Wednesday 15 October 2014

Good at maths == Good at chess?

The title of this post popped up in an article  I stumbled across this evening (NB I have rephrased the original comment). The article concerns game theory, which I enjoy, and is about why mathematicians play games. The statement was presented without any real supporting evidence (well, none really), but is one of those things that non chessplayers may believe is true.
While I do know some mathematicians who are good at chess (to the IM level), I know a whole lot more who aren't. In my experience, I am much more confident in stating that being good at chess helps you to be good at maths, rather than the other way round.
But the point of this post isn't to rip into the article and the writer. The article itself is quite interesting, and is the website I found it on. It came from an online magazine called +Plus, which presents interesting articles about mathematics. Apart for the above article there are plenty of other topics covered, and if you are interested in 'recreational' maths, then I recommend it highly.


siow, weng nian said...

"While I do know some mathematicians who are good at chess (to the IM level)," (perhaps you are thinking of IM Trevor Tao? or IM Greg Hjorth?)

surely GM John Nunn is the living refutation of that statement? :):):)

If I remember correctly he has the distinction of being one of the youngest to graduate from Oxbridge with Maths degree and one of the youngest in PhD? And there are countless others in the old USSR who were trained in Maths and also became GMs or they are like GM Alexander Khalifman who chose chess over maths at a young age. In a book on the reculsive genius mathematician Gregori Perelman, who proved the Poincare Conjecture one of the Millenium Maths Puzzles offering a $1 million proze which he rejected and is now living in penury, I read that Perelman was heavily into Maths Olympiad when he was young and one of his fellow competitor was Alexander Khalifman.

But seriously Maths is a very very big field and I think certain certain areas of maths are more attuned to chess than others.

It is a good question derserving more discussion but I actually think Game Theory is not a good mix for chess. But then what do I know? Perhaps you shoudl ask the famous Dr IM Vladimir Smirnov since game theory is his specialty, no? (another example of a mathematician (in economics) who is an IM.

Anonymous said...

Nunn himself says that greater chess strength is about more and more complex pattern recognition, which I don't think necessarily lends itself to maths more than anything else (say, art).