The game of chess

An article by Jason S. Sullivan, 04/24/19

This article first appeared on LinkedIn.

Checkmate!

What a feeling when you say that to someone. It’s the ultimate “mic drop.” You fought someone in a throw-down, in a duel, and beat them in a battle of the minds.

My dad taught me to play chess when I was a kid. I think it was in 1st or 2nd grade. He taught me to play on a small, wooden chess set that folds in half to house the pieces. I still have it, in fact, and it posed for the picture featured in this article. I didn’t understand the finer points of the game, but I knew how to play. Now, I didn’t have posters of Bobby Fischer, or Mikhail Botvinnik tacked on my bedroom walls. I was never on the chess team at school. I played occasionally. But, it was enough to build a lifelong interest and respect for the game.

Today, I’m a casual player. A couple of games a month, maybe more if I’m lucky. I’m decent, but certainly not “Grandmaster” material.

I’m not better or smarter because I like chess. But, chess always appealed to me more than checkers. Checkers is either too simplistic or too complicated for me – I can’t decide which. Or maybe it’s just not the right challenge. Whatever it is, checkers isn’t for me.

Chess is different. Chess is my kind of game.

Chess is a thinking game.

You have to think about what you’re doing and the implications of every move. It’s a different mindset. It’s a puzzle, and the pieces keep changing. It’s slower and more methodical than most board games.

(Chess is usually a slower game. There’s a thing called “blitz chess” or “fast chess” where you have a limited time to make a move. There’s a timer involved. It’s fast-paced and a bit hardcore. That’s a whole different level. I won’t even pretend to know anything about that!)

Do ya feel lucky?

Luck isn’t a factor in chess. Instead, chess is strategic and tactical.

“Oh, he got lucky and beat me that game.” No. You made a mistake – or a series of mistakes. Your opponent seized the opportunity and used it to their advantage. That’s how they beat you. That’s how anyone beats anybody at anything.

Plan ahead

You have to plan in chess. You can’t take it one move at a time – you have to think several moves ahead. (It may take a piece several moves to navigate into the right position for the attack.) Your opponent is doing the same, though. You have to be able to change directions and adjust. It involves “situational awareness.”

It’s a delicate balance – offense and defense – working with each other at the same time. One wrong move and it can be tough to recover.

The battlefield

The battlefield is an eight by eight grid. The boundaries are set and defined – only 64 little squares for this combat.

The army

You’re leading a small army of 16 soldiers into battle. Every soldier has their strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats. (SWOT is an interesting concept – check it out. Give yourself a SWOT analysis.) Every soldier is critical. Every soldier has specific roles and responsibilities – albeit a limited skillset, too. Every soldier depends on the rest of the troops. There are decisions to make and sacrifices to consider. Mistakes and missteps can be costly. Sounds a bit like a family or any other team, no?

1 King. 1 Queen. 2 Rooks (also called Castles). 2 Bishops. 2 Knights. 8 Pawns.

That’s your army.

Why do I play chess?

For me, it’s the strategy and challenges involved. It’s the concentration. It’s discipline, awareness, planning, and execution.

People from around the world and all walks of life have played chess for centuries. It takes a short time to learn, but a lifetime to master. (That’s if you ever master it. You likely won’t.)

Whether you’re a rookie or you’ve played for decades, consider playing a game of chess. It’s a fulfilling hobby. It will make you think and see things differently.

For the encore

If I have a problem to solve or feel stressed, a game of chess can help me put things into perspective. It works the right brain muscles and scratches the right itch.

Chess on my phone or computer is a no go. Tapping or clicking one-dimensional graphics isn’t the same. It’s pretty dull and mindless. I need something tangible. I need to be able to touch the pieces and physically move them around the board. I have a chess computer (basically a computerized chessboard) that hits the spot. It was a Christmas present from 20-something years ago. I still have it, and it still works.

I read that Wayne Gretzky played chess. Man, that explains everything.

About the author – Jason S. Sullivan is an aspiring writer and avid chess player. Connect with Jason on LinkedIn and check out his other articles!

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