Fitness and Chess

In the past year, fitness has become a critical part of my life: I am addicted to the direct and fairly linear strength progress that comes from consistent weight training. Meanwhile, my chess improvement seems to have come to a halt as I have been hovering around the low 2000 mark for quite a while, causing me to feel rather uninspired to continue working on my game. This got me thinking. If I applied the same principles from my fitness journey to my chess, could I possibly boost my results and be more consistent? Here are a couple of comparisons between chess and fitness that I have drawn up, and they seem to reveal quite a bit about how I should be approaching my chess training:

  1. Diet: There is no need for a comparison here! Just like good food is essential to nourish your body, your brain needs nutritious foods to function properly.
  2. Cardio/Endurance and Tactical Sharpness: The last thing you want during a difficult workout is to reach cardiovascular failure before muscular failure. Moreover, in a sport or competition of some kind, you won’t be able to apply your strength and skill if you are completely out of breath the whole time. This principle works the same way in chess: there is no point in having incredible positional and endgame skill if you are regularly dropping pieces or missing simple tactics. Tactical alertness is fundamentally essential for any chess player!
  3. Strength in upper body and lower body vs. strength in calculation/middlegame/endgame: In fitness it is standard to follow so called “split routines” where one works out legs on one day and upper body the next; these “splits” can be broken up in many different ways. The same principle can be applied in chess: it makes sense to concentrate fully on solving difficult tactical puzzles one day (calculation), studying a master game the next (middlegames), and finally learning endgame theory on the day after that (endgames). Splitting up chess study like this ensures that you get the most out of every session rather than jumping constantly from one aspect of the game to the next, without attaining complete focus.
  4. Consistency is key: You won’t get anywhere in fitness if you work out with intensity for 3 weeks straight, and then take a month long break, only to then repeat the cycle. Unfortunately, that is exactly what I have been doing with my chess: it simply doesn’t work! Having a set structure or plan for chess study that you follow every week will guarantee progress if you are patient.
  5. Warm up: Before a game or a difficult workout it is always a good idea to warm up and get blood flowing with some easy movements. The same is true in chess: there is no harm in solving 5-10 basic tactics before a study session or game to ensure that you are ready and focused.

While some of these points may seem very intuitive, I have found thinking about the parallels between fitness and chess to be very helpful as they have inspired me to form a chess routine that I will stick to. Until next time!

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One thought on “Fitness and Chess

  1. Pingback: Moving Cities, Moving Focus – chess^summit

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