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What Can Chess Teach You?: 20 Crucial Life Lessons We Can Learn from Playing Chess

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

Chess has long been heralded as a way to keep the mind active and healthy. Researchers are even looking into whether it can help protect against dementia and help those with attention deficit disorder. Parents are also encouraged to get children involved in the game to improve problem-solving skills, which are valuable in STEAM roles. But what life lessons does chess have to teach? 

Chess teaches many lessons, including the rewards of patience and how to stay calm under pressure. In chess, pieces with high-level skills are valuable, but without the rest of the team, they are worthless. Also, the game forces you to be aware of your weaknesses and address them. 

In life, society likes to promote the individual. So it is not unusual to hear somebody describe themselves as a “lone wolf” that is “self-made,” as if their success depends on no one else. But chess exposes these mindsets as societal myths. It’s a game that requires pieces to work together, and even a lowly pawn can be crucial to victory. 

These are the 20 crucial life lessons we can learn from playing chess:

1. Chess Shows There Is Value In Screwing Up

Our society loves winners. We draw our heroes as mythical beings that win on their first try. Thus, we forget that there are lessons in making mistakes. Sometimes the greatest knowledge comes from a wrong move. These lessons often stick far longer than getting it right on the first try. 

2. Chess Teaches How To Achieve Calm

Chess can provide people with anxiety with a method of achieving calm. The game offers focus which helps steady panic attack symptoms. So just keeping a chess app on the phone will have the tool ready for when people need it. 

3. In Chess, The Most talented Still Need Others For Success

Chess pieces are ranked in talent. The lowly pawn has nothing queen’s range of skills. However, it is a rare player that can win the game by only valuing their queen. Pawns have an essential role in the game. Chess teaches that even those in the most basic positions of a team are still performing a necessary job. 

4. You Gain More From A Hard Loss In Chess Than An Easy Win

Players that are serious about improving their chess game quickly learn that it is better to challenge themselves and lose than play weaker opponents for an easy win. By playing more demanding games, people learn to think differently and come up with better strategies. Thus, being willing to fail in chess will lead to greater success in the future. 

5. Chess Teaches The Value Of Addressing Your Weaknesses

You don’t become great at chess without being honest about where your game is weak. Yes, players want to utilize their strengths. Thus, like in life, if you are unaware of your soft spots, you are vulnerable to those who will exploit them.

6. Chess Shows High-Level Skills Will Be Valued 

The pieces of a chessboard are not of equal importance and skill. Aside from the hobbled king, your most valuable pieces, such as the queen or the rook, are those of high skill. The same is true in life: society values those with high-level skills. 

7. Chess Teaches Sacrificing For The Greater Good

Chess is about making tough choices, such as losing a valuable knight to save the queen or, even more crucially, the king. But sometimes in life, we have to sacrifice something we care about for the overall greater good. 

8. Those With Little Obvious Worth Can Be Priceless In Chess

Society often tries to overlook the more vulnerable people and treat them as worthless. But that puny pawn might save the king’s life and the game. Furthermore, the king doesn’t have fancy skills either, but the game is lost without that piece. Thus, chess teaches us that sometimes those that don’t obviously have worth can be essential to our society. 

9. Chess Teaches Calmness Under Pressure

One of chess’s most powerful lessons is staying calm when under pressure. Until this is mastered, a player will not advance far. It is an essential life skill that serves people well in many areas outside the game. 

10. Chess Demonstrates The Rewards Of Patience

Patience is a virtue, and chess teaches it over and over again. 

11. In Chess, It’s Probably A Trap If It Looks That Good

Chess opponents, like scam artists, try to tempt people into making a massive mistake by setting a “too good to be true” trap. Learning to spot these pitfalls is a crucial life lesson. 

12. Chess Teaches Respecting Skills, Not Credentials

It doesn’t matter how many degrees and fancy accolades a person has when they play chess. All that matters is performance. 

13. Chess Demonstrates That Strategy Paves Success

In chess, you will get further when you have a strategy, just like in life. 

14. Chess Teaches Considering Another’s Viewpoint

To excel at chess, a player needs to try to put themselves in their opponent’s seat. Playing “your own game” will leave you vulnerable if you don’t pick up on how the other player thinks. In life, only addressing challenges from your viewpoint will mean missing crucial information and potential solutions. 

15. Chess Shows The Consequences Of Impulsiveness

Impulsiveness in chess leads to regrettable moves and losses, much like life. 

16. Playing Chess Teaches Seeing The Bigger Picture

In chess, you not only have to think of your next move but consider how the play will impact a game in the future. As in life, getting focused on the short-term or one small issue will mean missing out on the broader, long-term impact. 

17. In Chess, Opportunities Must Be Seized

In chess, opportunities can appear out of the blue. Perhaps a player made a foolish error. But if you don’t act quickly, these moments of fortune will vanish. 

18. Chess Teaches Flexibility When Executing Plans

Chess players come in with a plan but must modify it or revert to plan B or C as the game progresses. Being stubborn about strategy, regardless of how a situation is playing out, leads to poor outcomes.

19. Chess Shows That Creativity Must Have Purpose

Being creative, clever, and flashy is useless and potentially detrimental unless there is an actual purpose. Otherwise, all that complicated maneuvering is wasted energy that could lead to you missing your target. 

20. Chess Teaches The Value Of Faking It

Chess demands we learn to fake it even when we know we’re over our heads or have made a mistake. If you go, “Oh no,” your opponent will seize upon your vulnerability. Like life, acting confident in chess is an advantage. 

In Closing

Chess has many lessons to bring into our everyday existence, from how we value others to our demeanor. Just remember to enjoy it, much like you should in life.

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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.