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Chess and Math: 15 Things to Consider (How They Relate to Each Other)

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

In life, we often discover exciting relationships between things: cheese and wine, sweet and sour, music and dance, and even chess and math. The latter is a dynamic duo that can teach us much more about life than we can imagine.

There are many unexpected similarities between chess and mathematics. Both disciplines are complex yet easy to understand. Chess and math can teach you about life, reveal something about yourself, and you can practice and enjoy them as a professional or as a hobby.

A great deal of chess is based on basic math. Chess is like the gymnasium of the mind, and math is the poetry of logical ideas. No wonder both still entertain millions of people today. 

Chess and math – these are 15 things to consider:

1. Chess And Math Have Rich Pasts

Prehistorians have found evidence of calculations made by people around 3000 BC, from the Babylonians to the Egyptians. These same Egyptians, along with Mesopotamia, also developed math, and even text, further in the proceeding millennia.

Chess, on the other hand, only started in the 6th century as a game called chaturanga. Invented in India, the pieces resembled the military units of the day. The chess game was further introduced in Persia and reached Europe around 400 years after its invention.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Although chess is not as old as math, both have a deep, rich past.

2. Chess And Math Have Set Goals

From making sense of the universe to helping you count sheep before falling asleep, the goal of math is as vast as its history. Math is a tool, and the aim depends on the person using it, whether for utility or enjoyment.

Chess also has an element of usefulness and pleasure. When playing the game, the aim is to capture your opponent’s king. Implementing strategies to achieve this goal is where the fun, struggles, and efforts lie – similar to how people experience solving a mathematical problem.

3. Chess And Math Are Both Logical Disciplines

Math is a discipline based on rules: you have symbols with fixed values used in formulas and equations that we work through to get to a particular goal (i.e., answer).

Chess also has this logic: you have chess pieces with fixed moving abilities that can be played within the game’s parameters to reach your goal. 

Like math, playing chess without a plan can also produce poor results. You must, therefore, practice different methods to achieve excellence.

4. Chess And Math Have Philosophical Elements

The philosophy of math is about understanding the nature and methods of the subject and finding out how math fits into our daily lives. Simple equations, like 1 + 1 = 2, are often used to express a concept’s simplicity or argue the value of teamwork or collaboration.

Chess is just as much a reflection of us. The Russian chess grandmaster Vladimir Kramnik once said that players’ methods in chess reflect their personalitiesCharles Buxton (famous philanthropist and politician in the 1800s) said forethought in chess and life always wins.

Chess and math teach you many lessons you can apply to your life, like how to make decisions or solve a personal crisis.

5. Chess And Math Are About Facing Opposition

The “opponent” in math can be yourself, a problem, or an educator of the subject. There is always an obstacle or a challenge that you need to overcome to reach your goal or answer.

In chess, you are playing against the opposing side, either a person or AI, if you play online. This opposite side goes to great lengths to keep you from achieving your goal of capturing their king.

6. Chess And Math Both Have Boundaries

You practice math within specific rules and limitations. For example, the rules of addition, subtraction, and multiplication or the restrictions imposed by the BODMAS rule.  

Chess also has rules and boundaries concerning the pieces’ interaction and movement. The movement is, however, not only limited by the rules but also the borders of the physical chessboard.

7. Chess And Math Are Subjects Where The Odds Play A Role

In math, an entire branch of study is dedicated to calculating probabilities, from its application to homework to using it in risk management. For the latter, it can be the difference between making or losing money.

Probabilities are also present in chess. You might not know your opponent well, but you will always have the same information and be able to predict their moves. Interpreting this information can be the difference between victory and defeat.

8. The Foundation Of Chess And Math Are Formulas

Who can forget the formulas they taught you in school that looked something like this: (a+b)² = a² + b² + 2ab. Those were easy to remember. More complex formulas exist that some of the best mathematicians in the world wrestle with every day, working hard at either solving them or possibly finding variations.

In chess, you don’t have formulas per se but openings. Openings are set patterns or combinations of moves you can memorize to lead you. Something like e4, e5, Qh5, Nc6, Bc4, Nf6, and Qxf7# is widespread and is called the 4-move checkmate.

9. Geometry Is Key In Chess And Math

The measurements, angles, and calculations you do in geometry, a branch of math, can be very impactful when you apply them to chess.

The chessboard consists of sixty-four black and white alternating squares. Vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines mean that somewhere you’ll get to recall the Pythagorean theorem, more commonly known in chess as the rule of the square. It calculates, for example, if a passed pawn will get intercepted by the opposing king. Using geometry can, therefore, give you an advantage while playing chess.

10. Essential Elements Are At Play In Chess And Math

Math is primarily made up of numbers, letters, and symbols. The order in which these elements are arranged can differ. Knowing how to manipulate them will determine if you get to a solution.

Chess has six different pieces, or elements, that constitutes sixteen per side: eight pawns, one king, one queen, and two rooks, knights, and bishops. Knowing how to move and manipulate these elements will determine if you achieve your goal of winning the opponent’s king.

11. Chess And Math Have Various Interactions

Math offers you unending interactions between numbers, letters, and symbols. By using symbols, the other elements get to interact with each other. One could pose a question to challenge anyone to figure out how the rules and interactions allow them to reach an answer.

The elements mentioned in chess do not interact unless you’re “castling” (the only time in chess you can move two pieces at once) or taking pieces from opposing sides. Getting the opposing pieces removed from the board could ultimately land you a victory.

12. Chess And Math Are Subjects Of Balance

In math, we’re taught that equations on either side of the equals symbol (=) must be the same, i.e., balance each other. The goal is still to get an answer (e.g., the value of the equations), but based on maintaining that balance. 

In chess, the balance is a little more subtle. For example, a piece taken means a piece lost. A piece lost results in the lead gained by the other player. Balance is consistently maintained through the act of giving and taking. Having fewer pieces than your opponent does not always mean losing; it is just a shift in momentum that could be restored.

13. Chess And Math Offer Career Opportunities

Both disciplines offer you the opportunity to make a living from their practice, or it can even enhance the other if you’re skillful in both. 

The field of math can lead one to become a statistician, actuary, or research analyst, for example. Playing chess can become a full-time vocation in the form of a professional chess player, streamer, subject author, or content creator.

14. Math Is Present In The Game of Chess

There are simple mathematical calculations at play in chess. For example, applying geometry principles can help you count how far a piece can move or even how many moves have been made. To what extent you can use math to your benefit in chess has been thoroughly researched and remains a lifelong study for many number lovers. 

15. Chess Aspects Are Present In Math

Seeing how chess can be used in math is more challenging, although the abovementioned principles are evident. Balance, for one, can be obtained by moving elements on both sides of the equation (rather than the board). You can also move parts, i.e., numbers, to test various mathematical hypotheses and help you reach an answer.

Last Word

The relationship between chess and math is lasting and well worth researching. With so many similarities, it’s no surprise that chess and math generally appeal to the same group of people. The connections might be more than you initially thought, and each discipline can enhance the other.

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who enjoy sharing their knowledge about their favorite games with others!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.