Updated: Jun 25
“The game of chess is not merely an idle amusement. Several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired or strengthened by it… Life is a kind of chess, in which we have often points to gain, and competitors or adversaries to contend with.” -Benjamin Franklin
Board games have become widely popular in recent times despite the rapid advancements in virtual technology. Mass adoption of virtual reality and simulations, A.I., cloud-based streaming, and virtual communication platforms have given society the ability to interact without physical human interaction. Virtual meetings and shared document boards provide opportunities for remote work while digital downloads and cloud-based streaming have removed the requirement for in store purchasing. Board games have provided hundreds of years of human interaction and chess has proven to be one of the best for its personal development mechanics.
Chess was adapted by Persian nobility and integrated as part of their education standards. Rightfully so as it teaches not only strategy but molds a mind into a disciplined thinker, one who must take full responsibility of actions in order to win. Traits learned from the constant playing of chess are the very skills required to become a successful person.
Chess players, unlike those who play other games, do not rely on blind luck such as a dice roll, or the randomness of a card draw; but solely win as a result of the mastery and discipline of important key traits. Until the player understands what being the "king" entails, unlocking the full potential of gameplay, in parallel the exploits of life, will never be achieved. Knowing who you are and what you're capable of accomplishing, will empower you to prioritize your personal strategy in order to conquer life's greatest challenges.
“For in the idea of chess and the development of the chess mind we have a picture of the intellectual struggle of mankind.” -Richard Réti
Here are a few examples of those parallels.
Firstly, as a player, you must begin the game by developing a plan of action to gain the advantage over your opponent. All moves are deliberate and purposeful, therefore, if the king is put in checkmate, then prior tactics were based on poor planning and the lack of situational understanding. Likewise, life should be deliberate and planned with a purpose; when outcomes are undesired, all responsibility lies with the individual and chess teaches us this form of accountability.
Secondly, placing the king in the best possible position for survival is key, however, the king can only move one square at a time. Life is methodical, you need a well thought out plan to position yourself in the best possible path to achieve your desired goal while mitigating loss. Goals are oftentimes accomplished through recurring practice or by "one square at a time".
Chess is a thinker's game with a balance between defense and offense through the mastery of self-control, strategy, and aggressive action. Heavy on the defense and the opponent will whittle your pieces away until there is nothing left. Checkmate. Be overly aggressive and your king will become vulnerable to attacks. Checkmate. Similarly in life, reservation and the lack of action are qualities that are taken as weakness while overly aggressive behavior and arrogance is seen as tyrannical and narcissistic. Having control over your emotions and behavior prevents you from putting yourself in vulnerable positions in life.
There is a reason that the king can only move one space at a time and the queen can traverse around the entire board attacking in all directions. With the queen being the most powerful piece on the board, you have a sense of responsibility for safeguarding her at all costs. So much so that losing her can cause you to resign the game as the disadvantage may be too great. Comparably, you have the responsibility and duty to protect those who are important and impactful in your life.
Most chess matches involve some sort of sacrifice to gain an advantage over an opponent. Sacrificing a pawn to ultimately attack and capture a stronger piece is a great trade in the grand scheme of the game. Life is full of sacrifice whether it be time away from family or exclusion of recreational experiences in order to take part in activities for development in personal, educational, and professional exploits.
A board game mechanic that involves luck with dice, a spinning wheel, or shuffled cards always give the player the ability to blame the mechanics of the game when suffering from a loss rather than taking responsibility for actions taken during gameplay. Chess is a game of purposeful thinking and foresight with self-control and knowledge being the foundation for developing a strategy through adaptable tactics. When a game is won or lost, only the decisions acted upon throughout the match can be responsible for the outcome. Similarly, all actions taken in life can be reflected and traced as the reasons behind the successes and failures. There are strong benefits to self-accountability and reflection as chess outlines your successes and failures so improvement can ensue, likewise, the constant understanding of outcomes in life ensures advancement in the long term.
“You need to have that edge, you need to have that confidence, you need to have that absolute belief that you’re – you’re the best and you’ll win every time.”
The parallels between chess and life are extensive, but I want to leave you with this last thought. No longer is this game a perk of nobility but a game for all to master regardless of social or economic standing. It teaches its players that persistence, hard work, accountability, sacrifice, and self-control are fundamental for success.
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