There is rarely a moment in a chess game when a player doesn’t have to calculate many moves ahead. The ‘tree’ of options expands rapidly when the player accounts for multiple possible moves for both colours (called ‘lines’ in chess terminology). Strong analytical skills are required to logically decipher the alternatives. Against popular belief, most Grandmasters (the strongest players in tournament chess) generally only calculate 2 to 3 moves ahead; they rely on intuition, experience, and pattern recognition to eliminate inferior lines. Yet, they all possess the ability to calculate 15 to 20 moves ahead when needed.
In November 2011 German Master Marc Lang played 46 games at once. He won 25, lost 2, and drew 19. Training the mind to solve problems without sight develops both superior visualisation skills and calculation speed. It’s instructive watching elite players in complex positions: they often turn their head to the side or to the ceiling because they can ‘see’ the position more accurately in their mind’s eye.
For this reason, at the beginning of every Central Highlands Chess class we run a series of memory and visualisation exercises.
Chess games often last several hours (at the highest level 6 to 7 hour games are quite common), so success requires precise and challenging calculation over long periods. Since the result can swing on any move chess encourages a commitment to apply consistent effort, a trait that is transferrable to any aspect of life.
Over the course of a long chess game, or even a tournament that can last several weeks, competitors must make a plethora of decisions. The ability to consistently apply logic and to act strategically rather than emotionally is critical to one’s fortunes. This skill is acquired through practice and training, and is essential for success in other fields, not the least in examinations and professional work.
Unlike almost every other popular sport, chess is played in isolation. Children learn very quickly that they are responsible for their own decisions, and that the outcome hinges on their ability to solve problems better than their opponent. Chess requires a strong will to win, but more important humility to accept losses with grace. We encourage a healthy balance between determination and good gamesmanship.
Chess is fortunate to have an unbiased ‘rating’ system where every player is given a score to reflect their standard. Aspiring for a better rating, or to defeat a higher rated opponent, provides significant motivation to players at all levels.
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