On ludics

life as chess

The chess-board is the world, the pieces are the phenomena of the universe, the rules of the game are what we call the laws of Nature. The player on the other side is hidden from us. - Thomas Huxley

Life is like a game of chess. Every decision one makes can either bring advantage or disadvantage. Even acting upon ones wisest decision can yield a negative outcome. 

In chess, every move has a purpose. Approach life like chess with precise implementation of strategy and always SEE the future in ones mind. A great chess player, like a person who leads a great life, is a visionary.

Pieces

The pieces one its given in life and chess are essential to understand and leverage for success and survival. Ignorance is deadly. As in chess, life is filled with the influence of Fortuna - a bad move by ones opponent unlocks myriad opportunities. Sometimes a bad move is taken or the wrong piece is selected. The key is to continue to make calculated moves while always positioning oneself for victory. Some, at first, appear to be lucky to have already been placed in positions of power. Others have to work hard if they have any hopes of “ascending” in life.

Not all pieces on the board are placed equally in the hierarchy of chess and life:

  • The few - aristocrats

  • The powerful - militia

  • The free - artists

  • The majority – workers

Kings are the powerful decision makers. They don’t move around much, but they hold sway. They are very well protected by all the other pieces and at all costs. All the other players have to move in the interest of King. If Kings do not have substantial backup from those around them, they are almost useless. The King's limited movement in chess represent the corporeal limitations in life.

The Queen has unlimited movement because of her form. The Queen has a lot of influence but if she is not careful, she may easily be replaced by an upcoming pawn. The queen must be ready to die for the king. Significant beneficiary to the positive conclusion of WAR. Without contribution, she’s simply a powerful target for the enemy to attack.

Rooks are ones brothers. These are the tall, head-strong and powerful ones. Their almost intimidating power is often used to fight off the bad and protect all the other pieces on the board. These pieces provide support to the rest of the pieces on the board. 

Bishops are the confidants and conservatives. The knights are the creative friends. These are the pieces that encourage change. Their free-spirited capabilities are so unique that not even the Queen can perform these moves. The thinkers, artists, and creators. 

Pawns are staff/role players. Pawns can become something greater through hard work alone. The workers. The most over looked, yet most crucial pieces in the game of life. Without the pawns, the higher powers would be weak, vulnerable. The all-powerful often use these pieces for their own gain. The pawn remains headstrong and looks ahead, knowing that if they work hard enough they will get rewarded and move well up the ladder.

Sometimes, the pawn becomes so fixated on moving up, that they lose their self in the process. They’re also the most expendable. Sometimes they die or disappear and that’s part of the game.

Fundamentals

One can not change the fundamental rules of chess or life. So, do SOMETHING - play the board, not the player. Sometimes one gets stuck in a position known in chess as zugzwang: where whichever move one makes is a bad one. This is just the way it goes sometimes, in chess and in life. In chess, it’s called seeing the whole board; in life, it’s seeing the big picture. One may never truly be able to escape the Platonic cave, but one can cultivate a nice interior and maybe add some new tunnels…

When one is inexperienced one fixates on the moves not being made, rather than the set of moves being made to win the game. This leads to a myopic view, one is not viewing the board in its entirety and is failing to see the strategy of ones opponent. One is always playing the game against someone or something else. If its not a man across from you it is time… It then becomes too late and the opponent has the advantage. Game over. Maintain control, maintain focus, maintain advantage.

In life there are times when one must align ones actions with a predetermined strategy. As in chess, so in life, one should always play for the advantage. If you already have it, maintain it. If one doesn’t  have it, one must seize it.

Victory belongs to the most persevering. - Napoleon

Understand that everyone’s playing. In chess, an opponent sees the threats, sees every piece, sees every move. Victory doesn’t require shadows or secrecy. Stealth is never the aim. Victory requires strong positional play in plain sight. Sometimes it’s friendly, often it is more serious. One is always playing to survive. The problem is that not everyone knows they’re playing – even after they have made a move. 

Seize the initiative. If one waits around for someone else to make a decision, they will… play the game, do not be played by it. Life as chess. Think ahead. Construct a clear plan and utilize the most efficient execution. One doesn’t need to hide ones intention. One needs to be solid and impervious to counter attack - so that ones opponent can not STOP ones plan. Even when they see it.

Learn to spot patterns. Pattern recognition is intelligence in action. There are often clearly defined lines of success that work well. Learn to see these when they repeat, and take advantage of them. Cultivation of ones ability to recognize patterns is what separates the good from the average. Don’t get stuck on any one formula. A little bit of creativity and adaptive thinking can lead one to new heights. 

Ignorance is not always blissful. Ignoring ones opponent is a recipe for failure. One often gets so absorbed in ones own games and machinations that one ignores what is going on externally. Be aware of threats and alert to opportunities.

To know your enemy you must become your enemy. - Sun Tzu

Simplify and refine. If one only plays against weak opponents, one never improves – take on tough challenges, skillful opponents. And even if one loses, learn something new from the loss and implement the findings in the next game.

There is nothing more satisfying than a discovered attack: pretending to do one thing while attacking somewhere else. Learn to play and live less obviously and on more levels. This makes one less predictable and more interesting. Remember that creativity and ease are signs of intelligence.

Be prepared to sacrifice material for position. Sometimes even the greatest material sacrifice can result in a winning position later on. Successful people will invest and make sacrifices because they know it fits into a bigger plan and it’s worth the initial sacrifice. A low time preference allows one to play across time horizons many are unfamiliar with.

