Is chess overrated? Breaking down the arguments

When someone becomes passionate about something they are likely to exaggerate the qualities of their pursuit, they make the thing appear better than what it actually is. 

This can definitely apply to chess, there are some hobbyists out there that provide an unrealistic description of the game calling it something more than what it intrinsically is. This led some people to believe that “chess is overrated” which will be the main focus of this article.

As a chess player here is my answer to the question: Is chess overrated?

Chess has become overrated due to how some enthusiasts exaggerate the qualities of the game online. As an intellectual game, it is very good but there are others games that display the same if not better characteristics. Memorization is also starting to destroy chess.

As someone who loves playing chess I think I can relate to those who look up to this game and may be the reason for this stigma. 

Chess cannot be overrated if there aren’t any who overrate it, I will just share my thoughts in a way that it will cater to people on both sides of the discussion. From my experience, chess is indeed overrated at least from what I’ve seen online.

Chess, boredom, and overrating

Some people may think that chess is overrated because they find it very boring, it is a game that caters to problem-solving which a lot of people may not enjoy.

It is a game that accommodates people who enjoy calculation and studying, which is not exactly the majority of the population. Since chess is primarily a mental game, all of the things that are boasted are usually related to the mental state.

Not everyone can relate to this since not everyone enjoys mental games. When somebody explains how incredible a combination that they have pulled off in their own games, not everyone will appreciate it since not everyone can understand the combination.

When somebody goes to a group forum like quora and sees a guy boasting how chess is the ultimate mental game, not everyone can relate since not everyone genuinely enjoys the game.

This is fine of course since everyone has preferences, but you may think that chess is just overrated because you do not enjoy it yourself. 

There might be a lot of people who do enjoy it and they aren’t necessarily overrating the game. It may just not be the case from your perspective since you don’t personally enjoy playing it.

Chess can be overrated until you have learned it

There are people who have studied the game thoroughly and decided that it is overrated, yes, such cases do exist. However some do not like chess because they haven’t even started to learn it.

You may think that chess is not overrated once you know how to actually play it (of course you can still keep this opinion even after learning it). The complications, attacks, and beautiful combinations can exist in your games during the right situations.

Once you get to learn the wonders of chess in your own right then you may obviously change your mind (just a possibility). Now it is possible that you won’t change your mind, then that is different.

What I am saying is that some people don’t even give the game a chance to reveal its beauty, which on the opposite side may even cause these people to underrate it. 

You have genuinely standard chess and still find it overrated then you have a case, what I’m saying is that there are people who didn’t do that and still can’t find the common ground. This might be the reason, you just didn’t bother to learn it in the first place.

Horizon effect, chess, overrating

Some people think that chess is not good really because they haven’t taken the time to study it, it is the horizon effect where people are likely to put false expectation on things that they don’t understand.

It is the same reason why some people think that CEO’s or just a bunch of lucky but lazy individuals who are just in the right place at the right time. Of course, luck is a factor in success but it is not the main factor. 

Most CEO’s no matter how privileged they are in the beginning have survived an endless amount of competition from those who want the same position, it is difficult nonetheless. It may be the same case here.

If you are just not into chess yet, you may suffer from this horizon effect where you don’t understand the full scope of the question and therefore cannot give a reasonable answer.

But maybe you are also right, that chess is just overrated. But I also believe that you are only warranted to make that statement once you have learned what it can offer.

Chess fanboys, exaggeration, online reputation

I think this question primarily stems from people who interacted with some “chess fanboys” online and are fascinated with their exaggerated claims.

I would agree that some fanboys exaggerate how great the game of chess is, claiming that it is one of the best human creations that you can find out there. I also believe that this is wrong but chess can still be beautiful in its own way.

When somebody is passionate about their hobby they are really prone to providing an unrealistic description. The goal is to perhaps attract a larger audience that would increase the members of the game’s community.

It is annoying indeed and is just sometimes downright lying, but you cannot deny that it works to some degree. When somebody comes across exaggerated claims, people just can’t help but wonder if the claims are true.

They are more likely to explore the thing and test out the quality of the game with their own eyes. This may cause chess as being a bit overrated, but the intention is reasonable if you think about it.

Exaggerated claims on chess online

Some people think that chess is overrated not because it is not a good game, but because of the things that they heard online that just do not reflect reality.

There are those who believe that chess is actually a good game, but not as grandeur as others present it in online discussions. These individuals are usually those who have extensive knowledge in chess and can make a strong case for themselves.

It may just be that people glorified the game too much that it became out of hand. As a game, chess is not really that bad but is being labeled as overrated due to some unreasonable claims by enthusiasts. 

