Should Christians Play Chess

Should Christians Play Chess?

Not too many ask this question as the game seems to be an innocent one. Should Christians play chess? There is no physical violence in this game as seen in many competitive sports like football, rugby etc. The dangers in playing chess are more subtle, disguised, and this is why many Christians can’t see any problem in playing chess.

Origins of chess game

Chess is believed to have originated in Eastern India during the Gupta empire, where its early form in the 6th century was known as chaturaṅga (Sanskrit: four divisions [of the military] – infantry, cavalry, elephants, and chariotry, represented by the pieces that would evolve into the modern pawn, knight, bishop, and rook, respectively). The earliest evidence of chess is found in the neighboring Sassanid Persia around 600, where the game came to be known by the name chatrang. Chatrang is evoked in three epic romances written in Pahlavi (Middle Persian). Chatrang was taken up by the Muslim world after the Islamic conquest of Persia (633–44), where it was then named shatranj, with the pieces largely retaining their Persian names. In Spanish “shatranj” was rendered as ajedrez (“al-shatranj”), in Portuguese as xadrez, and in Greek as ζατρίκιον (zatrikion, which comes directly from the Persian chatrang), but in the rest of Europe it was replaced by versions of the Persian shāh (“king”), which was familiar as an exclamation and became the English words “check” and “chess”. Murray theorized that Muslim traders came to European seaports with ornamental chess kings as curios before they brought the game of chess. (source: Wikipedia page)

Should Christians Play Chess?

Does the Bible speak about playing chess?

Because there is no evidence that chess existed earlier than the 6th century, we can’t assume that the game existed in the time of Jesus. This is why the biblical evidences will point towards principles about Christian recreation which can help us decide if this game (or others) is something which should occupy any portion of our time. In the times when New Testament was written, the Greek culture was dominant. Even in Israel there were many people conquered by its power. Still there is no biblical evidence that Jesus, His disciples and other Christians engaged in what we call sports, as a way/mean of recreation. They were too busy with better things, things of eternal importance and with eternal consequences.

  • Separation from pagan/worldly practices

Lev 18:3 “You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes.” (ESV)

Rom 12:2 “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

  • Personal sacrifice (not sacrificing others for your benefit/pleasure/ego)

John 15:12,13 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

  • Wrong ways/practices lead to wrong character traits

Rom 1:29-32 “Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”

  • Christian life is a new life (metamorphosis, complete transformation, not just improvement of old one)

Rom 6:4 “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

Rom 6:12 “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.”

Eph 4:22-24 “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”

Col 3:7-10 “In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:”

  • Help your neighbour/brother to grow

Gal 6:2 “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” [any chance at chess? :-) ]

Eph 4:31 “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

  • The principle of sowing – you reap the fruit of the seed you sow

Gal 6:7,8 “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”

  • Stay away of anything dangerous for the spiritual growth

Eph 4:27 “Neither give place to the devil.”

Eph 5:11 “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”

1Th 5:22 “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”

  • Keep watching

1Th 5:6 “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.”

  • Search and research for the best activities which will help your spiritual growth

Eph 5:10 “and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.”

Eph 2:10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Php 2:3 “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

  • Time is sacred: use it for the salvation of your soul and the salvation of others

Eph 5:16 “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”

  • Servant mindset

Mar 10:43-44 “But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.”

