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[[quoteright:300:[[ComicBook/TheJoker http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/fa144a1367b9e95d59e9f37a149eb111.png]]]]

->''"Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do."''
-->-- '''Creator/GKChesterton'''

Many writers view TabletopGame/{{chess}} players as not just [[SmartPeoplePlayChess brilliant]], but also mad as a hatter. As a result, this trope shows up in various works featuring chess or similar games such as TabletopGame/{{go}}. Expect rants about conspiracies against the player, bizarre and borderline-OCD match behavior (such as demanding that spectators be seated in a symmetrical manner around the board, or throwing out people whose watches are ticking a bit too noticeably), and, in some cases, violent rage (culminating in [[RageQuit flipping the board]]) or total depression. Expect someone to proclaim at one point that 'It's only a game!', and more often than not, the madman will disagree.

There are a few different reasons for this trope. Some writers may genuinely believe it, or may be alluding to specific RealLife players who were known for being a bit off. Others may be trying to develop AnAesop about the dangers of obsessions; the mad player in this case is almost always someone who spends almost all their time in isolation studying the game. There could also be anti-intellectual messages; if [[SmartPeoplePlayChess smart people play chess]] and chess players are nuts, then smart people in general must be crazy.

TropesAreNotBad, of course; if the portrayal is CrazyAwesome, then no harm done.

Expect the effect to be [[UpToEleven greatly intensified]] when certain chess variants are played instead, such as 3D chess, chess with a round board, chess with many new pieces, chess where you can't see your opponents pieces, 4-player chess, and even chess with random (and shifting) rules.



[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* ''Anime/CowboyBebop''[='=]s 14th episode, entitled "Bohemian Rhapsody", contains a chess game between an old senile chess master and {{Cloudcuckoolander}} Ed. The game is played over the internet and lasts for days until the chess master wins, and subsequently dies. Overlaps with SmartPeoplePlayChess, as this old senile chess master [[spoiler:planned, decades in advance, for several spaceship warp gates to explode out of revenge for the company he worked for at the time that supervised the project.]]
* Mao in ''Anime/CodeGeass'' is crazy enough that he rigs a bomb to detonate and kill [[spoiler:Nunally]] if he wins, in order to force Lelouch to play him. Subverted (or perhaps reinforced) in that he doesn't actually know how to play chess except by [[spoiler:reading Lelouch's mind]].
* Ami in ''Anime/SailorMoon'' plays an opponent, Berthier, who is such a lunatic that she freezes different parts of Ami's body as Ami loses her pieces. Granted, Berthier was going through a DespairEventHorizon, thinking she was worthless and preparing to die. She eventually {{Heel Face Turn}}s and loses the 'crazy' part.
* ''LightNovel/{{Durarara}}'''s Izaya doesn't just play chess. He plays chess-reversi-cards-alcohol-matches. And he is definitely crazy.
* ''Manga/PandoraHearts'' has [[TortureTechnician Vincent]], though his crazy and chess-playing don't overlap.

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* ComicBook/TheJoker is a brilliant chess player able to consistently beat ComicBook/RasAlGhul, Batman's oldest (as in, the most long-lived in-universe) and most strategically sound foe, at chess.

[[folder:Comic Strips]]
* In one ''ComicStrip/FoxTrot'' strip, Jason and Marcus combine chess with ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons''. ("As if regular chess isn't nerdy enough," sighs Paige.)

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* In ''Film/X2XMenUnited'', Magneto and Professor X play chess at the end.
* ''Film/{{Brainwashed}}'', based on the novel ''The Royal Game''.
* ''Film/GreenLantern'' -- Hector Hammond, soon to be infused with yellow fear energy, is first seen playing chess against a computer.
* The main character in ''Film/KnightMoves'', a chess grandmaster, spends a lot of time as a patient in asylums.
* ''Film/TwoThousandOneASpaceOdyssey'': A GeniusBonus for chess enthusiasts is found in the game that HAL 9000 and Poole play; although HAL predicts mate, there's actually a way for Poole to avoid it. A subtle hint at HAL's error-prone nature...
* In ''Film/SherlockHolmesAGameOfShadows'', an epic chess match between Holmes and the main antagonist serves as both the climax and a representation for the entire movie's events. It should also be mentioned that both of them were not using a chess board and playing throughout portions of the match.
* ''Film/PawnSacrifice'' is a biopic about Bobby Fischer (cf. RealLife below), focusing on the [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Chess_Championship_1972 World Chess Championship 1972]] and Fischer growing more and more insane.
* ''Film/SearchingForBobbyFischer'': There are some creepy weirdos at the chess club that Josh goes to. Part of the goal of the Waitzkin family is to make sure Josh doesn't turn out like them.

