I heard that both Fischer and Karpov felt that physical training was extremely important to their success and that the Russian coaches also felt a certain amount of physical training was necessary. Why is that? How is it supposed to help? What sort of exercise is supposed to help.

  • 2
    Because a chess game could take 5 hours. World champions need to be fit and stable not to blunder in the late game. You also need to be strong to play consistently throughout a tournament or a match.
    – SmallChess
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 6:13
  • So is aerobics what's important or strength training? or both?
    – ToddM
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 20:43

1 Answer 1


You've heard it right. Physical training is as important as mental training in chess. Thinking is an energy intensive activity and often has a direct effect on the physical body. Quoting this scientific american article by By Ferris Jabr on July 18, 2012, brain weighs about 1.4 kilograms, only 2 percent of total body weight, it demands 20 percent of our resting metabolic rate (RMR)—the total amount of energy our bodies expend in one very lazy day of no activity.

Karpov had lost 10kg (22lb) over the course of 1984-85 Kasparov-Karpov world championship match. Quoting Kasparov from this interview, I pay a lot of attention to my physical condition; to be fit under the terrible pressure of big competitions. Obviously this is becoming more important with age.

From a study by Speakman JR et. al , being physically fit improves resting metabolic rate (RMR) which is a major contributor to daily energy reserve and thus any increases in RMR in response to exercise interventions are potentially of great importance.

Chess, as you know is a brain intensive activity and thus RMR plays an important important role. Therefore from the 1st and the 3rd paragraphs, it is clear that physical fitness improves mental fitness and therefore beneficial to chess.

  • It doesn't explain how some top players are obese (I won't name names), old (Smyslov, Korchnoi), alcoholic (for awhile, anyway), or just weak physically (Tal). Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 19:12
  • @JeffLowery Smyslov, a world champion, and Korchnoi, a challenger to Karpov, were top players before they got old. Tal wasn't weak physically until he was suffering from kidney problems.
    – Herb
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 5:42
  • @JeffLowery Overweight top players are rare these days. The main problem that obesity causes is poor glycogen and insulin regulation, which affects concentration over long periods. This is essentially cognitive stamina. Fit players can concentrate as well after 6 hours of play as they do after 5 minutes of play. Carlsen is famous for the evenness of the quality of his play. This doesn't mean that less fitness-conscious players cannot play very well; they will just tend to be outperformed by fit players over long periods, all other things being equal, which typically means in the endgame.
    – jaxter
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 6:16
  • @HerbWolfe My point is that they were top players in their sixties. Not quite as good as they once were, but still in the top 20. Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 20:33
  • Kasparov always included soccer in his summer training camp. Carlsen plays soccer. Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 3:55

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