Ergonomic Chess

Ergonomic Chess

May 17, 2008, 8:10 AM |
Ergonomic Chess

Posture,Stretching, Diet can improve your game.

by Borislav Kaguvkov

The way in which our spine is constructed doesn't exactly inspire confidence - fragile bones called vertebrate are stacked amid myriad connective tissue, shock-absorbing discs, and a spaghetti-like tangle of delicate nerves. This precarious maze is supposed to support your head and trunk, give flexibility to your body and protect your spinal cord, yet one mistake could result an irreversible life-altering damage. Based on such scientific data, one can easily surmise that a low back pain may directly affect a chessplayer's performance. So, what can be done, not only to relieve the discomfort, but also to improve one's game? The first step may be ergonomics, the science that measures man's efficient use of energy in his work.

For too long, chessplayers have been to concerned about their position on the board to worry about their position above it, but the way one sits just may increase one's odd of winning. In addition, learning how to stretch properly will help keep a player fresh and stimulated through those long, grueling tournaments. Here are some tips:

1. Sretch thouroughly before you begin playing.
2. Use chairs with good support; avoid deep cushion.
3. If necessary,use a rolled-up towel as a lumbar suport.
4. Avoid leaning forward or arching your back.
5. elieve back strain by tightening abdominal muscle.
6. Use a foot rest to relieve swayback.
7. Keep your feet on the floor (or foot rest) with your knees slightly lower than your hips.
8. Take a regular 20-seconds break to stand and stretch (every 15 inutes or so).
9. Keep  your head in line with your spine at all times; check your position frequently.

Besides sitting ergonomically and learning how to stretch, today's chess competitor (like anyone else) may find a regular exercise routine to be beneficial. In fact, regular aerobic exercise is more valuable to your heart than pushing back your biological clock nineteen years. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, aerobic exercise should be performed three to four times a week in rhythmic, large-muscle activities on a continous basis-20 to 60 minutes- at an intensity somewhere between 60 and 90 percent of your maximum heart rate; a good place to start.

Lastly, one would never underestimate the effects of proper diet on chess playing skills. Good eating habits can keep you an even physiological and emotional plane throughout the day and may therefore help any player stay sharp and avoid a catastrophic mental lapse during a difficult game. The premise is basic; cut down on fats,oil,sugars. The tricky part is implementing this strategy.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Eat more pasta and rice.
2. Keep your fridge stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables instead of sweets.
3. Cook with spices and herbs as flavoring instead of salt.
4. Reduce intake of red meat.
5. Cook poultry with the skin on for flavor, but remove the skin before eating.
6. Don't eat fried foods. Try roasting,baking, or broiling.
7. Remove yolks, from eggs before eating.
8. Increase intake of fiber-rich foods.
9. Boycott junk food chains and encourage your chess pals to do the same.

This concept of a chessplayer training and eating like an athlete is not completely new. Wilhelm Steinitz engaged in a regular exercise regimen and Bobby Fischer was typically ahead of the pack in his glory days. "your body has to be in top condition," Fischer told Frank Brody in Bobby Fischer: A Profile of a Prodigy (New York:Dover,1973). "Your chess deteriorates as your body does." The enigmatic champion's training program consisted of tennis,weight-lifting,heavy bag, and swimming, along with careful dietary considerations. The results speaks for themselves.

Despise its torpid reputation,the venerable game of chess just may be more physical than we ever imagined. So, as we head into the new decade and century of competition and innovation, staying in shape, eating right, being aware of one's playing posture, and taking a regular stretch breaks may just contribute to a few more tournament wins and a longer, more productive tournament - playing career and life.