Chess. The generations-old game of strategy, cunning, and skill. Of maneuvering pieces with intent and strategy with a goal of achieving a key objective: checkmating your opponent. And yet, even if I put it like this game of masterful skill testing the very limits of your brain and strategy on the battlefield, you still wouldn’t play it. Why? Ask yourself for a bit. Think about it… Ready? Well, may it be the stories of the inglorious and slow victory, or the linking of it to nerdiness, there is always more to chess than it seems. Much much more. So, without further ado, let's dive in.
To start off, we need to understand the history of chess. Every great game has a special origin story to go with it. Chess is no exception. Historians mostly believe that the ancestor of the chess we know today is a game called Chaturanga, which was developed in India. The game was brought to Europe around 1000 A.D by Persian traders. It was then slowly modified. First, the piece’s names were created, and movements were outlined and fixed.
Then, the game evolved to incorporate a series of moves that together, would form a gambit, a simple sacrifice to gain a positional advantage. The game in the early 1800s incorporated an attack-centered strategy, with sacrifices and the bloodshed of pieces considered as normal, adding excitement to the game. However, as the game progressed to the late nineteenth century, the strategies switched to much more subtle and conservative versions that we widely see today.
So? Why should I play chess then? Well, chess has a lot of benefits. And one of them, the first and foremost most important one, is that chess is fun. Addictively so. Why? Well, partially because it combines the element of anticipation with your intense drive to win, and your mistakes only make the game better, with even more suspense involving if the opponent will see your intent or even dreaded openings in your defense that could potentially lead to disaster. Also, you will find out if you introduce your close friends to chess, and kind of secretly boast a little, they will be pressured to join in, and soon you will be racing to get the highest rating or make a brilliant move. This will pull more people in and make you feel more connected.
Another strong reason is that chess improves your cognitive skills. However, it isn’t as related to IQ as you think. That is a common misconception. Rather, chess focuses on improving your concentration, pattern recognition, algebraic and geometric thinking, problem-solving, spatial reasoning, and critical thinking. It also boosts your confidence and improves your memory. After a while, when you get used to the game, you can match patterns you see could potentially turn the tide of.
Also, if you are really into chess, you may memorize dozens of chess openings and a slurry of variations. However, if you are more on the casual side, like me, chess improves your critical thinking and reasoning skills as well as your problem-solving skills. You will learn how to gain the upper hand in a relatively even game, or get out of bad situations and emerge victorious. Either way, chess will heavily benefit your cognitive thinking and reasoning by quite a lot, and will show its worth in the short and long term.
Finally, chess will ultimately result as a positive hobby because it teaches you how to handle victories and losses and that there are consequences for every action you take. In some games you may come out with a smashing victory, but in others, you may be humbled by a stunning loss. Either way, chess will teach you that there is a silver lining for either path, too. If you win, then you win! Congratulations! However, if you lose, there is always something to learn about it. Your loss may be caused by anything from a one-move blunder to a gradual loss in positions and pieces.
Chess will show you that singular moves, no matter how trivial, can save entire games, whether for the good for you, or the bad. One good way you can learn from your mistakes in games is from chess.com analysis. Once you make an account, it will let you see your move’s effectiveness and what it did to your position through both a virtual coach sending feedback to you and a 1-7 move rating. Also, a chess engine, the best in the world, will also review your game with a bar at the side determining your chance of winning every move of the game.
However, nothing is perfect, and chess has huge downsides too. Playing such a competitive game can be fun, but it can also be extremely frustrating and stressful. Some describe chess as “mental torture,” which may be true in some cases and positions. However, let’s not even go that far. If you lose a few times in a row when you start out, you might feel quite embarrassed and even stop playing the game. One person I know said he even quit chess after losing the state championship!
However, in a different scenario, let’s say that you catch on to chess quickly and are a natural at it. There is another problem here. You might become too fixated to chess, addicted to it, obsessed with it. You may start to detach from the other parts of your life, such as family or school or homework. You might feel anxiety and be snappy and irritable. When you feel like you are thinking about chess more than about school, your family, or your social life, it should be time to take a break.
That being said, chess is a magnificent game of strategy with a long history. It is a world-renowned game and one that will benefit you, from anything from improving your cognitive skills to teaching you the value of small moves and how to handle winning and losing. And most importantly, chess will provide you a new way to have fun and have a competitive spirit, may it be alone, or even with your friends. However, keep in your heart not to overcommit because chess isn’t the only way to have fun! So, after reading this, I hope when the opportunity presents itself, you whip out that dusty old-fashioned chess board or that brand new cutting edge computer, and start playing the good old game of chess!