Chess & the 7 – Dimensions of Life

“The chessboard is the world, the pieces are the phenomena of the
Universe, the rules of the game are what we call the laws of Nature
and the player on the other side is hidden from us”

(Thomas Huxley)

Our universe is in a constant process of deterioration. Our sun will one day burn out just like every other star eventually does in the universe. Our earth is not in the same condition that it was when our ancestors lived on it. It should be no surprise then, when scientists speak of global warming and its’ negative effects on our environment.
From the moment we are conceived, we as human beings also start the aging process. Even though we are just beginning to develop, our life “time line” begins and the clock starts ticking towards our death. Due to our genetic and socio-cultural inheritance, our faulty DNA continues to deteriorate up until an average age of 80 years, assuming that we do not prematurely die from other causes.

Don’t Get Old

My father whom I never seen sick a day in his working life, retired at age 55. He just turned 90 and it wasn’t until the last couple of years that when I asked him how he is feeling, he started replying, “Lousy – my shoulders hurt, my hips hurt, and my body aches all over – Don’t get old.” How do you respond to these words of wisdom – Don’t get old? The fact is that everything and everybody in this world is getting older each day, because we are in a constant state of deterioration just like our universe, sun and earth.

So if it is just a matter of time before I die, is there a way to slow down this aging process? Medical doctors tell us that by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, we may be able to add up to 20 -years to our lives. When I bought my Honda Civic new in 1997, the dealership salesman gave me an owners’ manual along with a maintenance schedule. Because I wanted to prevent my car from rusting and breaking down prematurely, I have attempted to follow that maintenance schedule for regular oil changes, tune-ups, new tires, and brakes, (etc.). My mechanic recently informed me that even though this car is now over 10-years old and I have put 140,000 miles on it, that if I continue to follow my maintenance program, I may be able to drive this car another 60,000 miles.

Other forms of life (animals, plants, etc), do not need to decide on and act upon a scheduled maintenance plan to adapt to their deteriorating physical forms and environments because their DNA comes equipped with a built-in maintenance system that automatically directs them on what to eat, when to sleep, when and who to have sex with, and where to live. As so-called higher forms of life, the DNA plan within every one of our (trillion some) human cells gives us the power to choose from a plethora of options and alternative lifestyle activities. Considering the history of mankind over the centuries, we know that whole cultures and societies have not survived the gene pool cleansing process because they did not learn to adapt to their environment.

If we do not learn to adapt to and maintain our lives and environment – we also will not survive the gene pool cleansing process (or your premature death due to ignorance, fear of change, laziness, and/ or stupidity – prior to the reproduction of all that you are made of). The point being made here is that we as human beings all need a maintenance program. The problem is that no one gives us this maintenance plan at birth. We learn some things from our imperfect parents and some things from our imperfect peers, teachers, and supervisors, but ultimately, it is up to each one of us to decide how we will choose to live our lives. This lack of a scheduled maintenance program, along with our faulty learning system, puts the majority of us at high risk for premature diseases, disorders, addictions, and a myriad of psych-social and cultural stressors.

Chess ?

So what does this all have to do with the game of chess? Like Thomas Huxley, I have also come to see the world, the universe, the laws of nature, and how we choose to live our lives – from a chess game perspective. I believe that we all could and would make better moves (decisions for our lives) if we were all more aware of the options/ strategies/ resources, etc. – available to us and the consequences of our choices prior to making our decisions. My wife taught me how to play chess a few years ago (in my late 40’s). Growing up, I always considered chess a game for “nerds,” or for those “book worms” that were not very good at sports. I also (secretly) thought that those who played chess were just more intelligent then me, and maybe I just wasn’t smart enough to learn the game. After being beaten numerous times by my wife, I found a computer chess game and began playing daily during my lunch breaks. Since this programmed chess game had different levels of difficulty, I could choose to play the seven year olds – and began to win a few games. These successes helped me to start winning some games with my wife.

Subsequently, I started playing against an on-line chess program. The difference was that there were no difficulty levels to choose from and I was forced to play the chess master every game. Needless to say, my success rates at winning dropped dramatically. In fact, I was losing 4 – 5 times a day, and this continued for over a year. I didn’t give up trying to win, however, because the program itself stated, “Don’t get discouraged if you lose! Remember, we don’t race against motorcycles, and in the weight lifting events, we don’t compete against forklifts! After a few months of solid losing, I had lost all hope of ever winning. It was during this depressing period that I began to think about how this game of chess related to the “game of life,” and I began to see chess from a seven dimensional perspective that would eventually develop into a maintenance plan for my life and a formula for progress in my chess game.

