My renewed love story with chess begins with our recent launch of Amphy.com, a learning marketplace for live classes. Amphy connects students and teachers from all around the world. And among the 100+ categories available such as fitness, music, art, cooking, and business, one of our most popular categories, believe it or not, is… chess.
When I was a kid, I used to play chess a little but never professionally. So, when we launched Amphy, I thought it was an excellent opportunity to start practicing and learning chess more seriously with a teacher’s guidance.
Soon enough, the world of chess drew me in. I’ve been practicing the game twice a week for more than twelve months now, and I’m not afraid to say that I’m a chess addict.
The thing is, once you start playing, you quickly realize how deep this game goes. Every game has endless possibilities, so each looks utterly different from the next.
But probably the most exciting thing I noticed was the resemblance between chess and business. So, I started taking insights from the chess world and implementing them in my everyday business life.
The more I learn about chess, the more sure I am that every manager and leader can learn a lot from this game. So, after reading my article, I hope that not only will you start playing and enjoying chess as I do, but also my insights will help you become a better leader.
10 Winning Chess Strategies You Should Use in Business
1. Learning Is Growing
John F. Kennedy once said: “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” Thus a good manager should constantly learn. Every time you learn something new, you are developing yourself as a person and as a leader. After a certain age, it gets harder to adopt new thinking patterns. So by playing chess, you have the opportunity to conceive a new method of thought.
The fact that you managed to sit down, concentrate, and bring yourself to learn something new, is already significant to your personal, managerial, and leadership skills development. So now, assuming you are already motivated to learn, why not start with learning chess, the game of kings?
2. No Piece Can Win by Itself
One of the most beautiful things about chess is the collaboration of the different pieces on the board. Even the most powerful chess piece on the board, the queen, is virtually incapable of checkmating by herself. You would probably need at least three pieces to create an effective attack.
Similarly, you stand very little chance of succeeding in the business world without enough resources and teamwork. A good manager will struggle to progress without a capable team behind him. Your people are critical to your success as a manager; never forget that.
3. By Failing to Prepare, You Are Preparing to Fail
Many inpatient chess players, including myself, tend to think solely about the offense. However, if you fail to plan your attack in chess properly, you are setting yourself up for an inevitable failure.
A good attack must start with proper planning. This includes developing enough pieces into the centerboard. It would be best to have a solid defense such as castling and collecting at least three pieces that will lead the attack.
Without a strong defense, your chances of succeeding are slim. The better you prepare, the more effective your attack will be.
You probably guessed by now that all these preparations require a lot of patience and restraint, and they are essential for you to become a good player.
The resemblance to the business world here is clear as day – as a manager, you must plan your work and work your plan. You need to plan, prepare and organize your team before starting a new assignment or project.
4. Avoid Tunnel Vision
Beginner players tend to only look at their own moves in chess without considering their opponent’s moves. It’s a bad habit that I work hard on trying to break every game.
Equally, in the business world, companies and managers tend to focus solely on their internal business strategy without giving enough attention to the outside world. Therefore, overlooking competition and the changing market conditions is detrimental to your business strategy.
Take an example from my chess games; some of my best chess wins happened when I broke free from my tunnel vision and changed my strategy to a fresh one. This out-of-the-box way of thinking made me win.
5. Position, Position, Position
Each piece on the chessboard has a different strength, and you calculate its value accordingly. For example, a pawn is worth 1 point while the queen is worth 9 points. But even the strongest piece will be worth nothing if it’s placed in the wrong position or is blocked.
It is crucial to develop your pieces on the board and provide them with maximum freedom to move while controlling strategic areas of the board to realize their full potential.
For example, a simple pawn can become a queen if it crosses the entire board and gets to the opponent’s side. If that doesn’t highlight the importance of positioning, I don’t know what does.
Positioning is equally important when we take it to the business world.
Even your most talented team member will deliver poor results when placed in a position that is not suitable for their skills. Therefore, placing employees in appropriate positions is as critical to their personal success as it is to the longevity of the entire organization.
