The beauty of chess

The Queen’s Gambit
Every few months there’s a new Netflix show that is a hit. The last show that tops the list worldwide is The Queen’s Gambit (named after one of the oldest chess openings). No superhero, no drugs cartel, no Spanish bank robbers, but a female chess player steals the show. A talented girl, an orphan, learns to play chess by the janitor of the orphanage. She makes it to grandmaster when she is still just a young woman in a game dominated by men. Exceptionally portrayed by Anya Taylor-Joy, who grows in her role as she grows in her game of chess. She plays her best scenes when she just stares at someone or into the distance with her big, wide snake eyes.

Anya Taylor-Joy in The Queen’s Gambit (Tangcay, J., 2020)

Never has chess ever been so exciting to watch for such a big audience. Alcohol, drugs, human relations and chess dominate the show. It is made with a lot of love for the game of chess. Partly due to the fact that one of the all time greats ever to play the game of chess, Garry Kasparov, advised about the chess play in the show. Every chess position used in the show is taken from real life. 

Watch the trailer to get excited (for the show that gets you excited about playing chess):

So why is chess such a beautiful game? Let’s find out!

The benefits of playing chess
There are many advantages to playing chess (, 2020). For the sake of not making this piece too long, most of them are not explained further. But if you are interested, you can check this link for more information on the benefits:

The benefits of playing chess:

  1. Brings people together
  2. Teaches you how to win and lose.
  3. Helps children. It teaches them that their choices can have good and bad consequences. It teaches them to think before they act. Deciding what you are going to do, only after you have thought it through is satisfying and often gives the best result. Playing too quickly and without thinking can have negative effects on your game and life. Which I know out of experience, because I still do it. In the game though, not in life.   
  4. Can help you focus.
  5. Develops creativity.
  6. Builds confidence.
  7. Develops Problem-solving skills.
  8. Exercises the brain.
  9. Helps you be calm.
  10. Can be used as an educational tool. Because, if it helps with all the things mentioned above, why not implement it in the school system?

Another personal one: I started picking up chess again after seeing The Queen’s Gambit. But I had a ‘chess period’ before, in which I played the game a lot. I also played football during that time. One time I went to football training, where we played positional play. One of the most played training games in football, in which you play with two teams in a rectangle without goals. The goal of the game is to keep possession of the ball with your team. That training, due to the many chess I had played, I saw lines opening through which I could pass the ball, I defended and attacked more tactically, knew how to move, kept my calm and didn’t rush when I was in possession of the ball. I never played football so well in my life. And it was definitely due to chess. I now notice it helps with my tennis game as well.

My personal thoughts about chess
I am fascinated by the game of chess. I love to play it. But I don’t have so much passion for playing the game as for the game itself. Why am I so fascinated by it? Because to me it represents things you also have in real life. A symbolism of life. These representations are described below.

First of all: the board is so finite, so limited in space. Only 8×8 (64) squares (see picture below). 

Which chess set is used in World Chess Championship matches? - Quora
Chess board with pieces in starting position (Rathi, A., 2016)

Yet, the possibilities on the board and the amount of different games that can be played are bigger than the amount of atoms in the universe (Numberphile, 2015). The world is also limited space wise, so finite, but life itself also has this almost endless number of possibilities in which it can exist. 

Secondly: the positions. The starting position is so ordered. The pieces that are ‘waiting’ before they can approach each other. As if some sort of invisible trafic races by in the rows 3, 4, 5 and 6 before the player who plays with white makes a first move. From the starting position (see picture above) more and more chaos is being created during the game, with the black and white pieces mixing. Waiting on the mistake of the opponent. In attacking position or in defending formation. 
Life also starts with some degree of order for everyone. Although in a world with almost 8 billion people, there are enough exceptions unfortunately… But from that moment on life becomes more and more complex. The link with entropy, which has a big role in physics, can be made. Entropy can be seen as ‘the degree of disorder’ or ‘the degeneration of a system’. As time progresses, all physical systems fall apart. Everything in the universe tends to be disorderly. Entropy can also be described as ‘the number of realization possibilities’. And that number always grows as time progresses. Nothing you can do about it. Both definitions apply to chess as well. In chess this would be the number of ways the pieces can be placed on the board. Which increases as the game progresses. 

Thirdly: the pieces.

The different pieces in chess (Burton, J., 2014)

The different pieces that all have a different form, height and starting position. But above all, all can move in a different way. Some are more valuable than others, because they can do more, but you need them all to play the game. Just as with the people on earth to make something of life.  

Finally: the circle. Not the circle on the board, because it doesn’t have any, but ‘the circle of life’: you start with all possible pieces of your colour in your possession. By the way, talking about colour… White against black in which white has the advantage (in the case of chess by having the first move). It sounds familiar… Luckily in chess, although it is important, it is also innocent. Unfortunately, we haven’t resolved the white against black problem in society. Ayway, throughout the game you lose pieces and at the end (except with a draw), the king falls. The game is over, but the pieces are put back in the starting position and the game starts over. Possibly with new players. In life you lose people you care about and you need to make the game (life) a success. Eventually you die too, as the king of your own life. But there will be new players to play the game (live). For instance your children.

The end game
What I hope is that chess becomes a sexy game. Where you can pick up a guitar to impress someone or just get the chess board out. And feel just as confident about yourself playing chess as dressing nicely. And it is not difficult to start. You don’t even have to buy a board and pieces anymore! Nowadays you can play chess online on your computer or phone. Still, because of The Queen’s Gambit, many people, especially young women bought a chess board. Which is very nice to hear! I would say keep it up! Stay interested in the game! You don’t have to be exceptionally smart as well. It’s true that most of us will never see the brilliant tactical plays the grandmasters of the game can see. But we can all see the world in which these grandmasters live in The Queen’s Gambit. We can all enjoy playing chess and we can all see the beauty of chess.

One of my favourite bands has a song in which in the first part they compare life to a game of chess. The song is called I’ve Seen All Good People. I advise you to listen to it, because it’s just an amazing song! The first part is called Your Move. Here are some of the lyrics from that part.

Your Move
I’ve seen all good people turn their heads each day so satisfied I’m on my way
Take a straight and stronger course to the corner of your life
Make the white queen run so fast she hasn’t got time to make you wife
‘Cause it’s time, it’s time in time with your time and it’s news is captured for the queen to use
Move me on to any black square
Use me anytime you want
Just remember that the goal
Is for us all to capture all we want, anywhere
Don’t surround yourself with yourself
Move on back two squares
Send an instant karma to me
Initial it with loving care
Don’t surround yourself
‘Cause it’s time, it’s time in time with your time and it’s news is captured for the queen to use.

*It could be that this article is updated from time to time.

Burton, J. (2014, July 16). Chess pieces [Photo]. Retrieved from Team. (2020, January 27). Top 10 Benefits of Chess. Retrieved 21 December 2020, from

Numberphile. (2015, July 24). How many chess games are possible? [Video file]. Retrieved from

Rathi, A. (2016, May 7). Chess board [Photo]. Retrieved from

Tangcay, J. (2020, October 28). Anya Taylor-Joy in The Queen’s Gambit [Photo]. Retrieved from

Published by Vincent Donders

Groot muziekliefhebber en erg geïnteresseerd in wetenschap en educatie. Instagram: vincentdonders.

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