Lessons from Chess

Nonfiction by | June 29, 2008

As we watch my father’s wake, I play chess with my older sister. It’s only in times like these that I get to play the game. My classmates back in high school never wanted to play with me because I used to be a very lousy player. Last night, as I played against my sister, I only won twice in about ten games. However, I have learned things I never would have learned if I didn’t play the game.

Here are some of my insights:

Life is what you make it. This existentialist belief is very evident in the game. Your victory lies on how well you play the game. Each move you make requires decision making and your choices create an impact on your future.

Clarify your goal. In a chess game, one wins not for how many pieces one captures. The goal in Chess is to capture the King. In one of our games, my sister played without a Queen and a few major pieces but she was still able to capture my King. In the same way, we sometimes lose track in life. If we do not know our purpose here in Earth, we are like a chess player who doesn’t realize the true objective of the game.

Strategize. At first, I would move my pieces without thinking of any strategies. I didn’t care which square my pieces landed on. What mattered to me was just to be able to make a move. I ended up losing my most important pieces. In life, if you are aiming to achieve something, better plan ahead. Some plans work, others don’t. Recognize the surprises that come up as you move along and be ready to adapt. Always have a “Plan B,” just in case.

Focus. While we were playing, my cellular phone would beep. I would read the message and reply. I was doing that throughout the game. I lost, obviously. I should have focused my attention on the game. Sometimes, we don’t take life seriously. We tend to just go with the flow. Even if you know what you want to happen, and even if you have good strategies, without focusing your attention on what you are doing, expect no good outcome.
Observe keenly. Although your victory lies in your hands, never disregard your opponent’s moves. Once, I was too busy planning out my strategy that I didn’t notice my sister’s pieces come closer to capture my king. I learned later that you also have to always be aware of your opponent’s strategies. In fact, your inability to figure out your opponent’s plan means your own plans are not clearly defined. In life, we have to be cunning. We have to be watchful. We must learn from everything that takes place around us. Sometimes, people who are nice to us are not always on our side. People are not always what they purport to be.

Synergize. In another game, my sister had lost most of her major pieces. I still had mine and I was trying to capture her King but she still succeeded in eluding my pieces. I learned later on that my pieces were not working together as a team, that I wasn’t organizing my pieces to corner the King. In life, we have to recognize that our own efforts cannot propel us to attain what we aspire for ourselves. God sends His instruments to expedite our success. All we need to do is to make these instruments work together. That might mean listening to other people, asking for help from experts, obeying norms, developing our potentials, working with peers, and others that may apply.

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