Ten Things Chess Taught Me About Business and Corporate Strategy


If you really want to learn about doing business, chess is the game to play. The lessons it offers to the aspiring entrepreneur are more important and practical than any business game I know.
Chess is a complicated mental game modelled after war; the struggle to achieve victory is intense. In developed countries, chess is given more support in recognition of the vast benefits people get from playing the game. I do believe that government investment in promoting chess is money well spent. Even without the business benefits, chess is a fascinating game that is loved by millions around the world.
Nevertheless, it is nice to know that it can also be a tool to improve one’s business skills.
In business, there are also competitors planning to take away your market. Many of the strategies and tactics used in chess are applicable to business situations.
Below are just ten of the benefits a person acquires when playing this game:
1. You learn to look ahead. Only those who can foresee several moves ahead can play a good game of chess. Taking the effort to make a good forecast is critical to the success of any business.
2. It teaches you the value of sacrifice. In chess, there are situations where you can sacrifice a piece to gain an advantage later on. This is similar to making investment decisions in business, where you spend on things like additional capacity with the belief that you can make a larger return later on.
3. It develops your memory. To be able to look ahead, you must learn how to memorize a large number of potential moves. Since memory is an essential element of thinking, it should be of help to enhance business decision making.
4. You learn the value of preparation. During the peak of my chess preparations, I was studying chess for fourteen hours a day for over two months to fight in a national tournament; but this was rewarded by many victories. I have since acquired the habit of long preparation to increase a business’ chances for success.
5. You learn to be honorable. There is a rule in chess tournaments called “touch move.” This means that when you touch a piece, you must move it. If you have completed the move, you can no longer take it back. While in informal games this rule is often relaxed, it is strictly enforced in tournaments. Quarrels sometimes break out when somebody takes back a move that official watchers may not have noticed. Although you may get away with it if there are no witnesses, you will quickly gain a notorious reputation that will eventually destroy your credibility. This is also the case in business when you cheat your customers with false or exaggerated claims; word eventually gets around and your reputation will be hard to salvage.
6. You learn the value of patience. In chess, you need time to place your pieces in the proper position before you can attack effectively; a premature attack will backfire. This is very similar in business where you must patiently restrain yourself from making rash moves until everything is set. You conduct market research and feasibility studies first before risking your capital.
7. You learn to anticipate your competitors’ moves. When making a move in chess, you must also anticipate the probable responses from your opponent because they are planning to defeat you. This idea of a thinking foe must be incorporated into the making of business plans. In the real world, competitors would react to your moves so you must be prepared for the counter attack.
8. You learn to think outside the box. Although chess has strict rules, the expert player knows how to use his creativity to come up with surprise moves to defeat the enemy. The Chess legend Bobby Fisher shocked everybody when he used a transposition to a queens pawn opening against the then reigning world champion Boris Spassky, although everyone expected him to start with the king’s pawn as he usually did. An entrepreneur must come up with an innovative marketing campaign if he is to prevail against giant competitors.
9. You learn to play by the rules. Chess has rules that must be followed or else you’ll be disqualified. Business, too, has its own rules that if violated may lead to severe penalties or even imprisonment.
10. You acquire the discipline to focus your thinking for hours. Since chess demands hours of total concentration, it is a superb training to focus your mind. This is excellent therapy especially for those whose minds have a tendency to wander or get tired too quickly.

*Originally published by the Manila Bulletin. Written by Ruben Anlacan, Jr. (President, BusinessCoach, Inc.) All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.
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