Skip to Content

What Do People Think About Chess Players? (20 Truths, Stereotypes & Misconceptions)

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

When some people think of chess players, nerdy, lanky guys with pocket protectors come to mind. However, this is far from the whole truth. People who play chess are diverse and are not the awkward turtles many think they are. 

Regular people think chess players are one type of person, but this isn’t true. There are many millions of people who play chess, and they are of all ages, genders, and ethnicities. People also think chess players are good at math, have great memories, and think strategically.

Some myths about chess players are true, and some aren’t. So, read on to learn more about the perceptions people have about chess players. 

People might think chess players:

1. Are Socially Awkward

Although some people who play chess may indeed be gangly nerds who would rather chew their arms off than speak to anyone, this is certainly not the norm. 

The number of people who play chess is staggering, and among the many millions who play this great game, there are all sorts of people.

2. Are Mostly Men (White or Asian)

Sure, many chess players are definitely white or Asian men. You can be forgiven for thinking that since most grandmasters are indeed white or Asian men. It’s true that the top tier of chess needs more diversity.

At the time of writing, only a small percentage of international chess grandmasters are women. Judit Polgár was one of three sisters trained by their Hungarian father to become chess prodigies. She became a grandmaster at the age of 15 and felt women were equally capable as men of becoming chess greats.

Therefore, it’s great that more women and people from other backgrounds are being encouraged to play chess. Chess is gaining traction all over the world. So, hopefully, we’ll see more women and people of color rise to the ranks soon. 

3. Are Strategic Thinkers

Chess requires strategic thinking to best your opponent. There is a perception that this strategic thinking in chess players also translates to their personal lives. You’ll have to observe the chess player in your family to see if this is true!

4. Are Geniuses

You can certainly learn many things from chess. Playing chess can enhance memory, improve concentration, and teach strategic thinking. Whether this makes you a genius in real life is a question for the ages. 

It’s a case of the chicken and the egg. Were the chess players smart before playing, or did chess make them smarter? 

There are various types of intelligence to consider, and whether people who play chess are more intelligent is challenging to answer. 

It’s also important to consider whether the skills learned in chess are indeed transferrable to real life. Again, I’ll let you decide!

5. Are Not Sporty

There is a misconception that all chess players are nerdy and do not enjoy physical activity. This could be true of some people who play chess, but certainly not all. 

Chess appeals to all sorts of people. Some are wholly dedicated to chess, while others enjoy other recreational pursuits too.

However, people don’t think about the physical demands of chess. Chess players should exercise so that they can withstand the demands of chess. 

For example, Magnus Carlsen plays soccer, basketball, and tennis, among others, and Fabiano Caruana also plays soccer and basketball.

6. Who Are Older Are Better

Children have and will continue to beat adults who have played chess for years. In fact, starting at a young age is ideal because you get a grip on the rules and potential opening sequences much faster. 

7. Have Advanced Concentration

Chess does purport to improve your concentration as players have to sit for hours at a time to play a game. Chess requires careful strategic planning, as does life.

8. Form A Community

This one is true. You can see the truth of this perception from just watching people in the park playing chess. People who play chess have something special in common and often become friends with each other, no matter their disparate ages or backgrounds.

9. Have Astonishing Memory Skills

People think chess players have the memory of an elephant when it comes to their chess moves in previous games. Sure, several grandmasters might have a photographic memory; however, that doesn’t mean all chess players have an incredible memory. 

Several studies have shown that chess might improve your memory functions, but not to a superhuman level!

10. Are Bad Losers

Again, like any sample population, you will have all types of people. Some people will upend the board and storm off. Others will smile at losing, secure in the knowledge that they have learned an invaluable tactic. 

11. Are Good At Math

Some of history’s best chess players, like Emanuel Lasker, are both chess players and mathematicians. Therefore, a stereotype can start to form that all chess players are good at math. However, chess is mostly about pattern recognition and doesn’t automatically translate to mathematical ability.

12. Are Overachievers

Chess players are often seen as achieving beyond what is expected of them. Obviously, this is going to differ from individual to individual. Still, chess players usually do rather well at school, given the invaluable skills chess endows them with. 

13. Are Competitive

Chess is like any competitive game or sport. This is in the sense that you will get overly competitive people as much as laidback individuals who want to enjoy the activity.

14. Are Obsessive

It may be true that some players may get super obsessive over their previous game and whether they should have moved the bishop to e4. Still, indeed, not all players are compulsive.

15. Are Risk Takers

Any gambit in chess requires some form of risk and sacrifice. Any opening sequence has potential traps. It depends on whether your opponent sees the gamble you take and whether they can turn the situation to their benefit.

Any move in chess is risky, and people may consider chess players risk takers. But, as in life, steps out of your comfort zone must be taken to make life full of zest and the game able to be won. 

16. Are Lateral Thinkers

Chess players need to be innovative problem solvers, which often translates to their lives outside of chess.

17. Are Addicted To Chess

Chess can become very addictive. The thrill of checkmate is enough to get some people out of bed and ready to play chess. However, when you play chess, you must ensure you don’t let it dominate your life to an unhealthy level.

18. Are Not Attractive

Partially because of the view of chess players as nerdy and old, many people think that chess players can’t be attractive. However, this view is outdated as many young and beautiful people play chess!

19. Are Hard Workers

Although the rule of 10,000 hours to become a chess master might not apply to many, it definitely takes a lot of practice to get to the grandmaster level. For instance, Magnus Carlsen became a grandmaster at age 13.

It might take some people less than 5,000 hours to reach the master level. On the other hand, some players play more than 10,000 hours and never make it to master.

The point is that some hard work is necessary to get to master or grandmaster level, even though the amount differs from person to person.

20. Are Unemotional

Chess can bring you to the depths of despair and the heights of joy and can make you feel triumph like you’ve never known it before. 

All In All

Some myths about chess players can be dispelled, like that they loathe physical activity. In contrast, others, like chess players having improved concentration skills, are true. Chess players can be very different from one another, but most of them share one thing: a love for the game!

+ posts

This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who enjoy sharing their knowledge about their favorite games with others!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.