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On Chess: Chess & Life – Strategy Across The Board

2020 Cairns Cup winner, grandmaster Humpy Koneru playing in Round 9 of the 2020 Cairns Cup.
Crystal Fuller
St. Louis Chess Club
2020 Cairns Cup winner, grandmaster Humpy Koneru playing in Round 9 of the 2020 Cairns Cup.

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?

To be successful, sometimes you must think outside the box.

You Win Some, You Lose Some. While the thrill of winning is often the pursuit, not even the best players 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. Top 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 continually 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, as 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, we too 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.

The St. Louis Chess Club is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization committed to making chess an important part of our community. In addition to providing a forum for the community to play tournaments and casual games, the club also offers chess improvement classes, beginner lessons, and special lectures. Recognizing the cognitive and behavioral benefits of chess, the St. Louis Chess Club is committed to supporting those chess programs that already exist in area schools while encouraging the development of new in-school and after-school programs.

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St. Louis Chess Club