* ''Literature/ThroughTheLookingGlass'', the sequel to ''Literature/AlicesAdventuresInWonderland'', features a chess-crazed Looking-Glass World. Wonderland, of course, is populated mostly by those who are as mad as hatters.
* Famously, in Creator/VladimirNabokov's ''Literature/TheDefense'', the chess grandmaster is so tormented that his whole life disintegrates. Even when he resolves to abandon chess for the sake of his sanity, he finds that he can't. The protagonist, Luzhin, is based on the real chess player (and nut) Curt von Bardeleben.
* ''Literature/LosVoraces2019'' is about a $20,000,000 tournament in the future. A good chunk of the players are... a bit odd. And then there's the serial killer.
* In StefanZweig's ''Literature/TheRoyalGame'', the trope is played with. Chess at first saves the main character's sanity, as all he has to relieve his boredom after being imprisoned is a book of chess games. But once he memorizes the book, he becomes a complete lunatic who has split himself into two personalities, Black and White, in order to play games against himself.
* In ''Literature/TheEight'', one of the minor chess players is like this. When he captures a piece, he demands that a spectator be thrown out so that the room remains 'symmetrical'.
* In ''Literature/TheQueensGambit'', the main character is driven so mad by chess that she becomes a pill addict.
* ''Literature/{{Zugzwang}}'', by Ronan Bennett, features a chess master named Rozental who begins the story on the verge of a complete mental breakdown.
* "Quarantine", a drabble by Creator/ArthurCClarke. Aliens reach earth, and their computers determine that chess will so utterly derange them that the only solution is to blow up the planet.
* ''Literature/UnsoundVariations'', by Creator/GeorgeRRMartin. A guy botches a chess tournament and is scorned by his team. So he invents a time machine to go back in time and ruin their lives.
* In a Kurt Vonnegut short story, 16 Americans (including an officer and his family) are captured by a Southeast Asian warlord who lives in a old palace with a people sized chessboard. He's fascinated by the fact that he has these people who he hates and forces them into a game of living chess. The American leader (who admits he's only a fair player) must be the King, but he can put the others anywhere he wants. He makes his wife the Queen, his two small boys the Bishops and the rest as the other pieces. The rules are simple. When the American takes a piece it is removed from the board. When one of the Americans is "taken", he is immediately removed and shot. The American officer is rattled by the first players he has lost but also because he realizes the warlord is not really playing to win, but to take and kill as many people as he can. Then he sees that the warlord's erratic playing has left him vulnerable and he can be tricked into a game losing error - but only if he can get him to move his Queen. To do that he pretends to make a mistake and moves one of his sons into the fatal square. [[spoiler: The boy is "taken" but before he can be shot a sympathetic concubine kills the warlord. The warlord's Russian advisor takes over and allows any taken pieces to live until the game is over. He loses and spares the surviving Americans. In a TV version, it takes place in South or Central America and no one is killed, although they are taken away and a shot fired each time.]]
* In the MordantsNeed novels checkers (this world doesn't have chess) is used to show the King's disconnect with reality. The kingdom falls apart while King Joyse obsesses over games with his mad adviser Adept Havelock, struggles to grasp his land's predicament with checkers analogies, and even goes out of his way to humiliate a powerful foreign prince for not knowing how to play the game.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* ''Series/{{Endgame}}'' is about a chess grandmaster who becomes a {{hikikomori}} and cannot leave his hotel due to paralyzing fear.
* ''Series/LawAndOrderCriminalIntent'' used a mentally damaged chess expert as a villain in one episode.
* In one episode of ''Series/{{Leverage}}'', Ford has to play in a speed-chess tournament. His opponents include a guy who sleeps through the whole match and only wakes up in brief spurts to move. He still is trouncing Ford until Sophie intervenes.
* ''Series/TheCape'' features a {{supervillain}} with multiple personalities. One such personality is called Chess, and he's a sociopathic lunatic who speaks in chess metaphors and has contact lenses that make his eyes look like chess pieces.
* Windom Earle from ''Series/TwinPeaks'' plays chess, when he isn't murdering people and stuffing them in paper-mache pawns.
* ''Series/CriminalMinds'' had Caleb Rossmore, a chess champion [=UnSub=] who copycatted the Zodiac killer.
* "Mr. Series/{{Monk}} and the Genius" had Monk butting heads with a chess Grandmaster/[[TheBluebeard serial wife murderer]].
* Unsurprisingly, [[Series/DoctorWho The Doctor]] plays a game called "[[ElectricTorture Live Chess]]" with electrified chess pieces. With voltage that climbs, sometimes up to over ''four million volts'' just to '''move''' a piece. [[UpToEleven Really crazy people play crazy chess.]]
* ''Series/MidsomerMurders'': "The Sicilian Defence" revolves around a chess tournament and a computer chess game. As it takes place in Midsomer, needless to say there are more than a few unbalanced personalities involved. The killer leaves chess notations in the pockets of the victims.
* ''Series/NewTricks'': In "The English Defence", UCOS investigates the cold murder of a freelance translator who was a chess master. When it starts to look like it may have been chess that got her killed, they start to look at her rivals. One was a physicist with a genius IQ who lost multiple games to her and became obsessed with defeating her. He finally defeated her in the last match she played before her murder. When the team reveal he cheated in this game, he suffers a complete breakdown.

