Chess Players As Paranoid Thrill Seekers?

This story has been doing the rounds, depicting chess players as paranoid thrill seekers. There might well be some truth to it but there is a studious side to chess players too. For example we like to check things like sources and falsify arguments.

Curious about the origin of the story and the ‘psychologists’ mentioned I searched for the study which claimed to show these things. And it appears to be this paper from back in 2002.

As far as I can make out they are putting chess players in the category of sky divers but with rather more caution as regards personal safety. It reminds me of my search for a suitable martial art (some rough looking characters were associated with my previous apartment block) and then coming to the conclusion that zhan zhuang (a form of standing meditation) was a lot safer than the nunchuks. Wafting those things around could easily result in personal injury!

What about the paranoia? Well I’m sure that chess cultivates a lack of trust in one’s opponent’s intentions, though I’m not convinced this is anything more than a natural sense of caution. Nature has countless examples of deception and trickery by various creatures that are intent upon eating each other and thus the family pet can appear quite paranoid if approached in the wrong way.

I would argue that humans, by virtue of their civilization and high levels of personal safety, have become as naive and overly trusting as domesticated cattle. Indeed there are self defence courses available which place a strong emphasis on an awareness of potential danger and this is now considered a skill.

Anyway, here’s a fun parody of Fight Club which nonetheless gives a sense of the excitement of the game. First rule of chess club, never talk about chess club!


Author: NigelD

Nigel Davies is an International Chess Grandmaster living in St. Helens in the UK. The winner of 15 international tournaments he is also a former British U21 and British Open Quickplay Champion and has represented both England and Wales on several occasions. These days Nigel teaches chess through his chess training web site, Tiger Chess, which has articles, recommendations, a monthly clinic, videos and courses. His students include his 15 year old son Sam who is making rapid progress with his game. Nigel has written a number of chess books that are available at Amazon: