A tongue-in-cheek look at the harmful results associated with personalities that play chess.

This might give the impression that chess could be bad for you. Looking at the known aspects of the lives of the best players in chess throughout history brings out some common characteristics such as mental illnesses, extreme arrogance, alcoholism, vindictiveness and even anti-Semitism. Have a look at some life experiences for some and make your own judgement.

Paul Morphy

Morphy was the world champion between 1857 and 1859. He was the first “unofficial” World Champion. Sadly, he went insane within two years of participating in the realm of international chess. It could be said that the playing of the game rearranged his neurons and he was never the same again. His last decade of life was spent wandering the streets of New Orleans, talking to himself. He died homeless and penniless.

Wilhelm Steinitz

Steinitz became the first official World Chess Champion between 1884 and 1894, but sadly Steinitz died in a lunatic asylum in New York years later. He was very broke and flea infested when he died. He is accredited with the introduction of a scientific way of viewing the game resulting in millions of players being able to understand the mysteries and concepts of the chess game like the Grand Masters themselves.

He is reputed to be the father of modern chess. Perhaps he would probably have been better off in life had he continued serving tea in Vienna cafes rather than a life in chess.

Emmanuel Lasker

Lasker was a mathematical genius and the World Chess Champion between 1894 and 1921. He is reputed to have been one of Albert Einstein best friends and also that he was one of the few people who understood Einstein’s Theory of Relativity when it was first published.

Einstein did notice, however, that Lasker was one genius lost to the world of chess. With such a brilliant mind, he could have helped develop the atomic bomb, but preferred to push pieces of wood around a board! He had the capability to have been awarded the Nobel Prize, but chose to remain chess world champion for twenty-seven years.

He died in New York in a run-down apartment block, obscure and penniless.

Jose Raul Capablanca

This handsome and charismatic womanizer, reputed to have never done a day’s work in life, had everything in life. Born into a wealthy and prominent family that had good connections with the Cuban government, he learned how to play chess at age four just by watching his father and uncle play. He did not need formal training to read chess books or instructions from anyone. He had the natural gift of letting his mind and brain simply figured out what exactly to do.

The Cuban government paid him a substantial money to tour the world as an ambassador and just play chess. He lived the high life with fine food, beautiful women and gambling with aristocrats smoking homemade Cuban cigars. In contrast, his Grand Master opponents sweated and tortured themselves for hours as they struggled to find the best strategies and improve on their opening moves while ensconced in their hotel rooms.

In Capablanca’s there emerged perhaps one of the biggest egos the chess world has ever seen. He died while playing chess in a club in New York, from complications of high blood pressure that led to a burst artery. He was wearing a $1500 suit when he died.
Chess is a great game.

The lives of the Grand Masters of the chess world, and their respective lifestyles, shouldn’t, in any way, deter you from learning, enjoying and getting to enjoy the game.