Thursday, January 4, 2018

International Master Justin Sarkar's Eloquent Explanation of the Benefits of Chess

There is a pernicious stereotype that obsession with chess causes mental illness and/or that great chess players are almost inevitably either crazy or at least extremely eccentric. For many people, World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer is the most famous example of the supposedly inextricable link between chess and insanity.

I am much more inclined to believe that Fischer's intense focus on chess during the first portion of his life kept him healthy/balanced (or at least as healthy/balanced as he was capable of being) and that after Fischer abandoned chess his life spiraled downhill. Dr. Joseph Ponterotto's Psychobiography of Bobby Fischer discusses how Fischer's mental health problems were much more likely caused/exacerbated by his family background (both genetic and environmental) than by his involvement with chess.

In the January 2018 edition of Chess Life magazine, International Master Justin Sarkar provides a concise and eloquent explanation of the powerful and positive impact chess has had on his life. Here is an excerpt:
I have a social condition--something on the autistic spectrum. I also battle with depression, which has been affecting me for some time. Among other things, it affects my memory, speed in doing things, and especially decision making, even with seemingly trivial things like choosing what to drink. Depression is a tough illness to face, especially when combined with my interpersonal communication struggles. People often seem to not quite "get it." Words can hardly even describe the impact of chess on me or where I would be without chess...

The inherent beauty of the game and personal benefits in fighting my illness speak louder than the implicit demands and stresses of chess tournament play, to the point of it being more like a stress reliever and positive distraction than other things.

Previous Articles About IM Justin Sarkar:

International Master Justin Sarkar's "Perfect Game"

Justin Sarkar Overcomes Obstacles, Obtains GM Norm

IM Justin Sarkar Obtains Third GM Norm

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