Development of a Chess Expert and Programmer

By National Expert Brian Wilmeth

I recently started managing another programmer after being the sole programmer for my company for a long time. Premier Chess CEO National Master Evan Rabin asked me for some similarities between programming and chess. Here are my thoughts:

I learned chess at the tennis club after my tennis lessons. In the beginning I would lose pieces easily and fall for the four-move checkmate repeatedly. I usually took about 3-4 times of the same mistake over and over to register that I was doing something wrong.


Let’s contrast that to the time I started programming which was during my junior year of high school. My favorite part of programming was drawing colors to the screen in the form of pixels. This is how most games are done. You could say I had a love for the gaming part of programming.

Later on I decided to tackle the harder stuff and I got a book on programming video games…

I gave up. It was too hard so I did not revisit that until my senior year of college. With chess I never gave up on it and started entering tournaments when I went to high school. Unfortunately, I played a lot less chess when college started.

Why did I give up? What causes anyone to give up in a pursuit of something they enjoy? It was too hard for me I think. Video game programming seemed too hard and reaching beyond my chess rating of 1900 seemed too hard.

What do I mean by too hard? Well in the case of video game programming, I worked from a book. I figured in order to learn this I need to get through this book. Is that really true? Perhaps there was another way. Perhaps my limited thinking of how this must be done was creating the feeling of too hard.

In the case of chess I started to analyze openings very deeply. I looked at how to play against the Grunfeld Defense and looked into that opening very deeply.

I wanted to play as good as the computer. During this time of trying to perfect my anti Grunfeld I thought chess was too hard. Perhaps I was just approaching it wrong? The Grunfeld was just a small part of chess and yet I was putting all my energy into that.

Now I approach chess and programming differently. I have goals that I feel comfortable with in both of them. How good do I want to be? I’m not looking to be a world champion chess player or the best programmer. For chess, reaching a specific rating would be nice and for programming, releasing a Nintendo Switch game would be nice.

Now that I am clear on what I want from these two pursuits, I am less likely to fall in the trap of hating the process, which could just be a sign that I am not clear about what I want and I am going in the wrong direction. In any pursuit, one should be clear of what he wants out of it and he will enjoy it more and get farther.

National Expert Brian Wilmeth manages our virtual classes and program at New American Academy Charter School. He is also a programmer and web designer. He recently did some consulting for KWR International. To learn more about his programming services and coding classes, send him an email at bwilme01@gmail.com .