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!

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 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

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)



  • 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?


  • 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?


  • 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?



  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!

The Case for Chess as Art in the Age of The Queen’s Gambit

By Rachel S. Kovacs, Professor, Arts Reviewer, Author, and Presenter at City University of New York

Have no illusions. I know next to nothing about chess. I’ve occasionally watched a game, and relished how calmly its players, oblivious to other stimuli around them, contemplate their moves and graciously accept their faux pas. Recently, my know-nothingness became obsessive. I binge-watched The Queen’s Gambit. Wide-eyed, I marveled how Elizabeth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) had the skills and wits not only to defeat Russian grandmasters but also to transcend the rampant sexism in the chess world of her time. Know-nothingness didn’t stop me marveling at Harmon’s chessboard-on-ceiling visions or embedding them in my head. They were breathtaking beautiful.

Source: Netflix (The Queen’s Gambit)

Of course, we are talking about the Netflix world of fiction. Yet the show and the images piqued my interest in exploring if, and how, chess is regarded as art. In the real world, including the art world, chess can also be a breathtakingly beautiful art, as artists, grandmasters, and even digital game-makers have asserted. 

Consider the great Dadaist pioneer, Marcel Duchamp, contemporary and sometimes-rival of Picasso. He was a Renaissance man, who, at the height of his career, went from pioneering cubism in his art to adopting the lifestyle of an itinerant chess pro. As of 1923, Duchamp essentially abandoned his art career and entered amateur and then professional competitions, winning the Paris competition in 1924.  Duchamp said, “I have come to the personal conclusion that while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists.” In the New York Times, 1956, he proffered, “Chess is purer, socially, than painting, for you can’t make money out of it.” 

In today’s market, that may not be the case, but the quote demonstrates Duchamp’s reverence for the game. He painted it, as well as played it, and reputedly designed and carved his own chess set while in South America for a tournament. In 1968, he competed against the illustrious John Cage, who composed music to accompany the game. Photoelectric cells that moved under the table along with the chess pieces created the sound. So, for Duchamp, chess could be an all-encompassing art. 

We have barely touched on the beauty of chess pieces, such as those made by Duchamp, chess as sculpture, and the range of materials, from marble to wood and beyond, that are used to create those pieces. The artistry of those pieces can be subjectively judged on their own visual merits.

Duchamp’s acclaimed almost-contemporary, Alexander Alekhine, legendary grandmaster, and immortalized Soviet champion, said, “Chess for me is not a game, but an art. Yes, and I take upon myself all those responsibilities which an art imposes on its adherents.” 

PN Humble, a scholar of aesthetics, qualified chess as “a minor art,” based on the fact that “aesthetic values are derived from the contest…games are judged according to aesthetic criteria… players and spectators derive aesthetic pleasure from the medium of chess.” His comparison of a chess problem to a miniature and the game itself to a painting reinforces the notion that chess is art.

James Rachels analyzed renowned Czech mathematician Richard Reti’s writings and chess playing. Both consider chess as game and art. Rachels points out that prior to Reti, many grandmasters characterized the essence of chess as a struggle, “a contest of will and intellect with each player attempting to dominate the other.” Ultimately, this concept is not incompatible with the notion that chess is art, as art can also convey such a struggle.

Both non-academic and academic observers and players have commented on the artistry behind chess. Howseman, in a letter to the editor of The Guardian, notes that “Chess isn’t just a game but an art form where worlds like ‘beautiful,’ ‘elegant’ and artistic can be used to describe a particular sequence of moves.”  He quotes Argentinian grandmaster Miguel Najdorf, who made the following observations: “Chess is a mirror of the soul. Watch how a man plays chess and you will see his essence. Chess is a combination of art, knowledge, and risk.” 

