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9 Chess Principles You Can Apply to Your Life

Chess is a beautiful game that is considered by many an art and a sport. It’s also one of the oldest games in human history. As chess players learn and refine their chess principles through time, certain patterns begin to emerge. Chess principles often mimic life and offer valuable insights. Consider the following for a more strategic lifestyle:

1. Aim at the center.

Aiming at the center of the board invites early confrontation to occupy important squares. In life, you must occupy your own center. If you take care of your important life squares like love, health, and finances, you’ll set yourself up for success.

2. Develop your major pieces.

Life is finite. Your time is limited. A timely development of your life pieces means you do the things that you care about. When we are developing, we have a sense of alignment, we apply effort to learn skills, to practice, to contribute, and to choose work worth pursuing.

3. Don’t expose your King.

In chess, if you use your King’s pawns carelessly, you often end up with an over-exposed position. Positions like this tend to fragilize the King. Create positions in your life where you can achieve long-term outcomes, and avoid the quick results that often give the illusion of progress. Exposing yourself to massive productivity can lead to early burnout. Take care of your King (or Queen).

4. Occupy the open files.

In chess, you want to control open files (the columns/rows of the board) by placing long-range pieces there. In life, open files are like opportunities. And opportunities seldom happen if you don’t look for them. Find your open files at important life intersections like skills, passion and work. Then, like a chess piece, set yourself in it.

5. Never move quickly.

To never move quickly is perhaps the most important skill you can learn in chess. You can apply this principle in your life by delaying your gratification. Patience can take you very far in the game and in your life. You know you’re exercising patience when you care to utilize your time and not rush through it. You can do this by focusing more on quality and less on time.

6. Find an alternative move.

Too often we see a good move and want to play it immediately. Instead, you can give yourself some time to look for even better options. In Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, brothers Chip and Dan Heath explain that: “When we Widen Our Options, we give ourselves the luxury of a real choice among distinct alternatives.” They encourage us to keep our binary choices in check, and consider expanding your options.

7. When attacking, consider all the pieces.

This is similar to finding an alternative move. How can we find that? Sometimes we can find good moves that are not apparent. Other times, you can consider what you already know and have. What are you good at? What skills do you already know? You have more assets than you are willing to give yourself credit for.

8. Sometimes you don’t have to move forward.

It’s funny how sometimes doing nothing is the best option.

9. Zoom out to see all the board.

If you find yourself being too caught up in the day to day demands, then zoom out. In chess, we tend to focus only on spots of the board where most of the action is happening. This always comes at the expense of missing a potential opportunity. Researchers Heather Sheridan and Rick Lahaye describe this as the Einstellung effect. In life as in chess: zoom out, see the big picture, and consider if there is something you’d like to do differently.


Juan F. Diaz

(JFD on ICC)
For more article written by Juan, please check his blog

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