I was first introduced to chess as a child, and I have been hooked ever since. I can’t recall whether it was my mother or father who taught us the essential piece movements, but my younger brother and I used the knowledge to keep us busy on slow days. We would set up the board, take our usual sides, and play until one of us lost all of our pieces first. It wasn’t until we were a few years older that we learned the concept of the game: trap the other guy’s king first. Interesting enough, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I applied the concept to issues beyond the board game.
Chess is a game of strategy, and it dawned on me one day that is life too. No, not the Hasbro simulation, but the one we experience every waking moment. In chess there’s an objective: there’s something you want, and there are a number of ways to go about achieving it.
There are three types of chess players: those who start the game with a set plan, those who develop a plan during the game, and those who completely wing it.
Starting out with a set plan in either chess or life isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You may think you have it all figured out: finish high school, go to your first choice university, graduate and get your dream job, maybe get married and start a family, retire to an exotic island. If you know exactly what you want, they say that the quickest way to get from point A to point B is a straight line. The problem with the straight line strategy is that it doesn’t accommodate the curves. Your opponent has a plan of his own and I can guarantee that it won’t always jive with the one you’ve set. For example: you may have your win riding on your bishop, but if you don’t consider your opponent’s knight, he may throw your game off completely. Respectively, if you only apply to your dream university and don’t consider the possibility of being declined, it could throw off your entire plan.
At the other end of the spectrum, the people who use the “wing it” strategy will run into problems as well. There’s nothing wrong with having a laid back, stride-for-stride type of attitude. Actually, it tends to be preferable to the tightly wound “A-types.” However, having a sense of integrity is essential to any game, especially life. Sure, there are those who make out well with their nonchalance, but one must consider how much more they had to endure to get to that point. Going to college without an idea of what you want to do can be hazardous to your time and bank account. You may get to experience a wide variety of subjects, but because your scope is too broad it may be difficult to narrow it down to a specific degree and career path. As for your chess game, without a plan your piece count may dwindle drastically before you realize what’s going on.
It is vital to your game that you find a happy medium between the straight-line and haphazard strategies. There are pros and cons to each style, and after experimenting with all three I’ve found that I prefer to play with an adaptive strategy. By being assertive in my moves, and responding appropriately to my opponent, I’ve been successful. I analyze each piece position and work out the possible outcomes of each following movement. If I move my queen to this spot, which of my opponent’s pieces can take her, and where can she go from there? Or, any piece I move will be in danger, which move would be the least devastating? I’ve become more practical in my movements on the board and in life because of this strategy. In high school I had it all figured out. I was going graduate early and move out-of-state to go to my dream ivy league school, and I was going to be the best damn neuropsychologist in the business. But, things happen and life gets in the way. I hadn’t planned on dual-enrolling at the local community college my senior year of high school, or being overwhelmed with my course load to the point of dropping three classes, or deciding to switch my major to English in my fourth semester. However, I managed to adapt to these changes and make the best of it. Things may not have gone the way I had initially planned, but things are going just as well.