The role of domain-specific practice, handedness, and starting age in chess

Dev Psychol. 2007 Jan;43(1):159-72. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.43.1.159.


The respective roles of the environment and innate talent have been a recurrent question for research into expertise. The authors investigated markers of talent, environment, and critical period for the acquisition of expert performance in chess. Argentinian chess players (N = 104), ranging from weak amateurs to grandmasters, completed a questionnaire measuring variables including individual and group practice, starting age, and handedness. The study reaffirms the importance of practice for reaching high levels of performance, but it also indicates a large variability: The slower player needed 8 times as much practice to reach master level than the faster player. Additional results show a correlation between skill and starting age and indicate that players are more likely to be mixed-handed than individuals in the general population; however, there was no correlation between handedness and skill within the sample of chess players. Together, these results suggest that practice is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the acquisition of expertise, that some additional factors may differentiate chessplayers and nonchessplayers, and that starting age of practice is important.

MeSH terms

  • Achievement
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aptitude*
  • Child
  • Critical Period, Psychological
  • Functional Laterality*
  • Game Theory
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Play and Playthings*
  • Practice, Psychological*
  • Problem Solving*
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Surveys and Questionnaires