While chess isn’t the oldest game in human history, it is close, and it has only increased in its complexity.
The first derivatives of chess harken back to India in 6 AD.
They called it chaturanga, and it was a four-player game instead of two.
The game would eventually make its way to Persia where it developed into the game that we know today.
They, and the French, are responsible for the game mechanics of check and checkmate.
Despite the game having a long history, it isn’t one of the easiest games to master.
If you’ve tried chess before and found yourself struggling, then you may wonder why the game is so complex.
Here are a few reasons chess is so hard.
Why Is Chess So Hard? (7 Reasons)
1. Chess Piece Movements
Chess is far more complex than a game like checkers because all the pieces have their own movement patterns and rules.
In checkers, you know exactly where you can move a piece because you only need to follow the pattern on the board.
In chess, every piece has a specific movement that it can do.
It isn’t as simple as following the pattern on the board.
A bishop, for example, can only move one square in any direction whereas the queen piece has far more range with the ability to move any distance in a straight line in any direction.
The knights also have a unique way in which they can move.
Because there are several pieces on the board, the game requires you to remember in which direction each piece can move.
There’s nothing there to help you remember how pieces work and where they go.
Since the game requires a large part of your memory just to remember where to move the pieces, chess is far more complex than other games.
If remembering where pieces go isn’t hard enough, then you also have to keep in mind the movements of your opponent’s pieces.
This is another layer of difficulty that makes chess hard to play.
Chess is, ultimately, a game in which strategy wins the day.
Part of developing that strategy is understanding one’s opponent.
In national and international leagues, opponents are well-known.
It allows players to study their opponents and the types of strategies and movements that they like to use.
This allows them to come up with a few defensive or offensive strategies to confuse and outdo them.
When you play with strangers, however, the game is a lot more complex because you don’t know them.
You don’t know the type of strategies that they enjoy using in their games.
That makes it impossible to come up with a strategy of your own based on theirs.
Instead, you’ll have to read your opponent.
An ability to read body language is complex in itself.
Applying it to a game is even more advanced.
Many chess masters will say that you can only get better by challenging new opponents.
As you learn their strategies, you can hone your own skills on how to offset them or defend against them.
Playing against people or even computers makes chess complex since you can’t be sure what strategies they’re going to be using.
3. Memorization Of Techniques
If memorizing the various movements of chess pieces isn’t hard, then memorizing various techniques is.
It’s one thing to know how the various pieces move, and it’s another to apply those movements into a technique.
You can think of chess as a way to wage war.
The ultimate goal is to take the other player’s king.
There are several ways you can do this.
Understanding these core moves requires you to memorize each movement of the chess piece involved.
However, you also find yourself needing to adapt the technique while playing to make your opponent unaware of it.
This often involves using multiple techniques at once, and to ensure it’s successful, you have to remember how to perform each one.
There are hundreds of different moves that you can make in chess.
A chess master knows them all or at least most of them to ensure their victory.
Because of this level of complexity and memorization, chess is hard to learn and play.
Perhaps one of the main reasons chess is hard is that it requires you to adapt at a moment’s notice.
In other games, you usually do the same thing over and over and become better at it.
That isn’t the case with chess.
Because you’re playing against someone else, you have to be able to adapt to them to win.
They may attempt to deceive you with a move or perform a technique or use a strategy that you haven’t encountered before.
Chess requires you to be able to think on your feet.
Not only do you have to defend your pieces from an unplanned attack, but you also still need to press your offensive.
If all you’re doing is defending, then you’re never going to win the game.
Being able to adapt at any moment and change your strategy makes learning and playing chess extremely hard.
5. Time Constraints
Not all chess games use timers, but many of the official ones do.
That adds a whole new level of difficulty to the game.
Chess is a lot easier when there isn’t a time constraint because you’re able to take your time.
You can recall the various movements available to you on the board.
You have the time to think ahead a few steps and plan your strategy.
It also gives you more time to study your opponent and guess their next move.
A timer completely removes all those handicaps.
Advanced games of chess only allow each player a short time in which to make a move.
During that time, you have to run through various strategies in your head without giving anything away to your opponent.
Not only do you need to react to what they did, but you also need to act.
With the pressure of time ticking away, the atmosphere is enough to make anyone freeze under the pressure.
Using a timer adds to the stress of the game which can make thinking quickly even more difficult.
That makes playing chess far harder.
6. Difficult To Learn From Mistakes
One of the reasons chess is hard is because it’s difficult to learn from your mistakes.
Unless you have a coach, you may not be sure where you went wrong during a strategy.
That’s because it’s difficult for most beginners to recognize a mistake when it happens.
You may make one mistake early in the game, but you may only feel its effects towards the end of the game.
It’s hard to trace it back to the move you made earlier because a dozen or so moves have occurred in the time after that.
Since it’s hard to figure out where you failed, it’s also hard to learn from those mistakes and keep from repeating them.
This problem compounds when you play against weak players who also make mistakes.
Neither of you can figure out where you’re going wrong.
That makes figuring out how to get better even more complex.
