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Chess and mental illness


  • 3 years ago · Quote · #1

    chesspooljuly13

    Anyone want to venture a comment on whether the two are related? I read somewhere that the "highs" and "lows" a chess player experiences during a game, combined with the anxiety, tension and stress of high-level chess, can exacerbate or bring to the surface an existing mental illness but is unlikely to be the cause. I know of three world-class chess players thought to have suffered from mental illness - Morphy, Rubinstein and Fischer, but there are probably more

  • 3 years ago · Quote · #2

    TheGrobe

    Could be that like the link with drugs, those with mental illnesses are drawn to chess? I recall a similar thread in which a number of additional (occasionally speculative) examples were cited.

  • 3 years ago · Quote · #3

    Metal-Horde

    I'm not going to discuss Morphy or Rubinstein. However, Fischer definitely didn't suffer from mental illness. The media deliberately attacked him with slander because of his purported antisemitism and anti-american comments leading to a barrage of accusations calling him the usual "disgusting", "racist" and so on not to mention "insane" and "disturbed".

  • 3 years ago · Quote · #4

    Conflagration_Planet

    A significant percentage of genius level mathematicians go nuts too. People have speculated that the same gene that causes schizophrenia is also responsible for their genius. They believe schizophrenia is a combonation of more than just one disorder, which might account for why not all geniuses go nuts, and not all nuts are geniuses. The idea of a board game bringing on madness in somebody who would have been normal if they had never played is just dumb.

  • 3 years ago · Quote · #5

    chesspooljuly13

    I'd disagree about Fischer because he was a little off kilter long before the media attacked him for saying anti-Semitic things. On the flight to Iceland to play Spassky, he insisted that orange juice be made in front of him - that the oranges be squeezed while he was watching. He was afraid of being poisoned. It's not hard to imagine why he felt that way - the Soviets at the time dominated chess and used their dominance as an example of the superiority of their culture. Fischer was the first Westerner to challenge their dominance in a long time.

  • 3 years ago · Quote · #6

    chesspooljuly13

    I don't think chess creates mental illness but I could see how it could bring an underlying problem to the surface. I'm far from a good tournament player but I've experienced the highs - you think you have a win game - then the lows - you realize you overlooked something - during the course of a tournament game and those must be magnified ten-fold in an high-level tournament. That isn't even taking anxiety and stress into consideration. To subject the mind to that on a daily basis for the good part of a lot of years has to take its toll

  • 3 years ago · Quote · #7

    chesspooljuly13

    What's interesting (at least to me lol) about chess is it's completely a game of the mind and luck really plays no part (unless your opponent overlooking a good move can be considered luck.) Whether you win or lose is based only on your mind. I may be too tired, but I can't think of another game like that. I think Nigel Short said chess is also the only game where your heart can be beating like you're running sprints when you're sitting down and barely moving a muscle. That shows how much stress is involved in a high-stakes tournament game

  • 3 years ago · Quote · #8

    BenTheMighty

    FisherIncarnated wrote:

    I'm not going to discuss Morphy or Rubinstein. However, Fischer definitely didn't suffer from mental illness. The media deliberately attacked him with slander because of his purported antisemitism and anti-american comments leading to a barrage of accusations calling him the usual "disgusting", "racist" and so on not to mention "insane" and "disturbed".

    I agree that from what I have seen of Fischer, the majority of charges against him were based solely on his unpopular political views. He did seem to have a certain level of paranoia though that seems consistent with schizophrenia, but could just simply be something far less severe.

  • 3 years ago · Quote · #9

    MattMcan

    I'm with conflag on this one.. A good percentage of genius's in any field have mental problems, some more severe than others.  Frequently those individuals we consider genius's in their field organize and conceptualize information differently.  My gut theory is that their frequent mental issues are related to isolation.  Regardless of how many people surround them, they're ultimately alone if no one can relate to them.

    Also while fischer may not have been dancing around women's shoes.  (Not sure that morphy account is entirely accurate anyway.. Seems a bit random even for someone who's nuts)  I don't think many would have considered fischer a well adjusted member of society.  Ultimately isn't that what mental illness is, the inability to relate to society in a constructive manner?

  • 3 years ago · Quote · #10

    chesspooljuly13

    Really interesting comments ... Kind of ties into the idea of whether people with a proclivity to mental illness are drawn to chess. If they can't relate to society in a constructive manner, chess is certainly an option for that person because there's not much relating needed and the study of chess can be done in isolation.

    Read a story a few years ago about someone who wanted to take chess lessons from Fischer. Fischer said, "For your first lesson, I want you to play through every opening and every variation, notes included, in the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings. And for your second lesson, I want you to do it again."

  • 3 years ago · Quote · #11

    Lawdoginator

    Only three chess players out of millions means that chess is a source of mental health and not mental illness. Ten to thirty percent of the general public suffers some kind of mental illness during some time in their lives. So, chess players are comparatively healthy perhaps because of the mental workout that is chess. 

