Chess and Business

By Aden Ho, Summer Youth Intern

The Implications of Chess in Business 

The market size, measured by revenue, of the Business Coaching industry is $11.6bn in 2021. Billions of dollars spent on coaching, much of which can be learned via an ancient game involving plastic pieces and monochromatic squares. Playing chess is running a business in real time. Delegating work to employees, maneuvering adversity, evaluating how well pieces are doing, figuring out strategy, and finding threats are just a couple parallels between chess and business. 

Here are 7 strategies one can learn from the game of chess: 

  • Master the rules: Prior to participating, one must learn the rules. That’s also the way it is in business. If one jumps in without first understanding the dynamics of how things work — including consumer demand, market regulations, pricing techniques, and what have you — one is most likely going to fail. Which is why it’s important to start small and grow gradually, expanding reach as one gets more experienced. 
  • Looking ahead: Being able to forecast and make educated guesses about the future, the moves competitors will make, and market trends, is critical for the success of any business. The greatest chess players have always been able to see several moves ahead. 
  • The value of sacrifice: In chess, one often has to sacrifice a piece to gain the upper hand or even win the game. In the business world one may need to sacrifice their personal enjoyment for certain investments in their business. 
  • Being honorable: In chess competitions, there is something called “touch move.” It means that once one touches a piece, they have to move it and once one moves it, they can’t rescind that move. There have been quarrels at chess tournaments because a player made a move that the officials didn’t catch. Usually this player is able to get away with it if there are no witnesses and as such, become known as being dishonorable players. This is also what happens in business when one cheats their customers with false claims; word travels fast and one’s reputation will be hard to salvage. 
  • Patience is key: Chess is all about being patient and evaluating one’s moves carefully. Players need time to place their pieces in the proper position before they can attack effectively; a premature attack will backfire. This is very similar in business where one

must patiently stop oneself from making rash moves until everything is in place. One must conduct market research and feasibility studies first before risking their capital on any business. 

  • Anticipating your competitors moves: When making a move in chess, one must anticipate the probable responses from one’s opponent because they are planning to defeat you – just like you are planning to defeat them. In the real world, one’s competitors would react to your moves so one must be prepared for the counter attack. 
  • Play to win: In chess, one has to keep the ultimate goal in mind. If one plays emotionally or succumbs at the first signs of hardship, they won’t win. One has to be ready to make tough choices. Some people play conservatively. They hang on tight to their pieces and refuse to make sacrifices. That’s also the way it is in business. To achieve your goals, one has to stay flexible. Know when to make adjustments, whether in one’s product combinations, management techniques, or marketing efforts. Always keep your eyes on the big picture. 

You may not play chess actively, or even heard of it. But the strategies that you can learn from it are invaluable in business. Apply these strategies in your business and know that you are on the path to success!

Chess and Art

By Matthew Nedderman

The Chess Players of 1876

 

In this painting, the artist’s father sits in a Renaissance Revival parlor of a Philadelphia home, watching a chess game between two friends. Eakins paid tribute to his father with a Latin inscription on the chess table’s drawer that reads, “Benjamin Eakins’s son painted this in ’76.” Over the mantel, a reproduction of a painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme, Eakins’ principal French teacher, hangs. In his painstaking spatial structure and exquisite detail, Eakins followed Gérôme’s scholarly lectures. The Chess Players was the first work from a living artist to be accepted as a gift by the Metropolitan Museum in 1881.

Portrait of Gustav Badin

In 1757, Louisa Ulrika of Prussia, Queen of Sweden, received a “gift” from Danish statesman Anders von Reiser – a 7-year-old African American boy. The queen had been reading French Philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s writings, particularly those on the origins of man and society. She made the decision to raise the youngster with her own children. He grew up playing with the royal children, who were raised in a more confined environment than he was. Badin was allowed to talk to them in a natural way, even quarrel and tease them, which was considered scandalous at the time. He climbed on the thrones of the king and queen, calling everyone “you” instead of using their proper names, according to contemporary chronicles. 

      They renamed him Badin, the French word for trickster or joker, since he was originally known as Couchi. He was described as a bright, trustworthy, and self-assured individual. Despite knowing many of the royal family’s and court’s secrets, he never divulged anything and remained a staunch supporter of the royal family throughout his life. He’s dressed opulently in this picture. He’s jokingly looking at us, as if challenging us to a game of chess. With his left hand’s lifted finger, he is also admonishing us.