7. Body Language And Poker Face
A final reason that chess is hard is that it is not only the board that you have to worry about.
You also have to worry about your own body language.
There are several aspects to the game of chess.
There are the pieces, your opponent, and the memorization of various techniques and strategies.
With all these elements involved in the game, it’s easy to forget one final layer which adds complexity to the game.
You also need to be aware of and control your body language.
For example, if you keep looking at a few specific pieces on the board, then you’re telling your opponent that you’re interested in them.
Your opponent can use this to their advantage.
They can either encourage you to keep your focus on those pieces while they sneak an attack on your king, or they know that you intend to attack them.
By controlling your body language, you can deceive them instead.
For example, by glancing at some of their pieces, in particular, you can then make them think that you’re going to after them.
When they use a defensive strategy to thwart you, you can then use your real strategy to attack how you intended.
Chess is as much a game of poker as poker is.
You can deceive others with your body language, or you can let them exploit it.
This makes chess hard because it requires you to be aware of yourself, your opponent, and the board.
That requires a lot of mental juggling.
Add a timer and a lot of stress, and it makes chess even more complex to play.
How To Get Better At Chess
While chess is a hard game to play, there are a few ways that you can become better at it.
As you become better, the game becomes a little easier to play.
Here are a few tips you can use to become better at playing chess.
1. Hire A Coach
One of the best things you can do if you’re struggling to learn chess or want to become better at it is to hire a coach.
A chess coach is someone who has learned all the rules of chess and also understands how to develop a strategy.
They can help you define your strategy and come up with a few derivatives of it that might help you adapt more.
Perhaps one of the best things a coach can do for you is to play against you.
The only way to get better at chess is to play against someone who understands the game.
A coach can use various strategies to help you strengthen your own ability to adapt during the game.
They can also help you with the basics.
They’ll give you tips on how to memorize the various piece movements and easy ways to remember them.
A coach can also tell you if you’re giving too much away with your body language.
While you’re playing, the coach can make you aware of what your body is doing.
By being aware of it, you can control it and use it to your advantage.
Hiring a coach is one of the best ways to get better at chess and learn how to play it a lot easier.
2. Play Against Yourself
If you’re not comfortable facing others yet, then one of the best things you can do is to play against yourself.
There is a word of caution you should consider, too, however.
Playing against yourself can entrench mistakes.
Since no one is there to correct you on your mistakes, you might end up developing them further.
That said, playing against yourself is a great way to help you memorize the movements of the pieces.
It requires you to memorize both the movements of your own pieces and the pieces on the other side of the board.
This can help build awareness of the board and enable you to recognize the various opportunities that your future opponent might use against you.
If you have a core understanding of the mechanics of the game, then playing against yourself can also help you test certain strategies.
While they’re never guaranteed to work since you can’t count on your opponent to make the exact moves that you would, you can troubleshoot a few aspects of the strategy.
Playing against yourself is a great way to develop the base mechanics of the game and experiment.
3. Playing Against The Computer
Once you’re comfortable with the basic mechanics of the game, you can progress to playing against a computer.
One of the advantages of new players is their ability to play several chess programs.
Before chess computer games, players only had other opponents to rely on.
Today, you can find a chess game for your computer, game console, or even your phone.
Playing against a computer is helpful because a computer is extremely smart.
It has several known chess techniques memorized, if not all of them, to use against you.
This can help you learn how to adapt during a game with fewer mistakes.
A computer can also help you correct some of your mistakes.
Since it can only make legal moves, it will call you out if you attempt to make an illegal move.
A computer game adapts to your choices.
It’s one of the best ways to learn if you’re not comfortable playing against other people yet or if you live in a remote area.
4. Play Against People
There’s no doubt that the best way to get better at chess is to play against other people.
While a computer is a great alternative, it’s playing against people where you master the game.
That’s because, to some degree, a computer is predictable.
Playing against actual people is far more unpredictable since you’re also including body language and human ingenuity.
A player might decide to make a move that a computer would never consider.
While this means you might lose, it also means you’re learning.
It’s something you can figure out how to adapt to later and come out as a stronger player as a result.
There’s also the social aspect outside of playing chess.
Speaking with chess masters or advanced players can give you certain insights.
Their advice might inspire a new move or strategy that turns out to be successful for you.
Adding the human element to the game can teach you things you won’t get anywhere else.
5. Read Books
Several books have been published about playing chess.
Some books cover strategies and tips for use during the beginning of the game where others cover the mid-game or the endgame.
Most chess players will tell you to read only one book.
The rest of your skills should come from playing the actual game.
However, reading a book can give you a good foundation for how to play the game.
It might give your brain the jolt it needs to develop a new strategy or to understand how certain techniques might work for you or against you.
As with any hobby or a particular skill, reading about it can only further your progress rather than hinder it.
Chess is an extremely complex game that combines various intellectual pursuits like memorization, analysis, and adaptation.
Mastering these under a time limit and against an opponent takes time and effort.
It is possible to learn the game and become an advanced player if not a master, though.
Use the tips above to tackle some of the reasons chess is so hard to play and make it easier for you to understand and play.