“Chess” and “football”. These are two words that don’t even come close to the imagination when we think of similarities but what is required is a deep insight to see beyond mere battle pieces and a number of men running around a ball. While football involves controlling a ball, chess involves controlling the initiative. Below are the similarities between chess and football
1. A match
A football match is played between two opponents and the same thing applies to chess. A single game of chess is not standardly referred to as a match. A chess match usually comprises of a number of games. This can be seen as a battle to score points just as it is goals in football. Whoever wins the most battles or score most goals, wins the war or the match.
2. You, the player, as the coach
Just as the primary role of a coach is to set up strategies to help see the team through every game, so does a chess player strategize a game in order to secure the best results. Sometimes, strategy planning depends on the players to be faced just as it is in football. Chess players must try to harmonize their pieces to have them working as a team to achieve good results. There are a lot of tactics to employ in a chess game like pins, forks, intermezzos and the rest and a chess player must know exactly when to use each of them. There are also a variety of openings to choose from like the Ruy Lopez, Dutch Defense, Queen’s Gambit and the rest which can be compared to formation setting in football like the 4-3-3, 4-4-2, 4-4-1-1 and the rest. The pieces in chess play the role of the footballers on the pitch
3. The King as the goalkeeper
The primary aim of a football match is to score goals, right? And to score goals require beating the goalkeeper with a shot, right? Right! Now see the goalkeeper in football as the King in chess. The goalkeeper is usually at the very last line of defense in a football match. The same role is performed by the king in chess. Other players(football) and pieces(chess) do their very best to prevent their opponent from reaching their King or goalkeeper. Otherwise, that spells doom. The shot or strike towards the goalkeeper is referred to as the attack in chess. When the King or goalkeeper is trapped or beaten by a player or a team, that player/teams win a point or a goal which is crucial to winning a match.
4. The Queen as the star player
Football, across time, has witnessed a lot of spectacular teams built around a specific star player. This player can be of any role but they usually consist of offensive players. Regarded as the star men of their clubs, we have Lionel Messi for Barcelona, we had Zinedine Zidane for France, Diego Maradona for Napoli and the likes. Just the same way their presence is greatly missed when they’re off the pitch so is a Queen’s absence deeply felt when she’s off the board. Players depend a lot on their Queen for basically everything and unless it’s for a favourable exchange or a sacrifice that leads to inevitable checkmate, most players prefer to keep their Queen in play to bolster their fighting options.
5. The Rooks as defenders
Modern fullbacks in football today play a solid role in attack as well as defense. We take a look at Roberto Carlos, Dani Alves, Alphonso Davies, Trent Alexander-Arnold among others that charge forward and also do well to track back in a blistering pace. The same theory could be applied to rooks as they have the ability to cover a comparatively large number of squares in a single move. They are primarily defensive pieces that occasionally drive forward to support a stale attack. They have a special connection with the King as displayed through castling just as centre backs have with their goalkeepers through defensive blocks from shots on goal.
6. The Knights as the playmakers
Dribbles, creativity, teamwork, these are the major roles of standard playmakers/attacking midfielders in football today. Players like Iniesta fits into this role excellently and this role can be likened to a knight. It has been demonstrated by many chess masters that a knight is best effective when in a position with good space. This theory drives the popular chess quote “A knight at the rim is dim” meaning that a knight’s ability is shortened when at the edge of the board. Same as with an attacking midfielder. A knight can brilliantly support pieces as they head into an attack, wringing its way across obstacles opponents set forward.
7. The Bishops as pacy wingers
Compared to knights, Bishops appear more pacy because they can travel long distances in an instant and they relate to wingers in a football team because wingers are mainly restricted to the wings. They operate on a flank, either left or right, driving forward with pace and that attributes to draw a number of similarities with the Bishop of chess. They are restricted to diagonals and drive attacks to opponents in rapid fashion.
8. The pawns as youth players
Pawns are said to be the soul of chess as quoted by the French legend, Francois-Andre Philidor. This statement can be likened to football as the youth players being the future and the vibrance of the team. Youth players can occupy any role and most times, they eventually develop high enough to become an integral part of the team and in chess, this is called promotion. The pawns are promoted to officials which appear as the veterans in a football team. In modern football, there’s usually a mix of youth players and veterans and this philosophy applies to football as well. In many endgames, as starting officials are completely taken off the board and what’s left is a pawn endgame where some pawns are promoted and carry on the battle.
9. The arbiter as the referee
Just like in football, chess games are monitored in order to enforce rules and call out both foul play and settle uncertainties. In chess, an arbiter must be sound in all the rules guiding the game in order to prevent errors and players must respect the judgement of the arbiters. The arbiter is also in charge of timing as is the referee in football who decides half-time, full-time, drink breaks and the rest. The arbiter in chess also performs a kind of selection process for who starts the game, especially an Armageddon game by having players randomly select a hidden side colour for who plays first just as it is in a coin toss for football.
Chess960, quatrochess, bughouse are some of the variants involved in chess. These variants create different rules that do not apply to standard chess but most times, they share a common goal which is to trap the King as the common aim of any football variant is to score a goal. In football, we have variants like street football, 5-a-side, one-touch and likes.
As it appears, chess and football share more similarities than most might think and just as you enjoy watching football, one can as well enjoy football in a whole new way – a deeper way and expand the fun horizon. It’s safe to say that chess is a more mental representation of football that can be called upon when there isn’t much room to physically participate in football.