It’s no coincidence that the smartest kids in school always seem to join the chess team, but a new study has actually linked chess skill to intelligence. The research presents some of the most conclusive evidence yet to suggest that chess skill is linked to a player's overall smarts, but don’t worry; average Joes can still master the game. It just might take a bit longer to do so.

The study found that intelligence was linked to chess skill for the overall sample, particularly among young chess players and those at lower levels of skill. According to the researchers, this may be because the upper-level players all tend to be fairly intelligent and on the same cognitive level.

"Chess is probably the single most studied domain in research on expertise, yet the evidence for the relationship between chess skill and cognitive ability is mixed," said MSU's Alexander Burgoyne, lead author on the study, Medical Xpress reported. "We analyzed a half-century worth of research on intelligence and chess skill and found that cognitive ability contributes meaningfully to individual differences in chess skill."

For the study, researchers from Michigan State University reviewed nearly 2,300 articles on chess skill written based off 19 studies and 1,800 players. They then compared players' IQ scores against their game performance. Results revealed time and time again that increased IQ was correlated with better performance.

Although experience, training, and practice also play a role in chess skill, the research suggested that intelligence also has an important role. Still, the team explained that although those with increased intelligence may find it easier to excel at chess, a person with average intelligence can still master the game, it just may take them longer.

“So the idea is, as you practice more and develop more skills and knowledge about the game, you may be able to circumvent limitations in cognitive ability," added Zach Hambrick, one of the researchers who took part in the study, Medical Xpress reported.

Source: Burgoyne AP, Sala G, Gobert F. The relationship between cognitive ability and chess skill: A comprehensive meta-analysis. Intelligence . 2016

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