chess seems to have been rehabilitated, at least in the public perception.

Lately, chess seems to have been rehabilitated, at least in the public perception.  Once considered to be the refuge of the odd, the overly passionate or the likely mad, it is now seen as good for young students (“chess makes you smart!”), protective of adolescents (“push pawns, not drugs!”), and possibly even of benefit to aging adults (keeping the mind sharp and possibly putting off the onset of Alzheimer’s disease). So it should not be too surprising to encounter the title Chess Therapy by Fadul (PhD) and Canlas (PhD candidate) of the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, Manila, the Philippines.


True, the royal game has always had its “chess is good for you” cheerleaders.  Recall Benjamin Franklin’s 1786 The Morals of Chess wherein he opined:

The game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement; several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired and strengthened by it, so as to become habits ready on all occasions...

More than 150 years before Franklin, the scholar Albert Burton (prone to depression himself) had already written in his The Anatomy of Melancholy, What it is: With all the Kinds, Causes, Symptomes, Prognostickes, and Several Cures of it.  In Three Maine Partitions with their several Sections, Members, and Subsections.  Philosophically, Medicinally, Historically, Opened and Cut Up:

Chesse-play is a good and wittie exercise for the mind of some kind of men, and fit for such melancholy persons as are idle and have impertinent thoughts, or troubled with cares, nothing better to distract their minde and alter their meditations

In fact, the authors of Chess Therapy inform us that the 9th century Persian physician Rhazes (Abu Bakr Mohammad Ibn Zakariya al-Razi), played shatranj (a precursor to chess), “and counseled his patients and students according to metaphors and applications of chess game configurations in real life situations.

However, the majority of intersections between psychology and chess (see a sample at My Chess Psychology Book Shelf) has not included chess-in-therapy or chess-as-therapy, but, rather, examinations of the unconscious motivations of chess players:

(as illustrated by Ernest Jones’ 1931 “The Problem of Paul Morphy – A Contribution to the Psycho-Analysis of Chess”; Norman Reider’s 1959 “Chess, Oedipus and the Mater Dolorosa”; and Reuben Fine’s 1967 The Psychology of the Chess Player and 1973 Bobby Fischer's Conquest of the World's Chess Championship: The Psychology and Tactics of the Title Match) or

...their thinking processes in arriving at a plan or move:

(from Alfred Binet’s 1894 “Psychologie des Grand Calculateurs et des Jouers d’Echecs” through Adriaan de Groot’s 1946 “Het denken van den schaker”,  to Alexander Kotov’s 1971 Think Like A Grandmaster, toDennis Holding’s 1985 The Psychology of Chess Skill, and a return to the neo-de Grootians such as Jan Przewoznik and Mark Soszynski’s 2001 How to Think in Chess, Amatzia Avni’s 2004 The Grandmaster's Mind, and even Dan Heisman’s 2009 The Improving Chess Thinker).

So, we can approach Chess Therapy, 2nd Ed, (“Additional pictures, figures and illustrations make this second edition more interesting”) with an increasing sense of expectation.

After all, as Jill Bellinson wrote in her 2002 book, Children's Use of Board Games in Psychotherapy,

As flooded as the literature is with articles describing the uses of dramatic play, there is a drought of information about board games; there must be fewer than a dozen article, most of them derogatory.

For the record, here are a few relevant sources, arranged chronologically:

  • Pfister, O. (1931). "Ein Hamlet am Schachbrett." Psa. Beweg., 3, 3. Ravirty, H. A. (1902). J. Asiatic Soc. of Bengal, 71, 47.

  • Meninger, K., (1942). Chess. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic 6:80-83,

  • Fleming, J., and Strong, S.M. (1943). Observations on the use of chess in the therapy of an adolescent boy. Psychoanalytic Review, 30:399-416

  • Reider, N. (1945). Observations on the use of chess in the therapy of an adolescent boy. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 14:562

  • Pakenham-Walsh, R. (1949). Chess as a form of recreational therapy. Journal of Mental Science, 95:203-204

  • Slap, J.W. (1957). Some clinical and theoretical remarks on chess. Journal of Hillside Hospital 6:150-155.

