Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Why Grandmasters think differently about chess

Every serious player wonders now and then what exactly sets GMs apart from the rest of the pack. Is it nature, or nurture? Can any child learn to excel at chess, or not? I recently read a research article performed by a former chessplayer (I assume a FIDE master, but non-GM), that studied the brains of GMs and non-GMs. He used a technique called magnetoencephaolgraphy, and found that GMs relied on certain areas of the brain much more than the average player, at about a 4/1 ratio for the two areas of the brain. When the researcher tested his own brain, the ratio was 1/1. He always wondered why he could never make it to the GM level, and this may very well be why. Of course, this does not prove that genetics determine chess ability, but it is an interesting finding in itself. The region that GMs use more (theoretically) is for storing "chunks" of information; in other words, when that part of their brain lit up, they were retrieving the information, probably chunks of strategies or patterns they had previously learned. The researcher, Dr. Amidzic, is now testing young tennis players to see if there are differences between the top vs. average players in other sports as well.


  1. We need to find what is the quickest way to soak up these "chunks of information" and pattern recognition programs. See Chuck's Corner for my recent thoughts on this subject...

  2. Actually Chuck, there is a book out there that allows you to develop these "chunks" as they are called. The title of the book is Rapid Chess Improvement by Michael de la Maza.
    While a very simple volume he advocates simple chess vision drills and tactics. The author rose from 1341 to 1756 in his first year of studing this way and then went to Expert the following year. It may be in the club library so check it out. This is not a book that will entice in with stuff like others.