Ethical issues in playing chess

  • Like any other competitive sport, chess is war in miniature. The invention of the game came as a result of war experiences, and as a preparation for future wars. The pieces of the game are all part of the war, playing different roles. It’s a battle of minds.
  • It’s about defeating somebody else, about exploiting his/her weaknesses and conquering position after position. It’s about humiliating your adversary.
  • The game has nothing to do with Christianity, Christian character etc. It’s not about helping others to grow and to win/overcome, which we should do as Christians.
  • We can use its example as an illustration, as did Paul, but we can’t engage in something which doesn’t help us grow spiritually (and there is evidence that it does the opposite!), doesn’t benefit us or others in daily duties.
  • Chess is about memorizing hundreds and thousands of strategies and moves and using them to exploit the adversary’s bad moves. It is not so much about critical thinking, using your own mind to be creative. Memorization is specific to Catholic education which influenced massively the whole European education. This man-made religion encourages competition between students, they introduced the system of degrees. They have no interest to encourage critical thinking, self-determination. It’s good to have a good memory but it is not enough to be successful, even evaluated by the worldly standards.
  • The inventor of the game is not God and inspiration says that Heaven condemns it.
  • It’s a waste of precious time, which can be used much better in doing something helpful for us, family, society etc.
  • Our only competition has to be with self, not with our friends, neighbours etc. They are not our enemies. Satan is our enemy. We should try to help them be winners and not to try to exploit their weaknesses. God’s kingdom is about loving each (even our enemies) other and helping each other. What people need is not competition with others but inspiration. The best inspiration we find in the Bible, in the lives of Jesus and other characters of the Bible and in the life of the living saints Once you have the proper motivation to learn and to grow, there is no upper limit for development.
  • There is room for all. We don’t need to eliminate anybody to grow ourselves, to prosper.
  • The only enemy of prosperity is the sin and its propagator, Satan. They have to be eliminated from our personal lives. Chess teaches you that the enemy is outside not inside of you.
  • The competition mindset is a characteristic of the flesh. We are not in a 100m speed probe with one winner. We are in a big marathon where we have to finish the race and help others do the same. We can’t and shouldn’t use any sabotage, tactics etc to prevent others from winning, like you are taught to do in playing chess.
  • Love will always find solutions to support others. Competition will always strive to invent ways to eliminate others or just to make them stay behind us.
  • Our growth should have the purpose to be a bigger blessing for all those around us, not to dominate them, not to exploit their resources (as chess and competition is teaching us), not to step on others. This is a much higher motivational factor than the competition. I learn geography and history not just for better grades or to show others how much I know about other countries, but to become a better missionary one day, knowing better the background of other people, knowing their culture and the best ways to win them for Christ. And the same applies to any area on knowledge. Chess can not teach us these vital lessons of the Kingdom.
  • Can we really grow without competing with others? Jesus is an example that it is possible. Enoch, Elijah, Elisha, John the Baptist and so many others are examples of successful lives, a success measured with God’s standards. Heaven is not a place for lazy people, for self-sufficient people but for those who grow continually, who learn continually and share their knowledge with others. And all this growth is without compromise, without strategies from the darkness.
  • What you learn by playing chess can be also learned in much better and more innocent/blessed ways

Christian writers about playing chess

“There are amusements, such as dancing, card playing, chess, checkers, etc., which we cannot approve because Heaven condemns them. These amusements open the door for great evil. They are not beneficial in their tendency, but have an exciting influence, producing in some minds a passion for those plays which lead to gambling and dissipation. All such plays should be condemned by Christians, and something perfectly harmless should be substituted in their place.” EW, AH 498

“It began in the Sanitarium before Dr. Kellogg came into the institution. Persons who came there to board and room brought in chess playing and many other amusements. This was not right, and the Lord rebuked the management. Our Sanitariums are not to cater to the perverted tastes of worldly people. The same evils have existed in the Sanitarium on the hillside. A few years ago the managers made it more of a hotel than an institution for healing the sick.” EW, KC 143

About similar games:

“In the night season I was a witness to the performance that was carried on on the school grounds… The students who engaged in the grotesque mimicry that was seen, acted out the mind of the enemy, some in a very unbecoming manner. A view of things was presented before me in which the students were playing games of tennis and cricket. Then I was given instruction regarding the character of these amusements. They were presented to me as a species of idolatry, like the idols of the nations.
There were more than visible spectators on the ground. Satan and his angels were there, making impressions on human minds. Angels of God, who minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation, were also present, not to approve, but to disapprove. They were ashamed that such an exhibition should be given by the professed children of God. The forces of the enemy gained a decided victory, and God was dishonored. He who gave His life to refine, ennoble, and sanctify human beings was grieved at the performance.” EW, CT 350

Should Christians play chess? The choice belongs to each one of us, of course. We all have a very high call: to be God’s sons and daughters and to help as many as possible around us become sons and daughters of God.

