In the wake of two people dying on the final day of the Tromso Chess Olympiad there have been a number of articles speculating that the strain of chess is unhealthy. There have always been stories like this, for example Harry Nelson Pillsbury’s early demise was attributed to blindfold chess. In fact Pillsbury died because of syphilis and the deaths in Tromso were nothing more than a tragic coincidence. Of course Coincidence in Tromso would not make a good headline.
So is chess good or bad for your health? Well I haven’t seen real any evidence either way. Certainly chess is known to burn a lot of calories, at least if you’re concentrating during the game. I also have an untested theory that the goal of improving your chess can motivate people to become healthier and spend much of their time on a unique and powerful brain training method. These would seem to be very good and positive things.
Of course you need to take it seriously for these effects to kick in, pushing the pieces around over a few pints won’t have the same effect. And for me this is what makes chess a beautiful thing, it’s a means of developing human potential.