Are there neurophysiological differences behind the play of different chess modalities?: An international grandmaster case study

Physiol Behav. 2022 Oct 15:255:113918. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2022.113918. Epub 2022 Jul 17.


The study of mental load is an emerging research topic in the field of sport sciences. In the sport of chess, there is a need to understand the mental demands of the sport of chess in order to manage training loads. The present study aimed to analyze the electrical brain pattern of an elite chess player during different chess games: 15 + 10, blindfold 15 + 10, lightning game, and problem-solving chess tasks. The participant was a male 33-year-old chess player with 2562 points of ELO and more than 26 years of chess experience, training between 3 and 4 h a day. The 15 + 10 game consisted of 15 min + 10 s increment per move. In the blindfold game, the participant cannot see the positions of the pieces and does not touch them. In the lightning game, the participant played four consecutive one minute game. In addition, two high-level, two low-level, and two medium-level chess problems were performed. Electroencephalographic (EEG) and heart rate variability (HRV) responses were measured to assess the electrical brain pattern and autonomic modulation respectively. The participant won both games at 15 + 10 (normal and blindfold), lost three and drew one of the four lightning games, solved the two low-level and the two medium-level problems and solved one of the two high-level problems. Although in both games the player achieved victory the average player move quality measured with both pure analysis and analysis with additional limitations were lower in 15 + 10 blindfold game than in 15 + 10 game. Increments in theta and alpha power spectrums can be observed during the most demanding chess games (blindfold chess, lightning game, and the chess problem at difficult- level). Furthermore, the highest alpha power spectrum values can be observed during blindfold chess. In conclusion, this is the first study investigating the EEG pattern of a International Chess Grandmaster during a blindfold chess game. We found that in the chess games where lower performance is exhibited, theta and alpha power spectrums increased.

Keywords: Blindfold chess; Chess; Cognitive load; Eeg; Mental fatigue; Sport.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autonomic Nervous System*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Heart Rate
  • Hobbies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Fatigue*
  • Neurophysiology
  • Problem Solving