Child chess prodigies are likely high-IQ prodigies

Since we’re on the topic of IQ again, from Tracing Wood:

No mention of IQ anywhere in the entire tweet-thread. I think he possibly gets the causation wrong. It’s not so much that kids have some unique advantage at chess owing to neural plasticity, but that the smarter kids advance through the ranks, whereas those who are less intelligent drop out. So the underlying or independent factor is IQ, not age.

Not only do grandmasters start young, but also are really smart, which is evident when you read their bios. They are basically high-IQ prodigies in every respect, who happen to also play chess. Who would have guessed that it’s the smartest people who also tend to excel at an early age at g-loaded tasks, whether it’s math or chess.

Sure, some of the Soviet-era masters like Kasparov or Karpov were more normal, but today’s kid champions are way outliers in terms of IQ…we’re talking sky-high fluid intelligence to find optimal moves, and strong crystalized intelligence to remember many endgames and other patterns that may arise during the game.

Starting chess at a very early age likely selects for IQ more strongly than starting at a later age; this makes sense, as understanding the instructions necessitates some baseline ability independent of chess-playing ability. So the prodigies who have astronomically-high-IQs are already at a huge advantage by being able to comprehend the instructions and being able to visually differentiate the pieces at a much earlier age compared to everyone else, especially when ability compounds.

Magnus Carlsen, generally regarded as the greatest chess player ever, as a child demonstrated far outlier abilities at memory and other aspects of intelligence: “Carlsen showed an aptitude for intellectual challenges at a young age. At two years, he could solve 500-piece jigsaw puzzles; at four, he enjoyed assembling Lego sets with instructions intended for children aged 10–14.[12]” Crazy. Or Bobby Fischer, who is also regarded as among the greatest, and also had a very high IQ, estimated at 180 or so.

Taking an average-IQ kid and trying to make him into a grandmaster will likely only produce middling results despite tons of practice, although it’s possible there may be exceptions. Even if the kid is well-above-average at chess ability among the general population, he will still not be competitive at the highest levels of play.