Chess players 'are paranoid thrillseekers'

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The Independent Online

On the surface it appears a contemplative challenge of intellects across a chequered board, but beneath the surface, we are now told, chess is all about testosterone, arousal, paranoia, excitement, danger and domination.

On the surface it appears a contemplative challenge of intellects across a chequered board, but beneath the surface, we are now told, chess is all about testosterone, arousal, paranoia, excitement, danger and domination.

Psychologists who studied more than 100 chess players say the game attracts sensation-seekers with a thirst for action and adventure on a par with skydivers, scuba divers, mountaineers and skiers. When men win a game, the experts say, the rise of testosterone levels in the blood is just the same as that experienced by people who go in for risky sports.

Chess, say the researchers, is less a game than a war where the winner experiences feelings of excitement, victory and domination. "Chess is a mimic battle fought upon a field of 64 squares with pieces moved according to an elaborate system having powers suggestive of a variety of fighting units," says a report of the study in the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences.

The psychologists set out to see if people attracted to chess had a sensation-seeking nature. Using a personality test on players and non-players, they found that those who scored highest for sensation-seeking were those who played chess. "Winning a game of chess is associated with a rise in testosterone, especially when the game is close, suggesting that winning corresponds to an experience of excitement and dominance," the researchers report.

They add: "More competitive chess players have been shown to score highly for unconventional thinking and paranoia, both of which have been shown to relate to sensation-seeking."

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