Entering any kind of community, people will tell you all sorts of benefits from staying within the circle.
Basketball players will tell you that basketball is good for health as a sample, while chess players will tell that chess is good for the brain.
But is it really the case? Does chess exclusively bring positive results all the time? That is what I am going to talk about here. The reasons that chess can be harmful in specific conditions.
As a chess player who has been playing for years here is what I know:
Chess is beneficial when practiced in moderation enhancing memorization skills, letting people become disciplined, and even giving a purpose in life.
It can be harmful however once a player becomes obsessed knowing to waste time, promote unhealthy competition, and as a source of stress.
This is something that a lot of competitors are not willing to talk about but they should. Everyone should be aware of the massive disadvantages that obsession of this game can bring. I will discuss them here, let’s begin.
Why can’t people see the negatives of chess?
To start with, I am a learner of the game. I have been playing for years with decent knowledge about opening, middlegame, and game intricacies. I am a fan of it, I play it almost every day. But I can definitely relate to some negative values this game brings.
A lot of people were so focused on looking at the benefits. That they forgot that all things also have a bad form. I think people tend to overlook the negatives of chess since they are so engrossed on it already.
This is why it is necessary to look at things objectively. Going outside the subjective opinion to identify factual experiences. What I mean by that is chess can be bad, really bad.
Here are the following reasons why you might think twice about obsessing in the game.
1.) It’s a waste of time
Upon learning chess you might’ve thought that it is a quick learn once thing. Something to study a little bit then forget. Then you are completely wrong! Getting good in the game requires a lot of dedication and even talent.
But apart from all of that, it requires a heck lot of time.
Fun fact: Lasker was one of the few people to understand the Theory of Relativity even before its final form.
Emanuel Lasker the second world champion becomes friends with Albert Einstein. Einstein was actually affiliated with two Laskers, Edward and Emanuel Lasker. These two Laskers (both chess players) are not in relation to each other in any kind.
Anyhow, Einstein was very fascinated with Emmanuel. Einstein really admires Lasker’s view of chess and life. There however been alleged reports that he is ashamed Lasker’s brilliancy is being wasted.
He famously stated Lasker to be enough of a scientific mind qualified to join the creation of the first atomic bomb.
But instead, he chose to live his life pushing wood. Now this is not a confirmed statement. But there is definitely a substance to this looking at the Einstein- Lasker relationship.
The ability to play chess is a sign of gentleman. The ability to play chess well is the sign of wasted life.Paul Morphy (Unofficial World Champion)
Chess in general is just a sport. Like many others, it is for entertainment. Entertainment of very few people in fact.
In contrast to other sports like basketball, soccer, or even baseball. It doesn’t help advance the society forward, by providing an actual contribution.
Now, I believe this is okay as sports have their own value. Until you learn the countless of hours spent studying chess games. You will never be a good player unless you play consistently. It can be a trap that entices people to play for more.
You could be playing for years but still be a bad player. This kills the person’s time to realize his or her full potential.
Potential to maybe master science, finance, or technology. Things that would solve people’s problems. The time to master chess is really extensive and frankly sometimes not worth it.
Chess can be a waste of time, but it can also be valuable. See my article on how chess relates to life in general and you would see what I mean by this.
2.) Only good for memorizing not any mental boost.
There was a moment in time where chess is a game of creativity and beauty. That era is long gone. We are at a time where top players even memorize an entire game! In fact so detailed they could play the game on their own.
And although this might be impressive, this makes the game really bland and non-stimulating for the brain. Rather than something that proliferates innovation and solving skills.
And even if it actually does improve thinking and mental capabilities. There are even better passions that could bring just that. That would actually be more beneficial for people’s time. The likes of business, science, and education.
3.) Hard to socialize game
I have been to chess tournaments before. Now our team in general have very good social enjoyment. We were very excited and passionate about reaching one goal. But this does not apply to most chess competitions you will potentially face.
Especially in individual formats. Players will be careful to talk to each other. The competition is really serious and extremely extensive.
Players are likely to be preparing for the tourney for weeks or months. They don’t have the motivation to be happy-go-lucky with other players.
