Debate is Chess


We published a blog awhile back about the debate <—> battlefield metaphor.


In fact, I think it’s the most appropriate— a castle siege, a battle. After all, debate is inherently competitive. And relating it to a sport other than an ancient battlefield feels like it cheapens the metaphor.


Long story short: I like it.


But here’s another, a similar metaphor: chess. Relatable to, well, people who play chess.

Which, I do.


Arguments are attacks. When one piece attacks another, it threatens to capture them, to gain ground in the game and to therefore inch closer to the win. Every argument and every attack must be met with caution and analyzed in the context of the game. How do your arguments interact with theirs? How can you prioritize which are most important?


Rebuttals are captures. They disarm the attacks, and can act as an answer to the attacks. They also showcase your ethos and skill in the round. They’re the natural complement to the attack. (I’ll admit this is a rather loose connection).


Flow is the chessboard. There’s probably a few geniuses who don’t need to flow in a debate, and likely as few chess wizards who don’t need a board. But for most of us, the board is a representation of what happened, helping Pro and Con, black and white, competitor and judge to map out the round.

The king, of course, is the ballot. The king is the aim, the focus of the round, the ultimate prize. In fact, no consideration should get in the way of this aim. You can sacrifice other pieces if you get the king in the end. You can sacrifice your prize argument or your preferred strategy if you get the ballot in the end.

In both chess and debate, you must think several moves ahead if you hope to win.

Both chess and debate have time limits, require quick thinking, and entail constant strategy adjustments as you move through the game.


What’s another analogy you can use to visualize a debate round?

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