Chess and ADD
April 19, 2008 3:35 PM   Subscribe

I'm kind of interested in learning to play chess. I have ADD. How's that gonna go?

I usually can't, say, read a single page of a magazine article without my mind wandering and losing my place, without me noticing it's happening. But I've always found chess intriguing and would like to give it a shot.

I'm wondering if the sort of concentration required to play chess at all well is beyond the ability of someone with untreated ADD (occasional capacity to hyperfocus aside). That said, I'm also wondering if chess is the sort of activity that would help me increase my ability to concentrate, or if I'd just find it impossibly frustrating. I'd be willing to flex my brain like that if it wouldn't just piss me entirely off.

Of course, it would be great to hear from ADD-ers who've given chess a shot.
posted by 2or3whiskeysodas to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My 14 year old son has ADHD and he regularly whips my ass at chess. He says it's very busy in his head, because he's processing all the possible moves, and potential moves, so it's easy to focus on. I notice he dances sometimes when he's playing, but he has no problem finishing a game.
posted by headspace at 3:42 PM on April 19, 2008

Maybe 5 minute chess would be ideal for you. That's where each side gets 5 minutes on their clock, so the whole game lasts no more than ten minutes. It's very popular at chess clubs.
posted by Chessbum at 4:00 PM on April 19, 2008

Don't bother with speed chess if concentration is what you want. That is an entirely different pursuit. You might be able to whip along, but the point of chess IMO is not to play fast and make the least errors. If you are going to see far into a position you need time to visualize where a specific it can take you. Reflexes and instincts are good but if you are a quick thinker why not challenge your weaknesses rather than play to your strengths?
posted by serial_consign at 4:07 PM on April 19, 2008

oops.. "visualize where a specific it can take you" should read "visualize where it can take you" damn non-linear editing.
posted by serial_consign at 4:08 PM on April 19, 2008

I have ADHD and I'm pretty good at chess.

Concentrate on the big-picture strategy, e.g. play for the center of the board, don't make a lot of pawn moves in the opening, etc. Most people don't know how to do that stuff properly. Just get that down, and then learn some openings and how to use them, and how to respond to them.

Very few people are actually able to successfully think ahead a great many moves, and also know what they're doing. A famous chess champion (though I forget who) once said "I only think ahead one move, but it's always the right move."

ADD usually goes with an active imagination. You will be able to come up surprising moves, once you get used to playing. Just concentrate on the principles and not on memorizing long strings of moves, which, after all, doesn't really do anyone any good the vast majority of the time.

But when you're reading your chess books, use an actual board and actual pieces to follow along. Otherwise, you'll go insane.
posted by bingo at 5:30 PM on April 19, 2008

I think it would be very therapeutic. If you decide it's frustrating, you can quit. But I know a lot of ADHD people who do very well at challenging activities. The difficulty can actually make somethings easier. I'm guess you would kill yourself with a job filing or parking cars.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 5:43 PM on April 19, 2008

I have ADHD. I haven't played chess in years. It as a kid I, found that I was good at it. It was one of those things, like building models, that I found it easier to focus on.
posted by Good Brain at 6:53 PM on April 19, 2008

You can also play long distance games with someone where they make a move and mail/email it to you, and then you have a few days to make your move and mail them. So you could find a time when your concentration is high, figure out your move, and then go about life for a while waiting for their reply. I know such games exist but don't have specific pointer for you. I would start here and go down to the bottom of the page where there are lists of online places to play live opponents, and links to interactive tutorials and computer AI versions.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:23 PM on April 19, 2008

Red Hot Pawn is a good place to play correspondence chess, as described above, if you find that works for you.
posted by dixie flatline at 7:43 PM on April 19, 2008

The idea that chess masters sit and calculate 10 moves ahead for each side, and the better player calculates further, is a total myth. There is far more intuition in the game than that. As long as you don't neglect to do a cursory check of your moves, and you don't get impatient and play without thinking, it shouldn't be a problem.

Besides, in "classical" length games, with 2 hours per side, there is no way *anybody* can sit and concentrate at 100% for the entire four hours. People get up. They walk around. They stretch. They eat. The game is stressful and if you sit and let that stress consume you, by focusing entirely on the game, it will affect your play. I know if I don't take a break within 30 minutes, I start to play like a total idiot because I start overthinking.
posted by cotterpin at 2:23 AM on April 20, 2008

Similar situation with me, I generally play well if distractions are not in the background and I'm interested in the game. I don't have too bad a time with focus if I find the thing intensely interesting, and the game changes as it goes along.
posted by tomble at 6:48 PM on April 20, 2008

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