Why are People Overly Competitive When it Comes to Chess?

There is no question that people (or at least the chess community) are overly competitive when it comes to chess.

Literally go in a chess.com forum or something and you would see people getting flamed because they have a low rating or that the game they shared was full of mistake.

A lot of chess players look like these perfectionist that just do not make a mistake, at least that is how it would appear for a beginner that is new to the game.

Some might even think that the chess community is even more competitive than other similar games, and you know what, I agree with this. 

I think that chess has inherent qualities that makes the people who play it overly analytical or critical with others, and I will share those qualities here. I’ve been wanting to make this article for a long time, let’s get started . . 

People are overly competitive about chess since chess is a zero sum game 

In chess there can only be one winner. It is not like other team games where there can be multiple winners. If you take hundreds of matches, half of that would be losers.

What I mean is that chess as a game is naturally competitive, therefore people who play it reflects this mindset even on casual discussions. If you think about it, what exactly is the point of playing chess?

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but chess is a game of competition. To get stronger requires a significant deal of time and resources, there is always opportunity for advancement, and there can only be one victor in a competition.

It’s not wrong that some individuals just play for pleasure and don’t care what the outcome is, but you shouldn’t assume that everyone shares your perspective on the matter.

People will become overly competitive if the game itself is competitive in nature. 

What behaviors display the overly competitive attitude of chess players?

Over the years, I have seen many things that reflect how overly competitive the chess community is. I think people really glorify chess, which is why the result of the games are the only thing that matters to them (not necessarily how they played the game).

Because the vast majority of serious chess players are willing to do all in their capacity to come out on top in a given match.

Sometimes they will make fun of the opposing chess club or a particular player, and they will verbally abuse individuals who have been defeated in 20 consecutive matches when all the player intended to do was have pleasure in a casual relaxing game.

In addition, if you are on the same team as them and do poorly (chess can be played on teams), they will harass you as well. It is not necessary for ridicule or harassment to be done via the use of language.

It may be made obvious by inconspicuous acts, such as suddenly placing you on board five after you have been defeated numerous times or the group discussing something and leaving you hanging on the corner.

These are all examples of how it may be displayed. These activities are completely unacceptable, but sadly, we live in a culture that downplays the competitiveness of chess entirely. 

Since chess has the reputation of being a game for intelligence, the community think competitively

On some occasions chess even appears to be more competitive than other e-sport games. I think this is because of the fact that it is a game of intellect, chess has this reputation of being a game that is all about intelligence.

Everything may be reduced to intellectual egotism inherent in the human condition. It’s not about anybody else except us, our intellectual standing, our intellectual pride, and our own sense of accomplishment.

Chess has the reputation of being an intellectual game. I have determined the correlation between IQ scores and chess skills in my other article, but this is not the only thing that matters in chess or in life.

When you consider the reality that the majority of individuals are not equipped with even the most fundamental social skills, it is easy to see why overly competitive players might destroy the experience for others.

They are unable to empathize with others, and some of them may even go somewhere on the psychopathic range. Usually mocking the intelligence of someone that is just trying to enjoy chess, since they are that “intelligent”.

I bet that people wouldn’t be as overly competitive about chess if it doesn’t have this reputation of being an intellectual game. I really think this one of the big reasons why people are overly competitive when it comes to chess. 

People are too competitive about chess because they really want to achieve

Individuals would like to win in chess games for a variety of purposes, but ultimately, we want to be successful for the same purpose we desire everything else: to fulfill our true potential.

The deliciously satisfying rush of dopamine that your mind experiences whenever you succeed in doing anything you set out to do or receive something you desire is satisfying.

Winning the game triggers this dopamine rush which makes people emotionally attached to the sensation, this is why people really want to win in chess.

They just want ro achieve, to be proud of what they have earned, this can translate on how they interact with others. Evidently, winning makes everyone happy, but losing leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

Competence may be impacted by one’s emotions. A cheerful disposition provides not just the vitality but also the mental fortitude to go on despite obstacles.

Winners often continue to play despite being wounded, inspired by a type of winner’s mentality in contrast to losers, who look for any reason to give up. In addition, psychologists have shown that emotions may spread from one person to another.

