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Chess Is a Metaphor for Life: 18 Ways in Which Chess Relates to Life

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

A popular meme says, “Life is like a game of chess. I have no idea how to play chess.” Chess is a game enjoyed by enthusiasts the world over. It is a game of skill, constant motion, and strategy. One of the most interesting benefits of learning, playing, and gaining a greater understanding of the game is its influence on your daily life. Let us learn how chess relates to life.

Chess relates to life in various ways. Similarities are seen in strategy, planning, proactive behavior, creativity, logic over emotion, and living with purpose. The game is a board version of reality, mimicking the vital elements of survival and success throughout the game’s stages and life.

Chess can be seen as a top-down view of life in its grandest battle display. The push and pull of cause and effect bouncing off your opponent’s decisions lead to spirals of altered behaviors, all leading to the climax of reaching your ultimate goal, success. Join us as we uncover definitive ways in which chess relates to life.

These are 18 ways in which chess relates to life:

1. Chess And Life Use Strategy

It is a well-known fact that to play a good chess game, you must have a strategy. In fact, having a few alternative methods in mind is beneficial in case your first plan goes awry.

The same can be said of life. Whether studying, working, or running your own business, strategy is key to success. Keep your ultimate goal in mind and strategize how to achieve it, step by calculated step.

When things change or you face an unforeseen challenge, know that you have alternate strategies ready. Plans A, B, and even C can go a long way in ensuring your success, both on the board and in life.

2. Chess And Life Need Lateral Thinking

Thinking outside the box is one of a person’s most incredible skills. In chess, lateral thinking allows you to see the whole board instead of focusing entirely on the planned moves.

When your opponent makes moves that surprise you, thinking laterally helps you get out of a sticky situation, pivot, and keep striving toward victory.

In life, there is no end to the number of times challenges and surprises will be thrown your way. You must be able to pivot, find different solutions, and use your powers of lateral thinking to keep moving toward success.

3. Chess And Life Need Empathy

It may seem strange to mention empathy as a part of chess, but when you look closely at how we play, you may feel differently.

In chess, reading your opponent enables you to gauge why they make specific moves and where they may be headed. Using the power of empathy makes it possible to get into their head and learn how they think. To know your opponent, you must become one with them, and only then will you be able to anticipate their motives and moves.

In life, empathy is often seen as a weakness. Being too emotionally charged with others’ feelings can cause confusion, exhaustion, and depression. But when used appropriately, empathy allows you to deeply understand and appreciate those around you.

Marketers and salespeople are typically particularly good at understanding their target markets’ emotions, desires, thoughts, and needs. The idea is that if you can understand your client, you can engage with them and build relationships that ultimately lead to the sale you desire.

The same rule goes for relationships, both romantic and platonic. If you can get into your partner’s head and truly understand them, where they come from, and what makes them happy or triggered, you have a much higher chance of making a success of the relationship.

4. Chess And Life Help Us Look At The Big Picture

When engrossed in a chess game, it can become easy to hone in on one or two aspects of the game and our intense desire to see our moves executed and win. In truth, this is a mistake often associated with rookie chess players.

This limited view of the board often costs newcomers to the game their victory. Seasoned chess players know that to get the best from a game, they need to see the whole board.

It is easy to fall into the same trap as a newbie chess player in life. How often do you find yourself completely engrossed in one or two aspects of your life, forgetting that an entire world of possibilities and experiences is available to you?

To succeed at the chess game of life, it is beneficial to look up from your daily patterns, routines, and grind and notice the whole board of the world around you. You may suddenly see opportunities you could never have imagined as you previously went about your regular life.

5. In Chess And Life, Situations Are Often Not Personal

This is a big one. Play the game, not the player. See the game and life for what it is. Not much is as personal as we might fear.

In chess, we must focus on the game. Opponents will try to rattle you, bluff, and make moves to confuse you. You are responsible for concentrating entirely on the game, seeing it for what it truly is, and keeping your goals in mind.

In life, people will distract you, willingly or accidentally. You will clash with some, find solace in others, and want to defeat your enemies. Ultimately, the responsibility is yours to keep your focus on the end game.

What are you working to achieve? How can you ensure you succeed? Focus on the game, not the people around you, and how they weave influences into your existence.

6. Throughout Chess And Life, There Is Room To Grow

Chess is a fantastic game. The more you lose, amazingly, the more you learn.

The Japanese have a term, “shoshin.” It means beginner’s mind. The idea is that when you have a beginner’s mind, you can see things with eyes of wonder, as if everything is new and ready for you to learn about.

