What is the object of the game of chess?

This was a rhetorical question our chess teacher used to ask us. It’s a reminder that even though materiel, position, and tempo are worthwhile achievements that advance your interests, the goal is to check-mate the King.

For example the Blitzkrieg or “Scholar’s Mate” doesn’t capture materiel or obtain an advantageous position. It just goes directly for the kill.

It’s worth asking this question whether you’re just out the gate or mid-game. Is there a way within a few moves that you could mate early? Never forget to look for that in the quest for materiel or position.

  

I use the question now in my life as a shorthand for

  • why am I doing this?

. Getting money, obeying authority, learning things, obtaining credentials (résumé builders”), maintaining a low weight—all are “good” goals which advance my interests. But why? What is it aiming towards? What am I really trying to do?

In chess the goal is well-defined, whereas in life one can choose one’s own goals. In particular they can be

  • continual (“Go for walks”)
  • or circular (“Raise kids, so they can raise kids, so they can raise kids, …”)
  • rather than once-and-done (“Get thin”, “Mate the King”).
  • (And they needn’t be zero-sum.)

I think that makes the question What is the object of the game of chess? even more important.

That’s something that helps me and I hope it helps you. I’m going to pause now for some quiet reflection.

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