Whatever one is doing in life, it involves a system of rules, possibilities for action and likely outcomes. If one spends all of ones time chasing pawns, one may be on the receiving end of an opponent who cares less about small victories and more about winning the war.

A threat is best met with a move that improves ones position. Don’t get trapped into mindlessly trading moves and material in anger. Sometimes the solution is more gentle and cerebral.

One doesn’t have to be deceitful to win, rather one simply needs to be better at the game. Everyone makes mistakes from time to time. This does not mean one should give up when mistakes are made, each mistake contains a lesson. Often when one is sure there is no way out after a bad mistake, one will be given an opportunity to seize an advantageous position.

When someone makes a move that one doesn't understand, don’t read more into it than needed. Sometimes people just make mysterious moves – that’s all there is to it. Time wasted trying to uncover ulterior motives is often fruitless. Continue to play the board as it is.

Play for the golden mean. Don’t hold back too much, and don’t push through too early. Ones opportunity will come. How one starts a game determines how one will finish it. Study openings and execute accordingly. It’s akin to the power of compound interest in finance. Good moves beget good moves. Play wisely. If an opening appears, seize it immediately.

Don’t get pinned down. Where something more cherished cannot be brought into play because it is stuck behind something trivial, make every effort to get it into the game – as soon as possible. Action speaks louder than words and when one is in the arena one will do what is necessary to survive.

In the endgame, attack the King by focusing ones attention on his escape squares: When one is in the final stretch, and about to win, anticipate what could go wrong and plan accordingly. Be flexible. It seldom goes the way one planned – update and continue. Constantly iterate and improve.  

There are no foregone conclusions in life or in chess. There is much noise in life as in chess. Learn to ignore meaningless threats and noise. Anticipate and deal with dangerous ones swiftly. Never rest on ones laurels. Keep thinking, looking for new opportunities and trying to generate new ideas. One is in the Red Queen’s race, if one is not improving at the rate of ones competition one will not survive.

Don’t be overly impressed with lofty words or titles. The only thing worse then being overly diffident towards those with superior rank is being dismissive of those with inferior rank. Keep calm and move slowly. Replace wishful thinking with action.

Chess is the struggle against the error. – Johannes Zukertort

If one loses, do so graciously and try to learn at least one important lesson. Sometimes a draw is as good as a win. But a draw is always better than a loss. Keep options open and always have an escape route.

Surprise and impress people with unconventional moves. But do not try to be overly clever and make needless errors. Creativity always has a purpose – doing something wild and crazy just for the sake of it may be fun at the time, but ultimately has no value. Break the rules – but only if it serves a good purpose.

Appraise your position honestly. If it is bad, do something about it – if it is good, make it even better. Don’t get swept up by distractions. Narrow down your choices. And then decide. Take your time, but settle on one plan of action… and then act. Sometimes one has to sacrifice in order to achieve a break-through.

Always consider the whole board when deciding on a move: decisions made with too narrow a focus are often bad. All things are connected. Life is a complex adaptive organism. When one analyzes their own game in order to diagnose and evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses, the essential skills of reflection and metacognition become ingrained. A unexamined life is not worth living. 

What one sees depends on what one is looking for. It is also important to play many games and often as experience is one way to uncover things that were once undiscovered. Connect pieces cleverly. Collaboration and cooperation are the keys to success. Look beyond the obvious. The best moves are often overlooked and not taken.

Vision

Have you ever stared at a chess board - black spots in your vision, 7 moves into a continuation? Looking for every single trick one could use to survive the attack. 

In chess. There is no luck. NONE. If one loses, somewhere, at some point a mistake was made. All mistakes matter, no matter the size or the time. When a mistake is made, one must accept full responsibility. Life is no different. One either wins brilliantly or loses brilliantly.

In chess, even if played perfectly, the single unwise move will lose the game. A loss of momentum. Compounded positive tempo wasted. How many unnecessary life moves have been made? Did it benefit the position? Ones opponents are coming to KILL and STEAL. As in chess, so in life.

Unlike other games in which lucre is the end and aim, [chess] recommends itself to the wise by the fact that its mimic battles are fought for no prize, but honor. It is eminently and emphatically the philosopher’s game. – Paul Morphy

Never hate ones enemies as it affects ones judgement. If one is beaten it wasn’t emotional it was rational. As in chess, so in life, it is a kill or be killed reality. The best player who continually makes the best move reaps the rewards.

When I play chess, I always play to win. It does not matter whether I am playing as black or white, I am the aggressor and I am out to take what my opponent possesses. When one has enough experiences in chess and in life one can pull off seemingly bad moves that eventually lead to success. This is the power of seeing the whole board and making short term sacrifices in battles to win the WAR.

A well played game of chess is the sign of a gentleman. An expertly played game of chess is the sign of a psychopath. The player that is both a gangster and a gentlemen is par excellence in the game of chess and the game of life. Embody both the lion and the fox - strength and cunning.

In life one cannot just focus on the next move, but rather, one has to focus on the next three moves. The next move one makes has an impact on the moves one will allowed to and will be forced to make in the future. Every decision one makes today will have an impact on ones future decisions tomorrow, regardless of where one fits in the game of life. We all imagine ourselves as Kings, but in reality one is more likely to be a lowly pawn.

Sometimes one makes decisions fully believing that it was the best decision and ends up being the worst decision one could have made. What’s important though is how fast one is willing and able to pivot and start again. Each piece has to keep moving. Mistakes are made and learnt from. Such is the game of life.

CHECKMATE.