Other than science, Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein had one more thing in common. They both loved chess. The great mathematician, Newton, played chess to keep his mind sharp and focussed. Nobel-Prize-winner Einstein, on the other hand, honed his rational thinking through chess. It is not just scientists, however, who saw chess as more than just a game.
In an interview, two-time Oscar-nominated actor, Will Smith, revealed, “My father taught me how to play chess at seven and introduced beautiful concepts that I try to pass on to my kids. The elements and concepts of life are so perfectly illustrated on a chessboard. The ability to accurately assess your position is the key to chess, which I also think is the key to life.”
This ability to assess our position comes from a deeper understanding of life and an understanding of the lessons we learn from our choices, decisions, mistakes, and failures. Chess, too, is about discipline, planning, strategising, and dealing with winning and losing. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that scientists, actors, authors, and people from all walks of life play chess to keep in touch with life. In this feature, Soulveda explores various life lessons from chess one can learn from an army of pawns, rooks, knights, bishops, a queen and a king.
Learn the art of planning
Consider this. A player has lost both of his knights, bishops and a handful of pawns; leaving the rooks and the queen to fight against an army twice the size. The clock is ticking. What will the player do? How will he turn the game around? The player needs to either take recourse to one of his well-thought-out plans or come up with a new one soon. To win a game of chess, players need to have a plan or two up their sleeves, ready for any unforeseeable circumstances. Without a plan, a player would be shooting in the dark.
In life, too, we often find ourselves in a similar situation—cornered by failures, overwhelmed with doubts and embroiled in negative thoughts that sometimes drive us to quit midway. For a student, it could be scoring poor marks in an exam; for a professional, it could be missing a deadline or losing a job; and for people in relationships, it could be arguments or insecurities. How does one face such situations? A game of chess can teach us how to turn the tides in our favour—through careful planning and quick thinking. Most importantly, it imbues the never-say-die spirit, which is the foremost lesson from chess.