Life Lessons from Playing Chess

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Playing Chess to Learn About Life

Chess is a useful game for teaching tactics and strategy. Compared to poker, chess involves less luck and psychology — and more skill.

Here are a few life lessons that chess can teach a Dangerous Child:

  1. Take the time to learn the basics
  2. Besides the basic rules for each piece, there are “rules of thumb” for basic strategies for opening your game, and basic tactics for capturing and checkmating.
    “Rules of thumb” can save a lot of time in chess and in life.

  3. Think before you play
  4. It is tempting to jump right in and move the various pieces here and there without paying much attention to how quickly things change. But if you want to get better, you will learn to evaluate the board before each play, from both sides of the board.

  5. Consider different intermediate and long term outcomes for each move
  6. Each move involves a lot of choices. Try to make the best move by its repercussions later in the game.

  7. Focus on your goal
  8. In chess, you want to checkmate your opponent. If you can devise a strategy to checkmate in 5 moves, choose that strategy — rather than just slugging it out in a war of attrition.

  9. Develop a plan but be prepared to change it
  10. Every good opponent has the ability to surprise you, and force you to develop alternative strategies.

  11. Don’t waste moves
  12. Every move you make should advance your plan. Playing around moving pieces back and forth just allows your opponent more time to develop his plan.

  13. Don’t sacrifice a piece without getting good value for it
  14. When you sacrifice a piece, you should be “buying” something more valuable than the piece you are giving up, in terms of position or capture.

  15. Take what you can, keeping the above rules in mind
  16. Even if it is just a free pawn, taking your opponent’s material helps to set up advantageous situations later in the game. But always look a gift horse in the mouth.

  17. Use your pieces in ensemble fashion
  18. Chess pieces (and pawns) work best together. Your pieces should defend each other, while also facilitating a “gang attack.”

  19. Chess teaches problem solving and visualisation
  20. Your brain becomes what it thinks. If it is thinking about solving problems and seeing solutions in the mind’s eye, such thinking can become a habit.

  21. Chess is one of the best places to learn from one’s own mistakes
  22. All of us have weaknesses in the way we approach problems. Chess can help point out some of them, as we try to improve.

Teaching chess to young children

Special problems or “mini-games” have been devised to help children and new players to master basic ensemble movement of pawns and pieces, with each other.

These imaginative mini-games help learners to master important situations that may have taken them hundreds (or thousands) of games to learn otherwise.

Chess vs. Poker

It takes more time for a new chess player to become familiar with the range of possible openings, board positions, and endings than for a new poker player to learn the basic hands and strategies. Psychology is involved in chess, but not as much as in poker.

Remember that if you want to be invited back to play more games in the future, you must learn to win and lose graciously.

One cannot become a truly Dangerous Child without learning to master the tactics and strategy of whatever task one sets for oneself. Games such as chess and poker can help one to think in such terms automatically.

In the long run, the world won’t watch out for you. Best to learn to pay attention and to be prepared to deal with a wide range of situations.


Click to access Randolph-TeachingChesstheEasyFunWaywithMiniGames.pdf

Lessons from Playing Poker

Dangerous Children Learn Many Games

Children are born with the instinct to play. Kids are happy to play all kinds of games, even games that provide useful foundations for later life — as long as they can understand the rules. Dangerous Children are taught many games, very early in life.

When teaching games of strategy and tactics, it is best to start with simple games, then advance in difficulty as circumstances allow. “Checkers before chess,” might be a useful rule for most children, for example.

Simple card games can give children the feel of handling the cards, keeping the cards to themselves, and assigning value to the different cards and combinations of cards. By playing card games with simple rules, you should be able to see when the child is ready to move to something more complex. While watching for each transition point to greater difficulty, keep things light, fun, and playful.

What Can Dangerous Children Learn from Poker?

  • Play the cards you are dealt
  • Wishful thinking will make you lose in poker and in life.

  • Learn the value of posturing
  • The skill of controlling facial expressions and body language as a game tactic can be useful in other settings.

  • Learn to handle failure and defeat
  • Poker players are bound to lose a lot of hands — and games. Those who can handle failure gracefully will be in better position to take advantage of new opportunities.

  • Match your play to the situation
  • Some game settings (and some opponents) will require more aggressive styles of play than others.

  • Learn self discipline
  • Learn when to fold a hand, and when to quit for the night.

  • Life isn’t fair
  • You sometimes end up with the worst cards, hand after hand after hand. And then when you get a good hand, another player always seems to get a better one. Accept the caprice of chance without letting it spoil your mood.

  • Pay attention to your opponents
  • Poker is a game of deception. You won’t be able to tell when your opponent is bluffing — or leading you down the garden path — unless you have been paying attention to how he has played his past hands.

  • Be proactive, not reactive
  • Having paid attention to the other players while concealing your own thoughts, you are in a better position to bluff or lull into a trap.

  • Make your own luck
  • Learn to play in a style that maximises your gains and minimises your losses, regardless of the hand you hold.

  • Expect the unexpected
  • Learning to gracefully live with the surprises that luck brings your way — good and bad — helps to build a long term outlook and the ability to step back and enjoy the journey with all its ups and downs.

  • Be the winning player that everyone wants to play with
  • Displaying proper courtesy to everyone, and not cheating, will lead to many more playing opportunities than otherwise.

  • Watch out for cheaters
  • You are the person who is responsible for taking care of yourself. Avoid playing with cheaters if at all possible — unless losing to the cheater is part of a larger strategy.

  • Bet Only What You can afford to lose
  • Manage your bankroll closely and carefully. Walk away before you lose enough to get into trouble.

    Just as important: If you are winning, walk away as soon as you feel yourself losing your “edge.” The euphoria of winning can dull your edge as surely as being intoxicated by chemicals. The same goes for simple fatigue or drowsiness.

  • Don’t be predictable
  • Predictable poker players lose. They may be lucky from time to time, but they will make up for any good luck by playing predictably.


Poker Involves Skill, Chance, and Psychology

You don’t have to be the smartest player at the table, just the best at reading other people. If you can most accurately guess what the other player is holding, you will lose less and win more than the players who have no idea what other players hold.

At the same time, don’t trumpet everything you see and know. Keep it close to the vest. Apply your knowledge strategically, at the proper tactical time and place, and in the most effective way.