Lessons From Chess: Be The Queen

Always Be The Queen in Chess

Board games have a lot to teach us about life, like fairness and gamesmanship. A two-player game considered to be one of the oldest in human civilization, chess is certainly one of those games. In its original iterations, the board represented a battlefield in which two opposing armies fight to capture each other’s king. The original pieces represented four divisions of the military – infantry, cavalry, elephants, and charity. A person wins the game when they put the opponent’s king in “checkmate,” a position in which the king is in an inescapable threat of capture — one of the many reasons why the game has been used to teach war strategy. Even though it has been known as the “King’s Game” (the word “chess” is derived from the Persian word “shah” or king), what lessons can we learn from the Queen of this game?

Don’t be afraid to be the only woman in the room and own it:

In the modern game, each player begins with 16 pieces — one king, one queen, two rooks, two knights, two bishops, and eight pawns. You may have noticed that the Queen is the only explicitly female piece on the board and she doesn’t seem to mind. Here’s a fun fact for you: though the game is believed to have originated in Eastern India in the 6th century, the Queen did not appear in the game until the end of the 10th century, replacing an earlier piece called the vizier, a high-ranking political advisor or counselor (blame it on the patriarchy).

Unapologetically move the way you need to move–just don’t step on any toes:

While the game is over when the king is in checkmate, everyone knows the most powerful piece on the board is the queen — a distinction she doesn’t receive until the 15th century. One historian has described the Queen as so essential to the game that if removed, there would remain nothing more of value on the board. The Queen’s power lies in the way she moves. Although the original vizier piece could only move one square diagonally, the Queen is the only piece that can move any number of squares along a rank (row), file (column), or diagonally. The only thing she can’t do is jump over other pieces.

Always wear your crown:

As the game evolved, so too have the shapes of the pieces. The original vizier piece had no set shape or form, often taking the characteristics of its local culture. But as the game gained popularity in Europe and the pieces became stand-ins for a royal court instead of an army, a more standardized set of pieces began to take shape. By 1849, the set known as the “Staunton set” became the world standard. In this set, the king is usually the largest piece and wears a cross on top. The queen, however, wears a crown.

So, the real lesson from chess: always be the queen.

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