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!

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