Free Press Journal

What the game of chess teaches you about life


Life is like chess, it is best to accept the people as they are and play the game as well as possible, says Dr Shrirang Bakhle

Destiny, with a crafty smile on face, said, “Check”, and put Anita in a serious vehicular accident. But Anita is a fighter. She is not the one to give up easily. So, she made her moves and fought back – and freed herself from the ‘check’ – and the possible ‘checkmate’! She is back in the game making her moves with relish every day.

She knows that a ‘check’ is not necessarily ‘checkmate’. Many people don’t realise this. For example, some people, who fail in an exam or get into a breakup, feel its checkmate – end of the game. But it is not so. There are many people who react in a similar fashion when they are told that they have diabetes or other health problems. Their reaction: “Now on it is living in the shadow of death. It is loss of all pleasures, so much trouble having to take medicines” etc. etc. But people like Anita don’t lose their nerves when Destiny places a problem in their life’s chessboard. They realise that life – like the game of chess – is a game of nerves. Those who don’t lose their nerve do well and keep winning – despite the sharp attacks made by Destiny.

Anyone who has played chess knows that no two games are alike. The 32 pieces and 64 squares ensure practically infinite permutations and combinations of games. And so is the case with our lives. Each person’s life is so completely different. Even the lives of siblings, who grow up in the same house and have the same parents, eventually, lead completely different lives. You, me and all of us play completely different games. So, it unwise to compare yourself and your life with others and their lives. Becoming unhappy because s/he has got such and such thing that I haven’t got, is unwise!

It is very interesting to see a chess tournament where many matches are being played simultaneously. All the games begin with the same starting positions of chess pieces on the board. Then see the games after just a few minutes and few moves – and each game is so completely different! And, just to compare, all of us begin our lives with completely different positions of pieces on the board! Our family backgrounds, our position in the same family, the advantages and disadvantages – are all different. So, obviously, each one’s game is bound to be totally different. So, comparing and becoming unhappy is not at all a good idea.

But does it mean that we should stop comparing the games? Of course, not! All the great chess players keep studying the games played by others – but with the attitude of learning. They learn how others have faced and solved the tricky problems. But chess masters know that they cannot copy entire games (entire lives). They can only learn the solutions to specific problems. But it helps a lot. For example, suppose a businessman goes into a loss. Now, there are two possible reactions: one is to become sad by comparing his life with that of other successful business people. The other is to meet or study businesspersons who have come out of loss – and learn from them. The point to be noted is that this person is not comparing whole lives but specific problem situation and learning the tricks that others have used.

The major difference between a great chess player and an ordinary chess player is in anticipating moves. It is about knowing how the opponent will react to your moves – and also, how the opponent is likely to attack.  The ordinary player can anticipate only one or two moves that the opponent can make. The great player can see many moves ahead and then decide the best plan of action. Whether it is taking care of future financial health or body’s health, we need to anticipate the possible moves by Destiny and plan our moves accordingly. Suppose you have hypertension but are feeling well otherwise. Then should you just ignore the BP or anticipate the future complications that the Destiny may place on your chessboard – and make your moves: check-ups and following a healthy lifestyle (such as exercising)? Just like the game of chess, we can make anticipatory moves to stop many types of attacks from happening.

Every chess piece – King, Queen, Bishop, Rook, Knight, Pawn – has certain strengths – and weaknesses. This is just like all the people including you! Chess players don’t complain that Knight cannot move straight or the Rook cannot jump over other pieces. It is best to accept the people as they are and play the game as well as possible.

Every day we plan our moves: I will do this, I will do that. But Destiny has a different plan. Sometimes we can anticipate Destiny’s moves, but sometimes we get a complete surprise. Suddenly you get transferred, somebody falls ill, suddenly the school or government changes the rules and so on. Then we must change our plan of attack and get into defensive mode to minimize the damage. Sometimes, what seems like Destiny’s attack, turns out to be favourable to us – if we are adaptable and see the opportunity. So, be cool and enjoy the game of chess with Destiny!