Benjamin Franklin: The Morals of Chess (explained) Part -1


"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing" The American Superhero, Benjamin Franklin was a prominent figure of the early American history. What's incredible about his personality, he wasn't restricted to any particular profession. He played contrasting roles in different phases of his life, he was a leading author, civic activist, political theorist, diplomat and even a postmaster. He believed in an uninterrupted flow of life, just like a river.

Amidst all this, he also grew up to be a capable chess player and is credited of being the first person in America to publish related to Chess in his essay 'The Morals of Chess'. His idea of playing chess was absolutely different from the other players of his time. For people, it was a game played in leisure but Franklin made a statement in his essay that gave a new perspective to Chess.

“The game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement. Several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired or strengthened by it, so as to become habits, ready on all occasions. For life is a kind of chess, in which we have often points to gain, and competitors or adversaries to contend with, and in which there is a vast variety of good and ill events, that are, in some degree, the effects of prudence or the want of it.”

To Sir Franklin, Chess is a game that shapes the mind of a person and played for self-betterment. It is a game that channelizes the mind to work as per the situation. In his essay 'The Morals of Chess', he has elaborated the four virtues that he considers, chess expounds in us. Let us begin with the first virtue.

Foresight - the ability to plan ahead with wisdom and insight

Foresight is a vital virtue that should be acquired by a person to succeed in chess and also in life. Chess requires prior planning and judgment of a move. Anatomically, the Cerebral Cortex (a part of the brain) is responsible for making important choices or judgments of daily lives. Thus, chess serves as a medium to improve the working of the Cerebral Cortex of the brain and makes us abled to take quick decisions. Every move in chess makes you closer to either winning or losing the game, like your actions in life determining your future. Pondering over or analysing your move in chess tells you about the advantages and the disadvantages that could be caused upon an action. While you may have similar thought while defending, which move will save your pieces from the attack of the opponent?

According to Benjamin Franklin, Strategic thinking is a crucial aspect of both, chess and life. You may overcome diverse situation with just two prime concepts of chess, Strategy and Tactics. What initiated his journey of chess was his keen interest to learn languages at around 1733, he tricked his Italian friend to help him learn French in exchange of a game of chess. To him, chess reflected the mirror of life, "Useful in course of human life". Maybe that kept him going and in 1999, he was inducted to the United States, Chess Hall of Fame.