Chess Against Anxiety
This is a guest post and does not represent the views of CheckPoint.
As a chess player for ~20 years myself, I found it increasingly helping to deal with anxiety to occupy myself with chess. I’m aware that chess is not your typical video game, but for a few years now, it’s perfectly viable to learn and play it online. So if you ever wanted to learn the game but were too anxious to visit a club, now is your best time.
The beauty of chess lies in its complexity while the rules are easily understood. A classic “Easy to learn – hard to master” game. Don’t get me wrong, if you never played before, the rules can be overwhelming, since you have 6 different pieces who all move differently, but trust me please if I tell you, you can learn it in one day if you’re eager, in a week if you take your time.
A preconception I was faced with a lot of times when I said that I play chess is, that chess players must be intelligent. I strongly disagree with this statement.
As with everything in life, it’s easier if you have some talent, but after all, you’re only as good as you put work into it.
The reason I think it’s a good game to distract yourself from mental illness is numerous.
In chess, you can solve problems. You probably saw those “White to play and checkmates in one move” in some magazines before. There are countless problems like this. The difficulty varies from absolute beginner to expert, so there are problems for everyone.
Usually, you’re able to solve each one in just a few minutes. And that’s the first important point: You achieve something! Each problem you solve correctly gives you the satisfaction of it.
If you solve problems online, you get a rating on the website you do them. That rating will increase over time when you get better and solve more difficult problems. This is the second point why I love those, you see your long time progress and success. You can see how you improve your chess(and by that a part of yourself!).
Before I frequently used a mobile phone, I actually cut out problems of one of my chess problem books and carried them in my purse. So whenever I needed some distraction because everything got overwhelming, I was able to use these papers.
You don’t have to go outside to play the game. Start your browser and play, easy as that.
Now, a lot of people are under the impression that chess games take a long time and you need a good chunk of concentration to tackle a game.
This is wrong. The most played modes in online chess is: 5 minutes for each player for the whole game. So a game takes a maximum of 10 minutes. That’s 10 minutes of concentration you need if the game even lasts that long. You will automatically find players of your skill level, so it’s neither too challenging nor boring. In most games, you will find typical motives you learned by solving chess problems.
While winning a game, of course, is rewarding in itself, finding a beautiful combination that works is one of the best feelings in games I’ve had. Compare it to an aerial goal in Rocket League or a quadruple kill in Overwatch. You don’t need to be a very good chess player to find a nice combination either! When you start with this game and everything is new to you, every little combination you find will make you happy.
Of course, there are other time modes you can play. 10 minute each player, 15 minutes each, even 1 minute each.
When I happen to have a bad day, just playing a few games can change my mood. I don’t even have to win. Maybe I lose beautifully, then I can still smile about it.
But the important thing is while playing you try to focus. You might be able to forget about other things you struggle with at the moment. In best cases, you leave the board and
feel empowered to overcome a task you have to do.
In case you’re curious and want to try to play on a real board and have a chess club in your area there a good news: Almost all chess players I got to know over the years are nice.
When you go to a club meeting and say you are new and not good yet, chances someone will play you and give you tips, are great!
It might be a good way to make new connections. Usually, casual club meetings also aren’t quiet. People talk, all the time. About work, about chess, about football.
So if you think you can bring yourself to visit a club, do it, I’m sure it will go great!
This might be a very important point. You don’t need money to play or learn chess.
You don’t even need money to get good at the game.
On several websites, you can register and play for free. You can solve problems for free.
Tournaments played by grandmasters are mostly free to watch online, as well as listening to the expert commentary explaining those grandmaster moves.
Youtube has a huge amount of chess videos. There are a lot of sources you can use without even spend a cent on improving.
All those websites have a premium membership, but you don’t need it to play and enjoy the game.
One more point to add, while not the most important: The aesthetics of a chessboard can be gorgeous. To play with a wooden board with well-carved pieces immediately makes the game more beautiful. If you’re more into glass or stone, there are chessboard out there for you as well.