Chess is a game that’s been played through the centuries and is popular among many successful high performers and entrepreneurs like Peter Thiel and James Altucher. Known for the massive amounts of strategy and brain power needed to be skilled at the game, it can teach many lessons that are applicable to your journey to your next level in life. I’ve played and competed in multiple chess tournaments for many years, and here are the key takeaways that I’ve learned from the game.
1. Plan Ahead
Good chess players will always look at the list of next possible moves and predict the consequences for each action. Great chess players will look at ALL possible moves, determine the potential consequences, and have his or her response to the opponent’s actions at the ready. The big difference in good and great players is knowing the number of possible paths that the game can take. Not only can they see 7 or 10+ moves ahead, but they can determine their options quickly and remember all of it. And when a mistake is made, a great player won’t react quickly or instantly give up, but will take a step back to analyze, adapt, and rethink all of the actions.
2. Patience & Delayed Gratification
We live in a world where everyone wants instant gratification for their actions; whether it’s wanting to lose weight from a week’s worth of workouts to building a 7-figure business in a month, we all want the payout and results right now. Amateur chess players often will capture the opponent’s piece if it looks like a free capture or if it’s a high value piece without considering the long-term consequences of their action. A lot of the time, capturing the opponent’s piece doesn’t even lead the player any closer to their main goal of winning the game. There are often times better options that could lead to a win if the player would take the time to look at the whole picture.
3. Understanding the Perspective of Others
Trying to understand my opponent’s thought process and play style to predict their moves and reactions has helped me significantly in playing chess. How quickly the player moves or hesitates in reaction to my previous move, facial expressions, eye movement, and other nonverbal cues can tell a lot about a person and what they’re thinking. Aside from the nonverbal cues and play-style, I’d often physically get up from my chair and walk to the other side of the board to see what it looks like from their end. Seeing the board from the other’s perspective allows me to understand how best to respond in the future.
4. Staying On Track
Too many amateur chess players make a move for the sake of making a move. Every move made should be some kind of action that is a step towards the goal of winning, whether it’s a move that opens up other potential moves, a move to disrupt or prevent the opponent from taking action, or a move to attack the opponent. As the saying goes, “being busy doesn’t mean you’re productive.”
5. Reflect With Your Support Team
At the end of all of my competitive chess matches whether a win or a loss, I would sit down with my coach, teammates, and sometimes even my opponent to go over the game and analyze it to see what alternative moves could have been made. Not only did I get multiple perspectives on what transpired, but it gave me ideas on how to improve to not make the same mistakes again. There are no bad experiences, only learning experiences.
Do you play chess or other games that require strategic thought? If you do, I’d love to get your insight on how you’ve been able to apply things that you’ve learned from the game in your life. Share your lessons with me in the comments below!