According to this answer, some schizophrenics who compulsively play chess a whole lot see everything as chess moves. I looked for an alternate source of that information through a Google search and never found one.

Also, I used to play The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild a whole lot, maybe many hours a day. After enough time of continuously playing it so often, I felt like I was seeing the real world as part of the Breath of the Wild game. (Of course, playing the game isn't the exact same experience as it would have been if I were out in the Breath of the Wild map in real life.) I had been playing breath of the wild so much and so continuously that when I was exploring the real world, it sort of felt like I was exploring an area that looked like that in the game. After I did as much as I felt like doing in that game, I never got around to playing it again for over a year. I no longer see the real world that way anymore.

Could the experience be something like that for people who play chess so many hours a day?

  • 1
    What does it mean to "see everything as chess moves"?
    – David
    Jun 29, 2020 at 6:54

4 Answers 4


Quite possible- this would be a special case of the Tetris Effect, as would what you described with your experience with Breath of the Wild.

Anecdotally, someone I knew once played a lot of chess online and experienced similar effects. About 9 hours per day were spent on chess, roughly equally divided between play and study. This person experienced such effects as: They sent a one-word message and became anxious that they blundered since it was "hanging" Noticing two socks were on the floor and immediately thinking "good, they're connected"

They also dreamed about chess, which is almost universal among players that play a lot of chess.

I wouldn't expect this happening to you - 9 hours is a lot, and anecdotally, I've spent a lot of time on chess myself and have yet to see any such effects beyond just dreaming about it. They also mentioned that they had tetris effect tendencies.

  • 1
    I'm not sure. I have the feeling that it's a bit harder for that to happen with Chess than with Breath of the Wild because in Breath of the Wild, you're walking around places like you're walking in the real world.
    – Timothy
    Jun 29, 2020 at 20:18
  • It would have been nice to know a bit more of how it happens but I did get the answer to my question so I'll put a check mark beside it. After reading the introduction to the article you linked, I see that that's similar to what I heard that those who speedrun something transfer their speedrunning to real life activities.
    – Timothy
    Jun 29, 2020 at 20:21
  • Considering that Tetris was the original example, I think anything's game for this effect. And yeah, that's quite possible. Looking a bit now, [this article] (exploringyourmind.com/tetris-effect) suggests that "Some psychologists think it’s just a matter of habit. Some people spend hours and hours playing the game, so their mind starts to perceive the world through the lens of the game. If that’s the case, then it’s basically just a specific kind of procedural memory." Doesn't seem like there's a clear consensus however. Probably the psych/neurosicience exchange'd be more helpful.
    – pulsar512b
    Jun 30, 2020 at 16:40
  • I can add my own experience to this: On three days of tournament play with no game below 4.5 hours + prepraration + analysis I clocked in at about 15 hours of chess-thinking per day. For a day or two afterwards, I tried to navigate the world with my "chess-brain", which, obviously, left me in a rather confused state, as things did not behave as I expected them to behave. I don't think I saw actual "rook-moves" or whatever, but I remember being quite upset with people not adequatly resigning their conversations, when I was "clearly winning" them... It was a strange experience. ^^ Jul 2, 2020 at 12:35
  • @BenjaminRaabe Did other people notice this?
    – pulsar512b
    Jul 2, 2020 at 13:20

You're describing the plot of Vladimir Nabokov's The Defense (1930), in which the protagonist Luzhin (rhymes with "illusion") descends into a chess-themed monomania. This is the source of the moderately famous quotation

He sat leaning on his cane and thinking that with a Knight's move of this lime tree standing on a sunlit slope one could take that telegraph pole over there [...]

But that benign quotation comes from near the beginning of the descent. Luzhin's obsession with "defense" curdles into paranoia:

All his thoughts lately had been of a chess nature, but he was still holding on — he had forbidden himself to think again of the interrupted game with Turati and did not open the cherished numbers of the newspaper — and even so, he was able to think only in chess images and his mind worked as if he were sitting at a chessboard.

It was difficult, extremely difficult, to foresee the next repetition in advance, but just a little more and everything would become clear and perhaps a defense could be found. [...] Already the day before he had thought of an interesting device, a device with which he could, perhaps, foil the designs of his mysterious opponent. The device consisted in voluntarily committing some absurd, unexpected act that would be outside the systematic order of life, thus confusing the sequence of moves planned by his opponent. It was an experimental defense, a defense, so to say, at random— but Luzhin, crazed with terror before the inevitability of the next move, was able to find nothing better.

[...] He turned into the first available store, deciding to outsmart his opponent with a new surprise. The store turned out to be a hairdresser's, and a ladies’ one at that. Luzhin, looking around him, came to a halt, and a smiling woman asked him what he wanted. "To buy . . ." said Luzhin, continuing to look around. At this point he caught sight of a wax bust and pointed to it with his cane (an unexpected move, a magnificent move). "That's not for sale," said the woman. "Twenty marks," said Luzhin and took out his pocketbook. "You want to buy that dummy?" asked the woman unbelievingly [...] "Careful," he whispered to himself, "I may be tumbling into a trap!"

Of course (as Nabokov makes clear) this is unhealthy, and also uncommon (that's why it makes a good subject for fiction), but I'm sure it's relevant to your question that such an affliction suggested itself to an author 90 years ago. No comment as to whether Nabokov made up the idea, but certainly that guy on the Internet didn't make it up. It's a thing in the zeitgeist.

  • This answer is very confusing. Maybe it's possible to interpret it. Maybe some people can figure out what it's saying.
    – Timothy
    Dec 27, 2020 at 4:15

My philosophy is that playing slow chess will clearly differentiate your chess mind and your reality mind. Slow chess required principled approach and technique, and there is less importance on the chess moves, and more on the ideas and plans.

Chess moves start clouding your mind when you play a lot of bullet and ultrabullet chess. You are always looking for traps, and your unconscious brain starts building a library of 1-3 move traps.

Classical chess will not have the so called tetris effect on your mind.


I'm not very good at chess but enjoy playing on my ipad. Frequently I find myself in dreams or in just-awake state where the arrangement of objects and movement I perceive are experienced in chess relation to each other in space. My father played competitive chess when he was younger and my mother said he would talk moves in his sleep. In the nineties he bought the very best chess computer available and played it for hours each day. I don't think this phenomenon ever happened in waking hours for either of us.

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