Discourse about chess as art has even entered the realm of gaming and computational aesthetics. Myers discusses the “procedural aesthetics” of the game and “the capacity of the rules of chess, when manipulated properly, to evoke the human spirit – that elevates the chess problem to the status of art.” Iqbal and Yaacole cite the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of art– “the expression or application of creative skill and imagination, especially through a visual medium,” and so, they argue, chess can be considered an art.   

Chess as a sport may pale by comparison with the Western media’s focus on high-profile and highly profitable competitive sports like baseball, football, basketball, and soccer, yet in the former Soviet Union, this is surely not the case. Chess education for youngsters and talented would-be champions was always subsidized, much like fellowships and stipends given to artists, and those who rose to win tournaments were celebrated as heroes. 

It is in that culture, for over a decade, that venues for chess matches have reflected an integral  connection between chess and art on the highest professional levels. Andrei Filatov, an uber-wealthy Russian businessman, was not the first to hold a chess competition at a museum, but was a principal sponsor of the 2016 World Chess Championship where Viswanathan Anand was matched with Boris Gelfand at the Moscow’s State Tretyakov Gallery. He was quoted in Russian newspaper RBC Daily, “I think the synergy between chess and art holds great promise.”

The Russian Chess Federation has scheduled its top chess tournaments in art museums across the globe. Chess in Museums, a 2016 video produced by, documents chess, art, and music (with concerts by renowned musicians) experienced in an immersive aesthetic environment. While clearly this is a promotional video and good PR for the tournament organizers, the museums, and the video production company, it lends credence to the premise that chess can hold its own as an art form alongside the fine and performing arts. Now its up to the reader to accept or reject that premise. Here’s hoping that he or she will choose the former. 


Isabel, 2021 Summer Youth Employment Program Intern Introduction


Hello, my name is Isabel! I work at Premier Chess and am a camp counselor and intern for the summer. I am from Brooklyn and am going to Adelphi University this fall. I am planning on taking up nursing to later become a nurse anesthetist. Going into the medical field and specifically the nursing profession, I want to create a space more safe for all kinds of people, where they are not discriminated against on the basis of their skin color or gender orientation. I am excited to begin my journey starting here!


Chess is a complex game that involves adaptable thinking and requires you to be on your toes when your opponent makes a move. I think it is the type of game where the player is on a higher level of thinking, which I really admire. I may not know much about the game of chess or the specifics but I am very curious and eager to learn about how complicated the game can be. The inner workings of how intricate chess can be is a bit daunting to someone who has the most basic knowledge of the game, but I am very excited to get started to learn more!

Evan Rabin’s New Video on Openings

By Cinthia Mcdonald, Summer Youth Employment Intern

Recently our CEO and National Chess Master Evan Rabin was able to participate in publishing a series of videos in which he explains the foundations and essentials of multiple chess openings and strategies as well as how each party can contribute and benefit from them. These videos are divided into multiple parts and goes as follows: 

Part 1: Elaborates on positions for (white’s) attack and defense which consists of the variational Sicilian opening, Ruy Lopez, Schlemann Defense, and many more. 

Part 2: Highlights plays that are easily accessible to both (black and white) parties such as the Maroczy Bond, and French Tarrasch just to name a few. 

Part 3: Focuses on learning opening for (black’s) deviation of strategy. Singles out repertoire in which the majority is enabled by the Caro Kann execution. 

Purchase the videos here.

Chess and Famous People

By Matthew Grinberg, Founder of Alamogordo Chess Club

Here is a sampling of famous people who played or influenced chess:

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) – The American founding father and Renaissance man was also an avid chess player.  He is the first American known to have written a book on chess.  “Morals on Chess” was published posthumously in 1796.  In 1999 he was inducted into the US Chess Hall of Fame.

Here’s a painting of Benjamin Franklin playing chess with Lady Caroline Howe:

 Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France (1769-1821) – Napoleon is reported to have been an enthusiastic, though weak player.  Four games allegedly played by him are known, but the authenticity of them has never been established.


The game was played on St. Helena, where Napoleon was exiled after the Battle of Waterloo.  His opponent, General Bertrand was another exile.

