The relationship between cognitive ability and chess skill: A comprehensive meta-analysis

Alexander P. Burgoyne, Giovanni Sala, Fernand Gobet, Brooke N. Macnamara, Guillermo Campitelli, David Z. Hambrick

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

79 Citations (Scopus)


Why are some people more skilled in complex domains than other people? Here, we conducted a meta-analysis to evaluate the relationship between cognitive ability and skill in chess. Chess skill correlated positively and significantly with fluid reasoning (Gf) (r− = 0.24), comprehension-knowledge (Gc) (r− = 0.22), short-term memory (Gsm) (r− = 0.25), and processing speed (Gs) (r− = 0.24); the meta-analytic average of the correlations was (r− = 0.24). Moreover, the correlation between Gf and chess skill was moderated by age (r− = 0.32 for youth samples vs. r− = 0.11 for adult samples), and skill level (r− = 0.32 for unranked samples vs. r− = 0.14 for ranked samples). Interestingly, chess skill correlated more strongly with numerical ability (r− = 0.35) than with verbal ability (r− = 0.19) or visuospatial ability (r− = 0.13). The results suggest that cognitive ability contributes meaningfully to individual differences in chess skill, particularly in young chess players and/or at lower levels of skill.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-83
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 01-11-2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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