August 10, 2012

Zugzwang.... Without a waiting move

Chess as a Means to an End - When I was around 12, I faced a binary choice about how to continue playing chess. Either I continue my education at my current school, and play chess in the evenings when I have time. Or I use my current ability in chess to gain a scholarship to study somewhere better, and all but give up chess. Education or Chess?

Zugzwang.... Without a waiting move
By Akash Jain

Akash Jain(author of this article)

Almost all of the other writers on this blog would have chosen the former option, and have now become strong IMs or even GMs. I, on the other hand, decided to utterly prioritize my education.

A school called Wellington College, in the UK, offered me a partial chess scholarship to attend, on the condition that I represent the school in chess matches on occasion. So the decision to continue with chess competitively or as a pastime was open to me.

Wellington College

The way I made up my mind was to evaluate where I thought I’d be in ten years. Personally, the life of a professional chess player was not for me - I wanted a stable lifestyle and a secure income to support a family. I wanted the opportunities that a university education affords, not the narrow path of a chess-playing career.

Chess could provide what I want in England unless I reached a 2600+ standard.

Don’t get me wrong - I loved playing chess and I still do. But I haven’t really improved: six years ago my rating was about 2000, and now it’s only about 2120. Though looking at the larger picture, my education got a huge boost six years ago and I am eternally grateful for that. Where I am now is unquestionably down to playing chess because of the doors it opened to me.

Akash Jain holding the World SubJunior Team Olympiad, Turkey 2009 participation medal

So my question to you is this: where do you want to be in the future? And how does chess fit in to your vision? Will you use it to further your education or to make a living?

PS: My school, Wellington College (, is offering a new round of scholarships to strong chess players (or clever academic students). I heartily enjoyed my time there and if you think you meet the criteria of attending a stunning British boarding school, get in contact with me.

About the Guest Author
Akash Jain is an 18-year old student who has just graduated from Wellington College, a British boarding school. He will be joining Princeton University in America later this month where he hopes to study Computer Science or Mechanical Engineering.