Some more information about the topic of Recreation you can read on the page dedicated to Christian Recreation vs Worldly Amusements.


13 thoughts on “Should Christians Play Chess

  1. “The inventor of the game is not God and inspiration says that Heaven condemns it.”- The inventor of the internet is not God, the inventor of the state is not God, the inventor of paper is not God, the inventor of words are not God, the inventor of clothes are not God (In fact a product of sin in Genesis.)

    You say Chess has no value? It has helped me to figure out how to think ahead and while memorization is indeed important analysis of positions is equally since it would be impossible to remember every single possible position.

    “Like any other competitive sport, chess is war in miniature.” -Yes, but that is not a problem “The LORD is a warrior; The LORD is His name.” Exodus 15:3. Evil must be fought. Is not life a battle between good and evil? Within ourselves we fight evil everyday, a constant war for the entirety of our lives.

    “Chess is about memorizing hundreds and thousands of strategies and moves and using them to exploit the adversary’s bad moves. It is not so much about critical thinking, using your own mind to be creative. Memorization is specific to Catholic education which influenced massively the whole European education. This man-made religion encourages competition between students, they introduced the system of degrees. They have no interest to encourage critical thinking, self-determination. It’s good to have a good memory but it is not enough to be successful, even evaluated by the worldly standards.” -This contradicts itself at one point you mention that Chess is about memorizing things but then you go on to say that memorization is specific to Christian Education. Finally you say that memory is not enough. I find this interesting because when I took a class at a Christian school about the Bible all we did was “learn” terms. Also as I previously stated Chess is about more than memorization.

    You say Chess is not creative. This doesn’t make sense, if you memorize things they have to exist and therefore must have been CREATED by someone. Also memory doesn’t do you much good when you are in a position you have never been in before. While memorizing patterns helps you in chess the ability to think on your feet is just as if not more important.

    Furthermore if it does require you to memorize things then your mind will grow stronger and stay healthier, allowing you to live longer and have more time to do all those things which you claim to be wasted while playing Chess.

    • sorry for replying after a pretty long time
      i don’t say that chess has no value… but the benefits are too small compared with the damage…
      yes, evil must be fought but with different “weapons”.
      to me, Catholic education is not true Christian education. the catholic system is an antichrist system (this is what Bible prophecy says). memorization has its role, but the Catholic education makes it more important than critical thinking. true wisdom is not about memorization but about a deeper understanding of meaning, God’s voice and will. sadly you can’t find too many schools which can be called true Christian schools. the Catholic philosophy influenced the whole educational system in Europe and USA.
      if smb wants a stronger brain, a better capacity to memorize, memorization of Bible verses is more helpful than memorization of chess positions. i did play chess both with friends and at competition level… there are so many much better things to do in this very short life… and people around us have so many and so deep needs… God’s call for us is to use the time, every minute and every hour in the best possible way to grow spiritually and to be a blessing for others.
      if there is no God and if there is no call from Him for us, then playing chess is more than all right and far better than many other activities…
      i don’t mind to hear different views :-)
      may your life be abundantly blessed

  2. Hello and thank you for your insight. However, when living in this world don’t you think we should help spread the word through these activities. I was thinking of starting a website and calling it “Chessplayers for Christ”…..printing out shirts and then going to tournaments or other activities wearing the shirt and giving them to others. I think it’s awesome when you see professional athletes and other high profile people giving credit to the Lord for their accomplishments and living a Godly life. What are your views on this?

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I was very much in love not only with chess but with all sorts of sports (not just watching but playing myself). When we speak about evangelism, sharing the Gospel with others, we address them a call to come out of Babylon (Rev. 18:1-4). Hollywood and Sports have their roots in the pagan philosophy and lifestyle. The Bible is silent about both of them because for faithful people of God they were not part of their education, training, lifestyle. The apostles were champions of evangelism but they didn’t use the popular sports of the Greeks for evangelistic purposes (and this happened in a time when Greek culture infiltrated in the Jewish life – priests were running from the Temple to watch games organized in a stadium built by pagans in Jerusalem). The final conflict on this planet will be between two philosophies, symbolized by two cities: Athens (Babylon) vs Jerusalem. Apostasy came always in the form of a mixture: truth mixed with error, Bible mixed with philosophy and human traditions. This is how Catholic Church developed. The only safe path is to embrace only what the Bible recommends. Those high profile people you speak about take the name of Christ on their lips, and suggest by what they do that you can be both sons of God and do those things. In reality we can’t live in peace both with Satan and God, we can’t serve two masters. They may be honest in what they do but when they will have more knowledge, they will have to give up to what they do. I would encourage you to pray and fast and study the best ways to evangelize. John the Baptist did the same and his ministry was like an earthquake. We need sth similar now to shake the world. And it will happen. This will be the ministry of the third Elijah (Malachi 4).

