If you’re just starting out playing Chess like me, you may not have realized how difficult Chess is. Because after playing a few hundred games and barely breaking 1000 on Chess.com, getting to 2000 or even 1500 doesn’t even seem possible without multiple years of study and practice.
Why is Chess So Hard?
The game of Chess is hundreds of years old and most people have played or attempted to play, chess at least once in their lifetime. Yet few people actually take the time to learn the complex rules and strategies necessary to win or even play the game correctly.
In fact, chess is such a difficult game to master that becoming a grandmaster or a world champion can turn someone who plays a board game into a minor celebrity. While we were all stuck at home over the last year I finally decided to learn to play chess. After losing every game I’ve played for months to a computer on “easy” I’m left with one question; Why is chess so hard?
Chess is a game of nearly infinite combinations of moves filled with archaic rules and a large number of playable pieces with their own moves and actions. Mastering chess can take a lifetime of devotion and learning. From memorizing complex opening moves to recognizing patterns, getting to checkmate is no small feat.
But How Hard Could a Board Game Be?
But isn’t this just a board game? It’s just a silly board game like checkers right? Keep in mind, we’re talking about a board game that’s been named the game of Kings. If Kings took it seriously, you know it was important.
The fact is, there is so much more to Chess than meets the eye. Yes you can tell that it’s a complicated game and requires thought, analysis, and practice. But you don’t really know how much skill is involved in excelling at Chess until you play at least 500 games or so. The levels of skill involved is nearly unfathomable.
The number of different pieces a player controls can make learning chess feel intimidating from the very beginning. Each player controls 16 total pieces. Six different pieces all with their own moves and actions making up the 16 total pieces. While a piece like a pawn can only move forward one space at a time, the King and Queen can move in any direction they want.
One space at a time for the King and as little or as far as you want with the Queen. Every different game piece has to follow its own specific move set.
For someone used to playing board games with only one piece, just learning all the different pieces and their individual movements can be enough to stop them from learning anymore. To get an overview of each piece, you can see the complete guide on Chess pieces.
Most Don’t Know
On the surface, chess seems easy enough. Move your pieces across the board and trap your opponent’s King. But even if you take the time and learn how each piece moves, there are still a lot of rules the average player isn’t even aware of.
For most people, knowing that your pawn can move two spaces instead of the one it normally moves or that you can promote your pawn to a Queen is enough to make them more knowledgeable than the average person on chess. But, there are a lot of little rules like this that change the way your pieces behave.
The special moves, castling and en passant are two Chess rules I won’t even try to explain that change your piece’s behavior. Moves you’ve probably never even heard of and didn’t know were even legal moves. If you don’t know these moves you’re limiting your possibilities and making the game harder.
The Rules Are The Easy Part
Okay, so you’ve learned all the rules and you’re ready to start playing chess. Now comes the real hard part. It’s simply not enough to know the rules of chess. People have devoted their lives to learning the best strategies to winning. Entire books have been written on the best opening moves alone.
Learning the best strategies, identifying patterns, and being able to predict your opponent’s next two or three moves is extremely important. While the first few times you play you may see chess as a more adult version of checkers and simply try to brute force your way to victory, chess is a finesse game that requires an understanding of the game that only comes from experience.
There are three main components to any chess match. The opening move, the middlegame, and the endgame. Each stage of the game requires a different strategy and style of play. Chess isn’t a game you can just sit down and start playing and expect to win. You need to study and learn effective strategies for all three of these stages of play.
Near Endless Possibilities
With all of these different pieces, moves, and complex strategies you might be wondering how many possible chess game variations there are. I know I sure did. That’s when I stumbled across a little something called the “Shannon Number”.
The Shannon Number, invented by mathematician Claude Shannon, is a set of mathematics that proves that there are more possible variations on a game of chess than there are atoms in the observable universe. All of the training and studying in the world still won’t give you one single way to win.
Only devotion to learning the game and gaining the experience needed to adapt to anything thrown at you can compete with the endless possibilities in a game of chess.
How To Get Better At Chess
The best way to get better at chess is to start developing your strategy for victory. Chess isn’t a game you want to just wing it on. Start by studying and developing your opening move. This sets the stage for the rest of the game. There is a lot more room for improvising in the later stages of the game, so develop your opening game to lay the groundwork.
For a list of tips, you can read the guide on how to get better at Chess.
To really learn how to play chess and be good at it, however, you will have to study and play to get better. Read books and articles on strategy and how to play. Get experience playing with a friend on a computer. And, play above your current skill level. Play people better than you to learn from them and study how they are beating you and what you can do better.
To put it simply, Chess is hard, but it can get easier if you put in the time and work to get better at it. While the game may be intimidating if you’re just starting to learn it simply takes time and training to get better at it.
Once you start getting a few checkmates under your belt, you’ll wonder why you ever thought chess was so hard to play in the first place. And hey, if you aren’t up to the challenge and don’t want to spend so much energy to learn a game there’s always checkers.
Also, playing the best moves is good, but not playing bad moves is just as important. For a list of tips that will help you with this, you can read the guide on how to stop blundering.
I hope this guide on why Chess is so hard. Despite Chess being so difficult and time consuming to get better at, that is the very reason why it’s so addicting and joyful. Making small increments of progress week after wee, seeing your rating go up, little by little. The massive gaps in skill between different ratings is part of what makes the game so great.