Is Online Chess Addictive?

Are you thinking about taking up online chess and worried that you might get addicted? Or are you already playing online chess and thinking that your habit is getting out of control? Is it even possible to become addicted to online chess? We’ve taken a deep dive into this issue and it’s a bit more complicated than you might expect.

Is online chess addictive? Yes, online chess can be addictive though the extent to which internet chess addiction is found in the population is not known. Online chess addiction is likely to be fairly rare and if it is a problem for someone they ought to be able to break the habit with the aid of a mental health professional.

This is everything you need to know about online chess and its addictive side.

Is online chess addictive? -
Is online chess addictive? –

First, What Is An Addiction?

Before we can examine whether or not online chess can be addictive, we need to be clear on what an addiction is.

Medical News Today defines addiction as, “… a psychological and physical inability to stop consuming a chemical, drug, activity, or substance, even though it is causing psychological and physical harm.”

Thus, under the first part of the definition we find “an inability to stop consuming an activity” and online chess is an activity. The question is whether online chess is something that if we don’t stop doing it can psychological and/or physical harm?

Online Chess Addiction Would Be A Behavioral Addiction

If so, this would be classified as a behavioral addiction (an addiction based on behavior – such as gambling, over-eating, work-aholism, etc.) as opposed to a physical addiction (one which is based on the consumption of an addictive drug) which may also be known as substance dependance.

Someone who is addicted to something can’t control their need to do something and they find it hard to cope with their everyday life if they are unable to do it. This is “withdrawal” and it makes the difference between a “bad habit” and “addiction”.

So, Is Online Chess Addictive?

There is no doubt that many online chess players find themselves playing chess for extended periods of time each day, but does this mean that they are addicted?

Don’t many computer gamers play their games all day long? Don’t professional athletes spend all day playing their sports? Isn’t it possible to do something a lot and not be addicted?

It’s Possible For Online Chess Not To Be Addictive

Yes, it is absolutely possible to play online chess a lot, even to the exclusion of other activities, and not be addicted. Just in the way that an athlete may choose to forego hanging out with friends in order to get another couple of practice laps in – an online chess player is not compelled to spend time with friends if they’d rather play chess.

The playing of online chess only becomes an addiction if the behavior becomes a problem that causes psychological and/or physical harm.

For example, if you were to play online chess all day long every day whilst sitting in the same chair and never interacting with others. We would then be able to see that you were addicted to online chess. A period of constant sitting is very harmful to your body (physical harm) and if you never interact with others this is psychologically damaging too.

It’s Also Possible For It To Be Addictive

The ultimate test of an addiction is quite simple. Remove the source of the addiction and see how easy it is to function without it. An addicted online chess player when told to go out for the day and leave their devices at home so that they cannot play – is going to become confused and distressed, they won’t stop thinking about playing rather than enjoying their time in another constructive way.

So, is online chess addictive? Well, it can be. Not every player who starts to play online chess finds themselves addicted to it. The author, for example, has played many games online but still manages to work, find time for other hobbies and to socialize. Weeks can go by without playing a single game without any distress at all.

On the other hand, it’s not hard to find accounts online of people who say that they are addicted to online chess (or indeed, to the offline form of chess) too. They claim that the game has taken over their lives and when they’re not playing, they’re obsessing over when they will play next.

What Are The Symptoms Of Online Chess Addiction?

Behavioral addictions have some warning signs attached to them and if you’re worried that your online chess play might be turning into an addiction, you should be able to recognize some of the following issues:

  • Addicts regularly feel guilt and shame about their problem
  • Addicts regularly lie about their behaviors “I don’t play that much!” “Just one more game!”
  • Addicts deny that they have a problem even when they feel that they do
  • Addicts will miss important events because their addiction matters more, they may also start missing work or school time
  • Addicts may end up fighting with their family and friends more regularly even if it is not directly related to their addiction
  • Addicts often have disturbed sleep patterns and may dream or think constantly about their addiction whilst in bed
  • Addicts may also end up neglecting themselves and not washing properly, eating properly, etc.

However, even if you have all the symptoms above, this doesn’t mean that you are an addict. The only way to find out if your online chess behaviors are an addiction is to seek a diagnosis from an appropriately qualified mental health professional.

You cannot get an accurate diagnosis online or through self-assessment, however, the first step in treatment of any addiction, including an addiction to online chess, is acknowledging that there is a problem. If you have reached this stage of our article and feel that you have a problem, we would strongly encourage you to seek help and a formal diagnosis.

How Would They Treat Online Chess Addiction?

This is a great question and not one that we have a comprehensive answer for. You see the concept of behavioral addiction is a relatively new one and that means that the profession is constantly evolving in terms of its approach to both diagnosis and treatment.

A mental health professional can help work through what is driving the behavior and then help you develop ways to cope or minimize it. This may involve therapy (such as cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy and talk therapy).

Things Can Be Complex With Internet Chess Addiction

Many people with a behavioral addiction may have another underlying psychological problem or potentially a substance abuse problem to go along with the behavioral addiction and this can complicate the matter further and make treatment a more complex issue.

In these instances, a mental health professional will almost certainly need to work in conjunction with a physician to help an internet chess addict get the best possible help.

Some Good News About Internet Chess Addiction

There is good news though, while it is possible to become addicted to internet chess most people don’t become addicted to it. It is also quite possible for someone who does become addicted to break their addiction and many internet chess players say that simply changing the focus of their play from the internet to real life chess helped them get their issues under control.


Is online chess addictive? Yes, it can be. However, we don’t think that it’s a commonplace addiction at all and the vast majority of online chess players will just have fun and treat it like any other hobby. Certainly, it’s not designed to be addictive in the way that say, online gambling, is. It’s just that any hobby can become addictive for certain people in certain situations.

If you do think that you are becoming addicted to online chess and you are worried about the impact of your behavior on your life and/or health then the best thing to do is to seek professional help. Talk to a mental health professional to get a diagnosis and if they feel you are addicted, they can help you work on a program to break that addiction. Good luck with it.

Scroll to Top