Bonaparte, Napoleon – Bertrand, Henri Gatien, 1-0  

St. Helena, 1818 (some sources give the date as 1820)  

Scotch Game

  1. Nf3 Nc6, 2. e4 e5, 3. d4 Nxd4!?, 4. Nxd4 exd4, 5. Bc4?! Bc5?, 6. c3? Qe7?!,
  2. O-O Qe5, 8. f4!? dxc3, 9. Kh1 cxb2?, 10. Bxf7? Kd8!, 11. fxe5 bxa1=Q, 12. Bxg8 Be7?, 13. Qb3 a5?? This is a complete non sequitur that gives Napoleon the winning combination.

[If he gets his queen back into the game, he is no worse than even. 13… Qxe5 14. Bb2 Qg5 Black’s lack of development is a serious problem, but with an advantage of an exchange and two pawns, he has the better game]

  1. Rf8!! Very nice! He forces mate in four moves. 14… Bxf8, 15. Bg5 Be7, 16. Bxe7 Kxe7, 17. Qf7 Kd8 18. Qf8# [1:0]

Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)The world famous French painter was also a strong chess player.  He was good enough to represent France in the Chess Olympiad of 1928.

He sometimes featured chess in his art as in this work titled, “Portrait of Chess Players”:

Humphrey Bogart (1899-1957)– The famed American actor was also a strong chess player.  He was purported to be an expert strength player, though he never played in tournaments.  He always had a chess set with him when filming.  Remember the scene in Rick’s Café  from “Casablanca“?

John Wayne (1907-1979) – Every true fan of the Hollywood actor knows that John also happened to be a huge chess lover.  In fact, according to fellow chess nuts, John was a fairly good chess player at that.  He was known to carry a miniature chess board along with him on set to play a few games with co-stars in between filming scenes.  Wayne played chess with a number of well-known celebrities including Marlene Dietrich, Rock Hudson, and Robert Mitchum.

John Wayne plays chess on set.  I don’t know who is playing White, but he was clearly intimidated since he just dropped his queen rook for nothing.

Jacqueline (1911-2012) and Gregor Piatagorski (1903-1976) – Gregor was a Russian born American cellist.  His wife, Jacqueline, was a strong chess player and regular participant in the U.S. Women’s Chess Championship.  Together they sponsored several major chess tournaments in the late 1950’s and 1960’s.  Two of the strongest tournaments ever held on American soil were the First Piatagorski Cup in 1963, where Paul Keres and Tigran Petrossian, both of the Soviet Union, tied for first and the Second Piatagorski Cup in 1966, where Boris Spassky barely beat out Bobby Fischer for first.

Here is Jacqueline Piatagorski playing in a chess tournament in 1951 in a French Defense, Tarrasch Variation:

Claude E. Shannon (1916-2001) – Shannon, an American mathematician, was one of the pioneers in the development of computer technology.  He was a code breaker during World War II.  Though he was an amateur chess player, he is best known in the chess world for coming up with the first design for a chess program.  He never wrote a chess program himself, though virtually all computer chess programs use the design he spelled out in “Programming a Computer for Playing Chess,” published in 1950, including my own program, Friedliver.

Henry Kissinger (1923-) – Kissinger, the National Security Advisor and Secretary of State in the Nixon administration is best known in the chess world for a phone call that changed chess history.  At a point in the negotiations between Fischer and Spassky for their World Championship match in 1972, when it seemed that Fischer’s demands would scuttle the match, Kissinger called Fischer and talked him into playing.  The rest is history.

Walter Tevis (1928-1984) – Was an American novelist and short story writer. His best known novels were “The Hustler,” “The Color of Money,” and “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” all of which were made into movies.   He was also an avid chess player and wrote the novel, “The Queen’s Gambit,” about a child prodigy.  “The Queen’s Gambit” was made into an acclaimed TV series on Netflix in 2020.

