Does Chess Make You Tired? Explained

Chess is a timeless board game that has often been associated with relaxation and leisurely pastime. Its slow, contemplative pace and intellectual nature make it seem like a low-effort activity. 

However, many players have struggled with feeling “tired” when playing chess. So, does chess make you tired? And if so, why exactly does that happen?

Chess can make you tired primarily because of the intense mental effort it requires, not the physical effort. To feel less tired when playing chess, you need to manage stress, maintain a balanced mindset, and take regular breaks from the game to pursue less mentally straining activities.

Keep reading to learn more about why chess makes you tired and how to feel less tired when playing chess.

Does Chess Make You Tired?

Chess can indeed make you tired, physically, mentally, and emotionally, though the mental exhaustion is typically more pronounced.

Here’s a detailed breakdown of how chess affects you on all 3 fronts:

  • Physical Fatigue: While chess is not physically strenuous like any other sport, it can have physical effects. Sitting for extended periods can lead to physical discomfort, including back and neck strain. 
  • Mental Fatigue: Chess demands intense mental focus and concentration. As a result, your brain can become fatigued, leading to decreased alertness and slower decision-making as a game progresses.
  • Emotional Fatigue: Chess is not just about logic and strategy; it also involves emotional aspects. Stress, frustration, and anxiety can arise during a game. Managing all of these emotions can be mentally draining, especially in high-stakes or competitive settings.

Why Do You Feel Mentally Tired When Playing Chess?

As mentioned earlier, feeling tired when playing chess is primarily due to the mental demands involved in the game. 

So, here’s a detailed breakdown of some of the cognitive processes involved in chess to help why you feel mentally tired when playing:

  • Continuous Concentration: Chess requires sustained concentration throughout a game, which can last for hours. Focusing intently on the board, analyzing positions, and anticipating your opponent’s moves demand mental stamina.
  • Information Processing: Chess players need to process a vast amount of information in real time. This includes evaluating the position of all the pieces, calculating variations, and assessing the consequences of different moves. This constant mental activity can be mentally exhausting.
  • Decision-Making: Every move in chess involves decision-making, often with limited time on the clock. Players must weigh multiple options, consider potential outcomes, and choose the best move strategically. This mental effort can be mentally draining.
  • Visualization: Chess players need to mentally visualize the board and anticipate future positions. This skill, often called board vision, allows players to plan ahead and anticipate their opponent’s moves. Constant visualization can be mentally taxing.
  • Pattern Recognition: Recognizing patterns and familiar positions on the board is essential for strong chess play. However, it requires significant mental effort to identify these patterns and apply them to your advantage.
  • Memory: Chess players rely on memory to recall openings, endgames, and strategies they’ve studied. Maintaining a strong memory is essential, and retrieving information from memory can be mentally demanding.
  • Time Pressure: In competitive chess, players often have a limited amount of time to make their moves. Managing the clock while making optimal decisions adds an extra layer of mental stress.
  • Critical Thinking: Chess encourages critical thinking and problem-solving. Players must assess threats, formulate plans, and adapt their strategies based on their opponent’s moves, which demands ongoing mental effort.
  • Analysis and Learning: After a game, players often analyze their performance to identify mistakes and areas for improvement. This process of self-assessment and continuous learning requires additional mental energy.

How Much Physical Effort Does Chess Require?

Chess is primarily a mental game that requires minimal physical effort compared to many other sports or activities. The physical demands of chess are limited to the following aspects:

  • Sitting: Chess players spend their games sitting, which requires maintaining a reasonably comfortable and upright posture. However, this is not physically strenuous.
  • Hand Movements: Players move pieces on the board, which involves picking up and placing chess pieces. While this is a physical action, it is not physically demanding.
  • Clock Pressing: In games with a chess clock, players may need to press the clock after making their moves. This action is also not physically taxing.

Even though chess requires minimal physical exertion, maintaining comfort and well-being can significantly contribute to better overall performance in the game.

What Happens If You Get Tired During A Chess Match?

