It is quite common to struggle with “Brain Fog” or “Stroke Brain” after a stroke.
I feel it every single day. I read daily and play crossword puzzles, but I still have that numb, deer-in-headlights sensation. It feels like I just took a serious pummeling with a heavy feather pillow – and a major league baseball player was holding the pillow. I am not in any pain, but my brain feels like it’s wrapped in heavy cotton. So how do you exercise your brain after a stroke? You give it a challenge. My personal favorite is chess.
I haven’t played chess since childhood.
I chose to take it up again specifically for the purpose of mental therapy. Chess really forces me to work my brain, especially my memory. It helps with my concentration and exercises whichever part of the brain that is responsible for calculations and strategy. I’ve started playing again and I have experienced a dramatic improvement in all of the above. Plus, it’s fun! It’s become a daily ritual for me now. A ritual that I look forward to.
The game of Chess is possible to learn, even after a stroke.
Memorizing the types of moves that each individual piece is allowed to make, and learning the rules of the game is quite simple. Where it gets complicated is putting all that together into a winning strategy. The variations in the sequence of potential moves is virtually unlimited. That’s what makes the game a challenge, so much fun, and so good for you after a stroke. It will give your brain the same kind of workout that your body gets in physical therapy.
Learn To Play Chess On Your Computer Or Mobile Phone
If you don’t currently play the game, there’s an easy way to get started.
I joined Chess.com a couple of months ago. You can watch excellent training videos and live games on the site. You can play others from anywhere on the planet from your computer or mobile device. You can even play Chess.com’s computer until you’re ready for a real game, or just prefer to go it alone. There’s even a public bulletin board/forum where you can interact with other players. Their cheapest package is $5 per month, but for that price, you don’t get access to the excellent training program. I suggest either the $7 per month option at minimum, or the $14 per month option for additional features like video training. You can also join for free and get limited access.
Buy An Inexpensive Chess Set
Tournament Chess Set with Heavyweight Game Pieces, Durable Chess Board and Strategy Guide, from Amazon: http://amzn.to/2EXMSpd
You may also want to pick up a cheap chessboard.
I got this one on Amazon and it is great. It is a heavy-duty vinyl roll-up with annotations (A – G, 1 – 8) in the margins. If you’re not a chess player, these are needed while you learn the game so that you can quickly identify and communicate the geographic locations of each piece on the board. This board is the same type used by chess players worldwide. It is ubiquitous wherever you find people playing in public. When you’re done you just roll it up. The chess pieces are sturdy plastic and heavily-weighted so they stay in place.
I recommend this handy bag to store your chess set and pieces. It’s made especially for roll-up vinyl chess boards and holds all of the chess pieces easily. Designed to be portable. Get outside and play. Set up at a park or other public place and you’ll find volunteers quite readily.
Pick Up A Couple Of Chess Books
Play Winning Chess, by Yasser Seirawan, (Paperback), from Amazon: http://amzn.to/2H5YvLD
There are literally thousands of books on playing chess and chess strategy. I picked up this book after reading a review on one of the chess sites on the web. It’s written for beginners and it is easy to understand. If you haven’t ever played the game this is a very good place to start. Very well-written.
My 60 Memorable Games: chess tactics, chess strategies with Bobby Fischer, (Paperback), from Amazon: http://amzn.to/2ECDdqB
The game of chess has been played for hundreds of years, and because tournament rules require players to record every single move made, you can buy a book that contains the playing record of games from long ago. I use game books in front of the chessboard. I’ve bought books on Kindle since they’re cheaper and easier to read, with one hand and arm paralyzed after a stroke. Not so with chess books. I buy paperbacks that I can leave open and study the diagrams of chessboards and pieces. Each game analysis is spread out over multiple pages, as are the graphics. Ebooks aren’t optimal for this.
Anyway, I move the pieces the same way the Masters did (move by move), using the notations and graphics recorded in the book of games. I play both sides of the game, black and white, studying their decisions as they played their opponents. I liken this to playing solitaire. It’s very instructional. I chose this book by Bobby Fischer, who was a legend while he was alive, and is still considered by many to be possibly the greatest player ever.
Chess is both challenging and fun. It’s excellent brain therapy and it’s free once you get your chessboard. I highly recommend it for clearing brain fog after a stroke. I could barely concentrate long enough to finish a single game. Now I play several games in a row. What began as therapy has become something of a hobby. A fun hobby at that!
Here are the links to my recommended purchases:
- Tournament Chess Set with Heavyweight Game Pieces, Durable Chess Board and Strategy Guide, from Amazon: http://amzn.to/2EXMSpd
- Quiver Chess Bag – Assorted Colors, from Amazon: http://amzn.to/2H6Dxfr
- Play Winning Chess, by Yasser Seirawan, (Paperback), from Amazon: http://amzn.to/2H5YvLD
- My 60 Memorable Games: chess tactics, chess strategies with Bobby Fischer, (Paperback), from Amazon: http://amzn.to/2ECDdqB