Why chess wrecks the bodies of grandmasters

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/09/16/why-chess-wrecks-the-bodies-of.html


I wonder how much energy (kWh) one of these Deep Blue thingies uses per game:

I wonder how much energy Kasparov uses per game.

Uneven match, IMO, for many reasons,

not the least of which has to do with the total lack of a human body’s limitations and the infinite supply of electrical energy that comes from the wall socket Deep Blue plugs into.

Somebody put Deep Blue in a human body, let’s get a rematch.
Or… not!:

Before someone tells me “well it’s really a competition between the programmers
of Deep Blue vs. Garry Kasparov,” I just want say I am the last human who wants this:

… to become a real thing.

ETA: boston dynamics link, because a chess playin’ agile superpowerful robot just seems like such a bad idea

ETA: grammar


Why don’t they have standing chess?


While checking for chess drug screening, I found this. Who knew!


This is on the one hand fascinating and yet also staggeringly self evident - of course competing at an elite level at something requires some form of conditioning and/or habit change outside of the thing itself. Also of course being under so much stress you don’t eat or sleep leads to weight loss.

Meanwhile people under more routine levels of stress and/or stress I’d call involuntary (i.e. having a kid, job being crazy, etc.) tend to gain weight and I’m wondering how armchair experts are going to reconcile these two facts (i.e. if you gain weight under stress you’re not trying hard enough or you don’t care enough about the thing you’re doing).


Chronic vs acute stress, for one thing.

We know that the body reacts differently to those.


The human body is a simple furnace - I’ve read this so many times on the internet it must be true.

If people gain weight it is only due to lack of willpower and activity.

( /s just in case it’s not immediately obvious )


Exactly. Also, with chronic stress comes with long term changes to diet, exercise habits and the body’s reaction to both. Unless I focus carefully on diet and exercise, I pack on weight during times of stress. It’s much harder to finish and recover from hard workouts, and it’s easier to stress eat/drink a lot of junk.


Convincing a person who has been coming in second or third consistently to carefully eat and supplement during a tournament the way athletes would might be an interesting experiment. If none of the others are doing it, that might get them a win. I’m sure this is subtly hurting performance in the later portion of the tournament.


A friend of mine’s cousin and her husband are globally rated competitive bridge players. According to them Adderall and what have are a big thing. Games can last days, tournaments weeks so it makes sense that speed would be a thing.

I’d assume its the difference between extreme short term stress and lower levels of long term stress. A common bad coping mechanism for stress is over eating. And both stress and depression go hand in hand with poor diet.

In the short term sleep deprivation leads to weight gain as well. Its more extreme sleep deprivation that’s associated with weight loss. So when you’re talking regular intermittent insomnia it tends to be weight gain. If you’re talking no sleep at all for a week, or forced sleep deprivation its weight loss.


I’ve always objected to the weekly chess reports appearing in the sport section of my newspaper. I guess I’ll have to stop now.


I’ve noticed this in tabletop wargame tournaments. After a 90 minute game I’ll be hot and sweating even though I’ve been just standing and moving small figures around in a cool room. After the 4-5 round tournament I’ll be wiped out physically.

I have no doubt e-sports tournaments are the same way. It’s interesting that e-sports can be nearly as physically demanding as physical sports despite what the detractors will claim.


Likewise for motorsports. It’s easy to think, “oh, you have a motor to push you around.” And I did for a long time. Until I actually tried it. (And now I’m similarly revising my views on all competition.)


At the top level, at least, it has always been clear the drivers need to be very strong athletes. The cornering and braking G-forces in a Formula 1 car are immense, and they have to endure them for a couple of hours - these guys have upper body strength to match any athlete.


I tried taking chess seriously for a while. I was a total ball of bound up stress and mild sweats. Playing just for fun is way more…fun.


Maybe they could have chess tables that adjust from sitting to standing like those fancy standing desks. Except you’d have to get both players to agree as to the position.

I knew a close-up magician. Really great with cards. He’d practice for hours and at the end of each session his shirt would be just soaked in sweat. Sitting. With playing cards. Amazing what the human body does in order to accomplish the things we want to do.


Cumbrians have known that chess is a rigorous sport for decades.


  1. (noun. chess) A game enjoyed by Cumbrians from around early walking years through to mid-to-late teens. Forget your Kasparovs and your Deep Blues, the Cumbrian version of Chess is an outdoor sport (usually), involving being chased from either a park by the ‘Parky’ (Park keeper) or from a building site by the ‘Watchy’ (Watchman).
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Because players abused the right - doing things like standing behind the other player between moves to put them off their game. Chess is wonderful.