Now, this is not exclusive to chess. This happens to every other sport. But the lack of socialization in chess gets magnified. Not only do people want to bring every other one down. But the system in itself is designed to treat lower players badly.
Ranks and titles give confidence, along with a bit of arrogance that could get out of hand.
A tournament with the titled players as participants. Would likely to exclude an untitled player. Fide Master, International Master, and Grandmaster you name it. Sometimes it feels like you can’t talk to these people.
Now, I don’t hate chess as there are definitely good people in the community. But this divergence really does exist.
Players in all kinds of sports get all the publicity when being at the top. This is of course true even for chess.
However, it’s for those who reside at the top. In general you shouldn’t expect the grandeur fanbase for being a grandmaster (Update: chess is popular today but not at the time of this writing).
Entering the nba for example will get a lot of people to know you. This is not true for Chess. Even those top player’s games are usually only watched by their fellow chess masters not their fans.
I’m a fan of a lot of grandmasters. I occasionally watch the blitz games. But definitely online on youtube.
I like seeing them online than offline. That is just the nature of the game from outside viewers.
Now this might not be the deal-breaker but is still a reason why chess might be bad for you.
5.) Unhealthy competition
Now, this might be an extension of the hard to socialize thing. But this sort of unhealthy competition can be best explained in the Kasparov-Karpov rivalry.
Fun fact: The first World Chess Championship between Kasparov and Karpov lasted for 48 drawn games. The Fide president postponed the match as it’s deteriorating the player’s health.
The Kasparov-Karpov rivalry is insane. Four world chess championships have been between these two. It is a signature of a competition where players look like they’re about to die. Now, this might be happening in the upper class.
But this certainly occurs on smaller scales all the time. When two equal players just get into the trap of playing for countless hours even at the cost of their health.
This kind of unhealthy competition will be frequent once you get serious in the game. I am warning you if you do not intend to play this for entertainment. Which I do, I play only for fun. But this is something you should look out for.
6.) Extremely stressful
Similar to how professional basketball will destroy your body. Chess will take your brain down. This does not apply if you play for entertainment. But serious preparations will do more than just tick you off.
You will memorize a lot of lines even with the possibility of not using them. You can be insane just from absorbing positions in the preparation. Adding to this would be the uncertainty of even putting it all on the play.
After all, you won’t use everything. You could prepare extensively over a long period of time and still lose in the end. This adds to the stressful nature of chess.
7.) Sitting for a long time will cause problems
Chess doesn’t require much physical activity. But it does require a lot of mental strength. That means sitting, a lot. A 30 minute game for classical is in the way lower end of the spectrum. Professional classical games last for hours.
The regular modern world chess championship for example, extends for over more than half a day! That’s insane, and if you sit a lot when you play you’re going to have issues.
Better health gives and describes sitting as the new smoking. Sitting too much could cause serious complications. Such include increased risk of chronic health disease, ex. heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.
It is even said to be bad for your mental health. And since you will be playing sitting most of the time. You are more prone to be struck with such conditions. So it is actually recommended to take occasional walks and breaks during the game.
8.) Unworthy monetary return
The price reward for the under 2,200 section for example, is 12,000 dollars. And that’s a lot of money! Until you consider the difficulty of winning such competition.
A player has to spend countless hours mastering the craft to prepare for this journey. Possibly having paid chess assistance to help with the endeavor.
And just from looking online, you know that chess lessons are very expensive. This is excluding the humongous registration fee for unrated players. That barrier will crush you.
Even if you managed to snag a title and enter free, there will be a deduction to your overall prize-winning.
Not to mention the fact that having the title in itself is quite expensive since you already entered many tournaments and suffered the reasons above.
Above all, the travel expense is not something to look upon. Most tournaments occur internationally. You would have to open that wallet for international travels.
Full-time Fry cook on average can earn a secured 12,000 dollars within 6 months.
This is not to mention the possibility of losing as well as sharing first place with other competitors. All of these factors together will cut down a significant portion of the prize fund.
