The Three Benefits Of Chess
I’ve always loved chess. One of my first memories from high school was going to the science lab after class to sit in on a meeting of the chess club. Growing up I had played chess from time to time with my family but was never serious about it. The high school chess club didn’t change that. After a few weeks, I slowly phased chess club out of my after school activities. Even though I never continued to hone my skills, a fiery interest in the game stuck with me for years. I couldn’t shake it. It was always on my to-do list. In the past few years, I’ve finally gotten around to playing again, taking lessons online, and trying to improve. I’ve read about the history of chess and started thinking about the things I’ve learned from the game. These benefits apply to so much more than the game and can enhance your life. There are three main lessons to take from the game of chess: Think 3 moves ahead, protect your king, and understand the basics. Below I’ll go into a bit more detail on these three lessons.
Chess is a game of kings, scholars, and strategists. It has been used to train strategic minds for over 1500 years. It is a simple game to learn but requires dedication, focus, and sacrifice to master. At a glance, it is a simple board game that can entertain children and adults alike, but at its core is a complex representation of life. The earliest versions of Chess as we know it started in India, then moved to Persia, the Middle East, and Europe. The game has changed quite a bit throughout its history with the modern game formalizing somewhere around the 1500s.
Why has this game stuck around for so long? A short answer is that it is a fun game that trains the mind. A slightly longer answer is that it teaches decision making under pressure, provides strategic development for the mind, and is a form of competition that doesn’t need any athletic skill. Chess can provide a whole host of lessons to the player, the 3 most important from my view are:
Think 3 Moves Ahead
When it comes to the gameplay you will always be on the back foot if you just think one move at a time. “My opponent threatened me I will retaliate.” is not always the best move. You have to take into consideration what your opponent’s plan is, what the board looks like, and what your plan is. Are you being lured into a trap? Did your opponent leave you an opening for a killing blow? Perhaps you can capitalize on a rushed move on your opponent’s part. I am still very much a beginner in the world of chess, but it is crucial to think many moves ahead.
Just like in chess if you are only thinking of your life one move at a time you will always be a step behind. Without a vision, a plan, a goal you are going to be swept up in the sea of mediocrity that surrounds us. These modern times are no friend to a person trying to get ahead. Distractions unlike any in the history of the world sit in our pocket and can suck you into a void for hours at a time. When you think multiple steps ahead it’s easier to avoid the temptations of modern life. With a mission and a plan in mind procrastination is less likely to be an issue.
At Culture Carton we are trying to become Modern Apollos. We set up a review system that focuses on a 30,000 ft. view, a 10,000 ft. view, and a ground-level view. For us 30,000 ft. equates to an annual review where long term plans are discussed, the previous year’s wins and losses are analyzed, and plan out the next year. 10,000 ft. turns into quarterly reviews to make sure we are on track, and adjust accordingly. Ground-level is your daily plan. This is what works for us and we will be going into more detail on this system in the future.
Regardless of your style of planning, you need to have one. Just like in the game of chess you need to think 3 moves ahead. Predict your opponent’s moves, plan your own, and adjust accordingly.
Protect Your King
The King is the most important piece in a game of chess. The objective of the game is to topple your opponent’s king before they topple yours. Other pieces may be more powerful but you can survive without them. When you lose your king, you lose the game.
This is pretty straightforward. You must identify and protect your king in life. Whether this is a single fitness or business goal, or an overall life goal you must identify what is most important to you and protect it at all costs.
Set up systems and routines to protect your king at all costs. With a proper plan of attack you’ll not only be winning games of chess but the game of life.
Understand The Basics
In chess, the rules are consistent and relatively straightforward. There are some advanced rules and tactics that come into play as you get more advanced. Having a solid foundation of basic skills and movesets will do more for your game than fancy openings and gambits. With a firm grasp of the basics, you can then begin to recognize where and when a deviation is necessary. You can spot an opportunity or a trap and adapt as needed. Bruce Lee once said, “I don’t fear the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks, but the man who has practiced 1 kick 10,000 times.” This is the same with chess. Focus on learning the basics and get them down pat before moving forward in complexity.
Spending time learning the basics allows you to be flexible when you need to be while maintaining a strong foundation.
Picasso said, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist”. Just as in chess you want to understand fully the basics of what you are working towards. Across all disciplines, there are basic skillsets that apply. Internalize these and then adapt as needed. Fancy and complicated rarely beats simple and consistent. Put in the work to set a foundation for your skills that will outlast the latest trends. With that strong foundation, you can add variations as you deem them worthy, but only if it adds value to your life and goals.
The time it takes to learn the basics varies from skill to skill and person to person. But it doesn’t stop once you’ve internalized them. You always practice and refine those fundamentals. Then you add to your repertoire. You practice the end game, and openings, and scenarios in chess, and the same should apply to your real-life pursuits.
Chess is so much more than just a game. It is a tool for refining your mind, decision-making skills, and poise under pressure. It’s been played by kings, scholars, and philosophers for over 1000 years for a reason. By applying the 3 mindsets above you will not only get better at chess but be well on your way to becoming a Modern Apollo.
Since adding chess back into my routines my mind has become sharper, and more strategic. I’ve been following the steps talked about above and have been seeing a real difference. I hope you can do the same.
If you’re not already playing chess sign up for Chess.com or one of the many chess sites out there. If you’re a current Chess player let us know if these match up with your experiences. If you would like to see more chess-related content leave a comment below.