* {{Implied}} in the album art for the radio edit of Music/PoetsOfTheFall's "[[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UX9UaCd_qI Drama for Life]]," which features a red king piece, and more explicitly [[https://www.facebook.com/poetsofthefall/photos/a.355174507895.159085.7555982895/10153815279552896/?type=3&theater detailed]] in promotional materials for the song itself. The song's subject is a BattleInTheCenterOfTheMind between the singer and his agitated, MadArtist GhostInTheMachine, described by WordOfGod as a game of chess.

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* One ''TabletopGame/VampireTheMasquerade'' scenario involves a series of mysterious murders. The people behind it are bored, evil chess players who are using henchmen as pawns and killing them off when their corresponding pawn gets captured.
* In the first setting of the ''Vortex of Madness'' module of 2nd Edition ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons'', which is also the FramingDevice, the [=PCs=] come across a room with a giant mobile chess set and an unusually talkative iron golem, who refers to them as "Baron" and itself as "General". They'll likely assume they have to play chess with it, but if they do, the golem is unsatisfied with the result (even if it wins) and demands a rematch. Eventually, the players are going to lose patience [[CuttingTheKnot and try fighting it]] (well, if they ''don't'' they'll be stuck playing chess forever) and if they do, it obliges, its chess pieces supporting it and the [=PC=]'s pieces siding with them; if beaten, the golem finally yields to them before falling apart. (The point? The whole complex is an interpretation of the life of Baron Lum the Mad, who is being held prisoner by [[ArtifactOfDoom his terrible Machine]], which is almost as insane. This particular room is the Machine's interpretation of the final battler between Lum and his traitorous General Leuk-O, which ended inconclusively.)

* Freddie Trumper in ''Theatre/{{Chess}}''. In some versions of the play, including the official one, his anti-Soviet rantings at a press conference convince the press as well as most of the Russians that Freddie is delusional. In the Broadway version, he gets worse, with Florence angering him to the point where he goes through a drawn-out breakdown while filming a TV interview.
** Trumper may be based on RealLife World Champion (and nut) Bobby Fisher.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* In ''VideoGame/AmericanMcGeesAlice'', the main character, Alice, starts the game in an insane asylum. She also has to play some chess as she moves through the game, even turning into different pieces at some points.
* ''VideoGame/TheWitcher3WildHunt'' has King Radovid V, an increasingly paranoid despot obsessed with chess and [[BurntheWitch hunting sorceresses]]. Fittingly, the first place you meet him is at a chess club where he explains his passion for the game.
* The completely loony Queen from ''VideoGame/{{Headlander}}'' runs... she started with chess, but her Grid Clash is now just a chess-themed gladiatorial arena in which the patterns of fired lasers imitate the movements of the "firing" piece.

