Chess and life lessons

6 min readMay 31, 2021

Fun fact: You could have seen the title “Chess and life lessons” thousands of years ago written on a papyrus somewhere around the world. This is very impressive because both the world and chess apparently existed before Netflix’s Original TheQueen’s Gambit

As a matter of fact, the history of chess can be traced back nearly 1500 years!

Fast forward to 2021 and people are still trying to understand all its rules. They are also inspired to leave behind a brutal lockdown and become better. Can chess really teach you anything or you are about to read a bunch of pretentious parallels between chess and life for the next few minutes?

Well, both.

1. Tactical thinking

Playing a lot of Chess highly affects your worldview. Every move (should) have a purpose and a single mistake can lead to enormous problems down the road.

You get used to thinking everything extendedly, looking for the best outcome, and analysing every possibility.

Obviously you can’t live your life like this, and explaining this to your judgy relatives is also important, but you definitely learn to align your actions with a predetermined strategy.

For example, one of the most devastating and beautiful tactics in chess is a fork, a move where a single piece makes two or more direct attacks, simultaneously. Do you want to enjoy more books, learn about history and spend less time cursing in 2021? You can download an audiobook about history and focus on that while commuting. That’s a fork in real life.

Generally, the more you play chess, the more you will train yourself to spot efficient patterns and plan effectively a few moves ahead. Εventually, that will help you accomplish your goals more easily. Here is a perfect example of a fork.

Okay, no kidding this time.

2. Queen sacrifice

That’s an interesting one. Sacrifice in chess is a move giving up a piece with the objective of gaining tactical or positional compensation in other forms. But, It could also be a deliberate exchange when you have no other choice.

Sacrifices are a powerful tool only if you know exactly what you are doing.

Do you want to build the perfect beach body? Don’t exchange your precious hours and energy training blindly. You have to combine your training with a tutorial and the right diet. If you have a clear goal and a solid plan, making big sacrifices is hard but highly rewarding.

Sacrificing one’s Queen (the most valuable piece) and winning has produced some of the most amazing games in chess history. Example of a Queen sacrifice.

Ok. Here is an actual amazing Queen sacrifice.

3. Zugzwang

A situation in which the obligation to make a move in one’s turn is a serious, often decisive, disadvantage. To simplify: You move, you (almost) lose.

And yet, the game is not over when someone is in zugzwang.

Either the disadvantage is not decisive or the opponent has no idea you were in zugzwang in the first place and doesn’t act on it.

Is there a connection between this and life? No. But it is a cool concept with an even cooler name and we didn’t want to give up on it. Hold on. That’s it. Never give up on your goals. A year is full of zugzwang positions where no beacon of hope can be seen anywhere but everyone expects a move from you.

In moments like these (the future historians will just call them “2020 moments”) you should never give up on your goals. Just move and hope for the best. Maybe the situation is not as dire as you initially thought. Example of zugzwang position.

4. There is meaning in chaos

A year in your life is a chaotic process with endless paths and infinite possible outcomes. But so is chess! Did you know that there are more possible iterations of chess games than there are atoms in the observable universe?

Almost every game you play has never been played before in chess history!

How can people bring order to that chaos and use strategy to win? The truth is that chess players are no gods. They just break down their goals into simpler “problems” and solve them step by step.

This is a valuable lesson that applies perfectly to your life. Do you want a promotion by the end of the year? Don’t let the task intimidate you, this is your boss’ job, anyway. Define exactly what will take you there and execute a simple plan. And then another one, and another one…

Humans are great at this, let’s leave the crazy universe out of it.

5. There is beauty in loss

The best thing about chess? There is no luck, no bad refereeing decisions and no incompetent teammates. You know that If you lose, it was only because of your mistakes.

This feeling is rare in life. More than you think so.

It will help you realise the true power of excuses or, better put, the immense power of their absence. When there is no one to blame other than yourself, your pride finally gives up and lets you learn from your mistakes and become better.

As Jose Capablanca, a Cuban world chess champion, once said:

“You may learn much more from a game you lose than from a game you win. You will have to lose hundreds of games before becoming a good player”

As the lockdown comes to an end and your life “restarts”, there will be plenty of opportunities to fix your past mistakes or keep messing things up.

Truth is. You will have to do both if you want to become a better player.

6. Puzzle time!

Can you solve this puzzle? You play as white, you have the next move and you get 3 moves to deliver a forced check mate. Forced checkmate is when you checkmate no matter what black tries to stop you.

Tip 1: This could take you hours to solve. But if you have or want the brilliant answer you can leave a comment below.

Tip 2: More brains are better than one. Share this article with your friends and ask for their help to solve this puzzle.

This article was written by John Margaronis, our copywriter (obviously).

If you enjoyed this article, hit the 👏🏻 button! It will help John to keep his job!

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