As you play chess, employing shoshin, a spirit of the beginner’s mind, is most beneficial. In that way, you are constantly learning and improving yourself, your strategies, and your game.

The same theory applies in life. Keeping an open mind and growth mindset allows you to keep learning and improving. We only stop learning when we die, so improvement is a beautiful act of life.

7. There Is Almost Always A Way Out In Chess And Life

During a chess game, you will feel boxed in and stuck. It is the same in life. Thankfully, both chess pieces and humans can move.

There may be rules to how we can move, but we are never completely stuck. In chess and life, move if you don’t like where you are.

8. Chess And Life Are Riddled With Systems

Chess is a game rich in systems. Knowing them well allows you to work within them to trick your opponent and win the game.

Life is riddled with systems, too. Know the systems that govern your life. Get to understand the intricate patterns and mechanisms that keep it moving and use them to your benefit.

Like with jazz, to break the rules, you must first have a deep understanding of them.

9. Over-Confidence Can Cost In A Chess Game Or Life

Confidence is a beautiful trait to have. It allows you to move forward with courage and understand your value. When we become too comfortable and confident, we begin to err on the side of laziness, which is a flaw.

In chess and life, being too comfortable means not growing or learning. It also means that our opponents will likely see our comfort and seize the opportunity to take the lead.

Be confident, but never get too comfortable as you strive towards your goals.

10. Opportunities Are Practically Endless On The Chessboard And In Life

Opportunities are always a move away in life and a game of chess. What may seem like a challenge or issue could become the most incredible game opportunity.

The trick is to keep your eyes and mind open and ready to recognize opportunities. The next trick is to act on them.

11. Chess And Life Require Purpose And Focus

It is never beneficial to make a move for no reason when playing a chess game. Every single action should be made with purpose.

It is the same in life. Those who know the purpose of every decision find it easier to move forward and see themselves succeeding in reaching their goals.

12. A Solid Foundation Is Vital For Chess Strategy And Life

Chess has three phases to a game. The beginning, middle, and end. Life can be broken into steps, too, from infancy to death.

When we build a solid foundation, we allow the following phases to progress with ease. In a game of chess, it is best to begin the game strong. After a strong start, we are likely leading the game, and the rest may progress according to our desires.

Creating a solid foundation means reaping the rewards down the line, too.

Even when detours occur, having that strong foundation means we can better adapt when needed.

13. For Chess And Life, Planning Should Come First

In both chess and life, planning is essential. Having one plan is excellent. Having a few alternatives is even better.

14. Patterns Can Be Identified In Chess And Life

Oh, how this skill is so needed in chess and in life!

Chess requires us to watch for patterns within our opponents, strategies, moves, and techniques.

Spotting patterns in life allows us to realize the cause of our triggers, emotions, mistakes, and recurring issues. You may find that identifying patterns in the behavior of those around you helps you recognize who may or might not be the right fit for you and what their intentions could be.

15. Emotional Control Is Valued In Chess And Life

For chess players, emotions must be kept in check. Viewing the board with clinical precision allows you to make decisions based on facts. Emotions cloud our judgment, and we will likely lose the game when we begin making decisions based on how we feel.

Although emotions play a role in our existence, keeping them in check, especially when making important decisions, is beneficial.

16. Sacrifice Is Sometimes Needed In Chess And Life

It is an unfortunate truth that sacrifices must be made to progress in a game of chess. It may seem ruthless, but that’s how the game works.

Unfortunately, it is the same in life. Along the way, sacrifices must be made if we are to reach our actual goals.

Thankfully, the likelihood of having to sacrifice a human is very low! You may find yourself sacrificing things like your time, party nights, bad relationships, shopping sprees, and the like.

17. In Chess And Life, Keep Calm and Keep Moving

When panic sets in, it is far too easy to become a frenzied player. Then, we begin making fatal mistakes, both on and off the board.

A handy mantra that applies in chess and in life is to keep calm and keep moving… slowly and with purpose.

18. Enjoy The Process, Whether On The Chessboard Or In Life

Ultimately, chess is a game, and games are meant to be enjoyed. In the game of life and chess, always remember to stop strategizing for a moment and realize that you are, in fact, having fun.

In Closing

In the end, chess and life are radically similar. So many valuable lessons we learn in the game can and should be applied to life and the other way around. Just as we strive for goals and attempt to keep our focus in life, so too is our game of chess, as we strive for the ultimate goal of checkmate and gain all the valuable lessons along the way.

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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.