Over the weekend my younger son and I played a game of chess. It lasted two hours, which in itself is a testament to my son's improved concentration and focus. I started teaching my boys to play chess two years ago. I'm not a great player but I do all right if I can remember to always look down the board for the likely response to my move. I can't count the number of games that I've lost because of a hasty move that cost me a key piece, usually the queen. As I reflected on this defect in my own play, I got to thinking during a short break about the lessons about life one can learn from chess. Below are few things that came to mind. I can't really claim any special insight or wisdom, and probably better chess players could add a lot to this. All the same, this is my blog, so here's what I think one can learn about life and living from chess:
Be patient. Chess is not like arcade games. You have time to think, use it.
Consider the consequences before you make a move; and its' corollary: Everything you do will have consequences.
Cooperation is better than going it alone. Ask any Knight or Bishop that has been sent to die on the enemy's line all by itself.
Respect everyone, even the little guys. A lowly pawn can take down the King, and a pawn that sneaks to your back line is suddenly a very BIG problem.
Whether you win or lose any particular game, it is always an opportunity for you to learn something. It can be about your play, your opponents, or about life above the board. Every game can make you better.
Planning is a good thing. Having no plan leaves you at the mercy of an opponent who does have one.
You can wish for a perfect setup if you want, but the setup you have to deal with is the one on the board. Take life as it comes and make the best of it.
You will have to change your plans if your opponent doesn't cooperate. Which he probably won't.
You always have to make a move on your turn, so make the best one you can. Even if it is not an ideal move, do something. No one wins at anything by being frozen in place.
Opponent is not the same thing as Enemy. When you're playing for fun, play to win, but shake hands and be a good winner OR loser. No one should lose a friend over a chess game.
Expect some losses along the way. No one wins a chess game with their whole army intact. Everyone will face some defeats in life, but as long as you're alive you can keep playing. (Yes, I know there's the Fool's Mate, but seriously, how often does that happen?)
Abandon your plan as soon as it is clear that it won't work. Evil Overlords throughout history have lost it all by clinging to their Evil Plan that isn't working.
Skill and patience, not luck will get you to your goal. Sure, you will get lucky sometimes, but you have no control over when and how often. It is the same as not having a plan.
Every move entails some risk. You can manage it with good planning, but never eliminate it. Learn to live with uncertainty.
And let me conclude with what is our unofficial family motto:
Latin - “tardus stabilis laborque, finis obtineatur”
English - By slow and steady labor the goal is achieved.
If you've got Chess advice for Life, please add it in the comments section.
For the record, my son did not beat me (this time) but he did have me on the ropes once or twice. I expect that he will beat me in the not too distant future. If I've taught him to play chess, great. If I've taught him how to live life, even better.