7 – Dimensions of Life

1. Social / Cultural Dimension – I started seeing that your chess pieces are like family members and significant others in your life that you try to protect the best you can. We are all alike (black or white in chess) and we try to move and communicate in ways that will support our mutual goals. Unfortunately though, you end up losing the ones you love.

2. Medical/ Physical Dimension – In order to maintain a healthy body we must maintain a balance of moving (exercise), eating (our opponents pieces), and resting (knowing when not to move).

3. Mental/ Emotional Dimension – Chess forces us to think really hard about our actions, the consequences of our actions, and how our behavior affects others and the world around us. It also gives us opportunities to experience and deal with emotions – like anger, revenge, grief, and joy, etc.

4. Educational/ Occupational Dimension – Chess develops our attention span, concentration abilities, and memory – so that we can learn, be trained and skilled, and maintain satisfying work experiences.

5. Spiritual/ Religious Dimension – I didn’t notice a spiritual side to chess until one of my pawns first got transformed (born-again) into a Queen. At that point, I realized that our weakest members in life have the potential to become our strongest heroes. Chess also develops our faith in a set of organized beliefs and practices much like religion.

6. Legal/ Financial Dimension – Chess teaches us that there are consequences for not obeying the law (not playing by the rules of the game). There are also rewards for logically and systematically making the right moves in life.

7. Self-Control/ Higher Power Control Dimension- Chess teaches us that even though we may follow all the rules, all of the time – we do not have total control of our destiny (who wins the game and who loses). As Thomas Huxley so eloquently put it in his famous quote above (“the player on the other side is hidden).

Even with my above-noted humble insights, I was still convinced that it was impossible for me to beat this “Chess Master” program, so I just began measuring my progress by how long it would take the chess master to beat me. Within a few more months – my times had increased from approximately 2 – minutes to 5 – minutes, and I began to see that although I was sacrificing my pieces, I was also taking my opponents pieces at the same time. To make a long story shorter, one evening after over a solid year of losing, (approximately 1000 games), – I WON !!! I yelled at my wife to come and look, because I couldn’t believe it. The problem was that I couldn’t remember how I moved to win again. So after losing for a few more months, I finally memorized my game to beat him almost every time.

Note: You may not have the time to lose a 1000 times – so following are the first 20 moves – just to get you started. (First search for “Chess is Fun”).

Chess is Fun

1. 1g – 3f

2. 2g – 3g

3. 1f – 3h

4. 2d – 3d

5. 1c – 3e

6. 2f – 3e

7. 1b – 3c

8. 3h – 8c

9. 2h – 3h

10. 3d – 4d

11. 3f – 5e

12. 5e – 6c

13. 1e – 2d

14. 1d – 1g

15. 1h – 1g

16. 3c – 4a

17. 4a – 5c

18. 4d – 5c

19. 1g – 1b

20. 2b – 4b

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS (of playing chess)?


Chess is a game for people of all ages. You can learn to play at any age and in chess, unlike in many other sports, you don’t ever have to retire. Age is also not a factor when you’re looking for an opponent –young can play old and old can play young.

Chess develops memory. The chess theory is complicated and many players memorize different opening variations. You will also learn to recognize various patterns and remember lengthy variations.

Chess improves concentration. During the game you are focused on only one main goal — to checkmate and become the victor.

Chess develops logical thinking. Chess requires some understanding of logical strategy. For example, you will know that it is important to bring your pieces out into the game at the beginning, to keep your king safe at all times, not to make big weaknesses in your position and not to blunder your pieces away for free. (Although you will find yourself doing that occasionally through your chess career. Mistakes are inevitable and chess, like life, is a never-ending learning process.)

Chess promotes imagination and creativity. It encourages you to be inventive. There are an indefinite amount of beautiful combinations yet to be constructed.

Chess teaches independence. You are forced to make important decisions influenced only by your own judgment.

Chess develops the capability to predict and foresee consequences of actions. It teaches you to look both ways before crossing the street.

Chess inspires self-motivation. It encourages the search of the best move, the best plan, and the most beautiful continuation out of the endless possibilities. It encourages the everlasting aim towards progress, always steering to ignite the flame of victory.

Chess shows that success rewards hard work. The more you practice, the better you’ll become. You should be ready to lose and learn from your mistakes. One of the greatest players ever, Capablanca said, “You may learn much more from a game you lose than from a game you win. You will have to lose hundreds of games before becoming a good player.”

Chess and Science. Chess develops the scientific way of thinking. While playing, you generate numerous variations in your mind. You explore new ideas, try to predict their outcomes and interpret surprising revelations. You decide on a hypothesis, and then you make your move and test it.

Chess and Technology. What do chess players do during the game? Just like computers they engage in a search for the better move in a limited amount of time. What are you doing right now? You are using a computer as a tool for learning.

Chess and Mathematics. You don’t have to be a genius to figure this one out. Chess involves an infinite number of calculations, anything from counting the number of attackers and defenders in the event of a simple exchange to calculating lengthy continuations. And you use your head to calculate, not some little machine.

Chess and Research. There are millions of chess resources out there for every aspect of the game. You can even collect your own chess library. In life, is it important to know how to find, organize and use boundless amounts of information. Chess gives you a perfect example and opportunity to do just that.

Chess and Art. In the Great Soviet Encyclopedia chess is defined as “an art appearing in the form of a game.” If you thought you could never be an artist, chess proves you wrong. Chess enables the artist hiding within you to come out. Your imagination will run wild with endless possibilities on the 64 squares. You will paint pictures in your mind of ideal positions and perfect outposts for your soldiers. As a chess artist you will have an original style and personality.

Chess and Psychology. Chess is a test of patience, nerves, will power and concentration. It enhances your ability to interact with other people. It tests your sportsmanship in a competitive environment.

Chess improves schoolwork and grades. Numerous studies have proven that kids obtain a higher reading level, math level and a greater learning ability overall as a result of playing chess. For all those reasons mentioned above and more, chess playing kids do better at school and therefore have a better chance to succeed in life.

Chess opens up the world for you. You don’t need to be a high ranked player to enter big important competitions. Even tournaments such as the US Open and the World Open welcome players of all strengths. Chess provides you with plenty of opportunities to travel not only all around the country but also around the world. Chess is a universal language and you can communicate with anyone over the checkered plain.

Chess enables you to meet many interesting people. You will make life-long friendships with people you meet through chess.

Chess is cheap. You don’t need big fancy equipment to play chess. In fact, all you may need is your computer! (And we really hope you have one of those, or else something fishy is going on here.) It is also good to have a chess set at home to practice with family members, to take to a friend’s house or even to your local neighborhood park to get everyone interested in the game.

CHESS IS FUN! Dude, this isn’t just another one of those board games. No chess game ever repeats itself, which means you create more and more new ideas each game. It never gets boring. You always have so much to look forward to. Every game you are the general of an army and you alone decide the destiny of your soldiers. You can sacrifice them, trade them, pin them, fork them, lose them, defend them, or order them to break through any barriers and surround the enemy king. You’ve got the power!


[1] Robert Ferguson, “Chess in Education Research Summary,” paper presented at the Chess in Education A Wise Move Conference at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, January 12-13,1995.

[2] Albert Frank, “Chess and Aptitudes,” doctoral dissertation, 1974, Trans. Stanley Epstein.

[3] Johan Christiaen, “Chess and Cognitive Development,” doctoral dissertation, 1976, Trans. Stanley Epstein.

[4] Donna Nurse, “Chess & Math Add Up,” Teach, May/June 1995, p. 15, cites Yee Wang Fung’s research at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

[5] Robert Ferguson, “Teaching the Fourth R (Reasoning) through Chess,” School Mates, 1(1), 1983, p. 3.

[6] Robert Ferguson, “Developing Critical and Creative Thinking through Chess,” report on ESEA Title IV-C project presented at the annual conference of the Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, April 11-12, 1986.

[7] Robert Ferguson, “Teaching the Fourth R (Reflective Reasoning) through Chess,” doctoral dissertation, 1994.

[8] Isaac Linder, “Chess, a Subject Taught at School,” Sputnik: Digest of the Soviet Press, June 1990, pp. 164-166.

[9] Rafael Tudela, “Learning to Think Project,” Commission for Chess in Schools, 1984, Annex pp. 1-2.

[10] Rafael Tudela, “Intelligence and Chess,” 1984.

By James Slobodzien, Psy.D.

James Slobodzien, Psy.D., CSAC, is a Hawaii licensed psychologist and certified substance abuse counselor who earned his doctorate in Clinical Psychology. He is credentialed by the National Registry of Health Service Providers in Psychology. He has over 20-years of mental health experience primarily working in the fields of alcohol/ substance abuse and behavioral addictions in hospital, prison, and court settings. He is an adjunct professor of Psychology and also maintains a private practice as a mental health consultant.

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