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Can Playing Chess Make you a Better Computer Programmer?

Programming is a computer language of data structures, algorithms and efficient strategy.  It’s an ongoing mind exercise, motivating the developer to always strive for perfection, else, one little mistake, and their work may not compile.  As such, chess is a game of strategy and competitiveness, and for competitive programmers, it can be a useful mind and strategy exercise for brain development. Both require pattern recognition and logical reasoning to succeed.

But, chess is not exactly programming; so what might it help you with? While chess is not exactly programming and probably wont put you ahead of other programmers, it can help with training the brain to react and develop. It can help put you in the right mindset. You will not become a good programmer just by playing chess, but like chess, experience and knowledge of theory of problems that have already been solved by others will help you to understand and be conditioned to finding solutions.

Here are some ideas:

Chess Teaches Problem Solving

Chess teaches you problem solving skills, with efficiently using different tools in your arsenal to achieve certain goals. It conditions, teaches and trains you to know that are many ways to tackle a problem, just like in programming.

Chess Helps with Time Management

With chess, you often have time limits, which help condition a player or programmer to budget on time spent thinking. You will use time spent efficiently to identify which moves are good and which moves are critical and worth the time to find the best move. Same with programming; apply that logic to algorithms and you have similar thought conditioning. When programming competitively, this is often a useful skill to have.

Chess Helps with Improving Observation Skills

Programming is full of making observations to better your code. Conditioning yourself to pay attention to detail may get you in the right mindset to help when thoroughly observing which strategies to take, or where to look in both improving code or finding errors in programming. In chess, you are punished for not thinking rationally and rewarded for being on top. An experienced chess player will have the ability to ignore irrational thoughts at will. That’s very useful for a programmer.

Conditioning yourself

Like all things, practice makes perfect.  Conditioning yourself to be a better chess player or programmer takes time, knowledge, and experience.  In both chess and programming, you should want to be good at the opening phase of your game or project.  Repetition training is important to get things down and right.

Chessable, by John Bartholomew, for  example, is a great way of how chess players can create an online learning program by finding a niche.  Techniques include spaced repetition and scheduling, dopamine and declarative memory, testing and practice effects, imitation and implicit learning, avoiding labor in vain and explicit learning.

Any other comments or pointers? Please leave in the comments section below:

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