Chess, Not Checkers

Chess, Not Checkers

When you were young, you most likely played board games quite regularly. On rainy days at home or during camping trips, board games were there to remove boredom and provide some random fun with family or friends. One of the most common board games is checkers, and almost every kid on Earth has played it at least once. Sitting across the board from a friend, manipulating the little red and black plastic discs, hoping to reach the other side of the board so one of your pieces could be “kinged” by your opponent.  In that sense, the game of checkers is nostalgic and remembered fondly.

But then you grew up. And you were introduced to the game of kings, known as chess.

The black and white pieces, either plainly designed or ornately crafted, were different than the uniform circles of checkers. There are six varying types of pieces per opponent, each with a different pattern of movement and strategic use. Some are taller to project their majesty. Some are decidedly figurative to represent the noble steeds of heroic knights.  

Most likely, you learned chess from someone you looked up to or respected. Perhaps it was your Dad, grandfather, an older brother, or maybe even a teacher at school. You studied what they taught you. You practiced and learned. You won. You surpassed the person who taught you and moved on to someone better.

You graduated from checkers.

Checkers players tell themselves that they play the game for the fun. Chess players tell themselves that they play for the strategy.

That’s why chess is better than checkers.

Sure, we play games to have fun. But there is something one-dimensional in the game of checkers. Chess is multi-dimensional, with many moves and many directions to take. It’s about encouraging a weakness in your opponent, whereas checkers are about recognizing a mistake when it happens. Checkers is more passive.

Which one reminds you more of the trials of life?

That’s one reason we are drawn to chess and walk away from checkers. Once you gain experience in life, you find yourself wanting to beat it. Chess gives you that opportunity within the realm of a board game.

Here are a few more reasons we are drawn to chess.


The statistical variance of a chess game creates a vast void between it and checkers in terms of difficulty. That variance tests the abilities of even the grandmasters of chess, players who have reached the uppermost ranks of skill and dedication to the game.  There are billions of potential board configurations possible within the first five moves made by both players in a match. The likelihood of a repeat order of play is infinitesimal, but that is why the grandmasters play and study so much. To be prepared for when a replay may occur.


While the enjoyment of the game doesn’t merely come from the sheer magnitude of possible plays in chess, it doesn’t hurt. It adds excitement to the game. Human error compounds the excitement by testing each player against themselves while also trying to best their opponent. Not only must you beat your opponent, you must not beat yourself. That is the reason that a game of chess is referred to as a match. Ideally, chess is played against someone who is equally as talented and experienced as you. An exact counterpart. 

The nuances of the differing piece movements bring forward opportunities to expose holes in an opponent’s defense but also present unseen hazards to your movements, like black ice on a highway. You don’t know you are in trouble until you are in the middle of it and things go sliding out of your control. You can only hope that your opponent misses seeing your predicament until you can regain your direction and safety.

Playing checkers, on the other hand, feels more like playing with a toy train that only has one stretch of track. You can only go forward or backward. That’s great for a little while, depending on the quality of your imagination. But sooner than later, you will get bored and want to go in a different direction. Or blow up the train set and find a new game.


Checkers is played in a series of quick successive games that end when someone gets tired or bored. 

Chess is a marathon. It requires patience to end the game, with no guarantee of a one-sided outcome. You can win, lose, or draw. Or resign. Whatever the outcome, you are devoting all of your time, attention, and energy to a board consisting of 64 squares and 32 individual pieces. It takes someone with stamina to play a game like that.

The average grandmaster spends more than 10,000 hours of play and study to reach their level of skill and accreditation. While some matches are played with a time clock regulating the overall game time, a chess match can last for hours between equally matched and highly skilled players. The longest professional chess match recorded lasted for more than 20 hours, for example.

Checkers is a fine game for passing away hours for lack of something better to do. It teaches competition to young kids and sets the table for shared laughs and warm memories. But when you are ready to truly test your wits and those of an opponent, the game is chess, not checkers.

Photo by Tran Anh Tuan on Unsplash