Chess study finds homeworkers at risk of misstep

Workers who stay at home are at risk of making the wrong move that leads to errors, according to a recently published study that looked at the impact of remote play on top chess players.

Researchers in the Netherlands analyzed nearly 215,000 movements made by players in digital and in-person tournaments, using artificial intelligence to check each against optimal play. They found that the quality of the game was significantly worse when the same players competed online rather than face-to-face, a sign that staying away from the desk hurts productivity.

The research, published in the Journal of the Royal Economics Society, said: “Our results show a marked decrease in overall performance in the distance setting, which is particularly pronounced early in the period chess players had to spend. to the new framework … we believe the initial decline in cognitive performance and adjustment time could be even more pronounced for most other workers. “

Researchers found the impact was especially pronounced when major tournaments went digital at the start of the pandemic.

The effect then waned over time, with players adjusting to changing circumstances.

One of the academics involved – Christian Seel of Maastricht University, who holds the international master’s chess rating and is ranked 855th in the world – was inspired to lead the study after being disappointed with his game when Covid forced online events.

The impact on performance was large enough that it would have taken Norwegian grandmaster Magnus Carlsen, the world’s highest rated player, to the same rating as the current 20th best player, according to Dainis Zegners of the Rotterdam School of Management. , one of the co-authors.

Mr Zegners said research has shown that workers’ ability to perform mentally intense tasks while being alone can be affected by remote working patterns.

He said, “Perhaps this is an unusual example.

“But this has the advantage of being able to measure the actual type of decision performance, which in other contexts is almost not possible.”

The best chess players may also have been particularly able to adjust due to their comfortable lifestyles, Zegners added.

He said: “They are all men in their twenties and thirties.

“They have no responsibility for child care or anything. They are all rich.

Researchers were unable to determine when the errors were the result of more creative play or simply blunders.

Chess received a publicity boost during the pandemic from The Queen’s Gambit, a popular Netflix show focused on fictional chess prodigy Beth Harmon.

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