Chess is Life

One of Bobby Fischer’s famous utterances is that “Chess is life.” For him that statement may have had a more literal interpretation than for most of us, but metaphorically I do believe that chess is life.  However, life is not a chess game so much as a series of chess games in a long and arduous tournament that begins with little to no knowledge of the game.

Early in life we blunder about, not knowing the proper moves, losing often but learning much until we painfully but surely become more or less competent, if not proficient.  Some never improve beyond this point, forever remaining a patzer.  Most however, do take the time to study life, play a few more moves of it, and study some more.  They discover their weaknesses as well as their strengths, and slowly develop a repertoire of moves that have served them well in the past and which can become the foundation of something deeper and more sophisticated as they progress.

Anyone who has accomplished anything noteworthy, whether in chess or in life, has learned early on that sacrifice is often but a temporary setback.  Lose a pawn, win a piece.  Lose some time, win a contract.  Invest your bishop, gain control of the board.  Invest your kindness, gain a lifelong friend.  Foolish sacrifices are punished quickly, but wise sacrifices lead to victory.

It is the wise person who studies a loss, thereby learning how to avoid it in similar positions in the future.  Did I place my knight on a weak square?  Did I overextend my social life?  How can I make more intelligent choices next time? 

I recently lost a major game in the tournament of life.  If a year is a move, I lost a game in the collapse of the auto industry where I had invested 24 moves of my life.  It was a bitter loss for me.  I loved my teammates, and I was at the height of my ratings category – master level by anyone’s measure.  It was all the more disheartening because I was defeated not through a blunder or even the strength of my opponent, but by events beyond the rules of the game.  A bitter loss indeed, and it led to a personal Zwischenzug that separated me from my family to join a skittles game in the back room until next summer when I hope to be invited to play in another major tournament.

In the meantime, what have I learned from this loss?  Is there anything useful that I can take away from it?  I have learned the value of one’s resources.  As the great Philidor noted long ago, pawns are indeed the soul of chess.  No less so in life itself.  I savor the humble pawns of life more than I did before, remembering that they have an innate capacity to transform into knights, bishops, rooks or queens if properly played.  And just having that knowledge of their latent potential brings me joy and comfort.

The board is now marble, not inlaid wood, and it is just as beautiful as the one that was taken from me in my recent defeat. 

Like a rook, I have traveled to the opposite end of this new board in one brief move, and I have discovered new teammates on that side of the board; teammates who can teach me yet new moves that I can add to my repertoire. 

I can also use this defeat to teach my children the value of an indomitable spirit and what it means not to resign too soon.  They will encounter their own defeats in their life games, and I hope they remember how I reacted to mine.

And let me not fail to mention that I have also been reminded of the immense and precious value of the queen, who is truly the strongest piece on the board.  She wields both immense authority and wise counsel, comforting all in her realm of influence and defending them against the many threats on all sides of the board.

Yes, chess is life and life is chess.  Not a game, but a long tournament of games with setbacks and victories alike.  And as you emerge from your opening and plan your strategy, remember to choose your move carefully, in chess as in life.


  • 7 years ago


    How did we get in to pushing wood ,

    thank you for your , Story ,

    this sea called life , so many waves ,

    If only i could walk on water ,

  • 7 years ago


    Finally someone who shares my and many other peoples' views and who also has the intelligence and knowledge to put ideas into perfect, well - organised, sensible words.

    I applaude this article, is there any way you can get it into a paper or something of the sorts, it deserves it.

    P.S. can I ask you to write my English homework?

    P.P.S Just kidding.

  • 7 years ago


    SmileThis is where Bobby went wrong - chess is not life, but merely a game - and an excellent game at that!  WinkHe was a phenomenal GrandMaster, but his monomaniacal tendencies shut him out of life!  Sad!  -  ChessPaladin2009Cool  

  • 7 years ago


    Cool article. The only difference between life and Chess is that Chess has a rigid set of rules which can't be bent or broken. Life only has boundaries which can be stretched.  

  • 7 years ago


    First, my congratulations. You've written something that will be linked to, and quoted, and probably plagiarised, well beyond the boundaries of

    Without minimising the trauma you went through in the twelve months leading up to this piece you've created an allegory that's both wise and thought-provoking. It manages to evoke concern and even sympathy for the several layers of loss that you faced and still maintains an overall optimism that places you firmly among the masters of that Game with few rules.

    You asked me recently if I could estimate how long it takes to write a blog post. I couldn't. But I know how long it took to write this one: the whole of a life time.

    Many thanks for sharing.

  • 7 years ago


    well i do think that chess is an art as you can do nearly anything and almost never get the same result have you ever played a game once b4? (besides fools mate) i think not. however that was a good way to put chess i have been told "chess is the game of life and you ned to sacrifce to get ahead"-will- yet i like the way you put it more

  • 7 years ago


    Another way to view chess is as art. And art is perhaps our way of escaping life. There's no winning or losing in art, just playing.

  • 7 years ago


    Thank you, kurtgodden, for you wonderful essay.  How very true -- all that you wrote about.

  • 7 years ago


    In chess and in life, one cannot know everything there is to know or learn everything there is to learn.  But as we grow in the knowledge of life and chess, by experience and by study, we appreciate life better and enjoy chess more.  Kindness, thoughtfulness, courtesy, appreciation, steadfastness, skill, knowledge, courage -- all, and more, interweave  into a wonderful tapestry of life and love.

  • 7 years ago


    great post... sorry for your loss... I wouldn't underestimate the stock market as a weak player... it has gotten a few million people in Zwischenzug... I can hardly tell of any real player who has done that (maybe that was your blunder... you underestimated it since your opening was going well)!!

  • 7 years ago


    good read. chess is indeed life. the way we play chess is the way we lead life. i think.

  • 7 years ago


    Written with passion and knowledge, what a fantastic read!

  • 7 years ago


    i too agree, as what FISCHER had said..

  • 7 years ago


    Good Post

  • 7 years ago


    Outstanding post! 

    If i may repeat this...Life as in chess...more can be learned from a loss then will ever be learned from a win. 

  • 7 years ago


    Thank you for this wonderful article.  Those of us over 50 know all too well how crushing some of our major defeats can be.  How often have I cringed over the many careless moves of my past...often to the point of dreading my next game, or withdrawing from an upcoming tournament.  It is the wise person who uses these defeats as opportunities to learn, grow, and become a better player.  They actually look forward to each defeat, knowing that this is the only path to enlightenment.

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