Playing Chess by Yourself in 2024: How It Benefits Your Brain

January 23, 2024 • Rehack Team

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Chess is normally thought of as a two-player game. You need an opponent to plan and execute your strategies against for the game to be enjoyable right? Surprisingly, the answer is actually “no.” You can play an entire game of chess yourself by controlling the movement of both set of pieces. How can you play chess by yourself and how does it benefit your brain?

What Is the Benefit of Playing Chess?

First, how does playing chess by yourself benefit you if you play regularly? Scientists have found it can:

  • Improve your critical thinking skills: The game itself is based on logic. Chess players have been shown to have improved pattern recognition, decision-making skills, critical thinking and more.
  • Enhance your memory: Chess requires the memorization of thousands of moves and strategies. Brain scans of chess grandmasters have shown that this memorization changes the way the brain functions, improving your overall memory.
  • Boost your IQ: Several studies have shown that teaching children how to play chess can help to improve their IQ, in addition to improving analytical and critical thinking skills. Research also proves it can accelerate emotional development, improving their self-esteem and empathy.
  • Help protect you against degenerative brain diseases: Playing chess and other activities that provide mental stimulation shield you from cognitive impairment, making you less likely to experience degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s or dementia.

So, is solo chess helpful? Research shows it’s a great way to keep your mind sharp and improve your problem solving and pattern recognition skills over time. It may even prevent certain cognitive diseases.

How to Play Chess by Yourself

While it’s true that chess is traditionally a two-player game, it’s certainly possible to play by yourself as well. Can chess be played alone? Here are the steps involved:

  1. Set up your board. White always goes first, so move your pieces accordingly.
  2. Make your initial moves for both sides. Set up your pawns, get your bishops and knights out on the board, and castle — swap your king with one of your rooks — if it fits your strategy.
  3. Play the game, but take your time. A solo chess game is a logical battle against yourself. You know which moves you’re planning to make, but it needn’t be done in haste. Move your piece, then take the time to contemplate your “opponent’s” move.
  4. Monitor your moves on both sides. Playing against yourself can be tricky because you might start to favor the winning side subconsciously. Think about every move carefully — would you still make it if you were playing against an opponent? Don’t hold back or make intentionally bad moves.
  5. Walk away between turns. This gives you some time to think about your next move but also prevents you from planning too many moves ahead.

It’s not easy, but playing chess by yourself is rewarding. If you try to outplay yourself at every turn — not favoring white or black — you’ll challenge your abilities and be better for it.

How to Play Chess by Yourself Online

Are you wondering how to play chess against yourself online? You’re living in the digital age, so it’s only natural. Besides, it’s much easier to carry a phone with a mobile chess app than to lug around an entire chessboard. Fortunately for you, numerous free options exist.

How to play chess against yourself on Chess.com. Source: Tech Tutor

The first — and most popular — free online chess platform is Chess.com. You’ll need an email to create an account, but you don’t have to spend a single penny to play or interact with other members. All you have to do is hover over the Learn tab, click Classroom and hit the New Room button.

Another popular free online chess platform is Lichess. You can access it in your browser or through the mobile app. To play a game against yourself, hover over Tools and click on Analysis board. You’ll be able to start playing right away without having to sign in. As a bonus, the website describes your move and possible responses to it — perfect for training.

Is It Good to Play Chess Against Yourself?

Whether you’re interested in learning how to play chess or you already consider yourself a master, there are plenty of benefits to playing chess by yourself, including:

  • Strategy: It gives you an opportunity to try out new strategies and moves before you employ them in an actual game.

  • Creativity: It encourages you to think outside the box. You have to come up with a strategy to beat yourself, which can be tricky when you know all of your own moves.

  • Simplicity: You get all of the benefits of playing chess, without the need to find an opponent.

  • Analysis: It expands your mind by putting you into a logic battle with yourself. Also, it lets you get inside your opponents’ minds easier.

Playing chess is a fantastic way to learn self-improvement while also boosting your cognitive skills, increasing your creative thinking and problem solving, and even protecting yourself against degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s. If you don’t know how to play or never learned, consider picking up a cheap board and playing a few games against yourself. You might be surprised at the outcome!

Is Playing Against Artificial Intelligence the Same?

Many chess games have taken place between a human and a computer over the years. Recently, artificial intelligence has emerged as a new potential opponent. While playing against an algorithm might feel the same as playing by yourself, it’s completely different. An AI can process more data than the human mind can comprehend — meaning it wins virtually every time.

Playing against artificial intelligence is not the same as playing chess by yourself. While researchers want to make a human-like algorithm that sometimes makes mediocre moves, the result is the same — you’ll still play against a machine that has access to all possible moves. Even if it plays poorly on purpose, your experience won’t be realistic.

Whether you’re training to learn the game or refine your skills, playing by yourself is the best approach. Since algorithms are incapable of creativity or critical thinking, your game will be much more realistic. Plus, on top of enhancing your memory, boosting your IQ and improving your cognitive functioning, it gives you an opportunity to test your limitations.


For more reasons to play chess, read our article Checkmate on Life: 5 Mental Benefits of Playing Chess

Original Publish Date 1/11/2018 — Updated 1/23/2024



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