The Value Of Chess

Comments: 46

First off, a word of warning: this lesson is NOT for everybody! Instead of giving you answers, I’ll keep asking you questions. This isn’t some passive reading stuff. You’ll need to keep THINKING all the time…Sounds frightening? 🙂
Are you still here? 🙂 Yes? Perfect. Let’s move forward.

Socrates asked a stranger:
– If you need flour and oil, then where will you go?

Young man smiled and answered slickly:
– On a market, certainly!

– If you need wisdom, then where will you go? – asked Socrates then.
The young man was somewhat dumbfounded and didn’t know how to reply.

Then follow me, – said Socrates – I’ll show you!


Does chess help you in your common life? Does it develop your mental skills?
I’m pretty sure your non-chess playing friends are asking you these questions quite often. Perhaps you were thinking about it yourself too.

It’s really important to answer that question. Think about it – if it’s just for having fun and killing time, then perhaps it’s not worth going through years of training to get better at it.
BUT if it’s MORE than that, if it indeed develops your mental and psychological skills, then you can be confident that all of the time you spent training and playing chess isn’t wasted.

So, does chess help you in your EVERYDAY life?

There are 2 obvious answers here:

(1) YES – Chess helps improve our mental skills… the same skills that we use in everyday life. That said, it should also help us succeed in other facets of life as well.

(2) NO – There are no REAL interactions between chess and other facets of life. Think about it: will knowing certain lines of the Sicilian Defense help you in, say, managing your workforce? Well, if the million-dollar question in a quiz show you’re in is chess related, then maybe it could help. BUT how remote is that?!

These 2 answers seems the most natural, but they are mutually exclusive. Why this happened?

First, let’s think why chess game should be useful.

This is training for our brain.

Physical sport trains your muscles.
Chess trains your brain.

Chess is NOT just a game, it’s a model. By studying this model, we can discover some general rules. Then we can spread these strategic principles to any other spheres of life

Let me give you an analogy. By the way, Socrates told it about 2500 years ago. 🙂

How do you understand people as a whole? This is too huge and difficult of a task. Instead you can understand yourself, which should lead to a better understanding of people in general since you are a typical representative of the latter. Deeply knowing yourself will lead to knowing everybody else around you.

In the same way, we can use chess (model) to understand general rules (in life).

Thus these are 2 main benefits that chess can give you in common life:
Chess develops your mental skills. Chess gives you deep strategic understanding. Both of which are VALUABLE in everyday living and decision making.

That’s why I strongly believe that chess players should be WISE personalities!

They should have developed this habit of THINKING, analyzing the situation and finding the right solution (when most people make impulsive decisions often).
They should be able to predict the consequences of their actions for many “moves” ahead.
They should have good concentration and think effectively.
They should create long-term plans, based on their strategic understanding.

All in all, chess players should have a habit of THINKING. This should make them “modern philosophers”, successful in chess as well as in any other area!

This brings us to the final question: “Why this usually doesn’t happen in reality?” Please, think about it.

To be continued…

Comments: 46

Comments 36

  1. Hi

    I’ve been following all your videos that are available through the web and have found them all interesting and very instructive. I am only a poor club player but my game has improved. However when I look at the commercial products you have for sale with the view to purchase.

    First thing I look for is something that is similar to the free videos but I find the choice over whelming, I have no idea where to start they all look way to advanced

    The Grandmaster’s Secrets
    GM’s Openings Laboratory
    How to Beat Titled Players
    Your Winning Plan
    and the others confuse, after all the courses are not inexpensive.

    But keep up with the ‘Free’ videos as they are great, maybe they will continue to help improve my game and then the choice will seem simple.

    Regards Chris

  2. Hi Igor. Your last lesson “The value of chess” was really great. I think this material help us in our general education and understanding of chess. As deeper we go in chess and its fundementals the more we understand it and we love it :O) Thanks for sharing :O) We look forward for the next one. Bye

  3. hi! GM Igor, thanks for keep sending me chess lesson its great and really helps train my brain and to my everydays life.
    regards adelmo

  4. Hi GM
    Its very interesting when I read your recent email, I live in a place where there is no competition in chess game, or even chess game is not popular. However, we have only less than 15 members in the area where they can play chess, but they dont serous about it. I can only win 2players out of 15. and through some advices taken from you I now win 10 players out of 15. I hope that 1 day i will win them all and move to some ares where chess competion occurs,



  5. Thanks for the lesson GM Smirnov ! Last year I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot and there are definitely some brain processes which I need for my job that are similar for example to calculating variation in chess (e.g. I have 3-4 choices to make and the decision can lead to a couple of different reactions by the “opponent” on which I then might have various choices again etc.). Next to the important points that you mentioned, it is also a good training method to increase the visualisation ability.

