Chess Aptitude Test: How Do You Score?

Dr. Purushothaman
September 27, 2013

Jonathan Levitt, an GM with a lot of chess experience under his belt, created what I believe is one of the most effective and simple, "self-tests" to determine chess aptitude. This test is discussed in his book, "Genius in Chess."

To take the test, you first need to know how to understand the diagram of a chessboard in algebraic notation. If you are an experienced chess player who is familiar with chess notation, you can skip this paragraph and move to the paragraph where I describe the test. In algebraic chess notation, each row of the chess board is assigned a number from 1 to 8, beginning with the white side. Each column is described with a letter from a to h, going from left to right from the white side. Each square is described by a letter/number combination according to the intersection of the column and row that both contain that square. The lowermost square, farthest to the left is h8. (If you are sitting on the "white's" side of the board). As you will see from the diagram on my website that I mentioned above, the uppermost square, farthest to the right a1.

I've posted a visual diagram of a chess board illustrating the algebraic notation method on my chess game strategies site []. Scroll to the bottom, and click on the resources link to access the diagram.

Now allow me to describe the test:

This test requires some sort of timer or clock, a chessboard, one white knight, and one black queen.

Place the white knight on square b1. Place the black queen on square d4. The knight has to move all the way around the board, visiting the following squares in this order: c1, e1, f1, h1, a2, c2, e2, g2, h2, and so on until you reach g8 (you won't be able to visit h8 because it is controlled by the black queen). During the test you cannot take the black queen, and you cannot put the knight en prise at any point.

It is acceptable to visit the squares in the list out of order, but only if you are using them to get from c1 to e1, for example. However, these squares must be visited again at the correct time in the order listed above. Only do the test once, and time yourself. Anyone who can complete the test in ten minutes or less on their first try reveals, according to Levitt, "real chess talent."

This test may seem simple at first glance, but it will surely require intense concentration, a spacial knowledge of the chess board, and the will to keep going. Some people even give up after the first stage, because it takes nine steps.

If you go to my chess tactics site, scroll to the bottom, and click on the resources link, you can access the solution to this test, as well as results, in seconds, of some very accomplished chess players. Michael Adams, a world title contender, took 330 seconds (5.5 minutes). Many other GMs in the list required up to seven."

Take a break from your computer and try it!

If it takes you longer than 10 minutes, don't despair... this test requires that you are able to think strategically about the chess board, not simply memorize moves.

Most people who simply memorize moves, but don't understand chess strategy, will have trouble with the test. Strategic thinking (not simply memorizing moves and tactics) essential to REAL chess aptitude. Spacial aptitude is also quality that this test requires. Both of these skills are learned from experience on the chess board, good coaching, and consistent study.

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