Bobby Darin (1936-1973) – The American singer and songwriter was an enthusiastic chess player.  He is best known in the chess world for something that didn’t happen.  In the wake of Bobby Fischer’s rise to World Chess Champion, Darin set out to sponsor a Grandmaster chess tournament.  Unfortunately the event was cancelled after his premature death.

Dr. Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) – If you watch Fox News, you know who Krauthammer was – a commentator and regular guest on many of their shows.  He enjoyed a good game of chess and frequently used chess analogies in his commentary.  He played in the 2002 Atlantic Open in Washington, D.C., but the only time I saw him in person was at a simultaneous exhibition, March 20, 1986, on Capitol Hill against GM Lev Alburt.  I don’t know how Charles fared, but I drew my game.

Sting (1951-)“Sting” is the stage name of Gordon Matthew Sumner, lead singer of the band, The Police.  In 2000 his interest in chess inspired him to invite Gary Kasparov to play a simultaneous exhibition against The Police.  The exhibition took place on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Needless to say, Kasparov was neither stung nor impressed.

For more celebrities that play chess, see this guest blog post by Guitar Guide CEO Mike Papapavlou.

Ten Chess Principles That One Will Not Find in a Book

By Premier Chess CEO National Master Evan Rabin 

There are many great opening, middle game and endgame books out there; see some of my favorite ones here. However, not many books cover practical elements of the game, related to mindset, game preparation, psychology, etc.

Here are ten principles that you likely would not find in any chess book:

  1. The Divisor of 40 Rule

Unless you read my time management blog post, you definitely would have not heard of this rule. The average chess game is 40 moves long. Therefore, one should take the time control he is playing by 40 and that is roughly the number of minutes he should spend per move. For instance, if the time control is G/60, that means he should spend 1.5 minutes per move.

2) Go with Flow

While it is obviously important to calculate, one should also listen to his instincts,  positional elements. There is usually no reason to overcomplicate matters. Yesterday, I taught an intermediate student and asked him in a typical opening position, what the best move was. Perhaps thinking that my question alluded to the idea that there should be some sort of tactic, he overanalyzed, considering many possible variations. To the contrary, he should have suggested a simple developing move.

3) Active Rest

Have you ever been disappointed that you lost a chess game, where you completely outplayed your opponent and made one silly blunder? If the answer is “yes”, that means to you are like every chess player on this planet. As per this old post, while one should not put as much energy into each move, it is important to remain consistent and never put the foot of the pedal.

4) Most Blunders Happen in Winning Positions

The time that players most often lose focus is when they have winning positions and relax. They will often the incorrect mindset that anything wins in a given position. While it is true that many moves may be winning, it is important to always try to look for the best one. David Macenulty, Founder of the Macenulty Foundation, once said “ There’s only one time in chess and when you are allowed to hope and that is when you are dead lost.” When you are winning, you should spend extra time and make sure that you are finding the easiest finishing moves.

5) The Importance of Physical Exercise

In Podcast Episode 158, Lord Carmine Villani shares how his experience as the World Champion of Endurance helps him in his finance career as Executive Board Director of Saudi Crown Holding. A serious chess game could last 6+ hours. Many of the top chess grandmasters are also athletic; Fabiano Caruana enjoys tennis and Hikaru Nakamura enjoys long mountain hikes all around the world.

7. Focus on Transitions, not openings or endgame.

Most chess books are about openings as that is what sells to the beginners and class players. A few years ago, I taught an adult beginner our initial private lesson and he asked me “what openings are we going to learn today?” I quickly told him that were a lot more important aspects of the game for him to learn. My friend and mentor Bill Lombardy, Bobby Fischer’s second, once suggested that instead of studying openings or endgames, I should review whole games, focusing on transitions. One needs to evaluate a position and come up with a plan given his advantages and disadvantages. If one has a safer king or more development, it makes sense to consider attacking. Likewise, if one has less space than your opponent, he should try to make some trades.

7) Review all your games.