Getting tired during a chess match can have several consequences, some of which can impact your performance and overall gameplay:

  • Decreased Concentration: Fatigue can lead to reduced concentration. You may find it challenging to stay focused on the board and analyze positions effectively. This can increase the likelihood of overlooking your opponent’s threats or making blunders.
  • Slower Decision-Making: As you become tired, your thought processes may slow down. You might take longer to evaluate moves and calculate variations, which can lead to time pressure on your clock.
  • Increased Mistakes: Fatigue can impair your ability to accurately assess positions and calculate tactics. This can result in making mistakes, including blunders, which can be costly in terms of losing material or even the game.
  • Emotional Instability: Tiredness can make you more emotionally vulnerable, leading to increased frustration, anxiety, or impulsive decisions. Emotions can cloud your judgment and negatively affect your gameplay.
  • Reduced Creativity: Chess often requires creative thinking to find novel solutions and strategies. When tired, your ability to think creatively may be compromised, leading to a more predictable and less effective gameplay.
  • Loss of Patience: Tiredness can make you more impatient, causing you to rush decisions or take unnecessary risks. This impatience can backfire and lead to unfavorable positions on the board.

Remember that fatigue is a common challenge in chess, and it happens to even the best of players. Learning to manage it effectively is an essential skill for competitive players to maintain consistent performance.

How to Feel Less Tired (Physically, Mentally, and Emotionally) When Playing Chess?

Feeling less tired, physically, mentally, and emotionally, while playing chess is crucial for maintaining peak performance. 

So, Here are some strategies to help you feel less tired in all these aspects:


  • Stay Hydrated and Eat Lightly: Proper hydration and light, energy-boosting snacks can help maintain your alertness and energy levels.
  • Take Short Breaks: If the tournament rules permit it, take short breaks between moves to stretch, relax your muscles, and refresh your mind.
  • Comfortable Seating: Ensure that you have a comfortable chair and a suitable playing environment to minimize physical discomfort during the game.


  • Manage Stress: Prioritize relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or mindfulness exercises, to manage stress and maintain mental clarity.
  • Regular Practice: Consistent practice helps build mental stamina. Regularly solving chess puzzles and playing games will improve your ability to think clearly during matches.
  • Stay Organized: Keep your thoughts and plans organized during the game. Use notation to record your moves and thoughts for future reference.
  • Time Management: Allocate your time wisely during games to avoid time pressure. Plan your moves efficiently to reduce mental stress.
  • Focus on the Present: Concentrate on the current position rather than dwelling on previous moves or worrying about the outcome of the game. Stay in the moment to conserve mental energy.
  • Rest and Sleep: Ensure you are well-rested before a game or tournament. A good night’s sleep can enhance your cognitive abilities.


  • Maintain Composure: Stay composed and avoid reacting emotionally to the game’s ups and downs. Emotional stability helps prevent mental fatigue caused by frustration or anxiety.
  • Positive Self-Talk: Use positive self-talk to boost your confidence and keep your emotions in check. Remind yourself of your strengths and past successes.
  • Learn from Mistakes: Instead of dwelling on mistakes, view them as opportunities for improvement. This mindset can help you stay emotionally balanced.
  • Manage Expectations: Set realistic expectations for your performance. Understanding that losses and mistakes are part of the learning process can reduce emotional stress.
  • Post-Game Reflection: After a game, reflect on your performance calmly and objectively. This can help you process any emotional reactions and prepare for future matches.

Ultimately, learning to manage your physical, mental, and emotional state during a match is essential for consistent and enjoyable gameplay. These strategies can help you feel less tired and perform at your best in chess.

What Are Some Mental Exercises to Help You Improve at Chess?

Here are some exercises and practices to enhance various cognitive skills, reduce mental strain, and help you become an overall better chess player:

  • Solve Chess Puzzles: Regularly solving chess puzzles is one of the most effective ways to improve tactical vision. Websites, books, and apps offer a wide range of puzzles for all skill levels.
  • Analyze Grandmaster Games: Study games played by grandmasters to understand high-level strategies and tactics. Pay attention to their decision-making processes and try to emulate their thinking.
  • Endgame Practice: Focus on improving your endgame skills, as this is often where games are won or lost. Study endgame fundamentals and practice different types of endgames.
  • Opening Repertoire Study: Develop a solid opening repertoire and practice various lines. Understand the ideas behind your openings rather than memorizing moves.
  • Blindfold Chess: Challenge yourself to play or analyze games without looking at the board. This helps improve visualization and board awareness.
  • Mental Visualization: Mentally visualize chess positions and calculate variations without a physical board. This exercise enhances your calculation and planning abilities.

