Why Blitz Chess is addictive – Dopamine effect of Chess Blitz

Why Blitz Chess is addictive –  Dopamine effect of Chess Blitz

Have you ever wondered Why Blitz Chess is addictive ? Especially online Blitz and Bullet time controls? Maybe Neuroscience has an answer and can explain why Blitz Chess is addictive as any online player will testify.

Why Blitz Chess is addictiveAnd it has to do with a chemical called Dopamine.

Suggested read – Meet Your Happy Chemicals: Dopamine, Endorphin, Oxytocin, Serotonin by Loretta Graziano Breuning

Our brain records all pleasure experiences, whether they are coming from a soothing music, a good book, a mind stimulant drug, a cash reward, a tasty meal, or playing blitz or bullet chess. Blitz chess is that form of chess wherein each player has to complete the game in a time control of maximum 30 minutes or minimum 5 minutes. Bullet Chess is even faster and has a time control of lesser than 5 minutes.

Technically speaking, in the brain, pleasure has a distinct place called Nucleus Accumbens. Pleasure sensations cause the brain to release the neurotransmitter Dopamine in the Nucleus Accumbens, a group of nerve cells lying beneath the cerebral cortex . This is where the Dopamine release happens whenever we have a pleasurable experience.

Hence neuroscientists refer to the region as the brain’s pleasure center.

Most of the intoxicants such as the famous nicotine to the infamous heroin, and blitz chess (surprise surprise!) cause a particularly powerful release of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens.

Addictive drugs and Blitz Chess therefore provide a direct link to the brain’s reward system by providing the nucleus Accumbens with dopamine.

Read about Brain stimulation reward (BSR)

The Hippocampus creates memories of this rapid satisfaction dose, and the Amygdala creates a conditioned response to certain stimuli akin to the Pavlovian response.

So don’t be surprised when your mind craves for a blitz or two. It’s just asking for a good cup of coffee!

The effect increases manifold, the more you play – so Bullet chess is worse than Blitz because you get a dopamine dose every couple of minutes whereas a Blitz game usually lasts 10 or 20 minutes.


Suggestion: Play Blitz but don’t overdo it.

And don’t play Bullet too often either. Lest you may lose its educative aspect and get a high instead. Remember that too much of Bullet Chess or Blitz Chess may cause Adrenaline peaks that may not be good for everyone (may cause headaches for some).

Bullet doesn’t help much in understanding the strategic nuances of the game. But it helps building a pattern recognition base leading to better intuition, and to get a light feel of the opening. So all is not bad in the case of the Blitz Chess addiction.

After reading this article you will hopefully understand Why Blitz Chess is addictive and how to use it in moderation to help in your chess training.


Further suggested reading from the Editor:

Meet Your Happy Chemicals: Dopamine, Endorphin, Oxytocin, Serotonin by Loretta Graziano Breuning

The Winner Effect: The Neuroscience of Success and Failure

35 Tips for a Happy Brain: How to Boost Your Oxytocin, Dopamine, Endorphins, and Serotonin (Brain Power, Brain Function, Boost Endorphins, Brain Science, Brain Exercise, Train Your Brain) by V. Noot

Habits of a Happy Brain: Retrain Your Brain to Boost Your Serotonin, Dopamine, Oxytocin, & Endorphin Levels by Loretta Graziano Breuning


The author Dr. C. P Jain is a psychologist and a chess aficionado. She lives in Jaipur and likes to play online occasionally when she finds time amidst 2 kids and family.

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