Can you play Chess on Shabbat?

The focus should be on Torah reading and so on, not on games. But I have also read that some Rabbis use to play Chess, some said it was because they where depressed. There where some rules against games that made noise and made wholes in the ground, this has nothing to do with Chess. On the other hand Chess is a wargame and you destroy, not rest, and so may not keep with shabbat. Today Chess is seen as a sport as well if that might be a problem.

There is a part of relaxing and joy that comes with Chess and is an important part of Shabbat. And you're not creating anything as far as I can see.


2 Answers 2


Chess on Shabbat is technically allowed but many note it would be better for adults to spend the day in Torah learning.

See for instance R Gil Student

You would be wrong to take for granted the permissibility of playing chess on Shabbos. The issues raised include: making sounds, conducting business, non-Shabbos behavior.

Apparently, on old chess boards, metal pieces that knocked into each other made musical sounds which might be considered forbidden on Shabbos. However, Shiltei Ha-Giborim (Rif, Eruvin 35b nos. 2-3) permits this because the players do not intend to make music with these sounds. The Rema (Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 338:5) follows the Shiltei Ha-Giborim. Note that the Magen Avraham (ad loc., no. 8) confirms that the Rema is discussing chess (but requires using a special Shabbos set).

The Magen Avraham quotes from a R. A. Sasson who argues that playing chess is similar to conducting business. He seems to mean that because chess was often played for money, even when you omit the prize the game is still forbidden because of its usual practice. However, the Rema rules that chess is only forbidden when you play for money.

Many argue that chess is simply not appropriate for Shabbos. For example, the Shemiras Shabbos Ke-Hilkhasah (16:34) dismisses all arguments to forbid chess. However, earlier in the chapter (16:1), he says that this only applies to children. Adults should spend the day in spiritual–religious–pleasure. Similarly, R. Moshe Feinstein (Iggeros Moshe, Yoreh De’ah 3:15:2) rules that chess is not technically forbidden but should be avoided because of ve-dabeir davar, by which I think he means that the game is not in the spirit of Shabbos.

See here from R Eliezer Melamed

Poskim disagree whether one may play games on Shabbat. Some say that since Shabbat is meant for Torah study, one may not play games, as that would be wasting time that could be used to study Torah. Accordingly, one may not play checkers, chess, backgammon, billiards, or any ball game, whether the games are played inside on the floor or outside on a paved area. And since one may not play these games, they are considered muktzeh as well (R. Aharon Sasson, cited in Birkei Yosef 338:1; Petaĥ Ha-devir ad loc. 4).

Others maintain that there is no prohibition on playing games on Shabbat, as long as nobody is playing for money (Rema 338:5; Ma’amar Mordechai). Indeed, some rabbis would play chess on Shabbat, as it is a game that requires thought and sharpens the mind (Shiltei Giborim).

In practice, it is appropriate for adults to be stringent and not play ball games, chess, and the like, both because it is prohibited according to some poskim and because one should not to get used to neglecting Torah study on Shabbat. Those who wish to be lenient have an opinion on which to rely (see SA 308:45; MA 338:5; MB ad loc. 21; Kaf Ha-ĥayim ad loc. 39). Children should also be trained to study Torah on Shabbat, but almost all poskim agree that one should not prevent them from playing games on Shabbat

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    Note that professional chess player, like Sammy Reshevsky would not play on Shabbos Reshevsky was a devout Orthodox Jew and would not play on the Jewish Sabbath; his games were scheduled accordingly.[5] since that was their profession and not a game. Commented Feb 10, 2018 at 23:59
  • Note that even weekdays are better spent learning Torah than not
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 11, 2018 at 3:43
  • Note that the Ya'ave"tz would specifically do things other than learning on Shabbat, since talmidei chachamim are apparently supposed to take the day off from learning (no idea what the source is) Commented Feb 11, 2018 at 4:41
  • @NoachMiFrankfurt Maybe he was basing himself on the Rema on O.C. 290:2, who says (translation from Peninei Halakha, which has more to say on the subject): "Working men who do not study Torah all week should study more Torah on Shabbat than scholars, who study Torah all week. Torah scholars should indulge themselves a bit with the pleasure of eating and drinking, since they take pleasure in their learning all week".
    – Tamir Evan
    Commented Feb 11, 2018 at 17:39

In addition to the previous answer, there is another consideration. I believe Rav Moshe Feinstein (I think this is in Igrot Moshe) noted that there are people who get very upset when they lose a game of chess. Such people shouldn't play on Shabbat to avoid experiencing emotional distress on Shabbat.


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