Living Strategically: 30 Lessons Chess Teaches You About Life


When playing chess, your brain will be challenged to exercise logic, develop pattern recognition, make decisions both visually and analytically, and test your memory. Chess can be enjoyed by any age—as a result, these brain exercises can be part of the health of your brain for your entire life!

1.Everyone’s playing. Sometimes it’s a friendly, often it is more serious. The problem is that not everyone knows they’re playing – even after they have made a move.

2.Ignore what your opponent is trying to do at your own peril. We often get so absorbed in our own games and machinations that we ignore what is going on around us. Be aware of threats and alert to opportunities.

3.In chess, every move has a purpose. Life obviously cannot be lived with this much unceasing calculation, nor should we want to live it that way, but there are times when we must align our actions with a predetermined strategy, instead of bumbling through it.

4.Play for the advantage. If you already have it, maintain it. If you don’t have it, seize it.

5.Seize the initiative. If you wait around for someone else to make a decision for you, they will… and you probably won’t like how it turns out.

6.Learn to spot patterns. There are often clearly defined lines of success that work well. Learn to see these when they repeat, and take advantage of them.

7.If you only play patzers, you never really improve – take on a few tough challenges, and even if you lose, try to learn something new.

8.Cut your losses. Sometimes you are going to lose material. Try to minimize your losses and move on.

9.Sometimes you get stuck in a position known in chess as zugzwang: where whichever move you make is a bad one. This is just the way it goes sometimes, in chess and in life.

10.There is nothing more satisfying than a discovered attack: Pretending to do one thing while attacking somewhere else. Learn to play and live less obviously and on more levels. This makes you less predictable and more interesting.

11.If you spend all of your time chasing lowly pawns, you may be on the receiving end of an opponent who cares less about small victories and more about winning the war.

12.Don’t get pinned down. Where something more cherished cannot be brought into play because it is stuck behind something trivial, make every effort to get it into the game – as soon as possible.

13.Play for the middle. Don’t hold back too much, and don’t push through too early. Your opportunity will come.

14.Accumulate small advantages

15. Don’t be overly impressed with lofty words or titles. The only thing worse than being overly diffident towards those who outrank you is being dismissive of those inferior to you.

16.Surprise and impress people with unconventional moves. But not with dumb ones. Creativity always has a purpose – doing something wild and crazy just for the sake of it may be fun at the time, but ultimately has no value. Break the rules – but only if it serves a good purpose.

17.Don’t get swept up by distractions

18.Always consider the whole board when deciding on a move: decisions made with too narrow a focus are often bad.

19. Enjoy yourself

20.Deep and meaningful is always better than superficially pretty.

21.Connect your pieces cleverly. Collaboration and cooperation are the keys to success

22. Sometimes a draw is as good as a win. But a draw is always better than a loss.

23. If you lose, do so graciously and try to learn at least one important lesson.

24.Keep calm and move slowly.

25. If you are feeling boxed-in, free things up.

26.In the endgame, attack the King by focussing your attention on his escape squares: When you are in the final stretch, and about to win, anticipate what could go wrong and plan accordingly.

27.Have a Plan B. And a Plan C. If none of those work, you’re probably doomed.

28.When someone makes a move that you cannot understand, don’t read more into it than you need to. Sometimes people just make silly moves – that’s all there is to it.

29. A threat is best met with a move that improves your own position. Don’t get trapped into mindlessly trading moves and material in anger. Sometimes the solution is more gentle and cerebral.

30.Be prepared to sacrifice material for position. Sometimes even the greatest material sacrifice can result in a winning position later on.


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