 

The Chess Game

This is one of Sofonisba Anguissola’s most famous paintings, and it also demonstrates that chess has long been a game enjoyed by both men and women. Three of Sofonisba’s sisters are depicted in the Chess Game: Lucia (left), Europa (middle), and Minerva (right)They are having a relaxing moment while playing chess, accompanied by the governess, who is watching the game. This servant appears to suggest the virtue of the young girls, as well as a contrast in age and class to the girls’ nobility. Giorgio Vasari saw the painting while visiting the family’s home in Cremona and was clearly impressed by Sofonisba’s talent. 

Queens Gambit Review Pt2 (Major Spoilers)

By Somaiya Ahmed, Summer Intern

Ep.2: “Exchanges” 

 

Episode Two of “Queens Gambit” takes us a few years into the future. Beth is now a teenager moving into her first home. She experiences insecurity trying to adapt to the changes of her new environment; however, she finds positive and negative ways to cope.  

 

This episode previews the beginning of Beth’s chess career while displaying her ongoing issues with addiction and loneliness. There is a lot of storytelling which calls for an array of camera shots to commemorate.

 

Down below I have analyzed three of my favorite shots from episode two, commenting on their cinematic elements. Check it out! Also don’t forget to check out the chess glossary too! 

 

Timestamp: 3:15

 

Beth and Jolene together, looking out the window. Jolene smokes a cigarette while Beth looks out endearingly. The lighting is cast towards Beth, spotlighting her viewpoint while Jolene is half lit. The two characters are positioned together in a wide shot. Feelings of nostalgia and hope are ever present as we watch the two grace the screen. 

Timestamp: 30:25

 

An overhead shot of Beth staring into the ceiling as chess pieces appear rapidly. Beth’s half lit face displays a sense of eeriness due to the unnatural splitting of light; however, the lighting communicates a supernatural event taking place. The cinematic and graphic work done here effectively constructs Beth’s mental world, a place in which chess dominates. 

 

Time Stamp: 52:21 

 

A haunting shot of Beth staring into a window reflection of her deceased mother. The camera racks its focus from Beths to the dreary look of her mothers eyes.The dim blue lighting is paired with a soft gaussian blur, providing feelings of melancholy. A shot that speaks of many feelings. 

 

Chess Glossary: click the hyperlinks to learn more about the chess terms and ideas mentioned in episode 2! 

 

Sicilian Defense 

 

Modern Chess Openings: Walter Korn (book)

Update on US Senior, Junior, and Girl Chess Championships

By Isabel, Summer Youth Intern

The chess community is bustling as of right now with so many different tournaments going. Besides the World Cup, the SeniorJunior and Junior Girls’ championships are all going on currently. All these competitions and championships are held in the Saint Louis Chess Club, located in the hub for chess in America, founded by Rex Sinquefield

 

With so much going on in the chess world, it can be a bit hard to navigate – but there’s no need to go anywhere else to know what is going on in the chess world currently. 

 

The Senior Championship begins July 15th and ends the 26th of the same month, 10 participants with a total prize fund of $50,000. One of the most notable matches in the senior competition consisted of Alexander Shabalov (most recent FIDE rating of 2521 and a rank of 604 worldwide) v. Leonid Sokolin (most recent FIDE rating of 2497 and a rank of 812 worldwide). Sokolin won the game as black in 58 moves. 

 

The Junior Championship lasts from the same date as the Senior Championship with a total prize fund of $20,600. With the same set up as the previously mentioned championship, one of the most noted matches took place between David Brodsky (most recent FIDE rating of 2455 and worldwide rank of 1229) v. Andrew Hong (most recent FIDE rating of 2474 and worldwide rank of 1019). 

 

The Junior Girls’ Championship is identical to the Junior and Senior Championships in dates and amount of participants, the total prize fund being $10,300. One significant match in this particular tournament had Annie Wang (most recent FIDE rating of 2384 and a worldwide rank of 2482) v. Susanna Ulrich (most recent FIDE rating of 1974 and a worldwide rank of 31055). 

