Chess is strongly associated with strategy and mental superiority. Can basic players having friendly one-move-per-day games learn deeper lessons from the game, or does it just make them look smart?

People associate chess with geniuses like Gary Kasparov. His chess is certainly not my chess. I don't memorise openings,  I struggle to see even a few moves into the future, and I am often surprised by my opponent's next move.  Oddly enough, this makes chess for me much more like real-life than it would ever be for a grandmaster.

Here are three lessons a basic player can apply to chess and business.

Lesson 1: Time, Chess and Peter Drucker

Lesson 2:  Competition's moves

Lesson 3:  Investment

Lesson 1: Time, Chess and Peter Drucker

We like to say that "time is money", but this is not true. There is a lot more money than time. Peter Drucker said about time: "the supply of time is totally inelastic. No matter how high the demand, the supply will not go up. Time is totally perishable, and can not be stored. Time is totally irreplaceable. There is no substitute for time. Nothing else, perhaps, distinguishes effective executives as much as their tender loving care of time". Chess is an excellent way to discipline yourself about time. Most office games are one of two moves a day; by "time" I do not mean racing your moves against a clock. That's the world of serious chess. In the world of slow-chess, there are no seconds. Time is measured in moves. Chess books usually call the move-as-time idea "tempo", to avoid confusing it with the "time" left on the chess clock. Tempo just means "time" in Italian.
Whether you think for ten seconds or for five minutes,or one day, you get to make one move, and that's it. Time is very egalitarian on the chess board, because exactly the same applies to your opponent. Even for competition chess players who play their game against a real clock, one rule always applies: The winner of the chess game will be the player that does more per move. The best chess moves are those that do two things at the same time. Your opponent gets only one move, so if you can do two things at the same time, you cause problems. For example, if you can attack two pieces at the same time, your opponent will use his ration of one move to save one piece, but he can't save both. This is the devastating "double attack", and if it happens only once in a game, it still might be enough to win. Of course, often your obvious double threat possibilities are blocked because your opponent is not asleep. What you need to look for is all the subtle opportunities to do two things at once. It sound like common sense: if you need to drive home after a day in the office, and you need to buy milk, drive home on the route that goes past the supermarket. On the chess board, these sorts of subtle opportunities happen much more often than dramatic double attacks. A few such subtle moves in a row, and a real advantage will accrue.

Lesson 2: Your competition's actions are not an excuse to give up trying to control the game


Socrates gave the advice "Know oneself". We hobby players are very Socratic, at least when it comes to chess; we know we are not very good. We have trouble visualising even a couple of moves ahead, and while we've heard that strategy should be applied and plans should be made, the truth is that often we don't really know what is the best next move. We are even less good at working out what our opponent is up to. We over-react to surprise. In our opponent's last move we see the shadowy possibilities of a devastating plan; old advice about never underestimating the opponent turns the other player into the next Kasparov, a five-move checkmate is imagined.  So abandoning any ideas we had regarding our own plan, we do something to block the imagined master-stroke of our opponent: "In a couple of moves time his knight could go here, so I'll move this pawn to stop it" This is very reactive, but it gives a sense a relief. It stops us having to think about a plan for ourselves, let alone having to implement it. This is chess procrastination.
The problem is that your opponent almost certainly does not have a flawless five-move checkmate. Perhaps it was just a bad move. If your opponent has committed the sin of wasting a move, don't let him or her off the hook by returning the favor. Better to back your judgement. "Something floating in the river may be a crocodile, but it's probably just a log".  By over-reacting to imagined threats where none exists you lose time. In chess, this loses the game. If by ignoring the move you made a mistake (there really was fire) then you have been stung and you will improve. But by treating moves you don't understand as threats, what do you learn?

Lesson 3: Development and resources: invest in your game

'Development and resources': it sounds like a strategic planning session, or a meeting of the World Bank.
In chess, both sides start the game with the same resources, and the same rules. The resources are (a) the pieces and pawns, and (b) your next move (because never forget that time is a non-renewable resource).

Every article about chess covers the basics of development: get control over the centre of the board. A business version is like a company full of cash. You need to get a better return from your assets than leaving money in the bank, which also means you need to take risks. One thing that a lot of basic articles about development don't mention is to get your pieces working togther, focusing on a chosen area of the board. A chess board only has 64 squares, but that's still a lot of space for short-range pieces likes pawns and knights. You have to concentrate your fire. The point about controlling the centre of the board is that pieces based there can quickly go to your chosen area of attack, and they can defend somewhere else quickly as well. So it all comes back to time: the centre is good because it's the fastest place to deploy from.

 

Lesson 4: Why it's more fun to play people than computers

Computers number crunch, and if you crunch phenomenally hard, you get to do unbeatable chess. For many years chess was seen as a challenge for artificial intelligence, but number crunching actually won the day. 

People are more fun because they plan, and while chess is technically a computer-solvable problem, it's in the realm of art for ordinary players. It's hard to tell if your opponent is brilliant or bluffing. These days I judge a chess program not by how well it can play, but by how well it can make human-like mistakes. To make mistakes like a human requires intelligence, and I haven't seen it yet in a program.