Rebbe Joseph Yitzchak Schneersohn and his son – in – law, the seventh and last Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, playing chess on Nittelnacht.
Tonight, 24th December 2015 (11 / 12 Tevet), the Christian world starts celebrating the birth of the false Meshiach J. This particular night when J. was supposed to be born, Chassidim call “NITTEL NACHT – NITTEL NIGHT” and keep the custom of not studying Torah from approx. 7pm until midnight. The time when J. was born. See also the “Shulchan Aruch” or the Chatam Sofer on this topic.
Most chassidic groups keep the custom of Nittel Nacht and many of them treat this matter very seriously. For instance, the Lubavitcher (Chabad) where the Chassidim play chess until midnight.
Kabbalistically speaking, the false Meshiach J. and his followers may gain special spiritual powers by our Torah studies – according to the 5th Lubavitcher Rebbe Shalom Dov Baer (Rashab), 1860 – 1920. The Rebbe said that we shouldn’t waste our time when we don’t study Torah but play chess.
Nevertheless, not all chassidic group keep the “chess custom”; such as Vishnitz. However, chess is having a positive influence on our intellect similar to Torah study.
Details about Nittel Nacht and its history “Hirhurim“.