 

The stiff competition each tournament offers makes for some interesting matches that actually keep you on the edge of your seat, even if they can be 2 hours long. The wide variety of different age groups and demographics that chess is available to makes this a worldwide sensation. Young children, the youngest being 12 years old, all the way to 80+ years old, participating helps this sport to stand out amongst the rest. 

 

Now you know everything you need to know about the chess championships!

Business on the Board

By Evan Rabin, CEO of PremierChess

In May, I kicked of a Premier Chess Program at a middle school at an impoverished neighborhood in Brownsville, NY by asking “Why Play Chess.” I got some typical answers, including “It’s Fun.”, “It helps you think” and “Competition is fun.” They were shocked how I explained the white and black plastic pieces could be used as a vehicle to help them get into high school, college and a good career. I then explained to them how chess has influenced me to become a critical thinker, get into enterprise sales at Oracle and Rapid7, cofound a sales outsourcing startup Pillar Sales and ultimately form Premier Chess, which teaches life lessons through the game for all ages and levels for organizations ranging from Thistlewaith Early Learning Center to Grace Church School to the law firm Kramer Levin to the nursing home Village Cares. If you’ve met with me recently, I’ve probably showed you my copy of Jim Egerton’s Business on the Board (2016), which illustrates the tactical and strategical lessons business leaders could learn through the game. Here are some of the highlights:

 

 

“Contextual leadership is ….Transformational in the Opening (Andrew Gove of IBM)…. Situational in the Middlegame (military leaders)…. Results-Basedin the Endgame (Bill Gates)”(15).A good leader has a blend of these qualities and could adapt to all of these qualities. The opening of a chess game is like a brand new startup that is innovative and changing the marketplace. In the middlgame, one has to evaluate the position given his success or lack thereof in the opening and determine whether he should keep the status quo or go for complications. Finally in the endgame, one has to take his advantage and convert it to a win as a sales rep needs to close a deal. 

 

To demonstrate the importance of transformational leadership, one could compare the first two months of my stints at Oracle and Rapid7. At Oracle, it took me 2 months to get a territory and another to get an official . To the contrary, at Rapid7, I knew on my interview process that I  was going to be on the State, Local and Education team and a few days after I started that I was going to cover the Northeast. Rapid7 used the basic opening principle of  “creating an organizational environment with every piece contributing in fewer than twelve moves.”(24). 

 

One also learns that each piece needs to have its own job and that every move needs to have a purpose. Every single move in the opening should be related to developing a piece, controlling the center or castling to make the king safe. My team at Oracle (which covered Infrastructure sales in Eastern Canada) illustrates this concept well as we divided and conquered with our expertise of sales. Another young sales rep Jake and I were the team experts on prospecting. We looked up to Mike for operations advise. Herb, who became promoted to our manager, was the expert on legal and pricing conversations. Diane was the “go to” for teaming agreements. 

 

Situational leadership occurs as chess players orchestrate their strategic plans and related tactics. Grandmaster Alexander Kotov says, “ It often happens that a player carries out a deep and complicated calculation but fails to spot something elementary right at the first move”(60). This is exactly why we tell students before making a move, they should also do a blunder check, making sure they don’t miss anything that is obvious. Sales people will often get “happy ears” and invest a lot of time into a deal thinking it would definitely come in without doing any basic research. I made this mistake when working a non-existent deal with a bio-tech company in Ontario while at Oracle. Without doing enough research about BANT in the beginning (Budget, Authority, Need and Timeline), I built great rapport with my champion at the company and decided to give them a loaner unit for a month. Towards the end, my engineer and I realized he was just trying to spin our wheels and use our engineered system for R and D. 

 

 

In World War II, Stalin and Roosevelt famously allied because they had the common enemy of Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Likewise,   “In 199 Elon Musk’s X.com and Peter Thiel’s Confinity were locked in a heated battle to be the first company to supply eBay with an electronic payment system…. Rather than risk the possibility of losing it all, its perfectly acceptable in chess to offer your opponent a draw.” Rather than neither party getting the solution first, Musk and Thiel decided to merge their companies.  

