Chess Builds Business and Life Skills
In 1999 Maurice Ashley became the first African-American to achieve the exalted chess rank of international grandmaster. He has been a chess commentator on ESPN and is the author of the book "Chess for Success: Using an Old Game to Build New Strengths in Children and Teens."
Question: Are there lessons from chess that can be applied to the business world?
Maurice Ashley: There are tons of lessons in chess. I mean chess is almost tailor made for business in terms of the mental aspect, the intuitive changes in direction that you might have to have if you’re in the stock market or figuring out the numbers, which way to go, reading an opponent, negotiating skills. I mean chess is nothing if not knowing where the other… what the other guy is thinking and getting deep into that thought process. I think that is a huge one as a matter of fact, knowing your opponent. In chess we do that all the time. We study all the games, the databases that have thousands of games of your opponents or actually the databases are filled with millions of games. A single opponent might have played 2 to 3,000 games that you can parse and probe and analyze and knowing the opponent really well before you go into a contest, knowing the situation, knowing what their preferences are, knowing which direction they like to go in before you go into that negotiating table, which is the chessboard, so that you can know and feel which way to go when the contest starts. So yeah, I think… and there are books on that too, about chess and business. I know Garry Kasparov wrote a pretty decent one and a friend of mine, Bob Rice wrote one, maybe the best one called Three Moves Ahead and it’s just anything mental in something like business really works. Anything that requires that kind of concentration, knowledge intensive thinking and knowing the opponent that is going to be chess.
The game trains you to focus on what your opponent is thinking and planning—a discipline that is useful on the chessboard and in the boardroom.
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