  • Fried, S. (1992). Chess: A psychoanalytic tool in the treatment of children. International Journal of Play Therapy, 1(1), 43-50.

  • Gaines, L., Berkovitz, I., & Kohn, B. (2000). Chess as a way of improving object relationships in narcissistic teenagers. In A. H. Esman, L. T. Flaherty, & H. Horowitz (Eds.), Adolescent psychiatry: Developmental and clinical studies (pp. 187-199). Mahwah, NJ: Analytic Press.

  • Smith, William.H. (2002). Chess. In C.E. Schaefer & D. M. Cangelosi (Eds), Play therapy techniques (pp. 347-354). Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson

  • Ah, if only Sigmund Freud had played chess! 
  • Actually, he did, as his biographer Ernest Jones noted:

    Freud played a good deal of chess in coffee houses in the earlier years, but he came to find the concentration more of a strain than an enjoyment, and after 1901 he gave it up altogether.


  • As for the utility of chess in therapy (and a caveat), here are two perspectives from the field, the first from Charles E. Schaefer and Kevin J. O'Connor’s Handbook of Play Therapy Volume Two: Advances and Innovations and the second from Stella Chess (!) and Alexander Thomas’ Temperment in Clinical Practice:

    Much can be learned from analyzing the play of adults in chess, for example. The play therapist can learn how the client engages in problem solving, how he or she reacts to success or failure, and how the client engages in conflict management – there are adult clients who will argue extensively about the rules of chess; who try to manipulate the play therapist through chess play; who succumb to defeat long before the play is over and during the time they could still win; who blatantly or covertly cheat; who are relentless at reminding everyone around them that they won the game; who make a particular non-legal chess move appear to be an accident when it was actually intended to assist the client in winning. Those are just a few examples of the many ways people reveal themselves during chess play….....[I]f the youngster is interested in checkers or chess, and the therapist has some competence with these games, a game of checkers or chess may illuminate issues of competitiveness, specific temperamental attributes such as intensity, persistence, or distractibility, self-defeating responses to failure, patterns of communication, or some cognitive disturbance in approaching a challenging task. However, the therapist must be wary of incorporating such a game into the routines of therapy itself. A game that permits or even requires periods of silent contemplation while the youngster figures out stratagems of play, may easily become the central occupation of the therapeutic session. If this becomes part of the regular schedule of treatment, then the game loses its therapeutic value, and rather sidetracks the opportunities for active and direct discussions of the child’s real-life problems.....................So, on to Chess Therapy.

  • After a “Table of Contents” and a short “Foreword” by FIDE Master Fernie Donguines (coach of the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde chess team), “Part 1” consists of twenty-six pages (three of which are blank) that primarily provide an introduction (clearly for a lay audience) to psychotherapy and the various related systems or schools of thought and practice (psychoanalytic, cognitive behavioral, existential, etc.)(
  • (Chess therapy is a form of psychotherapy that attempts to use chess games between the therapist and client or clients to form stronger connections between them towards a goal of confirmatory or alternate diagnosis and consequently, better healing. Its founder can be considered to be the Persian polymath Rhazes (AD 852-932), who was at one time the chief physician of the Baghdad hospital. His use of tactics and strategies in board games as metaphors in real life to help his patients think clearer were rediscovered and employed.)


  • 3 years ago


    Obviously, but yeah, I believe if one copies some article from the Internet, one should post the source link so as nobody is fooled into thinking it is one's own work.

  • 3 years ago


    Maybe from Internet, Brad ?     Undecided 

  • 3 years ago


    So where was this copied from?

  • 3 years ago


    3 illusions, thank You, Jon.      Laughing

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