© 2020 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Election Day is less than a week away. Inform your vote with our 2020 Voter Guide.

On Chess: Chess & Life – Strategy Across The Board

Fabiano Caruana in a match with Hikaru Nakamura at the 2016 U.S. Championship
Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis | Lennart Ootes
The things people learn from chess can apply to life. This is true even for top players like Hikaru Nakamura (right) and Fabiano Caruana, shown in a match from the 2016 U.S. Championship.

Often life imitates art – but sometimes, art informs life. Chess can best be described as a microcosm of decision-making under pressure, using creativity, evaluation and analysis, calculation, strategy and continuous learning and development to ultimately prevail. But how does this translate from the chess board to our everyday lives?

Consider how chess applies to life with some common expressions we all use.

You win some, you lose some. While the thrill of winning is often the pursuit, not even the best player in the world wins every time they sit down in front of a chess board. What often separates the most elite chess players from the field is their ability to turn defeat into something else; they use it as an opportunity to learn, to reflect and to refocus. Their mantra is either they win, or they learn.

Know when to bluff. Chess, like life, doesn’t always dole out a winning hand, but that doesn’t mean the game can’t be won. Elite chess players are acute at bluffing, exuding confidence and making bold moves as a tactic to throw off their opponents, then using that moment to take the upper hand.

Creativity is king. Successful chess players are creative in their approach. There isn’t a single formula that will always net a win, so chess players must think through every single move and continuously come up with a new strategy to inform the next. The same applies to life. It doesn’t come with a playbook, so being creative with approaches and responses will yield more positive outcomes.

Variety is the spice of life (and the chess board). Like most athletes, chess players study their opponents – how they play, how they respond in situations, which strategies they deploy. In order to maintain a competitive edge, players must constantly reinvent their approaches, reimagine their openings and retool how they respond when cornered. This applies to life as well, because the same approach will not work in every situation. Being able to flex and pivot allows for transformation and growth that, hopefully, will lead to success in the long game.

One door closes, another opens. The game of chess is constant decision-making – and sometimes those decisions require making sacrifices of a pawn or another piece to set up a better position or strategy to win the game. In life, too, we will be forced to make sacrifices in order to lead us to something bigger, something better.

Seize every opportunity. Chess players know that if an opening appears, seize it immediately, as they come few and far between. The same goes for life – waiting for ‘the next one’ sometimes leaves us waiting for ships that don’t come in. We must be constantly searching and seizing opportunity when it presents itself in order to grow, learn and evolve.

Maintain perspective. In chess, sometimes a draw is as good as a win. But a draw is always better than a loss. This mindset is also needed in life to keep things in check. Things could be better, but they could always be worse. Making the most of our current situation is key to long-term success.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.

St. Louis Public Radio is your trusted source for reliable reporting on politics in the St. Louis region, Jefferson City, Rolla, and the Metro East. Through Election Day and beyond, we will be here, delivering the news, providing context and keeping you updated on everything that is happening. It’s all possible because of donations from people like you. Support this work by making a donation today.