Chess, Politics & War.

Even if I forget everything about Estaport secondary school, my experience with the game of chess can never be forgotten. It was the first time I heard the term, ‘CHESS’ and played the game. Within a few days, I was hooked. Break time were not to remain the same again. Looking back now, armed with life experience & more knowledge, I can say it was worth it while it lasted. And now, comparisons can be made.



Chess, both in its gameplay & structure, is quite unique (Not every time Call of Duty, sometimes a brain-stimulating game).

Inferences can be made to real life situations. Chess playing flourishes on the ability to be one step ahead of your opponent. And boxing him to a corner. Pawns are those pieces which are the least powerful- usually put in the line of fire. Those pieces behind the pawns have more powers. The King is the ultimate piece of the game. The survival of the king is dependent on those pieces who surround him. Ironically, they have more freedom to move than the King. Take them out and the king is a sitting duck. The Queen’s movement is towards all direction and to any length. She is the one whose ability encompasses all others safe for the sly Knight. Take out the queen and the kingdom is weakened. Now, let’s juxtapose between real life situations & the game.

The theory of Social Contract states that man cedes his power to the state. Here, the state makes laws to guide his existence. If Hobbes’ Leviathan is it, then the subjects are tools to achieve a goal. Even without Hobbes’ absolute government, the citizens are still subjected to the whims of the ruling class. Pawns. During crisis, it’s the citizens that bear the brunt of decisions of the ruling class, as IDPs and refugees. Sacrificial lambs they are.
Since the game of chess thrives on thinking ahead, it means that the your opponent is forced to do what he wouldn’t have ordinarily done. Laying a trap. This act was perfected by Talleyrand during the defeat of Napoleon. A former minister of Napoleon, he masterminded the Napoleon’s escape from prison and eventual defeat at Waterloo. Knowing the importance of crushing Napoleon & knowing Napoleon’s ambition, Talleyrand merely baited him into going to war he knew he couldn’t win while he sat behind watching events go as he planned.
Forcing your opponent’s hand is divided into two parts-
-A false sense of control
-Make forced decisions
The first one gives him the impression that he’s in control while in reality, he acting the way you want. This technique was used by Henry Kissinger on Richard Nixon. Knowing Nixon to be insecure, Kissinger would present range of options to him in such a way that the one he favoured always seems the best solution compared to other options. This gave Nixon a false sense of authority.
The second one means making your opponent play on your turf, where you control all options. This was used by John Rockefeller when he created the oil monopoly. Instead of owning oil companies, he took control of what all the oil companies needed to exist- transportation. So, indirectly he forced the oil companies to play according to his dictates.

The emergence of Hafez Al-Assad as Syrian president was pure chess tactics. Hafez was a man who many believed wasn’t as ambitious as his contemporaries; he seemed satisfied being just a team player. Salah Jadid and Muhammad Umran seemed more ambitious. But by biding his time and scheming, Hafez became the president while Jadid was imprisoned and Umran assassinated. Assad did this by keeping his intentions and getting loyalties from key actors. In political scheming, there is generally a sense of mistrust. Everyman has an intention for which he’s in politics for. Selfish most times. This is how Louis Bonaparte came about ruling France. He was considered by Louis-Adolphe Thiers to be a stooge material. As soon as his hand reached the eku-ida, he did away with his proprietor.


War is the continuation of politics by other means.

– Carl von Clausewitz

Advanced politics if you wish. In fact, I have always maintained that for an army general to be successful, he needs to have the knowledge of chess. This is because the game has similarities with warfare. The military, like chess, is mechanical in nature and workings. Roles are assigned. This seeks to ensure effectiveness.
A strategy of chess usually employed by the military is baiting. In chess, a player seeks to bait or sell a dummy to his opponent to make him expose his vulnerability and strike where it hurts most. One act soldiers usually watch out for on the battlefield is ambush. This singular act is capable of decimating a large army and striking fear into generals. Ambush takes the form of booby traps which make use of seemingly harmless objects, thereby making the soldier relax his defence and/or see himself being in control. This was one tactic the Vietnamese used against the American troops during the Vietnam War. Similarly, the Japanese used it against the Russians in 1905. By spreading propaganda against the Russians, the weaker Japanese made the Russians come to them with the objective of wiping out the Japanese with a decisive blow. But this journey made the Russians weak and the inexperienced Japanese took them out. Related to this is the use of dummies by the military during the World War II where the both the Allies and Axis employed the tactic to outwit each other. Military dummies have since become mainstream in military formations today.

Also, a rule of chess is that a pawn will be promoted once it reaches the other end of the board. This is an uphill task as the pawn is the least powerful- thus highly improbable for it to escape the ‘gun fires’ on the chessboard. In the medieval times, a soldier is recognised based on the number of kills he’s had. He transforms from a (probable) peasant to a warrior.

The victory in chess isn’t determined by the movement of the King. Rather, it’s by that of the other pieces. This validates Douglas MacArthur assertion- ‘A General is just as good or just as bad as the troops under his command make him’.

I think I need to polish my below average chess performance. You folks need to read Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power.

Photo credit: Google Images.

PS: Watch this video. It’s packed with meanings concerning how chess is related with war and the politics of war.



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