Nov 18 2009

Chessplayers Head Explodes: Could you be next?

Fireworks by hern24


In short, no. Many chessplayers will have seen this, or a similar report.

This one comes via ABC Homeopathy Forum:

Dear Mr.Organon,
I recently had a case of HCE (Hyper-Cerebral Electrosis), were I was ask to give my opinion, however, I thought that maybe a good homeopathic Guru like you could help us further, Not to long ago I was invited in what I call one of my most bizarre consultations, nevertheless, the condition of HCE was unknown to me until recently, when I met with some doctors, who were blaming a rare electrical imbalance in the brain for the bizarre death of a chess player whose head literally exploded in the middle of a championship game.
No one else was hurt in the fatal explosion, but four players and three officials at the Moscow Candidate Masters’ Chess Championships were sprayed with blood and brain matter when Nikolai Titov’s head suddenly blew apart. Experts say he suffered from a condition called Hyper-Cerebral Electrosis, or HCE.
The investigation report said “He was deep in concentration with his eyes focused on the board,” according to a detailed interview from Titov’s opponent, Vladimir Dobrynin. “Suddenly his hands flew to his temples and he screamed in pain. Then, as if someone had put a bomb in his cranium, his head popped like a firecracker.”
I did some research and to my surprise, Titiov’s is not the first case in which a person’s head has spontaneously exploded. Five people are known to have died of HCE in the last 25 years. The most recent death occurred in 1991, when European psychic Barbara Nicole’s skull burst. Miss Nicole’s story was reported by newspapers worldwide.
“HCE is an extremely rare physical imbalance,” So I was told by Dr. Anatoly Martinenko, a famed neurologist and expert on the human brain he was curious to find out if Homeopathy could come up with something, nonetheless Dr. Anatoly Martinenko who performed the autopsy on the brilliant chess expert, was convinced; “It is a condition in which the circuits of the brain become overloaded by the body’s own electricity. The explosions happen during periods of intense mental activity when current is surging through the brain. Victims are intelligent people with great powers of concentration. Both Ms. Nicole and Mr. Titov were intense people who tended to keep their cerebral circuits overloaded. They were literally too smart for their own good.”
Although Dr. Martinenko says there are probably many undiagnosed cases, he hastens to add that very few people will die from HCE. “Most people who have the condition never realize it. Medical science still doesn’t know much about HCE, and since fatalities are so rare, it will be years before research money becomes available.” In the meantime, as advice and goodwill to you I urge you to take it easy and not think too hard for long periods of time.
In case you want to know how to tell if Your Head’s About To Explode
Although HCE is very rare, it can kill. It most be said that being aware of the condition can greatly improve your odds of surviving it. A yes answer to any three of the following seven questions could mean that you have HCE:
1. Does your head sometimes ache when you think too hard? Head pain can indicate overloaded brain circuits.
2. Do you ever hear a faint ringing or humming sound in your ears? It could be the sound of electrical activity in the skull cavity.
3. Do you sometimes find yourself unable to get a thought out of your head? This is a sign of too much electrical activity in the cerebral cortex.
4. Do you spend more than five hours a day reading, balancing your checkbook, or other thoughtful activity? A common symptom of HCE is a tendency to over-use the brain.
5. When you get angry or frustrated, do you feel pressure in your temples? Friends of people who died of HCE say the victims often complained of head pressure in times of strong emotion.
6. Do you overeat ice cream, doughnuts and other sweets? A craving for sugar is typical of people with too much electrical pressure in the cranium.
7. Do you tend to analyze yourself too much? HCE sufferers are often introspective, over-reflective of their lives.
I hope all is in good order and awaiting your remedies


This meme has proved remarkably durable and it is an interesting question as to why this is so, but we will not delve into that for now. Suffice it to say that the report has no basis in fact or in physics. The brain operates at microwattages far to small to cause such an event. The admirable Snopes website gives the lie to this rumour:

In general, Snopes is a good place to check the next time you hear an incredibly unlikely story, be it connected to chess or anything else.

Image credit: hern24 at Flickr.