Founder & Managing Member, Applicate LLC

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Everything I need to know to be successful in the game of life I learned from the game of chess.

This idea and resulting conversation are perhaps best explained by enumeration of generic chess playing principals, such as -


- There is a readily discernable cause and effect for everything (i.e. for every move I make)
- I have only so much time to make decisions and there are consequences to moving too quickly or too slowly
- Documented, transparent moves speak for themselves and no excuses are relevant (you cannot deny or debate the facts/moves which speak for themselves)
- The strongest force or approach is not necessarily the most desirable in all situations
- Positioning is everything and positions change constantly
- All action typically emanates from and is connected to the center
- Once the move/decision is made its difficult if not impossible to take it back
- The first mistake made, haven shaken the player, often results in another
- Winning is not a matter of having the most material things (more pieces)
- Sometimes the threat itself is actually stronger than its full execution
- Failure/defeat is often quite apparent if not inevitable before the very end
- Even a little, casual ill timed or ill advised mistake can undue vast preparations and seemingly invincible positions
- There is often a better alternative to the first impression, considering all alternatives
- Intuition is quite useful and essential but probably develops from principles and experience
- Preparation and homework usually pay off, all other things being equal
- A sound mind and game plan usually exist and propel from within a sound body
- Sometimes the best outcome is a draw, with both sides having made concessions and hoping for more the next time
- And the corollary: It's no fun to win all the time ...


Experienced and beginning players will have their own favorites to modify or add to this list; please feel free to send yours along or to contest those offered.

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    Oct 3 2011: 1. life is not a game

    2. if you learned everything from chess, i don't want to live your life.
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      Oct 4 2011: Thank God you said it. Life was given to us, one way or another, if you think of it as a game, you are doomed to be ruthless in what you take from others, and life will not give you ANYTHING in return. I suggest you (Louis Buccino) seriously reconsider the way you look at life.
      • Oct 4 2011: It is usefull to learn different ways to deal with situations in life where you need some kind of strategy esp. at work from chess.

        Now I also think that there is much more to the life? What about relationship with your friends, with your kids, helping others?

        In my mind, being successfull at work or materialisticly is less important than being good to others and helping where you can? =)
      • Oct 4 2011: I beg to differ - there is absolutely nothing ruthless about the game of chess (or others) - it is simply a contest and comparison of wills and ideas, neither good nor evil, just the pureness and simplicity of a voluntary competition governed by mutually agreed upon, objective and ultimately fair and equitable rules.
    • Oct 4 2011: Metaphorically, as is the genesis of this Conversation, any experience has elements of game theory, behavior and learning; this is also the essence of the nurture versus nature debate; and in any case, no one has asked or suggested that you live my life - that's neither the point nor relevant to nor in the spirit of the question.
    • Oct 4 2011: Metaphorically, as is the genesis of this Conversation, any experience has elements of game theory, behavior and learning; this is also the essence of the nurture versus nature debate; and in any case, no one has asked or suggested that you live my life - that's neither the point nor relevant to nor in the spirit of the question.
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        Oct 4 2011: I should not have been so harsh in the way I responded. Though I still don't agree with what you are suggesting, it is not for me to decide what is the right or wrong way to view life. I also have to admit you put alot of effort in the comparisons you have made leading to the discussion.
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    Oct 4 2011: One more thing - Baseball is the game of life.
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    Oct 4 2011: This conversation title is a play on Robert Fulghum's book entitled, "Everything I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten"

    Take a look at the rules:

    http://www.peace.ca/kindergarten.htm

    I continually go back to that book whenever I fee I need to "reset". I propose that even deep thinkers would have to agree that Fulghum's advice to living is more helpful to humans than any game of chess could ever be.

    By the way, chess is a win/lose game.I would be miserable if I lived my life with that mindset.
    • Oct 4 2011: The "everything I needed to know" hyperbole actually precedes us all, including Fulghum ...

      Not sure what game you're referring to, but standard (Western) chess allows for win, loss or draw outcomes; a well played game, between equal players, will frequently result in a draw ...
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    Oct 4 2011: Man, some of you guys are waaaay to literal.

    It's a simile.
    • Oct 4 2011: Thank you Thomas - it's been interesting to see how literal (and passionate) some have been with their responses ...
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    Oct 3 2011: As a person who has only played a few games of chess in her life, I think I would have greatly benefited from learning how to play well. It seems to me that I have gone through life without being nearly strategic enough. Many of the lessons you learned by playing chess I had to learn by hard knocks. I did promote my children's play of chess and they all had chess clubs in their schools. So, yes, I think chess confers some real advantages and skills on those who take the time to learn to play it well.
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    Oct 3 2011: Hahahah. My nerd heart skipped a beat when I saw chess in the thread title. Here is my list!! Chess and Life.O and I agreed with everything on yours! Brilliant! 1. You can play the game as accurate as possible and still lose.2. If you make decisions based on emotion alone then your in trouble .3. The winner is always the person that makes the next to last mistake.:)4.If you play a postion poorly several times -you will eventually learn from it.5. The queen is always a leader. The king just hangs back untill he feels safe.6. Pawns, although they are weak by themselves can do awesome things working as a chain.7. Sometimes it is ok to sacrafice something without seeing immediate results.8. The more a pawn perserveres the greater its chances of becoming great or turning into someone more powerful.9. There is nothing more rewarding than a well executed plan.10. Your pieces have the most power when they work together.11. And just because you play the opening well there still might be a middle and endgame.12. The king is only great because he has peices to protect him.13 Unless your a G.M don't play Sicilian against a stronger player.
  • Oct 4 2011: Thanks, appreciate your reflecting upon it; not really meant to be a rule set for everyone's life, just (my) reflection upon the logic, lessons learned and game theory of a longstanding and universally played, cross-cultural game.
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      Oct 4 2011: Louis- Did you play the Space Coast Open? I played a few years ago. That was actually my last tournament for awhile. It seemed like in the A and open sections the competition was going to require alot more time and study-than I had to give. Now I direct a chess club here as well its alot of fun. I look forward to when I have more time get back into it.
      • Oct 4 2011: I played in one Space Coast Open Jacob, but it was many years (10+) ago; I also support chess in Tampa Bay, including a mini-grant program for K-12 teachers to allow them to star very basic chess clubs in the public schools.
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    Oct 4 2011: Chess is a great game.
  • Oct 3 2011: Who smile at last, who smile best.
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    Oct 3 2011: Not to get off topic but do you play tournaments?
    • Oct 4 2011: Yes I do, for 40+ years now; I also teach and direct, and am currently developing a mobile chess application - to be called "touCHess" on the iOs and Android platforms; ... and I thank you for your in-the-spirit-of-the-question response Jacob!
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        Oct 4 2011: Your welcome. I thought it was a great/creative question. I have played chess since I was 7 or 8 and there are plenty of lessons to be learned from it. And they all apply to life as well. Thanks for this thoughtful thread.
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        Oct 4 2011: Cool, well let me know when you get that andriod app up. I play on chess.com mobile but Ill give it a try.
        • Oct 4 2011: Will do Jacob - it's not a playing app, but strictly a tool incorporating a very basic clock, score sheet and database; I also play on chess.com, but through their main website and also iGoogle ...