Left-Handed Players

Recently I read a short article on lefthanders in the August 1988 issue of the British Chess Magazine (BCM). The first paragraph was very interesting for us lefties. Here is the noteworthy first paragraph;

“Some research has shown that there is a higher-than-normal proportion of left-handed amongst chess players”.

This is something I have observed when I was playing Over The Board (OTB) tournaments. But among strong players, say Expert and above, the percentage of left-handed players actually drops below the norm.

And if we look at World Champions, we find no left-handed players. Not just the Men’s World Champion, but the Women’s as well. And correspondence World Champions have all been right-handed players as well. I have not researched the handiness of all the Junior World Champions, but I suspect you won’t find any lefties there.

Why is this so? There are many factors for this occurrence. And all have to do with brain physiology.

Right-handed people tend to use the left part of the brain. That side is where logic, calculations, and focusing (among other things) are located.

Left-handed people access the other side of the brain, the right part. (yes, left-handers are fond of saying, “I’m one of those few people who regularly use the right side of my brain. I don’t know about those right-handed people”. Usually, they say this only to their left-handed friends.

OK – back to the topic.

The right side of the brain is concerned with intuition, ability to see more across the spectrum of things (at the cost of narrow focusing), and ability to actually see chess positions that have not occurred yet.

Briefly, a lefty can actually see what positions may occur during a game. But it takes a right-hander to figure out how to get there.

OK, so you probably want some examples of left-handed players and their games. Just for research, right? ; )



Christopher Briscoe-GM Mark Hebden
British Ch.
Torquay, England, July 27 2009

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Be7 6.Qe2 (Known as the Worrall Attack.) 6…b5 7.Bb3 O-O 8.c3 d5 9.exd5 Bg4 10.dxc6 e4 11.d4 exf3 12.gxf3 Bh5 13.Bg5 Re8 14.Nd2 Nd5 15.Bxe7 Rxe7 16.Qd3 Bg6 17.Ne4

17…Nf4! 18.Qd2 Rxe4! 19.Kh1 Qg5 20.Rg1 Qf6 21.Rg4 h5 22.fxe4 Bxe4+ 0-1


Peter J. Oakley-
Yury Nikolaevich Shaposhnikov
World Championship V, ½ Final
ICCF, 1962

1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e6 3.e4 c5 4.e5 Ng8 5.d4 cxd4 6.Qxd4 Nc6 7.Qe4 d6 8.Nf3 Nxe5 9.Nxe5 Nf6 10.Qe2 dxe5 11.Qxe5 Bd6 12.Qb5+ Bd7 13.Qxb7 Rb8 14.Qf3 Qc7 15.Bd3 Bc6 16.Qh3 Bf4 17.O-O Bxc1 18.Raxc1 Rxb2 19.Nb5 Qf4 20.Nxa7 Be4 21.Bxe4 Nxe4 22.Qa3 Rd2 23.Nc6 Kd7 24.Rb1 1-0


GM Daniil Dubov-
Renato R. Quintiliano Pinto
Blitz Game
Titled Tuesday
chess.com, May 11 2021

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.e4 b5 6.Be2 e6 7.O-O Bb7 8.Rb1 b4 9.e5 Nd5 10.Ne4 Nd7 11.Bxc4 c5 12.Bg5 Qb6 13.Re1 h6 14.Bh4 cxd4 15.Nxd4 Bc5 16.Nf5 O-O 17.Nxh6+ gxh6 18.Qg4+ Kh8 19.Qh5 f5 20.Qxh6+ Kg8 21.Qg6+ Kh8 22.Ng5 1-0

Do Lefties Have Advantages in Chess?

First, I have to admit that I am a left-hander. This is partly a personal account.

Lefthanders often have an advantage in sports. In Baseball, Tennis, Soccer, this advantage is obvious.

But do left-handed chess players have an advantage in chess?

Let’s take a general, and perhaps an overgeneralized view, of left-handers.

Lefties tend to think spatial setups rather than individual items. They see multiple colors in everything rather than in White and Black and iron clad differences. They tend to do better in geometry rather than algebra. They see forests rather than the trees.

And they tend to see the whole board patterns than rather than the calculations.

Does this constitute an advantage? Well, yes and no. It more or less balances out. You have to see more than a corner of the board and you have to calculate.

Are there other things that may constitute an advantage for a lefty?

Let’s use this image of two players in a tournament with a clock. The tournament is from 1944.

As you can see both players can access the clock, but there is a difference. One player punches the clock with his right hand and the other player must use his left hand.

Most players naturally want to have the clock on the side of their dominant hand. So, who gets to choose which side of the board the clock sits during the game?

Since White gets to move first, Black has a small compensation awarded to him. He has the choice which side to place the clock. So, if I am playing Black, I will choose the clock on my left-side and tell my opponent I am doing a him a favor, “just to be nice”. In reality, the position of the clock now favors both players.

And when I am White, I freely and liberally let Black to place the clock to whatever side he wants. First of all, it is a chess rule. The second reason is that the clock almost always ends up on the side I want.

Except when my opponent is another lefty.