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Chess and Diabetes

Chess and Diabetes

Sep 16, 2009, 1:50 AM 1

Playing Chess with Diabetes


Some people have strange handicaps.  Physical ones are usually overcome easily in chess.  Mental ones, often not at all.  But what about a handicap that COULD affect your cognitive abilities?


That is where I am at with insulin dependent diabetes.   I have been blessed with a very good education.  But the stress of the car accident in 2001 and being in the hospital for 15 days and nearly dying was a stressor that sent my body into diabetes.  I take insulin at leasst twice a day which in itself is not much fun (I average more around 4 to 6 times).


But sometimes, I get SO INVOLVED in a game, I subconsciously ignore my body’s signals that I may either need insulin or glucose.   If my sugar gets too high, I get severe headaches making it hard to concentrate.  Too low, and I feel sleepy.  I have even fallen asleep at my computer while in the middle of a game!


That was embarrassing to say the least.  I have learned, the hard way, to not ignore any hints my body is giving me.  I keep a blood sucrose kit at my desk so if I feel funny at all - I can measure my blood sugar.  If I do not, I may inadvertently give my opponent an advantage that is unrelated to chess itself.


It took me actually quite awhile to notice what was happening.  I would be playing along quite well.  Then, one blunder.  Well, everyone makes a blunder every so often.  But then two or three blunders and the game was lost.


Analyzing the game was of no use.  The computer simply told me I made blunders.  That I knew.  So what was wrong?  My rating dropped to the low 700s before I figured it out.   I was sometimes playing 5 or 6 games at once and not stopping to drink, eat, or measure my blood sugar.


This happened a lot in tournaments.  I would play and play and play.  Then I make a really stupid blunder.  And another.


If you have diabetes, all I can do is recommend to you what I have learned.    When you sit down to play chess, be ready.  Have insulin at hand, something with sucrose, and your testing kit.  But most of all, do not be afraid to log off and check things.


I felt like I should play, especially if I was playing someone from a distant time zone.  This got me in trouble physically.  I have learned to log off and go eat something.  Or to check my blood sugar.


It is not fair to my opponents to not be giving them my best game.  I need to log off.  Check things - fix them if necessary - then log back on and play.  


Since doing that, my rating has gone from about 700 to closer to 950 in a short time period (at the time of this writing).  I, like everyone, would like for it to go much higher.  But it won’t if I do not take care of myself.


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