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What is the Relationship between Chess and Mental Health?

Your mental health is crucial if you are a chess player. In the previous Tips4Chess article “Importance of Personal Traits in Chess and Must Have Qualities to Become a Good Chess Player”, it is mentioned about Former World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer`s famous quote “I do not believe in psychology, I believe in good moves”, however, as a Psychologist and as a person having an understanding of the rules of chess and observed the lifestyle of professional chess players, I have to contradict the statement of former World Chess Champion, and I admit that psychology does play a significant role in chess!

We all know that Bobby Fischer quit playing professional chess when his mental illness got worse. His childhood was not an easy one, his father left the family, Bobby couldn’t feel safe at home and he made up his reasons to leave home. He indicated that he could not study chess because there was noise. His paranoid attacks increased in the adulthood, after he became the world champion of chess, he quit playing chess and moved to another country. Maybe as his stress level increased related to the championship, he couldn’t handle with all.

Mental Health and Chess

We must realize the fact that mental health is important for every human. Considering the type of life chess players have, it may even become more crucial on certain occasions. Chess tournaments take long days, you travel frequently, move from one tournament to another and stay away from your home for a long time. Staying away from your comfort zone increases your stress. Each day and each chess game during the tournament is another struggle, you wonder whether you will win or lose. Especially when you are a professional chess player and playing competitive chess regularly, your life plans, expectations of yourself, your friends’, family’s and other’s expectations from you may put serious pressure on you. If you identify yourself with your success, then that makes it worse each time you lose a game or competition.

You may be a perfectionist. You may be the one, who blame him/herself harshly when the plan isn’t worked out. You may have hard times accepting yourself with both of your strengths and weaknesses. You may come to a point that you deny your weaknesses and not to accept yourself as a real person with both strengths and weaknesses, good and bad matches, good and bad moves. You may obsessively think about that how you did that move, how you couldn’t find the correct position, how you have become that wrong etc. However, it makes things worse as that approach increases your stress level, and only you can find how to improve yourself when you are open to accept your weaknesses, what may be better, what is not well enough.

You need to be mentally strong if you want to be a strong chess player. You need support. You need your acquaintances supporting you. You need supportive friends and supportive family.

Support you need is sometimes a professional one. You may need counselling or psychotherapy. Professional support increases your abilities and strengths. It gives a chance to work on your weaknesses. It gives a chance to reach your potential at a higher level. Professional support balances your stress level, and therefore you become more able to handle with your issues.

Deniz Cosan

Counselling & Clinical Psychologist

denizcosan@hotmail.com

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