The thrill that winners feel tends to rub off on others.

Maybe overly competitive people thinks that they are doing the chess community justice by raising the standard, because they want everybody to become better. Now whether this works or not is up to question, but they may have this intention. 

The existence of chess ratings make people too competitive for their own good

I think the existence of chess ratings are one of the primary reasons why people are too competitive about chess. I bet you, if we remove the rating on lichess or chess.com people would not be too competitive when it comes to chess.

There are different types of ratings in chess, I think that online chess mostly contributes to this issue.

This is interesting, there are even scenarios where you are playing an unrated game and your opponent still can’t chill because they have this rating first mindset.

This is the effect of a rating first mindset, everything becomes competitive even when people just want to play chess casually.

People are even shy to discuss that they are only rated around 800-1100 on chess.com because they fear of being judged for their rating. 800-1100 on chess.com is reasonable for someone who has only picked chess a couple of weeks ago.

But people have this rating elitist mentality that you just have to be higher than everyone else, they will judge you since they have this mindset. 

Online ratings destroyed casual chess

In addition, there is a rationale for the fact that playing chess over the internet is not as sociable as it once was.

I am unable to provide you with numbers or demographic details, but many chess players in my generation with whom I have spoken believe that online ratings are to blame for why people are now being overly competitive about chess.

It used to be that chess is this chill game that my friends and I play in our spare time over the board (usually on the streets). There is no rating or anything like that, we describe someone strong not the numbers but how they have played against us.

This way even if someone loses, it is not that hard to admit that our opponent is just stronger than us, there is no ego since there is no number to be discussed.

But now even if someone is really strong they are likely to be only a couple of points above you, you will feel like you should be able to win the game even when it is equal play.

This makes people feel arrogant and on top of the world, and this mindset can be seen in any discussions about chess. The group has degenerated into a poisonous environment, and chess players aren’t exactly known for their interpersonal skills.

People have also been too critical about blitz and bullet games which are even expressed by masters as something that people shouldn’t analyze. Competition has emerged as the driving force for the majority of current titles.

Although one can argue that blitz is faster (therefore people should improve quickly in it), real life is different. Not everyone is compatible with blitz/bullet nor they have the time to always play and become better.

This not only makes the environment more conducive to the growth of some overly competitive players but it also makes the game less enjoyable for more casual players.

If you are struggling in blitz and want to become better though, I have another article dedicated to this. Try reading it.

The chess community is too competitive since chess attracts competitive people

I think the chess community is too competitive because the audience it attracts are those that are naturally competitive. I am talking about kids that are all about achievement and pride.

Related: 30 Actionable Steps to Effectively Teach Chess to Kids

We know that the majority of chess players are only around that age when people go to school. Although it has its advantages, it means that community will become overly analytical and competitive when talking about chess.

I mean look at kids in school, most are competitive, then look at adults in the workforce, most don’t even care. It is not only about the age of course but it is a factor along with the reputation for intelligence and rating factor. 

A chess player’s competitiveness may be measured by their drive to excel beyond that of rivals. A player who is naturally very competitive is more prone to see every chess game as a competition even if there is no clear victor or loser to be determined.

We see this everywhere in the modern world, a young student could evaluate their reputation on social media platforms in comparison to that of their peers, even when there is no clear incentive for getting the most fans on any one platform.

The mindset from this of course extends over the board, people are just naturally competitive when there are scores and everything (especially kids!).


The chess community being overly competitive is an issue that I have seen since being more serious with chess. I think the reason why this is the case has to do with the prevalence of online ratings.

Since everything is about ratings now and the “what is your rating? ” question, people tend to only really care about your current rating, not your actual strength.

Another factor is the reputation of chess being a game for intelligent people, it is easy for the community to make fun a weaker player’s intelligece.

Since people don’t want their intelligence insulted either, they don’t want to admit their low ratings and whatnot since people might judge them for it. There are also a lot of factors, but these two are the biggest.

I think that a combination of these makes chess naturally competitive. That is all, thank you for reading.