Have there been any studies on using chess for therapy?

If so, what conditions or illnesses have benefited most from using chess as a therapy? Are there certain conditions or illnesses were it has actually been more stressful?

  • 1
    Hard to say, we're not therapists :-). Google gives me that: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chess_therapy.
    – Zistoloen
    Dec 10, 2012 at 15:51
  • @Zistoloen - Yeah, I saw that link. You don't have to be a therapist and you never know if one may pop-up on the site.
    – xaisoft
    Dec 10, 2012 at 15:57
  • 3
    IMHO these are three different questions, perhaps you should consider to use each question separated from the others. Have there been studies, yes. Conditions or Illnesses benefited: ADDH. Conditions or illnesses were it has actually been more stressful: OCD and others similar.
    – Helio
    Dec 11, 2012 at 2:14
  • Circumstantial evidence from GMs is inconclusive - some may have went off the deep end by chess, some may had their live saved by chess. Oct 19, 2023 at 13:26

5 Answers 5


I am not an expert, but an active chess player at chess.com and participate in its forums. Yes, chess can be therapeutic. Playing chess involves co-ordination of different mental abilities like strategy, tactics, intuition, visual imagery, risk analysis, control of emotions, etc. Actively playing chess everyday keeps the mind sharp and attentive. In most cases, it has also shown improvements in mental conditions like ADHD, OCD, Depression, etc.

However, over indulgence into anything is bad and playing compulsively over long duration can effect the individual's thought process. Many schizophrenic persons who play chess start visualizing everything including this life, its people and events as chess moves. If the connection with chess is too deep, real life relations with people are affected. These studies are not confirmed, and are said to be more like "adding order to chaos" from schizophrenic mind's perspective.

  • 1
    Do you have any material showing the connection between chess and OCD?
    – lvella
    Jul 11, 2016 at 20:15
  • I don't know how to explain it but I once had a similar thing. I was continuously playing Breath of the Wild maybe many hours a day and once when I was walking outside, I sort of felt like I was sitting in front of the TV playing that game while I was walking outside in the real world. I'm not seeing things that way anymore now that it's so long since I last played the game.
    – Timothy
    Jun 15, 2020 at 1:41
  • That's so funny, seeing other events as chess moves.
    – Timothy
    Jun 15, 2020 at 1:42
  • You might be able to benefit Psycology and Neuroscience Stack Exchange by asking and answering your own question giving information about people who compulsively play chess seeing other events as chess moves.
    – Timothy
    Jun 15, 2020 at 1:50
  • I just asked the question chess.stackexchange.com/questions/30181/… based on your answer. Maybe you have a pretty good idea how to answer it. Not that other people don't have things that are worthy of drawing attention to the right person in the right way. It's just easier for one to find those things for oneself than it is for others to find them for them.
    – Timothy
    Jun 29, 2020 at 3:27

Chess is especially great for men. As you may know, when men are stressed out by really big problems it helps to divert their attention to a hobby. That way they can be working to solve smaller problems. People say chess makes you think hard. I think the guys who play it actually want to relax. It's like watching football.

"But I play chess to not think."


For me it becomes very zen, especially when just playing with my friends. In America our attitude is very task oriented or goal focused. When you're playing with a friend and you've got the game all wrapped up, it's more about being there. Asian cultures generally have this attitude. It's about the experience of the leaves, the air, the black tea, or the fountain behind you. The friendly curiosity of girls walking by on their way to class. Maybe the encouragement of a few spectators gathered around your board to watch.


Friends I really had an ill-fated childhood as one of my close relative was acute alcoholic and I had severe mental disorders like OCD and Social Anxiety. However with the help of caring people like parents and treatment in a international Bangalore based Deemed University today I walk free from the shackles of mental illness. I play chess for earning and I play it in India. No I am not that much successful and my ELO Rating is below 1800 but I enjoy playing the game . Though initially I had some problems regarding the physical aspect of competitive chess today with proper diet and exercise I have overcome that. Thankfully my chess coach is understanding and due to my exposure to life, chess has given me a new view to life. High level competitive chess is helping me to do my other works nicely as it is helping me to have a definite goal and structured thinking pattern. Obviously I do not practice for hours as that can be detrimental but I do practice for about 7-8 hours weekly. I know that to do well I should practice a little more, say about 15-16 hours per week but not more than that as everyone's brain has its limitations. Chess has really empowered me and due to the fact that I can count my blessings(that at least I am winning some games) I am happy with my life. Thank you chess.


There is a professional chess therapist out there.


NOTE: the original link is dead, and the website is only available on the Wayback Machine in Polish.

Let me quote the overview of her ideas from her website:

  • chess is the bridge between the therapist and the world of the kid
  • action on the board serves as an ice-breaker and stimulates the conversation
  • initially the therapist plays passively and observes the child
  • only much later the therapist raises the stress level by more active play
  • this kind of interaction at the chessboard serves as a diagnostic tool
  • the core of the method: new behaviors learned in chess transfer to the kid's real life
  • chess therapy ignores correct chess from the competitive point of view
  • +1. But, study/evidence of effectiveness would be cool. Oct 19, 2023 at 8:47

I recommend to consult the book "Chess Therapy" by Fadul and Canlas. The book seems comprehensive to me (in a first look). The wikipediea article looks good enough as a starting point (which seems to be largely based on the writings of the above two authors).

There are more recent articles, such as these two.

The articles on chess and psychoanalysis seems irrelevant for this question.

PS: Seeing the answer of MichalRyszardWojcik, I searched for journal articles that discuss it, and found one in Asian Journal of Psychiatry immediately, to my surprise: Chess therapy: A new approach to curing panic attack. But, it is a letter to the editor and is only anecdotal "evidence" (there are plenty of such resources).

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