The Queen’s Gambit has captivated viewers around the world with its 1960s music, high end fashion, and the art of the mind playing chess. It seems as though everyone wants to play chess these days, and for competitive chess players like myself who do this for a living, we are always excited to grow the community. However, we must not forget that chess isn’t always about winning. Sure, we followed Beth and rooted for her to beat Borgov, but that’s not the point.
The Queen’s Gambit is about so much more than just winning. It’s about what the game teaches you. For Beth, it taught her how to fight for herself and overcome drug addiction. For me, it means strategic planning and building skills needed for life. Let’s talk about how chess is helping communities thrive.
- No one wins without collaboration.
Imagine an endgame position with just a black queen and king with a white king. The queen sits in front of the white king, checking him, while the black king stands behind guarding her. Without the king protecting the queen, she would be captured by the white king. Without the black queen, the black king would fall into stalemate. Each piece relies on the other. In life, we need to collaborate with our colleagues, classmates, and community members to ensure the well-being of our society. Even think about the purpose of the game: to checkmate your opponent and to protect your own king. How can the king be protected without the support from the other pieces?
- Every decision has its consequences…the good, the bad, and the checkmate.
If I move my bishop to that square, what can my opponent do? Can they capture it? If not, can they do a move that will further their plan? If I move here, is it furthering my own plan? All of these questions and more are vital to chess and to life. The decisions we make today will have huge impacts on what happens a day, a month, or a year from now. Learning how to think about decision-making is just as important as making a decision. Everything we do today (from waking up to deciding what to wear to figuring out what task to work on first) impacts the rest of the day. Just as each move matters in chess, each decision we make in life matters.
- Tactics are small steps working towards your ultimate goal.
Yes, the goal of chess is to checkmate your opponent’s king. However, how do we get there? What small milestones can we make each stage of the game to set us up for victory? If your ultimate goal is to work as blank in x field, what do you have to achieve in order to get there? Do you need to go back to school? Do you need a certain amount of work experience? Chess teaches goal setting and the art of strategic planning. Even the best chess players in the world need a plan of action to win.
- Solving problems takes evaluation and analysis.
On a daily basis, we face problems we must try and solve. It could be as simple as “why is this light not turning on?” to make complex issues like “why aren’t I getting the results I want?” Chess is not only an exercise for the mind, but it challenges us to solve our own problems on the chess board and our opponent’s. When we are faced with an obstacle (perhaps our opponent has forked our bishop and knight), how can I get out of that situation in a way that benefits me the most? Maybe you use your bishop to check your opponent’s king so they have to move somewhere else and not capture your knight. In real life, maybe you need to talk to your boss before you apply for another job.
- Strategic planning is life planning.
How do you expect to achieve your goals when you don’t have a plan of action? Chess teaches us how to identify a goal, make a plan of action to achieve that goal, and then find new ways to pivot if that initial plan doesn’t work. The most successful people, from Bill Gates to Barack Obama, have major goals and a set of steps to achieve them.
When I teach chess to the community, I teach these skills. Chess is used as a vehicle to teach even more complex subjects like problem solving and goal setting. Communities across the country can use chess for urban development, asset mapping, and public policy recommendations. Individuals can use chess to help set their goals and achieve them. Chess isn’t about winning every match, it’s about learning how to win.