In 1984 the World Chess Championships (WCC) were abandoned due to players physical condition. The match between Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov is the only game in WCC history to be ditched after Karpov reportedly lost 22 pounds.
Who’d have thought that we’d ever be discussing just how strenuous chess is on the human body. You sit there for several hours, playing a few moves until one player calls check mate – sounds easy? Well, you’d be a fool for thinking so.
No-one really thought about what had happened in 1984 with the players health. It wasn’t until 2004 where a tracking company placed heart rate monitors on players in an attempt to discover just how chess affected them. One player in particular burned an estimated 560 calories in a two-hour chess session. Bearing in mind it would take an average individual around an hour or two hard work on a stepper or treadmill.
ESPN researched into the chess diet, calling it the “Grandmaster diet”, named quite fittingly after Mikhail Antipov, the athlete who lost 560 calories in one session. ESPN’s research estimated that it is possible for a chess athlete to burn around 6000 calories in a full day of chess due to higher breathing rates, elevated blood pressure and increased muscle contractions.
American chess champion and world No.2 Fabiano Caruana reported he could lose around 15 pounds over the course of the Chess Championships.
So why is chess such a calorie burner? Well, due to the intense stress on the body the heart rate is increased which causes the body to create more oxygen. You also have to take into account the length of the game – the longest professional game lasted 20 hours, so the stress created is huge. The stress could also affect the player when they’re not in the hot seat, as it could cause them to lose their appetite and decrease the amount of sleep they have. Again, both contributing factors in weight loss.
So, do we recommend this? Ultimately, no. Not at all, it’s not healthy! The world Chess Championships have actually been moved from yearly to bi-yearly in an attempt to give players more time to recover.