The New Yorker recently ran an interesting article on a chess teacher that described the game's association with "obsessiveness and insanity." I had no idea this was the case, but apparently there are several fictional and nonfictional accounts of chess players whose dedication to the game has swung them over the deep end. The article's author, Paul Hoffman, gave a few choice real-life examples:
Paul Morphy, an American player who was considered the best in the world, withdrew from tournament chess at the peak of his career, in 1859, and spent his days arranging women's shoes in a half-circle in his bedroom, pacing on his veranda, and muttering in French, 'He will plant the banner of Castile on the walls of Madrid, with the cry "The city is taken," and the little king will go away utterly shamefaced.' He is not the only champion known for his eccentricity: Bobby Fischer, the sole American to win the world title, in 1972, reportedly had the filings in his teeth removed for fear that they might be receiving radio messages beamed by his enemies. Wilhelm Steinitz, a late-nineteenth-century world champion, claimed to have beaten God in spite of having graciously given Him the the advantage of the first move and having played without one of his pawns.
I guess this means I should pass on the new Handspring Visor chess module. Actually, I've recently downloaded an excellent Mac freeware chess program. However, I'm a long way from becoming a good enough player to become obsessed; I keep losing because I get the king and queen pieces confused.