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Coriat, I.C. (1941). The Unconscious Motives of Interest in Chess. Psychoanal. Rev., 28(1):30-36.

(1941). Psychoanalytic Review, 28(1):30-36

The Unconscious Motives of Interest in Chess

Isador C. Coriat, M.D.

“The King immediately fell flat on his back and lay perfectly still.”

Lewis Carroll—“Through the Looking Glass.”

In a paper by Jones on the psychoanalysis of chess, several interesting features were elucidated which it has been possible to confirm by analytic material in this communication. The chief points of Jones’ paper may be summarized as follows. (The unconscious motive which actuates chess players is not the pugnacity which characterizes competitive games, but the grimmer one of father-murder. The King is not actually captured, as was customary in the original purpose of earlier games, but the goal of modern chess is “sterilizing him into immobility.” The game is preëminently of an anal-sadistic nature and so gratifies the aggressive aspects of the antagonism between father and son; its unconscious motivation is the symbolic expression of a “wish to overcome the father in an acceptable way.” Jones therefore summarizes the analytic conclusions of his paper by stating that the (game of chess is a disguised method of gratifying hostile (parricidal) impulses.; Pfister has referred to chess as a compulsion-neurotic reaction; its deeper psychological motives being those of the struggle of a Hamlet on the chess board.)

The material on which this paper is based appeared during the analyses of several individuals, all of whom were chess players of varying degrees of ability. Its purpose is to reconstruct and interpret the unconscious motives of the game. Clinically the players showed the symptomatology of psychoneurotic reactions, personality disorders and character neuroses with predominant anal-sadistic traits. The chess material emerged during other analytic work and its unconscious

Based on a paper read before the Boston Psychoanalytic Society, Oct. 12, 1937.

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