Chess Aporia: Strategic Living

Chess Aporia: Strategic Living

Feb 16, 2015, 4:34 PM |



Bobby Fischer: "Chess is life."



It has long been understood that Chess involved and induces a struggle of will, it contains what has been termed the 'essentials of survival', to strike, to move and to protect. If we strip away the checkered boards, we can identify the factors that are most important for winning (or at least gaining more momentum).


Those enthusiasts who lay claim chess 'resembles' life, let us take a moment to contemplate this. One major difference between chess and life, is that chess does not contain what life (for instance economics, military, research etc) terms 'information uncertainty'.


Unlike the soul who wanders the planes of earth, he/she will not have complete full intelligence about the 'world's artillery', meaning having been born with absolute cognisance of the potential struggles one will face, both internally in the family and externally regarding the local community and laws governing that society.


Chess however, gives these adherents veritable comprehension in regards to what pieces are present including their respective abilities & limitations for both white & black, it carves out the location, or 'arena' that of which encapsulates all activity, you are able to witness the opening sequential 'play' that attempts to dictate life on that platform and chess allows adherents to take note of every move. Coupled with time to reflect over a particular repetoire, it would seem chess provides users all the necessary bitesize information to best equip yourselves for what is to come.


Here is a painting by Hobar Monoaekiim, what do you see?


Let's take a break, watch this short film titled "A Piece to Remember", feel free to leave your comments below.


With all that being said, there is still a striking resemblance of imitating the strategic edge, the moments of deep reflection, the need to construct both a short-term and long term plan with back-ups, the demand of understanding your environments and its habitual players, all required to succeed in life in chess.


Emmanuel Lasker, a german chess grandmaster for 27 years who frequently applied mathematical analysis to all aspects of his game, 'his life' had been quoted to say:



Emmanuel Lasker: "A bad plan, is better than no plan at all."

From this we can deduce, as Lasker philosophized, having a bad plan gives you several things:


  1. Realization that you need a plan
  2. Opportunities to see if that plan is not working
  3. Ways to analyze when the plan goes awry
  4. A chance to change the plan if it's not working.

Having no plan gives you none of these opportunities to get better


Garry Kasparov another former super Grandmaster of chess, an individual who possessed an enigmatic mind was ranked world No. 1 for 225 out of 228 months, wrote a book titled 'How Life Imitates Chess' (2007) which resurged the notion "chess is life", though now we understand the subtle but important difference between the two. (We could easily dedicate a blog entry for this book, namely the title itself, maybe I'll do that another time!)


Here is Mr Kasparov discussing his book in greater depth.


Fellow blogger devotee, Sean Hampton Cole, typed up a compelling case on how chess and life both share many prerequisites that can help you form a strategic means on tackling life. He impressively assembles 50 points concerning where an overlap is witnessed. I decided that listing all 50 would be far too tedious, but chose some with additional credo from myself (narcissitic?) I felt beared the most weight and denotation concerning our day to day goings.


So lets conclude, what do you think about Chess and Life, is there any similarity?

It is clear to me that Chess is all about choices, opportunities, observing the current situation and planning ahead to achieve your goal. If you win or lose a chess match, the result is based on a series of choices made by you alone. Life is exactly the same in this regard once you have understood the 'social entrapment', identified the market, have knowledge of citizenship and your aims. Where you are today is the net result of a series of choices made by you in the face of opportunities and challenges provided by life and others competing with you for the same resources.


Without further ado, here is my selection Smile



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.





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.





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.





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.





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.




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





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.



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





Where possible, trade inferior material and positions for better ones.





The little guys on your side matter. Look after them.





Accumulate small advantages.





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.




Appraise your position honestly. If it is bad, do something about it – if it is good, make it even better.





Sometimes you have to sacrifice in order to achieve a break-through.





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





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





Deep and meaningful is always better than superficially pretty.


Suggested Reading

  • Information Theory, Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science, University College London, Zoubin Ghahramani, 2000

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  • Black and White and Fascinating All Over: History of B&W Checkerboard, Print Magazine, Jude Stewart, 2013

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  • Interval Methods In Knowledge Representation, International Journal of Uncertainty, Fuzziness and Knowledge-Based Systems, Vladik Kreinovich, 2015

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  • How Life Imitates Chess, Garry Kasparov, 2007

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  • Creative Chess Symbolism, Enchanted Mind, World IT Professionals, 2002

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  • Developing Critical and Creative Thinking Through Chess, Annual Conference of Gifted Education Association Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1986

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  • 50 Lessons Chess Teaches You About Life, WordPress, Sean Hampton Cole, Ideas Out There, 2013

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  • Participation and Entrapment, Diffusion And Evolving Consequences, Midwest Sociological Society, The Sociological Quarterly, Alexandra Michel, 2014

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