It is definitely not the best game out there, it is not even the best mental game in modern times though it is still pretty good. It can be overrated sometimes depending on the absurdity of people who are talking about it.

Rating chess properly, neither overrated nor underrated

Not everyone treats chess as the golden game, there are those who are more realistic with their views and see the game for what it is. A great example of this is someone like me, who has knowledge in the game but understands that it has flaws as well.

There are also people out there like me who are conservative in their idea about the game being the best out there, if you are looking at our perspective, chess is very good but is definitely not the best intellectual game.

Due to the existence of chess engines, preparation and memorization are becoming more conclusive in competitive games instead of natural creativity. This makes modern games less exciting.

It is no longer a battle of intellectual superiority, a game where both players try to outwit one another. It became a battle of who consulted the engine better and extensively before the game, something of a flaw in my opinion. 

The rating system is kind of flawed too since it provides an unrealistic expectation of how strong someone is. If you see someone that is 2000 elo rating it pales in comparison to other stronger players who are above 2000 elo.

However you can bet that such a 2000 rated player is better than at least 80% of people who play chess. People can underestimate their strength due to the elo rating system. Chess is very good but definitely not perfect.

Chess is not an intellectual game?

Some people criticize chess as not being an “intellectual game” that others claim it to be since it is more skill-based. This is actually the main argument of people who are hyping chess so much, that it is the best intellectual game.

Some say that intelligence is not really that much of a factor in becoming good at chess, it is a skill-based game that you need more experience than talent to excel.

I actually agree with this and my recent article, “is chess decided by natural talent?” walks on this premise. If you want to view that article you can click this link (will open in a new tab).

Basically it explores the idea that you will get more results in chess by studying rather than relying on some natural profound intelligence. This is actually true, the majority of your games will be won by things that you have studied and not by talent.

Intelligence/talent is more of a tiebreaker, something that will be the factor if both of the players have put in an about equal amount of work. But in the majority of the cases, the things that will be used are the concepts you have studied and not really your own intelligence.

This is why some think that chess is overrated in the intelligence aspect since it is skill-based and not really intellectual-based.

Better games than chess?

As for the aspect of complication, there might be other better games out there that present problem-solving in a better light compared to chess, hence why some people think that it is overrated.

Sudoku, Scrabble, Rubik’s cube building, or even MMORPG games such as DOTA 2 presents problem solving in a much more complicated light (debatable). But the point is, there are so many games out there that are similar to chess that it really is not special.

It is still special in its own right but not as special as what the others make it to be. It’s ability to stimulate one’s intellectual prowess can also be found in other games after all (maybe even better).

Don’t get me wrong, I still think that chess is pretty good, it’s just that gaming in general has evolved so much that any quality you can say that is intrinsic can also be found in other games.

Chess being a waste of time

Another reason that some individuals think chess is overrated is that it can be a huge waste of time, that all the time spent learning could have been used in a better way.

This would resonate well with you if you have other obligations in life that you have to take care of, a job for example. Something that takes so much time to learn with little results at first is not really that rewarding from this perspective.

It is not like a business that will severely change your life if you do manage to master it, it is just a game. It is overrated in the fact that it could actually harm your day-to-day routine that is an arguably better use of your time anyway.

I think there is some meat to this but we have to understand that there is an element of moderation in anything, too much and it will be detrimental but a healthy amount must exist in the way.

All chess players need to discover this healthy amount in their day-to-day routine since there are benefits to playing chess as well. The goal should be getting the most benefit without the backlash that comes with it.

Chess is overrated if you have an unrealistic expectation

Chess can be overrated depending on your expectation, if you expect a game that challenges your mind here and there then you will get what you want. If you expect chess to absolutely blow your mind then it can be disappointing.

A lot of things in life are actually like this, if you expect too much you are unlikely to receive what you are expecting. This is because “reality is often disappointing” (I know, it is a reference) and that will apply to chess as well.

If you are just looking for a cool game that hosts reasonable excitement and then this is for you. The reality is, the least you expect the more you can actually receive in return. Depending on where you are on the spectrum, you will be disappointed or delighted upon picking up chess.

The game will be overrated if you make it to be.

Final thoughts

As a chess player I definitely can attest that some people hype the game far more than what it is ought to be. Especially in online discussions where anybody can just spit their opinion even those who barely have the experience.

Not saying that you need to be qualified in order to have an opinion, just saying that claims should be reasonable at times. Chess is not the ultimate game that will intellectually stimulate its participants indefinitely.

It is very good as I have stated again and again, but I can understand that some people may not like it as well. That is true for many games including chess, sleep well and play chess (still).

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