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The Triumph Of Mad Kings. Brilliant Chess Players Are The Most Normal Crazy - Great And Terrible
The Triumph Of Mad Kings. Brilliant Chess Players Are The Most Normal Crazy - Great And Terrible

Video: The Triumph Of Mad Kings. Brilliant Chess Players Are The Most Normal Crazy - Great And Terrible

Video: The Triumph Of Mad Kings. Brilliant Chess Players Are The Most Normal Crazy - Great And Terrible
Video: Bone-chilling Titanic Facts No One Knew 2023, March

Grandmaster Salo Flor said of outstanding chess players: "They are all the most normal crazy people." Consider from this point of view the world champions, each of whom possessed ingenious intellectual abilities.

Acquaintance with the biographies of the first world champions allows us to notice that almost all of them, to a greater or lesser extent, suffered from mental disorders. But, starting with Max Euwe, we are only talking about oddities and eccentricities. What is the secret?

“Preparing a chess player for a tournament is a great art, as great as the game itself,” said Austrian chess player Rudolf Spielmann. Maybe this preparation is the answer? Her methodology was proposed by Max Euwe, who was the first to start professionally preparing for the championships, paying due attention to both physical and psychological fitness. Which helped him to beat Alexander Alekhine, who was in bad psychological shape at that time. Mikhail Botvinnik created on the basis of Euwe's proposals a system of preparation for world tournaments, unprecedented in its effectiveness. Upon acquaintance with the pathographs of 1 world champions, their gradual "mental recovery" is striking, which indicates resistance to mental disorders.

Charles Morphy (1837–1884) was the first child prodigy in the history of chess. In 1858, he made a splash, beating the strongest chess players in Europe. In 1867, he noticed oddities that resulted in delusional ideas; due to his aggressive behavior, he was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Gradually, Morphy became more and more indifferent, indifference replaced liveliness, replaced by a fear of open spaces and strangers. Suffering from agoraphobia 2, Morphy closed himself in the circle of his family, almost never went out and no longer posed a serious threat at the chessboard. Judging by the clinical picture, the American chess player suffered from a paranoid form of schizophrenia with a progressive course.

Wilhelm Steinitz (1836-1900) became the first official world champion. Signs of a mental disorder first appeared in him in 1876. In 1897, the disease developed with all its severity. While in Russia, Steinitz conceived a great chess work, which he dictated to the stenographer in German and English. Steinitz's behavior seemed strange to the secretary, since from time to time he stuck his head out the window and muttered incomprehensible words. Steinitz told her that he could talk on the phone without the help of wires, he dreamed that an electric current emanated from him, which moved chess pieces. It ended up that the ex-world champion ended up in the Morozov psychiatric clinic. Steinitz's psychosis was caused by progressive paralysis; he died in an asylum for the insane.

The third world champion José Raul Capablanca (1888-1942) learned to play chess at the age of 4 by observing the movement of pieces on the board. Having taken off on a chess Olympus, Capablanca could literally gush with ideas for an hour or two, but after two hours he "burned out". The defeat in the match with Alekhine in 1927 caused a depression in Capablanca. Subsequently, his tournament results steadily deteriorated. The Cuban developed seizures of severe brain sclerosis. Once he came to the club to play with friends, Capablanca felt unwell, was taken to the hospital and the next morning died of a cerebral hemorrhage. The stroke prevented Capablanca from living to a state of imminent vascular dementia 3.


Alexander Alekhin (1892–1946) is the only champion in history to take his title to the grave. He could not boast of a healthy inheritance: his mother suffered from drug addiction and died insane; father was a gambler.

Early obsession with chess led to an overstrain of the child's body. Perhaps on this basis Alekhine suffered brain inflammation. He was removed from all classes and even postponed the deadline for admission to the gymnasium. Alekhine had an absolute memory. He could look at a table of numbers and memorize them almost instantly. At the same time, he developed a need to stimulate himself with drugs and alcohol, because of which he was often in a state of anxiety and anxiety. The Dutch decided to use the resulting depression, and on October 3, 1935, a strange competition with Euwe began. Alekhine day by day lost ground under his feet and not only did not stop drunkenness, but also fell into mysticism. To the match, he brought a Siamese cat named Chess, which sniffed the board before the start of the game,creating some "otherworldly" chances for its owner. All these antics of the world champion who lost his peace of mind caused ridicule. But, having lost the chess crown “in a drunken stupor”, Alekhine pulled himself together and won it back again. Then he started drinking again. He was overcome by deep depression, and until his death he led a secluded life.