 

One of the craziest aspects of working at Oracle is the internal competition you face as a sales rep. In addition to competing with IBM, Dell, HP, Cisco, etc. Oracle servers reps have to compete with many of Oracle’s product lines, including the storage team, cloud team, etc. One of the biggest deals I closed at Oracle was for the 407  ETR, a privately owned highway, which goes from Ontario to Quebec. The client ws looking into one of Oracle’s flagship products, the Oracle Database Appliance, which has an option for additional storage capacity, and ZFS storage, which was sold by another team. Many of my colleagues thought I should work independently and try to sell the client the additional storage capacity so I would get a bigger deal size but in the end working closely with the storage rep proved to be valuable as we closed a deal for $600,000 CAD in servers and $400,000 CAD in software.

 

“Strategy is all ways there; it’s the tactics that come and go.” (60) In chess, it is not only important to understand all the different types of tactics but its important to be able to intuitively feel positions and see when tactics are in the air. Likewise, most professionals need to be able to develop a strong intuition and judgement skills. A sales person needs to know how to respond to  surprises on the phone, a lawyer needs to know how to respond to a judge in a trial, a managerial accountant needs to give quick advice on decisions like build vs. buy. Similarly, in a chess game, the player needs to decide whether he is going to develop his pieces normally or “buy” a lead in development by gambiting a pawn or two. Kevin McGee, a Senior Vice President at Oracle once told my team “You are usually not going to get a customer to buy something when he doesn’t need it but you could get creative and escalate timeline”.  I started trying methods like reverse timelining and developing  interesting price structures. 

 

“In business and in chess, you can beat your competition if you know your landscape better than your opponent.”(230). Both business and chess requires a combination of analyzing historical data and thinking of your own ideas on the board. 

 

When I was at Rapid7, one of the action items was looking at current and lost business opportunities in the pipeline. There was one opportunity with a a gentleman who manages IT for a county in upstate New York. My colleague who previously managed the account, wrote that the guy was waste of a time with no budget; he confirmed this in person. However, I took what he said with a grain of salt and reached out to the prospect. We built rapport and a few months later I closed a deal with him after he received Cyber Security grant from New York State. 

 

When students play openings and endgames they’ve already learned before, they will often rush and not pay enough attention. A few weeks ago I taught a private student a new line in the French defense (1.e4, e6.) I then had him regurgitate  the line and purposely played a slightly different move order, testing to see if he would notice the change. As expected, he quickly played the same response as in other variation and ended up quickly getting a big disadvantage. 

 

A player will also get a financial loss if they mishandle a threat. “Three scenarios can happen… [he] can underestimate the threat by not seeing it….nail the threat by understanding it and taking appropriate action to diminish any damage….[or] overestimate the threat by thinking the situation is the worst.” In each of these methods to respond to threats, a player can go wrong, whether in chess or business.   

                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Check out podcast Here

Queens Gambit Review (Minor Spoilers)

By Somaiya Ahmed

Unpacking Queens Gambit Episode One: “Openings”

 

Welcome everyone, to the beginning of the Queens Gambit Miniseries Review! As a filmmaker and intermediate chess player, I thought it would be interesting to observe the show from my perspective. Moreso, focus on the cinematic style as well as the chess techniques mentioned. As such I will be expanding my knowledge of both film and chess- win-win! 

 

Before I begin, warning: MILD SPOILERS AHEAD! 

 

Okay, you are still here, let’s get the show rolling: 

 

Episode One: Openings 

 

The show “opens” with our protagonist, Beth Harmon, inside a dark bathroom, drenched in water. She struggles to get up as a serviceman knocks at the door brashly. We sense that Ms. Harmon is troubled. The dark visuals and solitary framing indicate that something is wrong, urging us to learn more. Within the first thirty seconds, the show allows us to establish our conclusions. 

 

The show continues to unpack Ms. Harmon’s troubled state visually. We receive a mirror shot that exposes her messy hair and mascara-smeared face. Just as we adapt to the brooding darkness of the story, we receive a beautiful wide shot of a luxurious room. The lighting is soft and airy, different from what we have seen before. Adding contrasting compositions is an effective way to welcome new information which pulls viewers’ attention.  