  3. Hi and thanks for the insight on Chess.
    I personally believe that Chess is occultic and demonic. i believe that its roots are founded in demonology. i dont have a lot of proof about this except that my husband is addicted to the game and plays it for hours on his computer. everytime he is thoroughly engagaged in the game for days, i start to have demonic attacks in my dreams. i start to have some kind of “pressed down” feeling in my sleep. the kids also start to suffer from alot of nightmares. its as if it opens a door to some unseen evil.my husband is a christian but everytime he is engaging heavily in this game, his prayer life goes down to zero. he becomes very irritable and is constanly shouting at us.
    I have tried to explain to him but its only resulted in defensiveness and quarrels. i have since resorted to doing some research and that’s how i stumbled on this website. I know there is no reference in the bible to chess, but i am convinced its a very subtle satanic game created by the devil to capture peoples minds in some form of idol worship. let me know your thoughts.

    • thanks a lot for sharing with us your personal experience. i totally agree with what you say. i pray that your testimony will be a blessing for all those who will read it. may the Lord bless your husband as well to see the subtle dangers in playing chess. you have to continue to pray for him (i’m sure you do it), and we will do it as well (for all your family, sad to hear that the children suffer as well). try to find some other friends and pray together for your husband. it is a spiritual battle and it can’t be won easily. as i mentioned in the article, the Bible doesn’t speak about chess because the game appeared only in the 6th century after Christ (the Bible doesn’t speak about video games as well). but in the Bible we find principles (mentioned in the article as well) which can be applied to any kind of activity/game, including chess. chess is about war, about conquering, about supremacy, and these are not coming from God. continue to gather information, print it, share it with your husband and give him space and time to think about it and act. continue to arm yourself with God’s Word, find quiet time to hear His voice, keep your soul away from any evil and keep the children close to God. this is our only defense and chance to win.

  4. hello admin & readers,

    …i just recently stopped playing chess
    (that is, i played mostly online chess against humans)
    and i stopped because it always made me feel ANGRY when i lost
    and so REJOICING when i really beat the other
    both of which reactions i could clearly feel to be of Satanic origin,
    and that to indulge in these emotional reactions
    was clearly slowly perverting & marring my Character
    and furthering a satanic likeness in me,
    rather than that of Christ.

    but i kept justifying it in my mind
    with enough “good reasons”
    that i had cleverly devised for myself,
    such as being these following ones:

    - chess trains the mind,
    - challenges my thinking,
    - develops my intelligence,
    - let’s me practice strategic thinking & planning ahead
    - and helps me practice making
    quick & accurate decisions fast
    such as would be required especially in lightning/blitz chess.

    all of which i thought (and still think) are useful in life
    and in also the battle against Satan.

    but now after reading all these arguments against chess
    the weight of the evidence in my mind
    clearly became over-weighed unto the side of AGAINST chess,

    so that all the reasons with which i had up until now
    justify myself in still continuing to play chess,
    have now become far too greatly over-weighed
    with FAR more important reasons AGAINST it,
    of which chiefly i would like to note following:

    - chess NURTURES clearly satanic attributes in me
    (of being revengeful, liking to beat others, aggressiveness, self-defense,
    stress exposure to myself and stressing others actively,
    getting easily provoke-able & irritate-able during & after having played chess
    as if my shield of Christ became through chess totally lowered
    with actually me being conquered by demons slowly
    just as while i was trying to conquer my opponent in chess,
    furthering impatience,
    weakness exploitation,
    and esteeming myself better than the other
    rather than the other better than myself as the scripture says we should)