  • 3 years ago · Quote · #12

    MattMcan

    Don't forget steinitz.. He went a little nuts there at the end too.. :P

  • 3 years ago · Quote · #13

    chesspooljuly13

    Unless a chess player is world class, he or she could be suffering from mental illness and few people would know. I like chess a lot but I'm not competing at a high level and my livelihood doesn't depend on it. Imagine the stress you'd feel if winning a tournament (or even a game) was necessary for your livelihood. That's why I think only people who have dedicated their lives to the game might be subject to having a pre-existing but dormant mental issue come to the surface. There's not the same level of stress for a casual tournament player or Internet player. I think the combination of anxiety, tension, stress and the roller coaster of emotions that go with a high-level chess game, repeated over and over again, have to have some effect on the mind. Obviously, I could be wrong lol

  • 3 years ago · Quote · #14

    MattMcan

    also, some people absolutely need immensely more time alone (as well as complete privacy) than others. these people are called introverts. there is nothing wrong with them. they have no mental illness, contrary to popular belief. they keep very few good friends as opposed to a large number of superficial ones. they typically shun superficiality in general and don't usually engage in vapid small talk or niceties.

    that is all. whatever.

    Definitely a huge difference between needing little companionship and needing none.  Though a sociopath probably would be okay in complete isolation.  As okay as a sociopath can be that is..   Introverts do have a statistically higher incidence of depression though.

  • 3 years ago · Quote · #15

    Here_Is_Plenty

    I was in mental hospital for a month and the doctors actively encouraged me to go back to chess as soon as possible, to strengthen the mind.  I agree though, there are people for whom chess can be dangerous but for those people sitting on their bed contemplating their navels would be the same.

  • 3 years ago · Quote · #16

    Danny_Snow

    ha someone asks if chess and mental illness are correlated and we can't even define mental illness ... thread over :)

  • 3 years ago · Quote · #17

    Here_Is_Plenty

    Danny_Snow wrote:

    ha someone asks if chess and mental illness are correlated and we can't even define mental illness ... thread over :)

    Nonsense.  We can spend another 300 posts discussing it seriously then it can dissolve into a trolling contest for about another 1000 then someone can get it back on track for a few hundred, then the natural spirit of the forums will take over again.  Are you new here?

  • 3 years ago · Quote · #18

    MattMcan

    ridiculous statement "a sociopath would probably be ok in complete isolation".

    actually a sociopath would not be ok in complete isolation as they need prey upon other people, it's an additional life function they have to satisfy, you see they are rather like vampires in this way. they typically need to f-ck with people for no reason in order to sustain themselves.

    What you're describing is a sadist.. 

    But you're also right.. A sociopath (someone with Anti social personality disorder) is defined foremost by a lack of impulse control..  They can still feel empathy and affection, though typically not for society at large.   Therefor I doubt they would fair much better than the average person.

    What I meant to describe is a psychopath..  Contrary to movies, they're not necessarily crazy killers..  They just aren't capable of empathy or attachment.  Likewise they feel no guilt..  While I'm unaware of any tests done to subject psychopaths to isolation..  It's our need for approval and affection which pulls us towards others, and ultimately causes pain if we're unable to fulfill that need.   Not having the capability to feel connected would preclude one from feeling a loss when subject to detachment.

    Though truthfully it's not so black and white.. One isn't either a psychopath or not.. There are degrees of the disorder.  I would imagine some would fair better in isolation than others.

  • 3 years ago · Quote · #19

    MarksmenTM

     "anyone want to venture a comment on whether the two are related?" Everything  this thread will lead to is right here, in this question. It is not about a solid answer, just a whimsical discussion. Honestly, not my thing. That being said:

    "I read somewhere that the "highs" and "lows" a chess player experiences during a game, combined with the anxiety, tension and stress of high-level chess, can exacerbate or bring to the surface an existing mental illness but is unlikely to be the cause. " The first post already defines the closest approximation we will reach.
    Some of the opinions are vastly more interesting than the Original question. For example, Kenpos view of the introvert. Conversely, I would say there is no real division between extravert and introvert. They are accentuated roles of a confused ego. Both cases have been ruthelessly stretched to narcissism with unabashad certainty simply to fit within aptly defined boundaries. Not a single person is exclusively either. Then to mention the artificial division it creates between the ignorant of the two groups which otherwise have no backing to despise eachothers positions. These two considerations definitely point to both an extravert and an introvert as mentally deficient. While the second point is what I would call insanity, the total focus leads to broader psychology, motive, and power. All of which, I am more interested in than a correlation between a habit(or hobby) and its diverse possibilities.

  • 3 years ago · Quote · #20

    MarksmenTM

    ridiculous statement "a sociopath would probably be ok in complete isolation".

    actually a sociopath would not be ok in complete isolation as they need prey upon other people, it's an additional life function they have to satisfy, you see they are rather like vampires in this way. they typically need to f-ck with people for no reason in order to sustain themselves.

    Well, I can't help but wonder if you are preying on the word logic. See, a sociopath by definition is a psychopath with the ammendment of behaving outside of societal norms. I honestly haven't been in isolation, in prison or otherwise, but I will tend to agree that a person will seek equals in whatever terms that means for them.


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