Seeing it: Chess and Football

by ChessBase
3/9/2023 – Chess and football might have more in common than first meets the eye, but in fact, there are parallel ideas of visual spatial intelligence in both chess and football. Which is one reason why Jason Kouchak, composer, pianist and avid chess fan supports "The Rooks", a women's football team in Lewes, Sussex, England. | Photo: Magnus Carlsen shows his football skills. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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Text: Julian Paix

Jason Kouchak has encouraged, and promoted chess at a Woman’s Football Team in Lewes, Sussex. The football queens are also known as 'The Rooks' and play chess before each football match as a means of improving their visual spatial intelligence and performance.

The power to understand  spatial concepts and movement on the field with pace, precision and power are essential for their visualisation process.

Jason Kouchak with two of the "rooks" and chessboard. Kouchak also donated a chess set and pieces in the Lewes FC football colours to the girls. | Photo: Julian Paix

Jason Kouchak and the Lewes "Rooks" Chess Queens | Photo: Julian Paix

There are parallel ideas of visual spatial intelligence in both chess and football. The development of spatial and movement concepts together with the understanding of open space/position and closed spaces/positions are an integral part of both chess and football training.

Image | Sara Licznerska

The ability for a player to visualise their surroundings and other players directions, reactions and connections to the ball is similar to a chess players ability to visualise and co-ordinate his/her chess pieces.

Pep Guardiola, manager (Bayern Munich 2013-2016 now Manchester City) and friend of Kasparov’s says: "We need to be able to vary our tactical formation in response to the rhythm and demands of each game."

Pep Guardiola focuses on his game. | Photo: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

In chess as in football, agents/players compete in space and time dynamic and need to be ‘in tune’ with their reading of the spatial- functional or structural relationships between chess pieces or football players in a linear grid.

The chess pieces move across planned projectories whereas in football 22 players move in different directions at different speeds.

Each player needs a mental engine to create a 'mind-map' for making decisions about the next move on the chessboard or when to release the football on the pitch.To 'think outside the box' is this process of visualisation to understand the open lines,spaces and options available in his/her immediate surroundings.

It’s little wonder that even Magnus Carlsen has been able to transpose his chess abilities to his fantasy football leadership skills.

Magnus Carlsen likes to play football | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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