Chess is a battle between two opposing sides that are fought with the mind. Tactics, wit, cunning, and a lot of nerve are required to win a chess game.
The game is relatively simple and, at the same time, complex. This is because learning how to play chess is relatively easy. You just need to understand the board layout, how the pieces move, and a few other rules.
However, the complex part starts after the first move is made, there are thousands of possible outcomes immediately after the first piece is pushed, a lot of possible moves, and tons of calculations to be made. This may cause one to ask, “why is chess so hard?”. Some go ahead to compare chess’ complexity with that of life itself.
This article will carefully examine the reasons behind the chess game’s difficulties.
Why Is Chess So Hard?
The game of chess is art, a masterpiece created by the wildest imaginations of two opposing sides aiming to get the better of each other. However, for victory to be attained on the battlefield of 64 squares, the players must endure certain difficulties.
Here are 3 reasons why the game of chess can be challenging:
1. Thought Processes Behind Chess
The game of chess is played using the strength of the mind. From the opening to the endgame, a player must weigh all their options and formulate strategies in their mind. However, doing this is not very easy as the mind tends to wander and drift off, making it hard to play chess as it requires undivided attention. Some difficulties that chess players face regarding the thought process behind chess include:
Calculating depth refers to the level or point in the game where a player can see or calculate in their head without actually playing the moves. However, calculating depth differs among players due to their playing strengths.
For example, a grandmaster will have higher calculation abilities than an amateur player.
Notwithstanding the strength of the players, some difficulties may be experienced. These difficulties include the fact that for a player to calculate effectively, they need absolute and undivided focus. The mind has to be free from distractions, which is quite challenging to do as the human mind tends to wander.
Another issue is that of variations. Variations in chess refer to a specific sequence of successive moves. Therefore, when calculating variations, a player must keep a mental image of every move that makes up the sequence, which is quite tricky.
Also, in the calculation, you have to keep in mind the moves your opponent makes and try to figure out what their plans are.
A tempo in chess means a turn. Chess is a turn-based game, meaning each player plays a move after the other player. When a player achieves a desirable position in one fewer move than the opponent, they are said to have gained a tempo.
Gaining tempo is crucial in chess because it puts your opponent on the back foot, and they have to struggle to catch up. However, calculating tempi is challenging as one has to go the extra mile to figure out how to stay a step ahead of the opponent.
Initiative in chess refers to the advantage a chess player has, to make threats that cannot be ignored, thus putting the opponent in the position of having to spend turns responding to threats rather than creating new threats.
At the beginning of the game, white has the initiative, as in chess, the player with the white pieces moves first. However, it can be lost when the opponent plays a gambit or when unnecessary moves are made. Therefore, keeping the initiative poses some measure of difficulty as a player has to strive to keep their advantage or take away the opponent’s advantage.
2. Physical Playing Factors
Physical playing factors are another reason why chess can be challenging. As chess is a game that requires undivided attention, it has to be played in a condition that is free from any hindrance. Physical factors that can pose difficulties in a chess game include:
If you have ever been to a chess tournament, you will have noticed that the playing room is always serene. Absolute silence is observed, and there may even be sanctions for making noise. This is because when the noise level is high, it can affect brain function and induce stress. When this happens, it is very likely that players lose concentration and get distracted or irritated, which will, in turn, cause difficulties in their thought process and make it difficult for them to analyze the position on the board properly.
Top-level players do not condone any noise or distraction when they play chess; there was an incident in the 1972 World Chess Championship between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky where the arbiter had to put up a sign demanding silence as the players, so the players were not distracted.
Individual Freshness Level
The chess legend and former world champion Bobby Fischer, once said, “Your body has to be in top condition. Your chess deteriorates as your body does. You can’t separate body from the mind.”
This means that for a player to play chess well, the body has to be in excellent shape. When a player is dealing with fatigue due to a lack of sleep or other factors, their chess-playing ability will significantly reduce, making them play inaccurate moves.
The environment also plays a massive role in determining the difficulty level of a chess match. For example, in international tournaments, some grandmasters will have to travel from their countries to where the competition is being held.
More often than not, the climate differs from what the grandmasters are naturally used to. For example, a grandmaster living in a usually sunny region will feel some level of discomfort in a cold country.
Also, suppose the competition is held in a relatively small or tight venue filled with people. In that case, players with claustrophobia will get uncomfortable and, as a result, unable to play to the best of their abilities.
3. Psychological Factors
Since the game of chess is played with the mind, psychological factors can play a huge role in determining how difficult a chess game will be. Therefore, we will examine two main psychological factors that make people ask, “why is chess so hard?” These factors include Lack of Confidence and Stress.
Lack of Confidence
Confidence is a necessary asset every chess player must possess. Since chess is a battle of wits and mental prowess, a chess player who is low on confidence may lose the game even before making their first move.
The reason is that once chess player loses confidence, they start to get nervous and forget all their preparation. Sometimes, players lack confidence because they’re not prepared enough. This could boil down to a poor training routine perhaps due to the lack of coaching.
During the game, they may push the wrong pawn or forget to castle on time. Your opponent will likely try to intimidate you by giving you a hard stare or shaking your hand rather firmly. Chess players do this to weaken their opponent’s confidence, as a player lacking in confidence is already half-beaten.
Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances. It is every chess player’s enemy and could lead to bad form in chess. This is because a clear and refreshed mind is needed to play chess. Stress is likely to occur when a person is dealing with certain psychological problems, like the death of a loved one, financial issues, or playing in a noisy and crowded area.
A chess player who plays a game when stressed will play poorly, no matter the player’s strength. This is because the brain is already tired from the emotional strain accumulated due to certain problems.
And there you have it; now you know the answer to the question “why is chess so hard” and the reasons why chess can sometimes be difficult.