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How Micah Parson’s chess hobby helps him in football

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Dallas Cowboys defensive star Micah Parsons likes to win in everything he does. He is a comPetitive guy, but he’s also an intelligent guy, and that’s a lethal combo when it comes to beating opponents.

Parsons has spent the last three seasons in the NFL becoming one of, if not the best pass rusher in the league. He also happens to be an excellent chess player.

Micah Parsons: Chess and football master

Parsons is a self-taught chess player and uses the knowledge of the game to build his game on the football field as well. He even competed in Chess.com’s BlitzChamp tournament, a speed chess tournament for NFL players.

It’s no secret that strengthening your mental game can help strengthen your physical game as well, and chess is one mental game that can help immensely in a physical game like football.

Parsons is often comparing football moves to chess moves, and coincidentally, he himself is versatile like a chess piece. Now that Mike Zimmer has taken over for Dan Quinn as defensive coordinator, he has plans to utilize him as such.

A player with his abilities cannot be stuck playing in just one position, especially when opposing offenses will be ready to adjust their block schemes to avoid the chaos Parsons is known to cause.

“So, we’re going to obviously move him around, do different things with him,” Zimmer said. “But we’re going to use him in some ways where we’re getting the protection turned the way we want it turned and able to win on the other side. Sometimes we’re going to overload a protection where he gets one-on-one.”

Parsons is set up to be a moving, pass-rushing chess piece this season. A fitting role for the chess lover. As for which piece he is, Parsons says the linebacker is the queen. He says they play the best of both worlds because “we got to play the pass and the run.”

“You want to kind of be like ‘The Queen on the Board,’” Parsons said back in 2021, during his first-ever training camp with the Cowboys. “You never want to be a rook, where you can only go straight or you can only go sideways. You want to be able to go diagonal. I think that’s what makes the queen so strong. I just kind of want to be ‘The Queen of Linebackers.”

Parsons compared chess and football for what it requires in thinking ahead and adjusting to your opponent. He says that he plays every day to keep his mind active.

So, if Parsons is the queen at linebacker, then which chess pieces are the other players?

Parsons says the pawns are “all the players who might not get all the light”, and that they should “never be underestimated”.

The rooks are the receivers, which “go uphill most of the game”.

The knights are the tight ends and defensive backs. “They just create so much damage if you know how to use them right.”

The bishop is the “it factor” - a defensive end or great o-line. “They definitely cause a lot of trouble.”

The king is of course the quarterback. “They got to run the show. Everyone is trying to protect the quarterback.”

Parsons says that, like chess, in Football there are many different ways to win. It’s just a matter of finding the way that works. For this coming season, that might mean moving Parsons around like a chess piece, and it will definitely mean all pieces working together on the board.

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