Chess Addiction/Addiction vs. Mental Stimulat...

Chess Addiction/Addiction vs. Mental Stimulation
by Heinz Jürgen Gassner

Addiction vs. Mental Stimulation
by Heinz Jürgen Gassner

This is to supplement Kevin's original article from 10/6/10.

When I was growing up there were two forms of electronic entertainment available: black and white TV with over the air broadcasts, and my little portable Radio Shack AM "Flavor radio". Like most parents, my father believed that too much time in front of the TV was bad for you, and color TV was bad for your eyes. Cable TV was out of the question, and it could be viewed as the new "addiction", as a person could sit in front of the tube 24 hours a day. Back then it was hard to play chess with anyone, and as a 12 year old who had just started learning the game, I looked forward to a chance to play against my dad when he wasn't working double shifts. Most of the summer days were spent playing baseball in the park behind our house, or when no other kids were available, I just shot hoops in the driveway.

Now with today's digital world and the Internet, a person can sit in front of a computer and become addicted to just clicking the mouse. You can become wrapped up in the simplest of whirlpools, such as updating your Facebook or Twitter status every time you have a new thought, and not just from in front of a most cell phones have those applications built in. There are an endless library of free games to download, or easier yet, to just play online. Then these same applications want you to involve your friends to get them to play, similar to the requests on Facebook.

I signed up on Facebook just to reconnect with old high school and college friends. Expecting to have some meaningful exchanges, I was sadly disappointed when old acquaintances accept a friend request, yet no exchange of conversation or even ideas ever takes place. There exist more requests to accept invitations to be in their online Mafia family or contribute to their Farmland games than any questions about how life has been treating you!

I think we can all relate to how quickly time slips away when you are sitting in front of a TV, a computer, or even just checking your email. So let's look at chess from an online perspective vs. playing in real life and real time. When I started working in my first factory job, you had a 15 minute break and a half hour lunch. Some people just relaxed and talked about their weekend, others played cards for dimes and quarters at a feverish pace. Most of these card games were more luck than skill. When I first found out that there were one or two coworkers that knew how to play chess, an exciting feeling rose up and made me feel alive. A challenge was to be had! A challenge existing of pure skill and mental ability and a chance to try and be the best, even if it was just in a small environment; and this made me feel great. Playing a complete game in 45 minutes was not always possible, so we either wrote down the position at the end of lunch, or when we had a Polaroid camera available, a quick snapshot did the trick. Those 45 minutes a day game me something to look forward exhilarating feeling that I could only describe as a passion for the game. Was it an addiction at that point? I have to say no, because it did not rule my life or change any of my behaviors towards my responsibilities at home, at work, or at school.

As with many friendships, people's responsibilities change and friendships drift apart. After three years of playing chess every day, I found myself without a chess partner. After an absence from the game, I started playing again, but this time I had the Internet. I tried Yahoo games, and as Kevin mentioned in his article, you can play 24 hours a day, but there is no meaning, no excitement. There are no faces or regular players, only random boards and once you "get up" from a table, you have exited the game and lost. At least that is what it was like then. Still lacking a regular partner who was available to play when I had time, I found four years ago. Here was the ability to play as little or as long as you wanted to as long as the other player was also online. If not, then you were basically playing an electronic chess by mail game, or two, or 50.

For those of you who play regularly on this site you see the benefits of this site. You can play with people from all over the world, at your leisure. Games are saved, moved are tracked, scoring and point systems are known before you even challenge a player. This site by far offers the best chess playing opportunities and challenges. Am I addicted to this method of playing chess? Again the answer is no. Am I addicted to chess as a game itself? Let's look at some of the behaviors that Kevin mentions in his article. And by the wayâ

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