    - and whenever i beat someone,
    i always left the other person that lost against me
    feeling feeling worse off than me / bad / angry / like a looser / stupid and revenge seeking, so that i literally made myself better at the expense and cost of the weaker, and was thus actively engaged in leaving my opponents worse off, and laughing at them and rejoicing in me all the while while doing so,

    - it furthermore proved that whenever i was playing chess
    i was not engaged in any gospel-furthering activity,
    neither in any gospel-furthering recreation,
    but rather anti-christ (aka. devil-) furthering likeness in me and in the other,
    by which i thus was claiming to myself
    that i really had nothing possibly of better value possible to do,
    than play chess at that time, which is NOT true,
    because i certainly have better things i could do,
    and if i yet still consciously now were to choose
    to play chess above that better thing to do,
    i would be clearly getting doubly guilty
    for not going after my best possible option
    that is available to me.

    …so that i am now justified enough in my mind,
    to never start chess up again,
    because i got now far too many reasons
    in my CONSCIOUS mind AGAINST it
    than i had still had for it,
    and even which “good reasons” i had for it,
    i shall just simply find a more holier way
    to grow and challenge myself still
    in but a far more Christ-like way
    that comes without all of this baggage
    of all these negatives side-effects
    that have been mentioned above.

  5. I think that nearly all games have some demonic influence in them but we as human, we focus only on the entertaining part to notice anything else. I really appreciate Marko’s detailed experience which is exactly the same as mine when i was addicted to online action games especially first and third person shooter.

  6. Thank GOD I found this page. I am going to delete my chess game now. You guys are very very right. I used to think my Christian life is OK, just read the Bible and pray and fast. I hate worldliness, indecent dressing, sexual immorality. But I LOVED chess. I have always suspected there was something wrong with it, why is the queen more powerful than the king, why do the pieces move the way they move. You are very right @Marko, those were all my attributes, even in the church, I don’t like anyone getting ahead of me in anything, I like to stay up and put everyone down. I can’t bare anyone getting ahead of me. All these attributes are connected with the chess game it’s the truth. I play chess live online, I get angry after losing games, and feel very proud after winning and even feel like world best player, but I knew I something in me didn’t like it. As I read this post. I’m convinced immediately. I don’t need any special revelation from GOD. Again. It’s bye bye to chess forever now.

  7. World champion Vassily Smyslov said in an interview that he intuitively knew chess to be a demonic game.

    Another world champion Emmanuel Lasker said somewhere that chess is inherently a worthless pursuit.

    My impression is that the devotion chess demands is the demon in and of it.

  8. Thank you for this page. I am a Christian minister who currently plays chess online. My other hobby (if you will) on the internet is watching youtube videos that help my Spiritual growth in Christ. My experience matches the content of this page and many of the other shares. When I watch Christian/Spiritual videos (not to mention praying, studying scripture, etc.), I feel a deep connection with the Holy Spirit and His fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control). When I play chess games, I feel a seeming separation from the Spirit in the form of fear, anger, sadness, elation, anxiety, lack of self-control, all of which are dependent upon the circumstance or result of the game. Setting the mind on the Spirit is far better than setting the mind on chess openings, middle games, endgames, tactics, etc.

    This past week, our congregation saw 15 Christians publicly respond to the sermon asking for prayers. I could have spent my free time praying for those individuals over the past few days. Unfortunately, I have spent a lot of my free time playing chess. Pray for me to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness from this point forward. I pray that others who are ready will find this page and honestly ask themselves which activity is truly best for their lives…chess or bible reading, prayer, spiritual activities/practices, etc??? Deep down, I know that the best way for me to live is in humble contemplation of Christ, His glory, and His precious grace.

  9. Praise be to God for this timely (for me) revelations, i have been thinking hard about this game, when i play it on my phone against the computer it becomes so addictive, and that is the first sign of something wrong. i have deleted ll the apps on my phone, am going to throw away all the books and notes i have on chess including the big chess board i bought. i am blessed with your works here. brethren, please listen to this revelation, dont argue. would someone tell me more about soccer? shalom

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