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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Chess, Physical Fitness and Nutrition

      Studies have shown a link between physical fitness and chess.  One study even recommended organizers of tournaments for children should make it possible for players to participate in some form of recreation in their free time and parents and coaches need to be made aware of the significance of regular physical exercises for health and high achievements.
       I can remember playing on one tournament in the mid-sixties at a venue without air conditioning on a day when it was 90 degrees and the humidity was at least as high.  Right after my game started my opponent pulled out a corncob pipe and lit up.  Between the heat and humidity and the awful pipe smoke I was lucky I didn’t puke.  Cigarettes, coffee and soda were the norm for players to use during games in those days.  Between rounds everybody choked down greasy hamburgers and milkshakes at the drug store lunch counter down the street because it was the only place close. Even today it’s not unusual to see GMs heading for the local bar after their games.  In fact one site where I played in a few tournaments had a bar downstairs and one master always drank an awful lot of beer between rounds and occasionally even during his games.  Of course the lunch counter did a booming business between rounds selling hamburgers (greasy ones, of course), soda, beer and coffee.  Fortunately one thing changed: smoking at the board wasn’t allowed so smokers had to step outside.
       More on the study. It advised attention should be paid to children’s fitness preparation, particularly to the exercises developing their strength. The study was supported by the University of Physical Education in Warsaw and European Chess Union which stated appropriate nutrition and physical activity are important factors which have crucial influence on growing kids and health maintenance in adults.  They also pointed out numerous studies have proven the strong relationship between an athletes’ dietary patterns and their physical fitness. No kidding.  Can you imagine Usain Bolt pigging out on ice cream?
      Obviously chess players do not demand high intensity muscle effort.  But whether you play chess or not, a sedentary lifestyle and improper eating may provoke the development of various diseases.  That’s all well known and common sense, but that’s what the study said.  However, the main purpose of the study was to assess effects of elements of lifestyle including physical activity and the dietary behaviors in young players.
       Like kids everywhere the young Polish players showed a lot of unhealthy eating practices, ate at irregular intervals and skipped breakfast.  Their diets were also low in intake of vegetables, fruits and milk.  They also ate a lot of sweets and fried food. As proof of the consequences of their habits, the study noticed that the older the kids got, the fatter they got.  Personally, I don’t think a study is required to determine all this.  The study also observed that most players spent their leisure time using a computer or watching TV.   
       The conclusion was that chess players make many nutritional mistakes, particularly during tournaments. Of course they do.  A weekend Swiss doesn’t allow much time for eating and most of eat poorly anyway.    
       One conclusion I found amusing was the fact that players’ food choices depended on texture, taste and appearance more than on nutritional value.  At the risk of repeating myself, no kidding.
       The research concluded that children must be taught how to eat properly because it will help them to enjoy a better quality of life. Doesn’t that apply to all of us?
       Some of the world’s best players have long recognized that good physical health and conditioning are critical to maximizing one’s results
       During his training for his 1972 match with Spassky Bobby Fischer trained with a gut named Harry Sneider who said of Fischer, “He really believed in a good preparation. He loved power-training with weights, he swam 45 minutes a day and he was a ‘world-champion’ walker. ... He also drank pints of carrot juice and ate a lot of salads. He took a sauna every day and a massage. That was his daily routine.”
       Fischer said, “Your body has to be in top condition. Your chess deteriorates as your body does. You can’t separate body from mind.” In fact when Fischer appeared on the talk-show hosted by Dick Cavett he was asked what he would have liked to become had he not excelled in chess. Fischer replied, “Something in sports.”
       I don’t enjoy swimming, don’t have a sauna and can’t talk the wife into a massage, but how many pints of carrot juice, and how many salads would it take to add a 100 points to my rating?  It’s getting close to my nap time so I’m going to go have that last piece of lemon meringue pie and a cup of coffee and think about this.





  1. Now that a study on chess and school's extra curricular activities even the academic subjects are perfectly blend together to enhance the thinking and decision making skills of students. Physical fitness and chess both develop the mind and the physical strength of students and pupils. Thus, chess has to be integrated to school curriculum.

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  2. The city I live in has a couple of school chess clubs but nothing is organized. In one school the basketball coach, who does not even play chess (!), is in charge of the chess team. Any advise from anybody about how to get school administrators to consider introducing chess into the schools?

  3. This is the blog for whom I was looking for.Thanks for this post.Really informative.