Compared to most other chess masters, I have read, far fewer, less than five chess books, cover to cover. While I do have some good book recommendations, studying theoretical ideas is not how I improved to become a titled player. I learned the most about running a business through hammering enterprise sales, founding, and managing Pillar Sales and Premier Chess and learning from my mistakes. Likewise, I developed most of my chess understanding by playing in 950+ tournaments and reviewing all my games. One should review his games alone and then ideally with a coach before turning on the engine.

8) Avoid domino effects.

Just because one domino drops, that does not mean all of them need to follow. When a player makes one mistake or blunder, he often will make several in a row. In many games I had a winning position, made one mistake to get into a better position, another to get into an equal position and soon a last one to get into a losing position. Similarly, after heartbreaking losses, players often lo se steam and will lose several games in a row. In the 2006 World Open, I played in the U-2000 section, after having been an expert player in the past. I studied a lot the week leading up to the tournament, so I was confident about my chances. I won the first game and was excited. In the second round, I was prepared against Expert Rob Guevara, who came to the round with 2-minutes to spare. I mistakenly tried to blitz him and ended up blundering massively and losing the game, when he had a few seconds left. As you can imagine, I was little upset at myself. Instead of picking myself back up though, I kept criticizing myself and before you knew it, I had 2.5 points out of 8 games and withdrew from the tournament. When one makes a mistake or loses a game, it is important to take a breath, relax and maintain stamina.

9) No one is that great of a player.

When I was rated 600, I was afraid of playing against 800s. When I was 800s, I was nervous about playing people rated above 1000…… now as a 2200 player, I can easily fear playing against a higher rated 2400 senior master; however, I am not. I realize he is inferior to an International Master, who is lower in the food chain than a grandmaster. While all grandmasters are relatively super strong, compared to 99.9% of the world, most will not hold their own against the likes of World Champion Magnus Carlsen. Of course, these days, even Magnus Carlsen cannot defeat our silicon friends.  Thus, we should not look at higher rated players like they are invincible. Regardless of how strong one’s opponent is, he should pretend like he is playing against someone that is 50 points higher rated than him; that we he will give some respect but not be underconfident. For more about confidence, read this post.

10) Have fun!

Premier Chess' Blitz Tournament

In an interview last year, Philadelphia Chess Society Founder Jason Bui told me the number one important thing when it comes to teaching is to make sure kids have fun. Some students will love to play, others would like to do puzzles and others will enjoy lectures. Likewise, many coaches will tell students not to play blitz, bughouse, and other variants. While one should not overdo these; if they will increase your enjoyment and keep you playing chess, there is no reason to give them up.



Shortest Losses by the World Champions, Part 3

By Matthew Grinberg, Founder of Alamogordo Chess Club

This week we feature World Chess Champions Vasily Smyslov, Mihail Tal, and Tigran Petrosian.


Smyslov, Vasily – Hjartarson, Johann, 0:1, 1995

Sicilian Defense

At the age of 75 Smyslov plays in a grandmaster tournament in Iceland, but the young Icelandic player, Hjartarson, defends his home turf skillfully.

  1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. Qe2!? An unusual move, prematurely developing the queen and blocking the bishop.

[Better is a normal open Sicilian Defense. 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 (4… Nc6 5. Nc3 Qc7 6. Be2 a6 7. O-O Nf6 8. Be3 Bb4  +0.28|d16 Rybka4) 5. Bd3 Nf6 6. O-O Qc7 7. Qe2 d6 8. c4  +0.30|d17 Rybka4]

3… Nc6 4. Nc3 d6 5. g3 g6 6. Bg2 Bg7 7. O-O Nge7 8. d3 h6 9. Be3 Nd4 10. Qd2 Rb8 11. Rab1 Nec6 12. a3 b5 13. b4?! By taking a defender off of the knight on c3, Smyslov allows a simple little combination winning a pawn.