 

Following the introduction of this new atmosphere, we receive an insert shot of tranquilizers in Ms. Harmon’s palm. Her mannerisms and body language also convey a state of panic and rush. Feelings of anxiety and subtle chaos are ever-present at the beginning of “Queens Gambit.” As viewers we string ourselves along, hoping to understand the volatile nature of Ms. Harmon’s conquests. Shortly enough our hopes are answered. 

 

After a fleeting series of commotion-filled shots, we reach a pinnacle moment: Ms. Harmon near the chessboard, late, as her opponent graces a stoic expression. The story has unraveled and we understand where we are standing; however, just as we do, the camera cuts to a close-up of a young girl. Who is she? And why is she being shown now? 

 

You’ll have to watch the episode to find out yourself! 

 

For the time being, I’ll offer you a sneak peek: 

Here’s a glossary of chess terms & techniques mentioned in episode one! (click hyperlinks to learn more)

 

Backward pawns

 

Castles 

 

Chess Notation

 

Forks

 

Kings Gambit

 

Mate In Three

 

Queens Gambit

 

Scholar’s Mate 

 

Sicilian Defense

 

Reti Opening 

 

The Levenfish Variation

 

The Najdorf Variation

 

Thanks to Cable Compare, which solves internet problems, for sponsoring posts.

International Chess Day

By Josue Peralta, Summer Youth Intern

International Chess Day begins on July 20th and was started back in 1966. The day was voted in by the UN counsel and was agreed upon unanimously as to encourage more people to play chess around the world and to celebrate the start of FIDE (World Chess Federation) . It was proposed by the UNESCO after FIDE began as the organization was established since they manage and organize games from around the world.

Chess itself goes farther back than that with players spanning the many years it has been played, so it has been some time since chess has gained some global and official recognition from. Chess has came up from being a game people used to pass the time or to out smart their opponent to being a world competition. Recently the FIDE World Cup has been going on during the day of July 20th in remembrance of International Chess day as many strong chess players from around the world compete for the title and world champion.

Today International Chess Day is celebrated by 178 countries around the world and all under FIDE supervision all the 178 countries at least have majority of their population play chess at some point in their lives.

Chess World Cup by FIDE

By Isabel, Summer Youth Intern 

The World Cup from a non-player’s perspective:

 

The Chess World Cup held by the Fide Organization has begun. It is a major deal in the chess world with it lasting nearly a month. 206 players from all around the world vying for the title of world champion not only for the prize but for the prestige and regard that comes along with it. As a non-player, the competition alone lasting nearly a month puts into perspective the investment of time and thought that goes into the sport of chess. The game of chess can even last up to 20 full hours, so in retrospect a month for a knockout tournament of 8 rounds seems reasonable. 

 

After watching a few games and online demonstrations of games move by move in the tournament, specifically the games between Sanan Sjugirov and Nihal Sarin, Sasa Martinovic and the most current world champion Magnus Carlsen, I have deduced the sport of chess – especially in tournaments – to be made up of  mental strength, adaptability and alertness. The mental exhaustion players go through and their stamina is tested in these matches. Although they can be a bit underwhelming to watch when you may not understand every single move, the intense concentration and focus each player has is extremely admirable. 

The World Cup is an extremely rigorous competition filled with fierce competition coming from over 90 countries. To put it into perspective, the world only has 195 countries in total – that is nearly half of all countries participating in the Chess World Cup. For something that seems less popular than its more physical counterparts, it is turning out to be the farthest from that. Chess is a widely played and respected sport and the World Cup only showcases that.

Superb Chess Riddles (Easy – Difficult)

By Cinthia McDonald, Summer Youth Intern

Let us see how fast your brain can work and try out these chess-based brain teasers…

(The answers will be at the bottom of the page)

 

Easy: 

  • Two individuals are playing chess, and they both play five games. In the end they leave with three wins without any losses or draws. How is this possible?

  • The eight of us go forth, not back, to protect our king from an attack. What are we?

  • I am the weakest in chess, but the strongest in checkers. The hat that rests upon my head is of great value. What am I?

Intermediate: 

  • A knight leaps over a tower and the tower vanishes. You did not imagine it and you are not hallucinating. Where could this have happened?

  • Why can you not make chess pieces out of bread?

  • How did the king lose his home?

Difficult:

  • What cannot a queen do that every other piece can?

  • Why did the chess player offer a draw?

  • How do you know when your pawn is doing a good job?

