7 Ways Chess Helps the Entrepreneur

7 Ways Chess Helps the Entrepreneur

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7 Ways Chess Helps the Entrepreneur.

“Chess is life in miniature. Chess is a struggle, chess battles.”
– Garry Kasparov

Chess is an ancient game with practical implications for today’s entrepreneur.  Chess is like an enduring contest of business plan applied to dynamic situations.  One way to compare the role of the entrepreneur and a game of chess is the idea of planning the work and working the plan while being able to pivot in response to the changing conditions and obstacles which will inevitably arise.  The game of chess can be broken down into openings, tactics, and endgame.  Each of these teach us about business.  With all the focus on the game of chess these days, I thought I would put together 7 ways chess helps the entrepreneur seize their day and prosper.


Rules for Chess and Business

  1. Move with care, intention and thought.
  2. Have a plan and advance your plan with the ability to pivot.
  3. Concentrate on the task at hand and be patient.
  4. Develop your team and use them wisely.
  5. Support your team, the team depends on every member.
  6. Situational awareness, what is the competition doing?
  7. Know the abilities and strengths of your team.
  8. Be aware of the centres of power and control.
  9. The members of your team are valuable, keep them engaged.  They have a strength and a move they are intended for.


These can actually relate to a SWOT Analysis, (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats)


“Chess is the art of analysis.”
– Mikhail Botvinnik

7 Ways Chess Helps the Entrepreneur
Analyzing the chess board.

Art of Analysis – Applying Adaptations

Chess is a visual game.  I was always of the opinion that when playing a game of chess the moment one begins to react to the moves of the opponent they have lost.  However, this is not really true as the defensive move is the pivot in our plan as we analyze the board.  The business analysis and the analysis during a game of chess is like keeping the business plan the main adjective while adapting to current events.  We analyze and apply our business plan (strategy) to what is happening on the board (market conditions or movements).  We adapt to a changing marketplace and being flexible while true to our identity in business.  As has been said both for in chess and in life: a plan, no matter how simple, is better than no plan at all.


“When you see a good move, look for a better one.”
Emanuel Lasker



Gaining Tempo

In chess we play to control the middle.  This is about setting the speed and moving for our advantage but we want to use patience.  Don’t push through too soon.  Know that the opportunity will come.  Playing for the middle requires setting your pieces where you need them.  To me, the idea of tempo in a game of chess allows us to find efficient and expedient ways to transport our pieces to the squares we have a plan for.  Tempo in chess is about making combinations of moves to change our position on the board quickly, but also with an eye to where your opponent wants to move to and control.  Similarly, in business strategy, consider the different possibilities for forward momentum and consider what may be the different consequences of your moves.  Those consequences can be positive or negative.  After considering all avenues make your move and implement your strategy.  Keep your eye on your prize.  Your victory is the combination and culmination of these moves.


Opening and Closing lines

As in Life, in chess you can’t take your moves back.  Once you play your move you could be stepping into an unpleasant trap.  How one starts plays a role in how they finish.  When we start our game, we want to play to gain the advantage.  Once we have the advantage we then play to maintain our advantage.  Don’t have the advantage?  We must use what we know and possess to acquire the advantage.  One could say: your opening move is not waiting for another to make a decision for you.  When another decides for us, it usually is not in our favour, nor for our benefit.


Value of Human Resources

Just like with chess pieces, people are not of equal value when it comes to your organization.  You must be able to accurately assess their value.  Knowing which pieces work best together and knowing the pieces’ strengths in vital.  Not using pieces to their full potential is not beneficial to the game, nor is ignoring the value and potential of the human resources.  Compare your staff chart or organization chart to the pieces on the chess board.  Not everyone plays the role of the pawn, bishop, knight or queen.  Each piece has its intrinsic value and it is up to you as the entrepreneur to determine how you can use each human resource to their utmost capacity and strength.  Not knowing how specifically to use a piece on the board, how they move, their value, or their power, is as disastrous in the game of chess as it is in the life of business.  Take football for example, an offensive lineman is a sledge hammer – maybe a pawn in Chess. Your running back is a needle or maybe a bishop.  I think the tight end would be your knight and a wide receiver the rook.  Learning when and where to use the players on your team is vital to your business success.  Spot the talent among your team and utilize appropriately.


7 Ways Chess Helps the Entrepreneur
Observing the next move.


Never Stop Learning

“Chess, it’s the struggle against the error.” – Johannes Zukertort

Learn the patterns of markets, and customer behaviours.  Never ignore what is going on around you.  Observing and reacting to market conditions or customer choice and behaviour is a form of learning and implementation but it also enables us to pivot our plan.  This observation and implementation keeps our plan alive and we facilitate the plan by what we learn and realize we need to adapt to.  Ignoring your chess opponent and changes in the business landscape could result in your peril.  Be on alert to threats and keep your eyes open for opportunities.


Dare to Challenge the Opposition

“Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward. They may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Beware the zugzwang.  This funny sounding term is for the situation where every move is a bad one.  As with life, this can be the way things go sometimes.  We are stuck, we make the bad move, cut our losses so to speak, we compose ourselves and our resources, and we go on to make our next move.  Knowledge is gained from the zugzwang and we use that knowledge to move us on to success next time.


Hold it All Together

“Those who think that it’s easy to play chess are mistaken.
During a game, a player lives on his nerves,
and at the same time, he must be perfectly composed”
– Victor Kortchnoi


This is often the need after a zugzwang.  The trouble comes, the hard decisions test us, the lack of money, or the unexpected loss.  It is in these times that we employ our faith and the stiff upper lip.  We deal with the bad decision or big mistake, and get back out there to make another move.  Regardless of what has happened or where you ended up, you have another move.


“Chess makes a man wiser & clear-sighted.”

– Vladimir Putin


Playing chess requires a certain mindset and a certain way of conducting ourselves.  Chess teaches a focus and way of thinking.  I recently read that some psychologists believe it is wise to teach children to play chess at a young age because of the mental benefits playing the game builds.

Chess is much more than just the way the pieces move, and more than the attitude of the players.  Chess requires sacrifice, it requires a plan and it requires a commitment to follow the strategy while adapting to the unknown.

We trust that our 7 ways chess helps the entrepreneur will encourage you to play a few games of chess.  We believe it will strengthen your resolve that in spite of everything around you and possibly against you, you don’t give up but you find the way to gain the advantage and recover from the zugzwang.

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