# Chess Comparisons: Literature

Another interesting chess comparison is chess and writing.  As a writer myself, I've noticed several different similarities in the two arts.  International Master William Hartston makes similar comparisons in his excellent book "Teach Yourself Better Chess".  We as humans recognize chess, even without realizing it, the same way we do language.

As we learn how to read and write, we see the whole page as a wasteland of complex symbols and firgures.  Then we begin to learn the principles of phonics, and we begin to recognize words, then phrases, then sentences, paragraphs, and eventually the whole page.  Similarly, as we learn chess, we first see the board as a jungle of complexity, with 32 pieces on 64 squares, sweeping across the board from unexpected directions.  Gradually we learn to control the tactics, and we begin to recognize patterns, relationships between pieces, strategic features, until the whole position begins to make some sort of sense.

Not only is the chess game similar to the writing piece, but the thought processes we use to create the two are extremely similar.  When you go to write a book, first the characters and plot are defined, the conflicts are created and solved, and by that time the first draft is ready.  After this you then go into the editing phase, where you correct ignorant typographical mistakes, discern how you want to phrase certain parts of the story, and your style is put to work.  After the editing phase is done, you lean back in your chair and congratulate yourself on successfully completing the writing piece and have it published and soon you see people buying it at bookstores and reading it with excited interest.  In the game of chess, we tend to think that all calculation is the same.  It's, "I go here, he goes there, I take, he recaptures..." and so on.  Yet there are actually two different thought processes taking place going on: precise thought and fuzzy thought (an interesting concept addressed by Hartston in the Better Chess book).  There are bound to be moves that have to be calculated.  Captures, checks, threats, etc.  After you have calculated the calculated the calculable, you can then take a look at the positional features, static aspects and unforced moves, until you have figured out a general plan.  You can then go into the part of the thought process in which you combine strategy (fuzzy thought) and tactics (precise thought).

In the heat of battle, strong players don't waste time looking at what every single piece can do.  They see pieces that are working together, just as a writer sees letters and words and phrases.  For instance, when a chess player has set up a bishop in fianchetto, castled behind that fianchetto, and put a knight on f3, a weak player might think, "But the bishop is closed in.  How is that structure supposed to be effective?"  A strong player will answer, "The structure is very good for the defense of the king, keeping a few pieces close to defend against an attack.  The bishop will come alive when the knight moves, and be very effective along the long diagonal."  Note how the weak player thought about the bishop as a lone piece, and the strong player thought about the bishop in connection with the surrounding pieces.  So what chess lesson can we learn from this comparison?

Weak players think in terms of a battle royale, an "every man for himself" struggle, while strong players think in terms of relationships between pieces and how those pieces can work together.

Another lesson to be learned is this:

It is as impossible to win a chess game without combining strategy and tactics as it is to write a good book without combining a general plot, characters, and conflicts with good, precise editing and style.