Is Chess Bad For You?

Is Chess Bad For You?

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Chess is loved by many people around the world but some people feel like chess could be bad for you? How could it be bad though? 

Chess, like any other game or sport, can lead to an immense amount of stress. Chess could be bad for you as an individual, but each player needs to assess their overall health and their personal reactions to stress.

We tend to associate playing sports or games with good health and well being. And there are a countless number of studies showing playing games has an association with feeling happier. 

While this argument is true for recreational players of chess, the story can be different for the best players, where success and failure are won and lost by the finest margins and where winning can mean funding and a future, and losing can mean poverty and unemployment. 

If this is the case, can being successful at a sport or game actually be bad for you?

Elite competition can be stressful because the outcome is so important to the competitors. We can measure stress using a whole range of physiological indicators such as heart rate and temperature, and responses such as changes in the intensity of our emotions.

Emotions provide a warning of threat. So if you feel that achieving your goal is going to be difficult, then expect to feel intense emotions. 

The leading candidate that signals we are experiencing stress is anxiety. This is characterized by thoughts of worry, fears of dread about performance, along with accompanying physiological responses such as increased heart rate and sweaty palms. 

If these symptoms are experienced regularly or chronically, then this is clearly detrimental to the chess player’s health.

This stress response is probably not restricted to elite athletes. Intense emotions are linked to trying to achieve important goals. 

Chess isn’t the only situation where it occurs, as it is also very noticeable in many competitive games or sports.

For most people chess is just a game, a recreational activity, and a pleasant diversion. But for some people it can become an all-consuming, addictive pursuit, costing them time, money, family and friends. It can interfere with school, work, and one’s personal health.

The investment one makes in pursuing chess as a vocation rarely reaps financial dividends. There are some people who are able to make a decent living from it but that is rare. 

For most people their passion and devotion to chess, the thousands of hours spent studying, practicing, and competing, will never be justified in terms of monetary rewards.

Cautionary advice for anyone willing to pursue chess as more than just a fun activity is to weigh the dire consequences of overdoing it.

To see the most popular chess sets just click here. 

Why Is Chess So Stressful?

It makes more sense to focus on what the causes of stress are rather than where we experience it. The principle is that the more important the goal is to achieve, then the greater the propensity for the situation to intensify emotions.

Emotions intensify also by the degree of uncertainty and competing, at whatever level of a sport, is uncertain when the opposition is trying its hardest to win the contest and also has a motivation to succeed. 

The key point is that almost all athletes at any level can suffer bouts of stress, partly due to high levels of motivation.

A stress response is also linked to how performance is judged and reported. Potentially stressful tasks like chess matches tend to be ones where performance is public and feedback is immediate. 

In chess, as with most sporting contests, we see who the winner is and can start celebrating success or commiserating failure as soon as the game is over.

There are many tasks which have similar features. 

Giving a speech in public, taking an academic examination, or taking your driving test are all examples of tasks that can cause stress. Stress is not restricted to tasks like chess matches or giving speeches, but can also include social tasks.

Winning a contest or giving a speech relate to higher-order goals about how we see ourselves. If we define ourselves as “being a good player” or “being likeable” then contrasting information is likely to be associated with unpleasant emotions. 

You will feel devastated if you do poorly when giving a speech for instance, and if this was repeated, it could lead to reduced self esteem and depression.

The key message here is to recognise what your goals are and think about how important they are. If you want to achieve them with a passion and if the act of achieving them leads to intense and sometimes unwanted emotions, then it’s worth thinking about doing some work to manage these emotions.

Chess, like everything in life, should be played moderately. Just because there are bad effects does not mean you should stop playing chess, it just means you should play with moderation and self-control.

A Little Chess History

Chess is a recreational and competitive board game played between two players. It is sometimes called Western or International chess to distinguish it from related games such as xiangqi.

The current form of the game emerged in Southern Europe during the second half of the 15th century after evolving from similar, much older games of Indian and Persian origin. Today, chess is one of the world’s most popular games, played by millions of people worldwide at home, in clubs, online, by correspondence, and in tournaments.

Chess is an abstract strategy game and involves no hidden information. It is played on a square chessboard with 64 squares arranged in an eight-by-eight grid. 

At the start, each player (one controlling the white pieces, the other controlling the black pieces) controls sixteen pieces: one king, one queen, two rooks, two knights, two bishops, and eight pawns.

The object of the game is to checkmate the opponent’s king, whereby the king is under immediate attack (in “check”) and there is no way for it to escape. There are also several ways a game can end in a draw.

Organized chess arose in the 19th century.The deaths of chess players in the middle of a match at the world’s most prestigious competitions may be shocking to those who view the game as a relaxing pastime.

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