The Most Difficult Game of Chess An Inspirational Story About the Most Important Things in Life

I. The Young Man Without a Purpose…

Some time ago, a desperate young man headed towards a distant monastery to find a purpose in life. When he arrived, he explained to an elder monk:

“I can find no pleasure in life. I am incapable of focusing. Everything bores me and I am easily tempted. Is there some hope for a person such as me?”

“Of course there is”, replied the monk. “But, before I show you the way, you have to tell me whether there is something you have studied with attention throughout your life?”

“Well, to tell you the truth – there is no such thing. Maybe chess… When I was a child, I liked to play chess a lot.”

The monk thought a bit and then called upon a priest, who had owned a chessboard, and invited few spectators willing to watch a chess match. The priest brought the board, and the monk placed a sword at the side of the table and turned to his priest:

“You have vowed to be obedient, and I’m asking you to respect your vow once again. Because now you will have to play the most difficult game of chess with this young man. Your lives are at stake – I will cut off the head of the loser…”

II. …And the Game That Changed That

The game started. The boy trembled every time he tried making a move. Suddenly, he noticed an oversight on the part of his opponent! He attacked and soon he was in a winning position. But, then he raised his head and saw the face of his opponent. He was deeply moved by the sight. He felt compassion: this innocent monk will now die because of nothing. He started making mistakes intentionally. He accepted his inevitable destiny: for the life he led, an early death was the proper reward.

Out of the blue, the monk grabbed the chessboard and turned it over, scattering the pieces across the floor. “A draw!” he screamed. “Heads will stay on shoulders!”

As both players stared at the monk in awe and disbelief, he calmly explained his action to the guest:

“You see, my boy, the most important things in life are concentration and compassion. During the last few hours, you learned the value of both. You wanted to win so badly that you started seeing things you wouldn’t have seen in other situations. One of them was the pain of your opponent. That’s when you came in touch with your humanity. You were willing to sacrifice your own life for him. You will become a great man, no doubt about it.”

The young man stayed at the monastery for the next few months. He left it enlightened and content. Afterwards, he became a doctor, admired and respected by everybody.

The lesson:

  • The monk said it best: everybody needs to learn to concentrate and focus on his own goals, but also feel compassion and never forget that there are other people around him with goals of their own.
  • It doesn’t matter whether you play chess or you’re learning to become a doctor – the importance of concentration and compassion can never be overestimated.


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