    Apart from that chess is healthy for the brain in general: According to a longterm-study by Dr. Hermann Buschke (New York, late 1980s to 2001) the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease is decreased by 74 % (!) for active chess-players. So yes, I totally agree with you, it’s much more than just a “game”.

  6. Hello GM Smirnov, I find it difficult to answer your question because I am a philosopher. Certainly a good chess player should see the relationship between chess and life, which, in turn, should lead to a philosophical view of both. That is how it happened for me anyway. If that is not the case for others, then I really don’t know why.

  7. Well, it matters wheter or not they are interested in other areas. If one doesn’t find anything else mentally attractive, this person may not seek success out of chess.

  8. good day Mr smirnov, i wish helthy and happy new year. YES i am here , i studing
    your lessons . i use them ,with good results. I am Grateful about this, you do for us.
    I am doing the same like you, i teach kids for free. I am president, of the chessclub
    santabarbara. Thanks a lot.

  9. The Reason why i am in Love with This .; there is so much to learn about it, so it keep my thinking very sharp,i just love the game , but ,i cant learn the rules fast enough as i would want to , , i would recomend students who is studyuing , toplay the game in their spare time ,..
    And Thank to my Great Teacher, I am just learning the Game,..
    Your’s Truly
    Orrick D. Folkes

  10. Hi Mr. Smirnov,
    Thank you for your mails.
    I believe the reason most chess players are not ‘modern philosophers’ is that most hardly think. Very form the habit of thinking. That is why blitz is the most popular game in a club i used to play. fast, fast, fast… that is how the game ends.

  11. Thanks man,i really appreciate what u are doing.God bless you .I think the reason why most chess players are not successful in all works of life,is that they only apply what they know on the chess board and not in life and secondly they dont take the game seriously.

  12. u r certainley making me think differentley in my chess games i am slowley improving and thank u 4 your help.regards george andreasen

  13. Thanks Mr. Smirnov
    I think, chess will take time to get positive result. But most of peoples today need instant and quick result.


  14. Dear Mr Smirnov

    We great respect we read your thoughts.

    Allow me to pose my thoughts

    Having analytical thought, predicting consequences , consetrating, strategic thinking are all characteristics of a mathematical mind.
    Being a philosopher is a status where a mathematical mind serves consiousness.

    Thank you!

  15. Thanks I read and watch some of your vedio with great respect, to chess game is quiet complicated to understand, however learning through vedio lession helps me alot.

    Kind regards

  16. As you probably know I have bought Your Chess Course ” How to beat Titled Players” and paid for it but could not Download The Course at all onto my Computer. Ihave the receipts for payment and trust that you have received money but I am stil without the Course I paid for and have received no comment from you or anybody that could help me.

    1. Hi Henry,

      Is your problem solved? Have you checked the e-mail you provided to the site. Link and password also comes in e-mail.

  17. Henry Visser Please e-mail The LINK and pssword with which I camn Download The Course I biught but could not Download. The link i rxeived after payment has expired

  18. I read Lasker said “chess is like life , a continuous struggle” .

    It drives to philosophy .

    I agree we can consider Chess as close to philosophy , about thinking process . But philosophy is made of words , whereas chess are made of spacial thinking .

    Heraklite wrote about logos : logos means word in greek but Heraklite considered logos is the deep process of things . Logos means changing .

    Heraklite discovered unity of contraries .I think you chess is somehow heraklitean .
    I am thinking about stereotypes :

    Playing Ng5 seems good and a strong attack opponent King . However , if you consider g6 and Bg7, then Rg8 , Then it’s becoming in contrary : Black attacking White King . But not symetrical contrary : WB was attacking but BB is defending strong . WR was uneffective and BR is attacking .

    Then I think we can consider chess game as spacial philosophy .
    According to me ,we can find most of Heraklite’s conceptions in Chess .

    By the way I met a philosophy teacher who told we it exists now some new conceptions in philosophy , more poetic than demonstrative , and refering to ancient philosophers . ( become some of them refuse to consider presocratic as true philosophers ) .

    In chess , another dialectical idea could be found in weak pawn becoming stronger even than King . King is the weakest , too ..

    The first time I played chess , I won with a pawn or two against pieces and it puzzled me for lifetime . .

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