While visions of world-domination are out the window, I am definitely better then I was initially and the game has changed my life in ways I didn’t expect. Chess is a complicated and demanding game and forces you to develop a variety of skills in order to improve. As a result, the game has at least for me, helped change both how I viewed the world and how I navigated through it. Each game needs to be approached with a deep focus that allows you to analyze the board and try to anticipate each move of the opposing player even before their turn, and have your own retaliatory move ready at hand. There are patterns of behavior to chess that you begin to recognize and know exactly how to respond to but you always need to be entirely engaged with the problem at hand in front of you. If you slip up and begin worrying about the other innumerable concerns in your life, you will invariably fail and make a mistake.
Chess helped me to realize that, at any moment, I should just play the game ahead of me and not worry about the improbable scenarios I would dream up.
I sometimes struggle with anxiety, a lot of which stems from my discomfort with the uncertainty and risk inherent with living in the real world. The fact that, at any moment, any second, almost anything could happen, stresses me out to no end. And as someone with anxiety, I try to guard against all of these unlikely scenarios by mentally preparing for everything. That means preparing for even implausible things like cars crashing through restaurant windows and being mistaken for a serial killer by the police. As a result of chess, however, I was often so anxious about all the crazy things that possibly could happen, that I never really focused on what was actually happening in front of me. Chess helped me to realize that, at any moment, I should just play the game ahead of me and not worry about the improbable scenarios I would dream up. When ordering coffee, I didn’t need to worry about the barista started screaming at me and throwing a hot cup of coffee in my face, I could just focus on ordering my coffee how I want it. As a result, a lot of my anxiety quickly started to fall away and my quality-of-life improved a great deal. After speaking with other friends who have also experienced a lessening of anxiety after taking up chess, I started researching to see if this was a common experience and came across some articles supporting my anecdotal findings. In an essay about the benefits of the game, chess master and professor Dr. Peter Dauvergne said chess can “teach children the importance of planning and the consequences of decisions. It can further teach how to concentrate… how to think logically and efficiently, and how to make tough and abstract decisions.” While his essay is specifically about children, I think it’s fair to say it pertains to adults as well. So basically this a long, roundabout way to implore you to take up chess. Not because it’s cool or it’s hip but because there’s a good chance it will help actually you live your life better. I’ll be there fumbling along with you, losing miserably... but gradually, slowly, becoming a better player and, hopefully, man in the process.