History Science

An Amazing Opportunity to Hear Eugene Brown Speak of His Metaphor of Chess and Life – “Think Before You Move”

November 20, 2017

Thanksgiving is upon us!  Turkey, stuffing, gravy and elasticized pants.  😉  Oh!  And of course:  thankfulness!

My friend Brittany at A Healthy Slice of Life recently wrote a post about not just being grateful for things, but also being grateful in things.  Meaning, even if the road is rough, it is important to still be grateful in those tough times.  Be grateful even when you don’t feel grateful.  I really liked her message.  You can read it here.

Thankfulness is something I have to point out to my children daily and often quite frequently to my adult self.  So much so, that I popularly refer to my struggles as first-world problems, calling them such because I know they pale in comparison to many struggles felt by others.

I also really like this viral video reminder to be thankful for all things.  It was done by a church in Charlotte, NC to remind us that there is always something for which we can be thankful.

My children are participating in chess club at school.  Last week, their club was invited to see a speaker at a neighboring school’s chess club.  The speaker’s topic:  the parallels of chess and life.

Eugene Brown - ChessThe speaker, Eugene Brown, grew up in an urban area of Washington D.C.  As he was growing up, his choices landed him in juvenile hall and eventually in federal prison for 18 years.  While incarcerated, Brown learned the game of chess, which he then used as a metaphor for his life.  He has set about sharing his story and his foundational mantra, “Think before you move” with adults and children everywhere.

Chess GameBrown founded an organization called the Big Chair Chess Club to help change the inner city by giving children an opportunity to learn a strategic game and the interesting parallels it offers to life.

Brown’s presentation was saturated with lessons derived from the game of chess, lessons he teaches via the Big Chair Chess Club. 

According to Brown, life is much like a chess game.  There is the opening, the middle and the end.  The object in the first phase of chess is to develop your pieces.  He argues that it is just like life.  When you are young you should be focused on developing skills to meet the vision of what you want to be and what you want to accomplish.  It is through this development, and executing against your plan in the middle of the game, that you achieve your goal of checkmate, or whatever it is that you aspire to be in life.

Brown’s over-arching theme and main mantra is to always, “Think before you move.”  Because in chess, if you don’t take that sage advice, you might find your pieces in a precarious position.  And, in life, you might find yourself in jeopardy at the hand of a poorly thought-out decision.

Brown, explained, “You think before you move.  Before you speak.  Before you get tattoos.”  😉

He shared with the children that chess teaches you to have a vision for your end game.  It teaches you to have a vision for your life.  In chess and in life, you always want to see the end game.  The checkmate.  The life goal.  And, it offers lessons just like life.  But, he encouraged them to remember:

“You never lose a game.  You either learn lessons or you are teaching lessons.”

Seeing Mr. Brown speak was an opportunity, for which I am extremely thankful.  Brown is a soft-spoken man with a vision to change the lives of youth who might otherwise venture down the wrong path.  In 2013 a movie, “Life of a King” was made about Brown.  His role is played by Cuba Gooding, Jr.

All because Brown didn’t lose at the hand of several bad decisions, but instead learned a life lesson worthy of sharing with the world.

If you want to learn more about Eugene Brown or his organization, you can click here and here.

My children very much enjoyed the opportunity to meet other children and engage in the game of chess with them.  Mr. Brown’s messages weren’t fully absorbed by them, but I am thankful I have them in my quiver as I guide my children through the many choices they have before them.  Choices to learn and to plan their game.  And, I am thankful that I have his words as a reminder to myself, even though I am not quite in the opening part of ‘my game.’ 😉

The boys agreed to have their picture taken with Mr. Brown, but my daughter couldn’t gather the courage.  She was still rooted in the fact that at one point in his life he was a ‘bad guy.’

Mr. Brown and the boys - Chess

Sometimes boiling things down the wrong way for a child will distort the perspective.  Smacking my head on that one.

In any case, perhaps she at least flitted away with the message from the rainbow over a doorway in the school.

Dream Big E - Chess

Journey on!  And, play a little chess with your family over the holidays!  Happy Thanksgiving!
XO, Melissa


Chess originated almost 1500 years ago in northern India in the 6th century AD.  It then spread to Persia.  When Arabs conquered Persia, the Muslim world began playing chess.  It spread to Europe through the Moorish conquest of Spain.

The modern game of chess started with some changes to the pieces in Europe in the 15th century.  Chess tournaments began in the latter part of the 19th century, with the first world chess championship being held in 1886.  Now, we have the World Chess Federation, as well as chess computer programs and chess clubs at schools.

Everyone will agree that chess is good for your brain.  And, according to Samir Becic, author of the book Resync Your Life, chess can actually do these ten things for you:

  1. Exercise both sides of your brain
  2. Promote brain growth
  3. Raise your IQ
  4. Help prevent Alzheimer’s
  5. Help your creativity
  6. Increase problem-solving skills
  7. Teach planning and foresight
  8. Improve reading skills
  9. Improve memory
  10. Helps recovery from a stroke or disability

So, go play some chess!  🙂

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