Top 5 Disadvantages of Playing Chess

We often hear about the positive effects of chess on our analytical skills, brain development, and memory. With so many perks, what could possibly be bad about playing it?

A lot, as it turns out! From physical pain and slower thinking as you get good to stress and addiction, there are quite a few disadvantages that come with playing chess.

I always think about the saying “too much of anything is bad for you.” It’s mind-blowing that such a statement could apply to chess too.

Here are some of the disadvantages of playing chess:

  1. The Better You Get, the Less You Use Your Brain
  2. Chess Is Stressful
  3. You May Become Physically Unhealthy
  4. Chess Can Cause Back Pain
  5. Getting Addicted to Chess Is Real

1. The Better You Get, the Less You Use Your Brain

In a book written by Daniel Kahneman, he describes humans as having two ways of processing information.

There’s slow thinking, which is when we analyze a situation from every angle and consider all the options. Then, there’s fast thinking, which requires less effort but makes us prone to making mistakes.

In chess, beginners start as slow thinkers. They have to carefully think about which moves to make. However, that starts to change once they get better.

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The Thinking-Speed Transformation

Good chess players start to memorize different chess openings. Knowing the different lines of an opening means that they don’t need to think much to make a move.

In short, those used to playing chess change from slow thinkers to fast thinkers. They develop automatic responses and they don’t analyze the game anymore.

This causes them to make mistakes once they encounter unfamiliar situations. Moreover, it also affects how they solve new problems outside of chess.

Longer Planning and Movement Execution

In a 2006 study, scientists compared the planning abilities of chess players versus non-chess players. They found that chess players take a disproportionately long time to solve a problem compared to those who don’t play chess.

Those that played chess regularly did get more correct answers. However, the researchers noted that it was because of the extra time it took them to solve problems.

They stressed that they didn’t observe any difference in the intelligence and memory of chess and non-chess players.

2. Chess Is Stressful

Chess is a demanding sport that needs long training sessions. Tournaments can cause players great emotional, mental, and physical stress.

In a study from the Frontiers in Psychology, researchers had surprising findings. They saw that the anxiety levels of chess players didn’t go down after playing a game.

The findings contradict common knowledge since plenty of other people use chess to fight anxiety disorders.

It also seems that the chess players with the highest intelligence levels were the most affected by this. They had higher levels of anxiety and psychological inflexibility.

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Why Does Chess Cause Anxiety?

According to the United States Chess Federation, competitive players often obsess and stress over their chess rating.

Chess rating is the estimate of a player’s strength based on previous results. It’s a number that will determine your next pairing.

Every time a chess player loses, his rating will go down. This is an issue because a low rating could have many repercussions.

Some of the negative effects of a low rating include:

  • Not being able to join competitions with a bigger prize pool.
  • Losing respect from other players.
  • Getting delisted from organizations.

3. You May Become Physically Unhealthy

Some people may argue that chess is a sport because it relies on the same glycogen and fat that you need when doing other physical exercises.

They claim that during a tournament, grandmasters can burn up to 6000 calories in one day. That’s the reason why playing chess should be equal to exercising.

However, that’s not the case for non-competitive players.

Does Playing Chess Burn Many Calories?

On average, chess players only burn 132 calories per hour. To give you an idea, that’s only half of what you burn when you’re walking at a slow pace.

Even then, the calories you burn could be coming from the stress, and not the movements you make while playing.

Scientists who studied anxiety in chess players worried that they confined themselves indoors for too long. It resulted in a significant decrease in physical activity all for more time to practice.

Overall, playing chess is an unhealthy way to lose weight.

4. Chess Can Cause Back Pain

Chess requires you to sit for hours on end. This is particularly bad because doing this tightens your hip flexors and hamstrings. The effect of this is lower back pain and stiff knees.

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Sitting for hours can also cause the following:

  • Cardiovascular disease and obesity
  • Deep-vein thrombosis
  • A rise in blood glucose and risk of type 2 diabetes

To add, some chess players report pain in their neck and rear area. These are all effects of having the wrong posture while playing. It may even be because of low-quality chairs or tables that are too low.

The Solution Can Be a Bit Costly

If you’re feeling pain because of chess, you’re going to have to see your doctor or chiropractor. Moreover, you might want to invest in an ergonomic chair to use during training.

Both of these solutions will cost you extra money!

5. Getting Addicted to Chess Is Real

Whenever you play chess, you can get a rise in dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins each time you win. When you lose a game, you get this need to redeem yourself and chase the high.

Some players who have chess addiction report that it can be a hindrance to career and personal growth. They say it can inhibit communication skills, give them trouble sleeping, and shorten their attention span.

One chess game can last for an hour, so it takes up a lot of your time. That’s time that you could spend on other productive activities or even on your family.

Like any game, chess can make people feel addicted and detached from reality.

In Summary

There are many disadvantages of playing chess. Getting addicted to the game can slow your brain down, make you unhealthy, give you anxiety, and cause you to lose precious time.

Yet, these only happen if you lose control over how much you play it. For those who have healthy relationships with chess, the perks outweigh the drawbacks.