or feel less confident, it is optimal to listen to music to bring back the vigor that you have lost.
Reading helps you to explore other person’s perspectives. Reading helps you to explore ideas and makes you critical of the author or the character. It serves to broaden your attention span and makes you imagine yourself if you were in that situation. It makes you think, pause, and create instances if it were you and it enhances your emphatic skills.
Whether reading on chess or reading in general, has the benefits of heightening your brain activity. It creates more white matter that helps your brain waves communicate effectively.
Reading activates a lot of the part of your brain and is beneficial especially for the developing brain of the child. It supports mental imagery and increases the attention span of the kids.
We are innately a social being no matter what we choose. Solitude and loneliness are two different things separated with one thin line. Being lonely is when a rewarding relationship and social contact are not met. Solitude gives you freedom, creativity, and openness to opportunities that meet your social requirements.
Being social can add years to your life and ease anxiety, stress, depression, and prevent loneliness. To meet the person with who you can share your moments of happiness or sadness can make a change in your life compared to having no friends.
Chess players need to communicate with other chess players to understand what went wrong. This gives them new ideas and rewires their brain to look at the other player’s perspective. Social ties can reduce blood pressure and stress hormones that are essential for maintaining a healthy body and mind.
The supportive environment is a great factor affecting the brain of a child growing up. Any stage of life whether childhood, teenage, or adulthood can generally affect your life. Imagine Magnus Carlsen without his good-natured and supportive parents, do you think he can be what he is today?
Parent’s socioeconomic status, marital quality, and parenting style play a role in the development of a child’s brain. Growing in a poverty-stricken situation can cause the parts of the brain to shrink which are responsible for memory, planning, and decision making. Poor children will have delay improvement in their brains and low academic achievement scores.
Phiona Mutesi’s, a Ugandan candidate master, life story inspired the movie Queen of Katwe. She was born in a neighborhood that is the largest Kampala’s eight slums. Her father died when she was 3 years old and her older sister to the proceeding years. She dropped out of school at age nine because her mother cannot fund her studies. It is already a miracle that she got into chess and is doing well.
Imagine if she has formal coaching and the resources to further her career during her childhood. What barriers can she break to achieve her utmost potential?
Immerse Yourself in Nature
Immersing yourself in nature can give you vitamin D as the rays of sunlight hits you. People who spend time in nature see themselves exercising which is already a benefit to the brain. Exercising in nature eases your mood more than exercising in a room. Top chess players can be seen hiking or jogging in the presence of nature.
Away from the computer’s radiation, work’s stress and pressure can be solved by going out and explore nature. A 20-minute jog or walk can help free your mind from the clutters inside your unrelenting mind.
Going out for a walk and explore nature can improve the concentration of ADHD children. Even as simple as putting plants in the kid’s environment can develop the brain and improve the attention and creativity of the child.
One way to avoid stress is to avoid the creator of stress. It is for this reason that you must avoid distractions and pursue the things that you want to do. A majority of chess players don’t have life partners. Even though having a partner has its own merits, it also has its downside. A heartbreak can affect your emotional well-being and will influence the other spectrum of your life.
Not just partners but toxic people, in general, must be avoided. You don’t want a person by your side discouraging you from achieving the things that you want to achieve. This can affect you psychologically and doesn’t need scientific research for that. You want someone who motivates you like a mentor or a coach.
Avoid excess use of social media and your phone. This will only hinder your productivity and will hinder your goals in life. Avoid too much alcohol and smoking as these can decrease your performance in the long run.
If you want to focus on one thing and maintain that level of focus in the years of your life. You are best to pursue it with no distractions whatsoever and pursue greatness and be the best at it.
By taking these measures, you can expect the following results in your brain, which will lead to improvement in your chess:
- Spatial recognition
- Anxiety and stress reduction
- Energy to prevent mental and physical fatigue
- Heightened and longer duration of focus
- Reichelt, A., (2019, November 15). Your brain on sugar: What the science actually says. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/your-brain-on-sugar-what-the-science-actually-says-126581
- Casarella, J., (2019, December 18). Brain Supplements That Do and Don’t Work. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/brain/ss/slideshow-brain-supplements
- Moore, K., Hughes, C., Ward, M., Hoey, L., & McNulty, H. (2018. Diet, nutrition and the ageing brain: Current evidence and new directions. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 77(2), 152-163.doi:10.1017/S0029665117004177
- Petre, A., (2019, July 8). What are Polyphenols? Types, Benefits, and Food Sources. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/polyphenols
- Meeusen, R., & Decroix, L. (2018). Nutritional Supplements and the Brain, International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 28(2), 200-211. Retrieved Mar 24, 2021, from https://journals.humankinetics.com/view/journals/ijsnem/28/2/article-p200.xml
- Vauzour, D. (2012). Dietary polyphenols as modulators of brain functions: Biological actions and molecular mechanisms underpinning their beneficial effects. Oxidative Medicine and Cell Longevitv,2012, 914273. Retrieved from https://www.hindawi.com/journals/omcl/2012/914273/
- Campitelli, G., Gobet, F., (2008) The role of practice in chess: A longitudinal study, Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lindif.2007.11.006.
- Tuffiash, M., Krampe, R., Reingold, E., Vasyukova, E., (2005, March 02). The role of deliberate practice in chess expertise. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1002/acp.1106
- Jongen, S., Perrier, J., Vuurman, E. F., Ramaekers, A. V., (2015, February 10). Sensitivity and Validity of Psychometric Tests for Assessing Driving Impairment: Effects of Sleep Deprivation. PLoS ONE 10(2): e0117045 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0117045
- Wang XY, Wang X, Huang CQ, Guo ZY, Qian YF, Yang Y, Tan M, Tan X, Tu QY, Wang L. [Effects of sleep deprivation on the intelligence structure of school-age children in Changsha, China]. Zhongguo Dang Dai Er Ke Za Zhi. 2013 Oct;15(10):866-9. Chinese. PMID: 24131840. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24131840/
- Dolegui, A. S. (2013). “The Impact of Listening to Music on Cognitive Performance.” Inquiries Journal/Student Pulse, 5(09). Retrieved from http://www.inquiriesjournal.com/a?id=1657
- Umberson D, Montez JK. Social relationships and health: a flashpoint for health policy. J Health Soc Behav. 2010;51 Suppl(Suppl):S54-S66. doi:10.1177/0022146510383501
- Luby J, Belden A, Botteron K, et al. The Effects of Poverty on Childhood Brain Development: The Mediating Effect of Caregiving and Stressful Life Events. JAMA Pediatr.2013;167(12):1135–1142. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.3139.
- Nieuwenhuis M, Knight C, Postmes T, Haslam SA. The relative benefits of green versus lean office space: three field experiments. J Exp Psychol Appl. 2014 Sep;20(3):199-214. doi: 10.1037/xap0000024. Epub 2014 Jul 28. PMID: 25068481.
- Dadvand, P., Tischer, C., Estarlich, M., Llop, S., Dalmau-Bueno, A., López-Vicente, M., Valentín, A., de Keijzer, C., Fernández-Somoano, A., Lertxundi, N., Rodriguez-Dehli, C., Gascon, M., Guxens, M., Zugna, D., Basagaña, X., Nieuwenhuijsen, M. J.,Ibarluzea, J.,Ferran Ballester, F.,Sunyer, J., (2017, September 18). Lifelong Residential Exposure to Green Space and Attention: A Population-based Prospective Study. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP694