Life and the Art of Chess:
How playing the long game has helped me navigate womanhood, motherhood, and a successful career.
Written by: Natoshia Erickson
I love Chess. It’s a game where winning has nothing to do with luck, it's 100% strategy. It's about tactical and positional skills, playing without fear, and finding the best move in every position. My dad taught me Chess when I was 10. He’d say “This game is just like life... there’s a beginning, a middle, and an end. The great players (Lasker, Capablanca, Fishcer, etc.) play sharp openings, they’re calculated with every move, and they always focus on the endgame…most importantly though, they take the time to think about their position."
Playing Chess as a kid has helped me navigate life as a wife, mother, and as a professional. It’s helped me recognize the importance of playing backwards-to-forwards and pushing through challenges by having a laser-like focus on the endgame.
I wish that more young girls were taught the art of chess and the importance of playing the long game.
I could probably sit down and write a whole book about all the nuggets of wisdom I’ve learned from the game and how it relates to life as a woman who’s trying to do it all and have it all. But in lieu of said book, here are five important lessons the game of chess has taught me.
1 – The Queen isn’t the only piece on the board. Although she is important and undoubtedly key, she, alone, cannot win the game. It’s crucial to rely on those around the Queen, the Rook, Pawn, even the King can all play a major part in the game. Basically, the Queen doesn’t have to be the hero all the time, let some of the other pieces make the move.
2 – Sacrifice some pieces but be strategic about it. Remember that less pieces on the board = less room for error. We should focus on maneuvering ourselves into an end-game winning position by being willing to let go of a few pieces along the way. Doing this will help us manage the strategic ones so much better.
3 – The middle game is what sets apart the winners and losers. Recall, there are 3 phases in chess a beginning, middle, and end. In the beginning, there are many moving pieces, and the key is positioning whereas in the endgame, there are fewer pieces on the board, and it requires more knowledge to stay in the game. The middle game, however, is where a grand master stands out with her ability to devise cunning strategies, to take risk, and be creative.
4 –Don’t make a move until you can see it play out. Many women approach their career as a series of reactive moves, responding to circumstances as best they can. A grand master though is concrete and calculated in their decisions and doesn’t make a move until she can visualize it. Take the time to be strategic and contemplate the strength and weaknesses of your positions on the board before acting.
5 – Don’t worry about ratings, just play like a promising 10-year-old without fear. It’s easy to get wrapped up in what others think of you, how they view your accomplishments, strengths, and weaknesses. People will critique your moves repeatedly. Come each day with a beginner’s mind set, play like that young kid you knew who was fearless and ready to prove the world wrong. Play to win, learn from others, and above all else, enjoy the game!
Meet the Author
Healthcare and Human Services Consultant