Chess is an incredibly complex game, with seemingly infinite positions. Yet, in any given position, some moves are better than others and one move is always the best.
This is made possible because the check-mate, the final position in a game of chess, has a simple definition:
- The king is under attack
- The attacker cannot be captured
- The king has no safe square to move to
Therefore, both players have a well defined north star to aim at. A good position is one that nudges your opponent closer to a check-mate without compromising your own king’s safety.
Life outside chess can be way more complicated. While it is possible to train a robot to become the world’s most powerful chess player, it cannot yet be trained to be the world’s most skilled bricklayer.
Decision making in chess, despite its mind boggling complexity, is more easily codified than most real world situations. This is primarily because of well-defined constraints – 64 squares, 6 different types of pieces, and most importantly, a definite end to each game.
Constraints help us make better decisions. The next time you find yourself paralyzed by a deadlock, ask yourself what a check-mate would look like.