As a manager, one of your missions is to detect your employee’s talent and make sure that their potential is maximized. A skilled worker assigned to a poor-fit position is a big waste of resources. Conversely, a less skilled employee placed in a position where they can flourish will extensively utilize resources.
6. The Importance of Tempo
In chess, a tempo (“time” in Italian) is a “turn” or a single move. When a player achieves their desired result in one less move, the player is said to “gain a tempo.” On the other hand, when a player takes one additional move than necessary, the player is said to “lose a tempo.”
Therefore, a move that gains a tempo is often called “a move with tempo.”
When reflecting on the business world, first, you should avoid aimless decisions or actions.
Sporadic, poorly planned actions will only result in more work, taking you away from your business goals. It would be best if you acted in such a way that would correlate with the bigger picture, always aiming for as few actions as possible.
By adopting tempo-like thinking, you will quickly gain an advantage over your competitors, having them have to chase you and not vice versa.
7. When Opportunity Knocks
Imagine this: you executed a great chess opening, your pieces are well developed, and your attack moves are planned. But then your opponent makes a stupid mistake. Wouldn’t you take their piece? The correct answer is that it depends.
Sometimes an opportunity will fall into your lap, and you will need to decide whether to take it or not. Although you can quickly win a piece, it might be a setback to your secured checkmate a couple of moves ahead.
So, an unexpected opportunity can also be a double-edged sword.
In real life, you should first be aware of the opportunities that will emerge and be ready to take them with both hands.
Yet, be careful that this short-term opportunity does not disrupt your broader plan. If so, step away and keep moving towards your next planned move.
8. There Is Always More Than One Option
With an estimated 1043 to 1047 possible move variations in chess, it’s one of the most unique and complex games out there. Just like snowflakes, it’s rare to witness two exact games. There’s even a whole encyclopedia written only for the numerous openings in chess.
Meaning that even if you are an experienced player and you know all openings by heart, you most definitely won’t be able to predict all variants. Chess is a game of options, so your main goal is to find the best response out of all the possibilities.
The business world is very similar; you always have more options than you initially thought. Hence, you need to adopt a broad perspective and choose the best possible option. This attitude will allow you to develop a more comprehensive range of solutions.
9. Competitiveness and the Desire to Win
Like in every competitive game, the bottom line is winning. If you want to improve, you need to play with stronger players than yourself, meaning that you are also going to lose, and that’s part of your progress.
In chess, such as in business, a sharpened sense of competitiveness should be integral to your personality. But on the other hand, you need to learn how to deal with failures because they are also an essential part of moving forward.
Moreover, after losing a game, you need to analyze it retrospectively and see where you went wrong and which moves caused you to lose to your opponent.
By learning from your own mistakes, you ensure that you will be smarter when encountering a similar situation next time. The same logic, by the way, applies to post wins analysis.
10. Practice Makes Perfect
There is a vast theory behind chess. But even if you delicately study all the different chess openings, mid-game, and end-game strategies and tactics, you won’t become a good player until you practice multiple games with multiple players.
Similarly, to become a good manager takes much more than an MBA or equivalent business degree. You must accumulate extensive field experience, and the more you do, the more skillful and better a manager you will become. So don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty
To Sum It Up
I hope that I’ve managed to convince you why every manager and leader should practice chess by now. So, how do you begin?
- Create a chess account – I recommend opening an account on Chess.com or Lichess. It’s free and offers you a wide range of game options. You can play against the computer or different people globally. You can do 30-min or 10-min games and start practicing. You also have a decent resources library to learn the basics or can pay for more advanced tutorials.
- Buy a board – there’s a big difference between playing online and on a physical board. You can also involve your family and turn it into a bonding activity.
- Advance your game – start learning. You can use YouTube tutorials or find a personal online chess coach as I did on Amphy.
Lastly, I would like to note that chess is an addictive game! Please don’t say I didn’t warn you…