Understanding online chess addiction and its powerful characteristics

Certain kinds of addiction, such as the addiction to coffee, Netflix, or the gym are deemed acceptable in our society. Addiction to social media and online games have also become socially acceptable. We rarely disengage from online activity, especially social media for more than a few hours a day. Once you are hooked to any of the major networks it is a hard habit to kick. I’ve certainly been there on most fronts and somehow been able to shake off most of these addictions with relative ease.

online chess addiction
chess addiction is harmful

However, I seemed to have developed quite an unusual online chess addiction. Since the game was released on Apple Arcade (using the same engine as chess.com), I’ve been hooked. I must admit that I am not a big fan of online or offline games. If I were to put a number to the hours I would clock on my phone, Apple tv or computer to playing games, it would all be less than four hours a year. I do not recommend installing and playing Online Chess or engaging in any other addictive activity.

What is it about Chess that has me this hooked? I was quickly able to identify that I was getting addicted to this game. And as soon as I did after just a few days, I deleted the app. Usually, my addiction has always ended with its first delete. But hours later, I would re-install the Chess app to have another go.

Over the last month, this cycle would continue, over and over again. I realised that this Chess addiction is not going to be easy to get rid of, and it was getting worse. I started displaying destructive behaviour: A loss would result in extreme emotions such as shouting, punching at thin air or the bed and viciously cursing the opponent you just faced despite not having a clue who they were.

As I work in the digital space mostly creating WordPress Websites and developing corporate branding, I decided to analyse the addictive nature of this game. I thought maybe if I analyse some of its core tenements I should be able to overcome the addiction.

The main question I asked myself was:
What were the essential characteristics of online chess that was causing me to generate such a great attachment?

Here are some of my general, non-professional observations:

  1. Generational advantage
  2. Opponent availability
  3. The challenge
  4. Determination
  5. Easy access

Generational advantage

I’ve always had fond memories of Chess from my childhood, playing with my father and grandfather. My father actually bought me the board from a souvenir shop from an actual Rajas Palace in Mysuru, India. I adored that Chess set as a child and I relished every game we used to play. Unfortunately, as the family moved from country to country, some of our packages were lost in transit. And there went my beloved chessboard. But the roots of the game were deeply seeded and the emotions were a part of my emotional psychi.

Father, Son, Grandson play chess

Opponent availability

When I had the physical board game, it was generally hard to even find people to play with me. My father would play a game or two, but it would stop there. I had no brothers or sisters I could rope in, and let’s face it; my mother was never going to play something that complicated.

With the online app, you now have many active users ready to challenge you. You had opponents waiting, at your disposal, to summon whenever you wanted to play.

It quickly dawned on me that this game was ancient and played by so many young and old, encouraged from generation to generation. It came as no surprise that chess.com had a user base of over 71 Million active users, and it was not a stream of user availability but more a flood of endless challenges begging to be taken on.

The challenge

Very few games on mobile devices offer players to go head to head against other players. You are potentially measuring your skillset against someone else. This creates emotions that will want you to play the more you win as you relish the feeling and fuel the same fire when you lose. When you lose a chess game you often picture the move that things started to fall apart, and you immediately want to make amends.

It is in our basic DNA to be challenged and to engage challengers which makes it even harder to step away especially when you are on a losing streak. And chess offers no real form of monetary or physical discomfort which makes it a highly potent addiction.

Challenges attract humans


Being an entrepreneur drilled into the psyche that giving up is not an option. Learn from one’s mistakes, and try again is the general ethos of an average business person.

When you play Chess, the game is simple enough to immediately replay a few steps and analyse where you went wrong. Your psychic immediately tells you to try again and not fall into the same trap the next time. But you fall into new trap’s, and the cycle continues endlessly.

It’s this notion of self-correction and determination that spurs you on in a game that has an endless course.

Easy Access

A significant advantage you have when you’re addicted to alcohol or drugs, I would imagine, is that they are not readily available, legal and expensive. The lack of quick physical access and its cost can create barriers, potentially helping addicts get over it.

On the other hand, Online Chess is free to play, day or night, and it does not cost a player anything to jump on and play his entire life away. The app is always available from the Apple App Store.

All these characteristics make Online Chess extremely addictive. By moving a much-loved game online, the creators have addressed a few of Chess’s significant physical disadvantages and awoken long-dormant addiction in me.

I can imagine some of these characteristics are shared with other online activities such as Social Media, Online Games, Online Gambling and Pornography. But very few of them check off all of the traits listed above while being completely legal and cause no monitor discomfort to the user.

For now, the only solution I’ve found to online chess addiction is quitting cold turkey and staying away from the game entirely.

Toffy Co does not recommend installing and playing Online Chess or any other addictive activity. Let us know in the comments below if you have an online addiction and how you’ve overcome your addiction?