 

Answers: 

  1. They played different games.
  2. A pawn.
  3. The king.
  4. A chessboard.
  5. It would be a stalemate.
  6. A knight took it.
  7. A queen cannot capture a more valuable piece or deliver a discovered check.
  8. They are not good at painting.
  9. They get promoted.

 

Thanks for participating in this fun game. Use these riddles on your friends and list their reactions, we would love to hear from you!

Leah Zimmerman, Connecting Chess

By Leah Zimmerman, Intergenerational Resolving Conflict Expert

I was 11 watching my grandfather play chess with his brother-in-law, his sister in law’s husband. 

We were up in the Catskills where my family spent summers together. Somedays I was just bored enough to sit and watch for a while. 

They both sat there motionless looking at the board. Occasionally their eyes flicked upward or glanced at the clock. 

While they didn’t open their mouths, I could tell from the energy in their arms when they moved that they were feeling different things and responding to each other. 

Immediately after a move, one might widen his eyes, another might twitch his mouth. 

It was a lot like a conversation. Only with chess moves. 

Even if I had been sitting and watching, their conversation when the game was over felt like intruding into an intimate dialogue. I never really knew what they were talking about, and it sounded like a foreign language to me. 

Now, as an adult expert on conversations, I realize that in many ways that when they were playing Chess, they were having a conversation. We think that conversations happen through words and get caught up in the surface meaning of what we say. 

But, the true impact of a conversation lies in the moves that are hidden beneath the surface. 

When someone opens the conversation with an enthusiastic, “Hi!! How ARE you!! It’s been so long!!” it immediately brings a certain energy and expectation to the other person. 

Typically, the other person will counter with a reciprocal move, “Yes!!! So great to see you!!” 

The first line is an opening and the second line is a response that keeps the energy going. 

Imagine what would happen if the response instead was, “No, I just saw you last week. What are you talking about?” 

That would be a conversation move that changed the whole energy of the conversation. 

How would you counter that latter move? 

Would you take on the speaker’s countering tone and challenge them back? 

Would you let it go? 

Would you respond with a hearty, “Lol!!! It doesn’t matter! It just feels so good to see you!” and give a big hug? 

Those are all conversational moves that represent different conversational strategies. 

Here is another example: 

Your mom yells at you for leaving your dirty dishes in the sink (or is that only my mom?).

How do you respond? 

Do you blame her for a messy kitchen and that you needed to get out of there fast? 

Do you apologize and tell her she was right. Maybe you should go do that now. 

Do you silently walk away? 

My mom could get tense like this when a lot of us were visiting her small kitchen at the same time. I just calmly looked at her and said, “Mom, what’s wrong? How can I help?” 

Can you see how each possible response affects the trajectory of the conversation? 

I call these differences conversational moves. 

We always have a choice as to how we respond, and how we counter moves the conversation in one way or another. 

Often at the root of conflict is that we don’t have the conversational moves that we need to express our feelings, explore misunderstanding and ask for what we need. What we do have are reactive moves that tend to escalate things. 

In Chess you play the endgame to win. What about in a conversation?

In a conversation no one wins. But at the end of each conversation the participants either feel closer in their relationship or farther apart. (You may sometimes feel neutral, but neutral eventually leads to farther apart.) 

This is where we lose a lot of the time. We think that the point of the conversation is to be right, to win the argument. To have what we said be accepted, to win approval, etc. 

But, in a conversation, you are either strengthening a relationship or weakening a relationship. When you play to win the argument, you may be losing in the relationship. 

Here are three moves you can make in a conversation that will advance your relationship: 

1. Listen. 

Without interruption. Without thinking about what you want to say next. Look at the speaker. (Not on your phone.) Lean in.  

2. Get curious about what the other person’s perspective. What does this mean for them? 

3. Empathize with what the other person is feeling. You can say, “that sounds hard” even when you don’t agree with the premise. 

To learn more about making strategic Chess moves, contact Evan. To learn more about making strategic conversation moves, you can find me at my website or on LinkedIn. 

 

Leah is an Intergenerational Resolving Conflict Expert who makes hard conversations easy.  https://www.linkedin.com/in/leah-r-zimmerman-/

https://steppingstoolcoaching.com