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* Billy Thatcher in ''[[Webcomic/{{Morphe}} morphE]]'' is a chess grandmaster who has some inspiration drawn from Bobby Fischer. His behavior is narcissistic, paranoid and obsessive. He is, however, brilliant.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* The Sewer King in ''WesternAnimation/HeyArnold'', despite liking chess, is '''horrible''' at playing; Arnold beats him in a few moves seven times in a row. He admits having only rats to practice with...
** He should have played Fred Fertig then...[[note]]Any German chess kid will understand this gag, for the [[DontExplainTheJoke rest]]: Fred is a rat and chess trainer from "Fritz und Fertig", a German chess edutainment game. [[/note]]

[[folder:Real Life]]
* Several famous chess world champions and top players:
** Wilhelm Steinitz, the 1st world champion. Had a mental breakdown and was institutionalized. Allegedly tried to challenge God to a chess match, and believed himself to have telekinesis (only for chess pieces) as well as something like a wireless phone, over a hundred years before the latter existed.
** Bobby Fischer, the 11th world champion. The man who took down the Soviet chess machine. Also a raving anti-Semite ([[BoomerangBigot in spite of his Jewish ancestry]]) and ConspiracyTheorist who thought that the Soviets (and later, the Jews) were trying to assassinate him or at least screw up his games, and all-around nutjob. [[BasedOnAGreatBigLie Rumor has it]] that Fischer and his opponent Spassky hated each other so much that the championship organizers had to put a board under the chess table to stop them from kicking each other between moves. Various psychological profiles, including one by the [=KGB=], concluded that Fischer was a certifiable [[TheSociopath psychopath]].
** Akiba Rubinstein. Another famous player who was among the first of the endgame experts. His schizophrenia became so bad that, at one point, he would leave the chess table and literally go curl up in a corner and try to hide while his opponent was considering his next move.
** Carlos Torre-Repetto, a somewhat obscure player who was still able to beat Emmanual Lasker (2nd world champion). One day, while on a bus, he decided to strip completely naked for no apparent reason. On another occasion, he stripped and ran down a busy public street. He was eventually institutionalized.
** Aron Nimzowitch, another famous chess player who revolutionized the game. Would occasionally stand on his head during matches, claiming it helped him think. Unlike Fischer, his paranoia didn't extend to thinking that people were trying to kill him or ruin his games; he did, however, believe that restaurant chefs were conspiring to give him less food than everyone else.
** Henry Pillsbury, who won the 1895 Hastings tournament (a tournament of the elite players of the era. Both Steinitz and Em. Lasker were there). In a fit of insanity, he attempted to leap from a 4th floor hospital window. The syphilis that killed him is also commonly thought to have induced a mental breakdown.
** Raymond Weinstein, an International Master who had beaten noted players Reshevsky and Benko, was deported after assaulting a man, then institutionalized after killing another. He plead insanity and was sent to a psych ward. After he'd been in a psychiatric hospital for some time, he requested a transfer, because he was able to beat any of the other inmates in his own asylum at chess.
** Curt von Bardeleben, a lawyer and player who beat Mieses and Lasker and (famously) lost to Steinitz at the 1895 Hastings tournament. Years later, he died when he threw himself from a high window.
** Creator/AleisterCrowley, himself a good example of this trope, at one point had the ambition of becoming chess grandmaster, until [[http://hermetic.com/crowley/confessions/chapter16.html he saw some leading chess players up close]]: 'I saw the masters --- one, shabby, snuffy and blear-eyed; another, in badly fitting would-be respectable shoddy; a third, a mere parody of humanity, and so on for the rest. These were the people to whose ranks I was seeking admission. "There, but for the grace of God, goes Aleister Crowley," I exclaimed to myself with disgust, and there and then I registered a vow never to play another serious game of chess.' He did, however, play some decidedly non-serious games. He was particularly noted for his unusual variant on "blindfold chess" - he would disappear into a bedroom with his current girlfriend and call out his moves through a closed door while they were presumably... [[CoitusUninterruptus engaged in an activity not traditionally associated with chess.]]
** Retired Russian chess champion Garry Kasparov is a famous supporter of a pseudohistorical "theory" known as ''[[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Chronology_(Fomenko) New Chronology]]'', which basically explains that events attributed to civilizations of Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece or Ancient Rome are a forgery reflecting similar events from Middle Ages.
* Then again, there were also some amateur players who were just as nuts:
** Alexander Pichushkin, who tried to kill sixty-four people (and did kill fifty-two), one per square on the chessboard. He was a casual player, who often enjoyed his matches in the same park where he buried his victims.
** Claude Bloodgood. Sent to jail for murdering his mother, he played thousands of correspondence games and games with other inmates. He also wrote a book on the Grob opening (1. g4). He was even given a furlough to go play in a chess tournament (he attempted to escape and was hauled back to prison).
** A chess team from Bethlem Mental Asylum (the place that gave us the word "[[BedlamHouse bedlam]]") once defeated a team from Harvard University.
->''No chess grandmaster is normal; they only differ in the extent of their madness.''
-->-- '''Viktor Korchnoi''', grandmaster