[The position is equal after 13. Ne2 Nxf3 14. Bxf3 Ne5 15. Bg2  -0.04 Rybka4]

13… Nxf3 14. Bxf3 Qf6 15. Bg2? It is important to defend the bishop, but it is also important to get the king off of g1, as will become apparent.  Now he loses a knight instead of a pawn.

[15. Kg2 Qxc3 16. e5 Qxd2 17. Bxc6 Bd7 18. Bxd7 Kxd7 19. Bxd2 Bxe5  -0.89|d14]

15… Qxc3 16. e5 When playing his 13th and 15th moves, Smyslov may have thought this would win back the piece due to the twin threats of Bxc6+ and Qxc3, but Black has a trick up his sleave.

[No better is 16. Qxc3 Bxc3 17. bxc5 dxc5 18. Bxc5  -2.32|d14]

16… Nd4! Smyslov resigns since he must end up down a knight or a rook for two pawns.

[17. Qxc3 Ne2! The reason why leaving the king on g1 was bad. 18. Kh1 Nxc3 19. exd6 (19. Rbe1 Bxe5 20. bxc5 d5 21. Bxh6 Bxg3 22. fxg3 Rxh6  -3.15|d18 Rybka4) 19… Nxb1 20. Rxb1 Kd7 21. bxc5 Bb7  -2.97|d17 Rybka4]


Tal, Mikhail – Petrosian, Tigran, 0:1, 1962

French Defense

This game was played in the Candidates Tournament in Curacao in 1962.  Tal lost the World Chess Championship to Botvinnik the year before.  Petrosian won the tournament and the right to challenge Botvinnik for the World Championship.  This was the last game Tal played in the tournament before withdrawing due to illness.  I can see why Petrosian’s last move might have made him feel ill.

  1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 dxe4 5. Nxe4 Nbd7 6. Nxf6 Nxf6 7. Nf3 c5 8. Qd3 Be7 9. Bxf6!? Typical of Tal, he heads for complications before he is even out of the opening.

[A safe alternative is 9. dxc5 O-O 10. Qc4 Qc7 11. Bd3 h6 12. Bf4 Qxc5 13. Qxc5 Bxc5  +0.11|d15 Rybka4]

9… Bxf6 10. Qb5!? Still going for the gusto.

[He could still go for the safe alternative, but that’s just not the way Tal played. 10. dxc5 O-O 11. c3 Qc7 12. Qe3 Be7 13. Qe5 (Trying to hold the extra pawn is dubious since it neglects his development and weakens his queen side. 13. b4!? b6 14. Bd3 (14. cxb6 axb6 15. Be2 Ra3 16. Rc1 Rxa2  -0.49|d17 Rybka4) 14… bxc5 15. O-O Bb7  -0.38|d17 Rybka4) 13… Qxc5 14. Qxc5 Bxc5  +0.00|d18 Rybka4]

10… Bd7 11. Qxb7 Having given up the bishop pair and neglected his development with this queen excursion, he has no choice but to plunge forward and grab whatever he can.

11… Rb8 12. Qxa7 Rxb2 13. Bd3 cxd4 14. O-O What does Tal have for his adventure?  He has given Petrosian the bishop pair and a superior center, plus he has weak pawns on c2 and a2.  He might very well win against a lesser player, but Petrosian was a tough nut to crack.

14… Bc6 15. Qa3 Qb6 16. Bc4?! Hoping that Petrosian will take the pawn on c2, but Petrosian has a much better idea.

[A better move is 16. Qd6 By keeping the queen on the a3 to f8 diagonal to stop Black from castling and putting pressure on the pawn on d4, he would have left Petrosian with little choice but to trade off queens into a roughly equal position. 16… Bd5 17. Qxb6 Rxb6 18. a4 Kd7 19. a5 Rb4 20. a6 Kc7 21. Rfb1 Rxb1 22. Rxb1 Ra8  -0.18 Rybka4]

16… Rb4! By blocking the a3 to f8 diagonal and attacking the undefended bishop, he gains the time to castle, when Black’s bishop pair and superior center give him a clear advantage.