Consistency and a structured approach to mental exercises are key to chess improvement. By incorporating these mental exercises and practices into your chess routine, you will be able to enhance your skills and reduce mental strain in no time.

What Is Chess Fatigue?

The term “Chess fatigue” refers to a state of mental exhaustion or weariness that can occur as a result of playing chess, particularly during prolonged or intense games, tournaments, or extended periods of practice and study. 

Factors contributing to chess fatigue may include the length of a game or tournament, the complexity of positions, the mental strain of continuous calculation, and emotional stress. Additionally, inadequate physical comfort or care, such as not taking short breaks, staying hydrated, or managing stress, can exacerbate chess fatigue.

What Are the Signs of Chess Fatigue?

Here are some common signs of chess fatigue:

  • Decreased Concentration: Difficulty maintaining focus on the board, leading to overlooking threats or tactics.
  • Slower Decision-Making: Taking more time than usual to analyze positions and calculate variations, which can result in time pressure on the chess clock.
  • Increased Mistakes: Making more frequent errors, including blunders, missed tactics, or suboptimal moves.
  • Emotional Instability: Becoming more emotionally vulnerable, with heightened frustration, anxiety, or impulsive reactions during the game.
  • Loss of Creativity: Difficulty in thinking creatively and finding innovative solutions in the game.
  • Physical Discomfort: Experiencing physical discomfort or tension, such as back pain or eye strain, due to prolonged gameplay without breaks.
  • Inability to Focus on Long Games: Finding it challenging to maintain concentration during lengthy chess games, especially if they extend for hours.
  • Lack of Mental Clarity: Feeling mentally foggy or unclear about your plans and strategies during the game.
  • Pattern Recognition Decline: A drop in the ability to recognize familiar chess patterns or positions on the board.
  • Impatience: Becoming more impatient and rushing decisions, which can lead to suboptimal moves.
  • Reduced Interest: Losing interest in the game which affects your overall motivation to play, practice, or study.
  • Decreased Calculation Accuracy: A decline in the accuracy of calculating variations or analyzing positions.
  • Memory Lapses: Difficulty recalling opening theory or past games due to mental exhaustion.

It’s important to note that chess fatigue can affect individuals differently, and some players may experience these signs more acutely than others. 

Recognizing the signs of chess fatigue and implementing strategies to mitigate its effects, such as taking short breaks, and managing stress can help chess players perform at their best and sustain their passion for the game.

Do Chess Grandmasters Experience Chess Fatigue?

Chess is an intellectually demanding game, and even the best players in the world can succumb to mental exhaustion due to the pressures of high-level competition, continuous study, and the intensity of long games and tournaments.

Several famous chess grandmasters have experienced chess fatigue or burnout during their careers. Here are a few notable examples:

  • Bobby Fischer: The American chess prodigy and World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer famously experienced burnout after winning the World Chess Championship in 1972. He went into a period of inactivity and withdrew from competitive chess for nearly 20 years.
  • Garry Kasparov: The legendary Russian grandmaster and World Chess Champion expressed his own experiences with burnout and fatigue during his illustrious career. The demands of competition and the mental strain of facing strong opponents took a toll on him.
  • Vladimir Kramnik: Kramnik, another former World Chess Champion, took a hiatus from competitive chess in 2019, citing burnout and the need for a break from the intense world of professional chess.
  • Anatoly Karpov: While he was World Chess Champion for many years, Karpov faced periods of fatigue and stress during his long and successful career, especially in his title matches against Kasparov.

These examples demonstrate that even the most accomplished chess players can experience burnout and fatigue due to the rigorous mental demands of the game. 

It highlights the importance of managing one’s physical and mental well-being, taking breaks when needed, and finding a balance between intense chess practice and other aspects of life to avoid succumbing to chess fatigue.


In conclusion, chess is a game of immense intellectual depth and strategy that can be both rewarding and, at times, taxing. While it may not demand significant physical effort, the mental energy required to excel in chess should not be underestimated. 

By implementing the strategies mentioned in this article, you can manage mental fatigue, as well as physical fatigue, and overall maintain your performance

Harikrishnan A

I am an International Fide Rated player with 10+ years of experience. Played many International Chess Tournaments and Commonwealth games.

Recent Posts