Games can teach you a lot about life. So can anecdotes. I’m going to give an anecdote about chess and how it illustrated the importance of strategic vision.
In high school, my friend Ryan started becoming interested in chess, so we used to play during the weird extra period at the end of the day. He would always beat me. He then recommended Chess for Dummies, so I picked it up. After I read it, I was finally able to best him. Then, we graduated and I’ve only played chess a few times since.
This year, before leaving home for winter break, I was playing chess against my friend after a raucous game of Risk. It was really frustrating because I knew there were moves I was no longer able to see. I used to have a better sense of the game and its patterns. I resolved to read Chess for Dummies again when I got back home.
I dusted off the book, gave it a quick read-through, and then challenged my sister to a game of chess. I beat her. Now, she wasn’t very good at chess, so my victory does not mean much. What matters is that I saw the game completely differently. I was able to see the game through strategic lenses.
I had some new basic principles in mind to guide me, but most important of all was that I formulated goals to accomplish. At the beginning, I wanted to attack the base of her pawn chain. I accomplished this, and then I started gaining a material advantage. One of my next goals was to start exchanging pieces so that my material advantage would be more pronounced.
This contrasts greatly with the old way I was playing. I just moved pieces around and hoped my opponent made mistakes, which I could exploit. I had no concept of how to attack beyond the basics. I had no idea that I wanted to control certain portions of the board. I just saw pieces which I had to attack. I didn’t realize that there was more to the game than the material. It was all (bad) tactics, and no strategy.
When I felt that something was missing, I was right. In high school, I used to see the game completely differently. I had an over-arching strategy. All movements of the pieces were instrumental to that strategy. When I regained that command of chess, I learned a lesson about strategic vision. If you don’t have a strategy, you’re just moving your pieces around and you’re going to lose. I need to apply this to other aspects of life.