[Not 16… Rxc2? 17. Rab1 Qc7 18. Bb5 Bxb5 19. Rxb5 d3 20. Rfb1  -0.17|d16 Rybka4 The fact that his king is stuck in the center and White controls the b-file makes the position very dangerous for Black.]

  1. Qd3 O-O 18. a3 Ra4 19. Rfd1?! The rook would do much better to move to the open file, attacking Black’s queen.

[19. Rfb1 Qc7 20. Bb5 Bxb5 21. Rxb5  -0.85 Rybka4]

19… Qa7 20. Ra2? In an already difficult position, Tal makes a simple oversight.

[Trading off to relieve the pressure would still give Tal some chance to hold. 20. Bb5 Bxb5 21. Qxb5 Rxa3 22. Rxa3 Qxa3  -1.11|d12]

20… Rxc4! The best Tal can do is end up down two bishops for a knight, so he resigns instead.

[21. Qxc4 Bd5 22. Qe2 Bxa2 23. c3 Qxa3 24. cxd4  -4.40|d17 Rybka4]


Kotov, Alexander – Petrosian, Tigran, 1:0, 1949

Queen’s Gambit, Exchange Variation

Kotov, the renowned author of “Think Like a Grandmaster” and “Play Like a Grandmaster” is the reigning Soviet Chess Champion.  The twenty year old Petrosian is playing in his first Soviet Championship.  He learns a lesson from Kotov on the undefended piece.

  1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bg5 Be7 6. e3 c6 7. Qc2 Ne4? Petrosian thinks he will simplify to a drawish position. He is in for a rude awakening.

[Petrosian may simply have been mixed up on the move order. 7… O-O 8. Nf3 Ne4 9. Bxe7 Qxe7 10. Bd3 f5 11. O-O  +0.17|d18 Rybka4;

The more commonly played line is 7… Nbd7 8. Bd3 Nh5 9. Bxe7 Qxe7 10. O-O-O g6 11. Nge2 Nb6 12. Kb1 Bd7 13. Rc1 O-O-O 14. Na4 Nxa4 15. Qxa4 Kb8 16. Rc3 b6 17. Ra3 Be8 18. Qc2 Rc8 19. Rc1 Nf6 20. f3 Bd7 21. e4 dxe4 22. fxe4 Rhd8 23. h3 c5 24. Ba6 Rc7 25. Ng3 h5 26. Rc3 h4 27. dxc5 Rxc5 28. Rxc5 Qxc5 29. Qxc5 bxc5 30. Rf1 hxg3 31. Rxf6 Bxh3 32. Bf1 Be6 33. Kc2 Rd4 34. Rf3 Rxe4 35. Rxg3 Bxa2 36. b3 c4 37. Bxc4 Re1 38. Kb2 Bb1 39. Bxf7 Be4 40. Bxg6 Re2 1/2-1/2, Bareev Evgeny (RUS) 2702  – Rabiega Robert (GER) 2487 , Frankfurt 2000 It]

  1. Bxe7 Qxe7
  2. Nxd5! That was a kick in the teeth! The problem with this position as compared to the position after 9… Qxe7 in the line given above is that here the bishop on c8 is undefended.

9… cxd5 10. Qxc8 Qd8 11. Bb5 Nc6 12. Bxc6 The safe way.

[He could instead win the knight, but it’s risky. 12. Qxb7 O-O 13. Qxc6 Qa5 14. Kf1 a6 15. Bd3 Rfc8 16. Qd7 Qd2  +2.25|d18 Rybka4]

12… bxc6 13. Qxc6 Petrosian resigns.  He doesn’t want to play on against his illustrious opponent down two pawns and with his king on the run.

[13… Kf8 14. Ne2 h5 15. Rc1 Rh6 16. Qa4  +1.68|d16 Rybka4]


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