Part II on Chess-How Chess Mimics Real Life

King chess
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It’s been two weeks since I got addicted introduced to Chess and I am finding that everything I am doing in chess is eerily similar to real life. Never mind that I have been playing against the reckless, winner take all mind of a six-year-old; my son.  In my last post I talked about the effects of chess-and other engaging activities-on your mind where correlations were found between chess and growth of neurons in the brain thereby increasing  your brain’s optimum performance.

The more I play chess however, the more lessons I find that run  parallel to real life such as coming to terms with having to ante up something to obtain some of my objectives. Or, that when losing, it doesn’t matter whether you saved most of your pieces if you lose your most important one, the King. In other words, you cannot save everything. You have to decide what is worth saving and fighting for and what is optional.  Life as I know it is about winning some, losing some and knowing when to cut your losses. But to learn all these lessons one has to follow some basic guidelines that can mean the difference between losing it all. Guidelines that you will find are applicable in every aspect of life.

This is the first of three posts I will make of lessons  I learn that run parallel to real life as I continue to venture into the fascinating world of Chess. The first of which is:


In order to play chess one has to know how each piece moves and its role within the grand scheme of things. Decisions about what is dispensable and what is non-negotiable have to be made.  In chess of course, the King is the non-negotiable (losing it means defeat) and the Pawns are dispensable. Decisions such as these can mean the difference between losing pieces for little reward or losing the fewest for greater rewards.

In Chess one has to be prepared to lose something to gain something. It is as inevitable as it is for a child to lose his teeth to gain his adult teeth.

Growth in chess is determined by your ability to predict your opponent’s likely decisions which in turn influences the actions you take.

This type of thinking is reminiscent of scenes I have seen play out in settings like board rooms or military type settings where collateral damage is measured by how much one is willing to lose for anticipated rewards.

But as cutthroat as it might sound, everyday life is peppered with decisions such as these. Would you rather live a sedentary lifestyle while hoping for good health or give up time and deposit effort to ensure the rewards of good health?

Newton’s law applies here: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. In real life, one acts, and you experience a reaction. Constantly assessing consequences of each move one makes distinguishes the chess grandmaster who can juggle conceiving a variety of outcomes  from the novice me who can only manipulate one piece at a time.

Successful outcomes have little to do with luck.  Success is mostly measured by how prepared a person is. Sacrifices one is willing to make for the benefits you will receive sets the stage for what we get later on. Thinking through what you are doing and seeing future consequences can mean the difference between wasting time and effort on useless tasks and selecting tasks that will bear more tangible results.

Some of the questions to think about when preparing for an endeavor you might to undertake are:

i.                     How prepared are you to begin the task/passion/skill you want to get better at? Have you researched what you are about to get into? What unique skills will you bring to the table?

ii.                   What sacrifices are you willing to make to achieve what you are after? Time is one that comes to mind here.

iii.                  What do you stand to gain? Is it worth the preparation and sacrifices you are thinking of making?

How prepared are you to undertake your next challenge?

4 thoughts on “Part II on Chess-How Chess Mimics Real Life

  1. A wise individual once said “Success occurs when preparation meets opportunity” so when it comes to chess as in real life it would be wise to be prepared. As you have talked about in your article, preparation is key with regard to success. Also, one must be williing to make certain sacrifices in order to make certain gains.
    There are indeed certain life lessons to be learned from the game of chess. Both require that the participants lay down some form of strategy (strategary in Bush lingo) with which to defeat their opponents. Every piece on the chess board, however small or big, has an important part to play in the larger context of the game. Very often people try to get the pawns out of the way to free up their queens, bishops, knights, and castles, but often forget that no chess game can be won without all the pieces on the board working in tandem for the greater good which in this case is to check mate the opponent.
    And so the same applies to real life, it would be foolhardy to ignore the smaller pieces in the larger puzzle that is life. Good preparation affords any player the luxury of going into the game of life, as in chess, with a solid plan with which to overcome any obstacle placed before them and it also gives the player the ability to adopt to any unforseen events.
    So it is safe to conclude that no matter what life throws at you, or in this case, no matter what a very smart six year old throws at you, adequate preparation will always ensure that you remain one step ahead of adversity and ahead of all of live’s obstacles. So next time you sit down to a game of chess, or when playing this game called life, it is worth asking oneself “Do i have a gameplan which i have prepared to win this game?” should you find yourself not answering this question with a resounding yes….then it may be wise to assign a new activity to the six year old so as to allow you time to go back to the drawing board and come up with a better prepared plan. Now if only life would be as accomodating as the six year old……

  2. Well said Kamutu,
    The game of life has a way of throwing curve balls that you don’t expect. Sometimes there are warnings like in chess when your opponent calls ‘check” effectively affording one the opportunity to make adjustments. Other times, there is no way to make any adjustment and one has to accept the inevitable.

    Thank you for posting and look forward to making further connections to real life as I delve into the unfamiliar world of chess.

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