Life Lessons from Chess

Chess Champion in the Classroom: Life Lessons from Chess

Chess is not simply a game, but it is also a way of life. Chess mimics our real life in many ways. Many people do not even know that playing chess can teach us valuable lessons in and about life. Chess is a laboratory for decision-making process in a short time under pressure, calculation, creativity, evaluation and analysis, strategy and continuous performance development among others. Some of the greatest life lessons from chess are: Creativity We need to be very creative while playing chess. The more creative we are the better we become. At every move we need to come up with new plans and without being creative, we cannot make new plans. Same thing goes in life too. If we are not creative enough, we cannot succeed in life. Need to make quick decisions Chess is played within a fixed time limit. Sometimes towards the end of the game we run out of time and in that short time we need to take decisions as to which move we should make. Some of the decisions need to be taken within a fraction of seconds. We can win the game if we make the right decision within that short time. There are times in our life when we need to make quick decisions. The better decisions we take within a short time the better the life that we lead. Sometimes it is alright to lose There is no game in this world in which a player does not lose. Chess is not an exception. It is alright to lose a game in chess but more important is what we learn from our mistakes. Chess and life are similar in this matter. Sometimes in life we lose in many ways but we should give more importance to analysing the mistakes and learn from them. We should remember that we never lose, “we either win or learn”. It’s okay to bluff In chess sometimes we need to act like we can win the game although it is a losing position. This is something like bluffing the opponent emotionally. This confidence throws people off and can even make them uncomfortable. We can use it to our advantage. Same thing goes in our life. I believe it’s okay to put on an emotional mask to bluff others at times, in order to make ourselves feel better. Flexibility We cannot be rigid in planning a game of chess. In every move we may need to change our plan based on the opponent’s move. Flexibility in planning is necessary for playing chess. Same thing goes with life. Things do not always go according to our plan and people surrounding us are unpredictable. Remaining flexible is an invaluable life lesson. The less rigid we are, the better we are able to handle situations thrown our way. Sacrifice is necessary In chess we sometimes sacrifice a pawn or other pieces to make a better attack later on in the game. The sacrifice we do helps us to win the game. The same principle applies once we walk away from the chess board. Sacrifice is a necessary part of life. Without sacrifice we may never get what we truly want or what we really need to make our life happier. Take notice of patterns Patterns are everywhere and the better we are spotting them, the better we can be. This skill is used in chess to identify the patterns of moves that the opponent makes. When we can take notice of patterns we are better equipped to predict the next move. We can even find mistakes in their game just by noticing their patterns. We can use this skill in our real life too by noticing the patterns of our neighbourhoods. The more we can notice other’s pattern, the better we become in dealing with them. Think ahead and outside the box Chess trains us to think ahead and outside the box. There are many times in a game where our plans are foiled and we need a better solution to stay in the game. We always think many moves ahead in chess. This is also a skill we will need over and over again in life. Thinking outside the box helps us find solutions to problems in ways that others may not think of. Grab the right opportunity In chess, whenever we get an opportunity to take an opponent’s piece which will make our position better, we should take it. We should not miss any opportunity like this as opportunities do not always arrive when we want them to. So when any opportunity is presented to us, we should not wait. This principle is used in chess all the time. The same goes with life. If we are given any small or big opportunity during our lifetime, we should not let it pass by. We must take it and run with it. Be confident and stand your ground We need to be confident in our moves we make. Chess is about making strong moves and sticking by them. In life too, if we plan or do something, we need to make sure to stand on our ground and fight for what we think is better for us. Be aggressive and take action When there is a problem or a threat in chess, we sometimes need to be aggressive and take action. We either make a wise move for defence or make a strong attack. This rule applies in life as well. Sometimes we need to be aggressive and take action to change things or to make a difference. Nobody would want to let life pass by without going after the things they want. Have Fun Every game we play, we should have fun. We enjoy playing chess whether we win or lose. It is most important in the game of chess and in everyday life too. We should do what makes us happy and enjoy everything we do.

Dr. Nazmul is pictured here with Siti Safura Jaapar, a PhD Candidate in Perdana University. She is a competitive chess player of her own right, representing Malaysia at the 9th ASEAN Para Games in 2017.

  This article is written by Dr. Mohammad Nazmul, with thanks from Dr. Mohammad Nazmul is a World Chess Federation-rated player, a Champion of the Malaysian Inter-Varsity Chess Championship for multiple years, and a former Chess Coach. He now channels his skills towards teaching Microbiology at PUGSOM and as a Research Fellow at PU-Centre for Research Excellence. He can be contacted at
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