So is it huge money? Yes, But is it huge enough to warrant the return on investment? I think not. There are just better pursuits with more reasonable kickbacks.
Now, this is something that I’ve experienced myself. Don’t get me wrong, being addictive is not necessarily a bad thing. It means the game is good enough to deliver that effect.
In chess however, even following your own schedule to study can be difficult. You’ll be tempted to say “I’ll just finish three more blitz games”.
Only to be playing beyond your time frame. And believe it or not, playing online will give the player a certain plateau in terms of improvement.
This is riding from the previous point. Something that would make it harder for you to further your career.
Another reason why it is even harder to reach a point where there is a valuable monetary return. Now, it is easy to say that i’m just making this up. But I have lived through this myself. This is just something I want to personally share.
10 Mentally Distracting
The game is 90% mental in nature. And maybe 10% will be allotted to sleeping and sitting while playing the game. Once immersed in the preparations and memorization. You would be thinking about it all the time.
This happens even during miscellaneous and chore stuff. Cleaning the house, Taking the pet dog out, or even worse spending time with family and friends.
You would be tempted to think about that Sicilian line while at dinner. It could take you more and more away from reality. This can tarnish personal relations and opportunities with other people.
Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing if the road is clear and there’s a sudden horizon. But the chess journey is just so competitive and sometimes not even worth the risk.
11.) Can takeover basic obligations
This is an extension of the previous point. You wouldn’t be able to focus on basic obligations that you need to do for a living. Unless the player is a child or something.
There would be responsibilities to take care of. Succeeding in this career however, just requires you to fully immerse potentially ignoring everything. This might be as simple as the cleaning thing.
Or even worse, an actual job that pays regular money. This could get you in trouble especially when dealing with high-risk jobs. And even at low risk, there is a possibility of leniency. There is just not much room to be present-minded.
12.) Pressure and Regrets
This is I think the most painful thing about playing chess. Remember when I said earlier that the price may be high, just not worth it? That’s only if you perform well!
Regular players will have ups and downs every now and then that would not allow getting that kind of money. The competition and difficulty remain the same even when the chances are not stable. I can’t even imagine how stressful this kind of life is.
All of the month’s work can be wasted with few inaccuracies. It’s not even the blunders (terrible mistake)!. The only thing that would make all of this worth will be gone (prize) because you play worse than your opponent’s.
This is just from each individual game. Having a bad one tournament for example. Can set you way back in terms of climbing the ranks.
The stress from all of these can creep up and accumulate over time. A regular person would have trouble staying focused and motivated.
I’m about to win a huge sum of money! Until I dropped a piece and realize the universe hates me.
Don’t even start getting me to talk about blunders! Committing horrible mistakes such as dropping a piece in an extremely relevant match. Can be traumatizing that requires a lifetime of self-reflection.
13.) Aggressive Disputes
Chess by nature is not a friendly game at all. In any sport, players would come around and congratulate each other for a good game. Of course this is not always the case. There are terrible people out there after all that just can’t accept losses.
But the point is that other sports have characteristics to allow some sportsmanship Seeing this in other sports like basketball for example, gives you hope about the benefits of these activities.
Of course it may be wrong to conclude on everything from just this short clip. But trust me, resenting your opponent after losing a game is not that uncommon. Especially if it has something to do with the rules and not with the player’s abilities.
Not even that, losing fairly is pretty agitating. You would feel like you’re an idiot or something. Now, there are some friendly matches in chess. But have you ever noticed that these “friendly players” are usually those not that good at the game?
It’s because of the competitive nature that Chess requires. Everyone is your opponent, as everyone can defeat you. This mentality can make it harder to be part of the community.
Every sport in general has its own upside and downside. Chess in my personal opinion has lots of benefits when played for entertainment. However I recognize that there are real negatives in obsessing with this game. No need to sugarcoat it since it is real.
And this comes from someone who’s been playing it for years now. I just want to tell the truth without much lies, I think people will become more comfortable if we are open to something like this.
Competitive chess in general may not be something you want to be associated with but you can still play casually. Of course, you can join a tournament or two, but making it a career may not be the right choice. Check out my homepage if you want more relevant content!