5 Ways Chess Teaches Superior Critical Thinking Skills
Planning – After just 4 moves of chess, there are more possible combinations of games that can be played than there are atoms in the universe. I know what you’re thinking….that I just made that up. Google it, there are not only more, but many orders of magnitude more. So how does somebody get from the opening symmetrical position to watching an opponent tip their king over in resignation? Planning. I have taught several first time chess players over the years. One of my favorite parts is when they just begin to see the pieces as more than separate and individual. Seeing them as all part of one large plan takes lots of practice but when it’s learned, the game of chess is loved forever.
Problem Solving – One thing I like to teach to new players is that every move, even a blunder, changes the board in both positive and negative ways. With the exception of checkmating your opponent, even playing the best move on the board creates problems, weaknesses, and tactical threats. In every game a player will inevitably find themselves under the pressure of an attack by his/her opponent. Learning how to deal with these threats requires the player to figure out how create solutions to the problem in front of them.
Patience – In the romantic era of chess, wild attacks were made. The best players would sacrifice all their material in a seemingly absurd attack, and then checkmate their opponents. You can put these old games into a chess computer and see that the attack really wasnt very sound and with a simple move sequence, defended. The problem is, there is a real psychological pressure that comes with being constantly attacked. It is not easy to find the solution. Learning to put aside the anxiety of the attack while calmly and rationally examining the board is, in my opinion, the very best way to learn to be patient.
Finding Creativity – There is a term in chess called “a chess brilliance.” Most players will never achieve one. It happens when a player has such creativity that they find a completely unexpected way to win a chess game. A way that nobody had ever thought of before. If you need an example of a chess brilliance, check out Bobby Fischer’s Game of the Century with Donald Byrne. It is one of the most creative winning sequences in chess and was played by Fischer when he was just 13 years old.
Evaluating Consequences – When players first start playing chess, they usually move pieces pretty randomly. After a bit of play, they start to learn that every move they make has consequences attached to it. Mental statements like “I can take my opponents knight but I will lose my Rook” or “I can capture my opponents pawn for free but it will leave my king exposed to an attack” need to be evaluated. Every move made requires the player to repeat this exercise and is mastered by chess players better than anybody else.