Sublimation and Chess

Legend has it that one Indian Raja spent a lot of time in battles. Once he called a sage to him and ordered him to come up with a means that would make him wean from war. The sage invented chess. There is no doubt that chess, from the point of view of psychoanalysis, is a form of sublimation of military leadership and military instincts, which is confirmed by modern psychologists. So, Pierre Bove, speaking of the sublimation of the instinct of struggle, first of all mentions chess.

After Euwe and Botvinnik introduced a special system for training grandmasters, mental disorders in the literal sense were no longer necessary, although the subsequent world champions also had enough oddities.


Mikhail Tal (1936–1992) became the eighth and at that time the youngest world champion in chess history. Like Alekhine, he suffered severe meningitis as a child. The doctor said that if the boy stays alive, he will be great. And he was right: at the age of three, Misha began to read, at five he was already multiplying three-digit numbers in his mind. At the age of seven, he could repeat his father's lecture on a medical topic word for word.

Over the years, Tal developed severe kidney disease. Non-persistent pains were relieved only by injections of drugs or brandy and constant smoking. It is worth noting his poor preparation for the rematch when Tal lost his championship title.


On the eccentricities of Robert Fischer (1943-2008), who, having become the eleventh world champion, unexpectedly stopped competing, it would be worth writing a separate article. At the age of 14 - the US champion, at 15 - the international grandmaster and the contender for the world championship. Chess history has never known such a thing! Fischer, like Tal, did not go through the "Botvinnik training school", and, quite possibly, this was precisely what had a negative effect on creativity. Fischer's limitations and one-sidedness outside of chess are striking: he drops out of school, does not meet girls, does not know how to dance, does not smoke, does not drink alcohol. Despite numerous phobias, Fischer invented a new chess clock, proposed an original reform of chess. English psychoanalyst Peter Fuller believes that Fischer suffered from a mental disorder from childhood and his state of mind cannot be considered normal.

Six world champions (Lasker, Euwe, Spassky, Karpov, Kasparov, Kramnik) out of the first fourteen absolute world champions - 40%! - can be recognized as mentally healthy people. But this conclusion cannot be considered final with regard to those of them who are still alive.

Great chess players and women

Alekhine was looking for in a woman not a beautiful beloved, but motherly warmth and care. This explains that all his companions were older than him by more than ten years. In their presence, he felt calmer and more confident. For a person suffering from neurotic infantilism, it is precisely such a choice of a spouse in which he can find, first of all, protection is characteristic.

Mikhail Tal could meet with his mistress who came to him at a time when his wife and little son were in the apartment. Naturally, in "their" room. This behavior was explained very "simply": "He's a genius!" The result is a divorce and two even less happy marriages.

World Champion Robert Fischer has never married. "Women are nonsense … Plus they cost money," he said. Perhaps the fear of marriage was one of his many phobias.

Vasily Smyslov, the seventh champion, owes much of his success to his wife. Rona Yakovlevna took an active part in the chess life of the country, in preparation for chess competitions. In addition to family care, warmth and care, Smyslov was greatly helped by her organizational skills, the ability to communicate with the mighty of this world.

For a long time, chess was considered a very serious game, so there could be no talk of any strong public manifestations of joy or disappointment on the part of players or fans during the game. But all the stiffness of the game was destroyed in an instant by the wife of the Dutch chess player Max Euwe. After her husband won a match against the Soviet chess player Alexander Alekhin in 1935 and became the new world champion, she ran onto the stage and publicly congratulated him on his victory. This was the first time in world practice when a world chess champion was congratulated right at the chessboard.

1 Pathography is a description of the personality of a famous person, based on psychological and psychiatric assessments.

2 Agoraphobia - fear of space; unconscious fear experienced by some persons when passing a large square or deserted street without an escort. It accompanies many nervous and mental illnesses.

3 Dementia (from Lat. Dementia - insanity) is an acquired form of dementia, which is associated with weakening of intellectual abilities, emotional impoverishment, difficulty in using past experience.

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