Sunday, April 22, 2018

Bridging with Chess

“Chess is the gymnasium of the mind”
– Blaise Pascal 

In one of my previous articles, I discussed the importance of bridging. Bridging is taking an idea or lesson learned in one area, and connecting it to other areas of life. Bridging is an essential part of the work that I do with my clients. I work hard to bridge at every opportunity, giving my clients the essential tools that they need to improve their daily functioning.

I was recently introduced to someone who also does Instrumental Enrichment. This person works in the Chicago area, and runs a chess club. This got me thinking, what important lessons can we learn and bridge from chess? (For purposes of brevity, I will omit the ones that apply to all games, e.g. the importance of knowing the rules, playing fair, losing is okay,  etc)

1. Seeing things from the other person’s perspective - What WHITE PLAYER sees isn’t necessarily what the BLACK PLAYER sees. 

2. You might need to sacrifice small to gain large

3. You might need to sacrifice large for the greater good (win)

4. Need to adjust to changing surroundings

5. Pick my fights wisely (e.g. I don't want to kill my queen to get his queen if I am losing)

6. Different people do different things, yet still have the same goal - different pieces do different things

7. You can change things while it is in your possession, but once you let go, you can’t.

8. Sometimes you can’t proceed unless you are willing to let go

9. You can’t win without a strategy

10. You will struggle if your strategy cannot adapt to changing surroundings.

11. You need to be willing to ditch your strategy, and change to a different strategy sometimes. Always check to see if your original strategy is still your best option.

12.  One needs to realize the consequences of their actions

13.  One needs to think a few steps ahead, even though one doesn’t know what will happen in between. 

14.  With hard work, even the lowest can make themselves into the highest (the pawn becomes a queen when it crosses the board)

15.  Importance of knowing the value of things (point system of pieces)

16.  Values change depending on the situation (non-mobile piece worth less than a mobile piece) likewise a bottle of cold water is worth more at the beach than it is inside a supermarket. Holiday items are cheaper after the holiday is over.

17. Chess sets may be different (e.g. plastic, glass, marble), but really they are all the same (each knight still does the same thing, whether plastic or glass). People are different, but they have the same basic needs

18. Order is important. (To castle, need to move king first, not rook) - likewise order can be important when doing other tasks e.g. baking a cake, building a home, teaching a skill.

19.  Sometimes a draw is a victory, and sometimes it is a loss. Perspective matters

20. If you keep repeating the same thing over and over again, the game ends. (threefold repetition). Likewise asking the same question over and over again will just get annoying, and the conversation might suddenly end

21.  There are limits to how long you stay doing something if you haven’t seen progress (fifty-move rule)

22. One piece can’t achieve a checkmate alone. It needs the assistance of other pieces. Likewise in life, one needs the assistance of others to thrive. Can’t do it alone

23. Sometimes you need to give other people opportunities, and not giving someone an opportunity can later bring harm to yourself (e.g. if your opponent isn't in check, but any move they make will put them in check, the game has ended in a stalemate)

It is one thing to tell someone a lesson, it is another thing to guide them to realize an important lesson on their own. When someone realizes a lesson on their own, they are much more likely to remember it, and much more likely to apply it into their own real world situations.  

My goal with my clients is to get them to recognize the important lessons that are staring them in the face. Giving them the tools to connect these lessons from the session into their own real life situations. 

Sometimes I use workbooks to accomplish this, sometimes it is pictures, and other times it through the use of games. 

Who knew that the game of chess contained so many valuable lessons?

Have you thought of a lesson that I neglected to mention?
Please share your ideas with me via email at

Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more. He also lectures on the topics of communication and child safety.  
You can email Yisroel at
Follow Yisroel on LinkedIn here

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