Monday, 2 April 2007

How Life Imitates Chess?

Since former chess world champion Garry Kasparov retired from to chess in favour of politics to take on the Putin regime in Russia, he has raised his profile in the non-chess playing world and has apparently become a popular speaker on the lecture circuit.

With this in mind, he has published a new book entitled 'How Life Imitates Chess' to explain to hard-pressed business executives how to take the principles of success in chess and apply them to their help their businesses checkmate the competition. He is currently visiting the UK to do some promotional work as reported in some detail by Mig at The Daily Dirt.

I'm far from convinced that the game of chess has any genuine value when it comes to teaching business leaders how to run a successful organisation, although I'm sure Kasparov makes a compelling speaker at conferences.

Despite my doubts, I have to acknowledge that chess is nonetheless a popular subject for creating analogies of many other subjects, including life in general.

From Benjamin Franklin's 'Morals of Chess' which extolled the virtues of chess as a means to learning the appropriate morals for leading one's life, to Alexander Cockburn's impassioned critique 'Chess and the Dance of Death' which viewed chess as being utterly worthless and a waste of time, there are no shortage of opinions.

For what it's worth, I wish Kasparov all the best for success with his book, his lecture circuit endeavours and his campaign to wrest power away from Putin in Russia. However, I will confine my book buying to his more conventional chess books, like the 'My Great Predecessors' series, which I recommend wholeheartedly.

Does chess really have any value as a model for business decision making?


Wahrheit said...

Hi Ryan, just wanted to let you know that I was doing a post and adding your blog to my links today. Keep up the good work!



Ryan Emmett said...

Hi Robert!

Many thanks for your kind comment and for mentioning my blog on your latest blog entry.

Thanks also for adding my blog to your list - I have returned the compliment! :)

ejh said...

Not only does chess have no value for decision-making in business, but I don't think decision-making in business has any value in chess. Or indeed, a great deal of value in the world outside of business.

But it does keep railway station bookstalls well stocked with tat.

ejh said...

In general, people who have succeeded in one field or another are a damned sight too keen to think :

a. that the methods that have helped them in one field are necessarily applicable to others ;

b. that they have a great deal to teach the rest of us about life in general ;

3. that they are Leaders. Business leaders, how I loathe that phrase.

Josh said...


I recently started a website for posting and commenting on chess videos ( and wanted to see what bloggers thought about the site. The idea is that it is a community based site where people discuss their games and watch videos to improve. If you like the site, I was wondering if you were interested in sending me a game score and I would analyze your game, make it into a video, and post it on the site. If you want to see what my commentary is like, just check out some of the site's videos. Let me know what you think, thanks.

Ryan Emmett said...

Hi Josh.

I think your chess videos website is a very interesting idea with a lot of potential. It seems to plug into the way that the web is heading, with users coming together and creating their own content.

I'd be delighted to have one of my games analysed by you at your website! I have joined your forum and posted 3 of my games for you to pick from.

You don't mention anything much about yourself at your site - it would be nice to know more about you if you will be annotating member's games. :)

Ryan Emmett said...

Is anyone out there prepared to support the idea that chess has some use as model for success in business? Will anyone be buying the book?

Wahrheit said...


I'd say that chess knowledge/prowess doesn't translate directly into success in business or other fields. But some of the qualities developed by working to improve at chess are valuable in improving elsewhere.

For instance, patience, perseverance and longer-term thinking are very necessary to good chess, and these are developed and extended in people who make a systematic effort to improve chess results.

The idea that being very good at chess will translate into business success, however, I find questionable. Back in 1990 Banker's Trust advertised in chess magazines for applicants for currency trading positions. I applied and couldn't get a look-in even when I showed up in NYC to try and get and interview. Later, I found that they rejected me (and many others) because of my lowly 1800 rating--they hired a few GM/IM types, some of whom became successful, some not. I think they should have looked at great poker players, instead.

To sum up, I don't think chess success is closely related to business success, and neither are chess strategies, but the personal qualities developed by working hard to succeed at chess may help in other fields.

Ryan Emmett said...

Thanks Robert. That seems a balanced viewpoint that's hard to disagree with.

I don't think there is anything special about chess which makes it more useful than other sports or games as a model for success in other areas.

I expect Tiger Woods could write a similar book - in fact he probably has! Maybe he does the same lecture circuit too!

chessloser said...

perhpas along the vein of "business secrets of the samurai" or "jesus CEO" or the book of 5 rings as it pertains to business, sure, you can take some concepts from chess, e.g. sacrifices, removing the guard, etc etc, and twist them to apply to business. but, other than that, no, i don't think so.

oh, i came here from a comment you made on another blog. great blog you have here, i will be adding you to my blogroll, if you don't mind.

Josh said...


I posted my analysis of the game you submitted to and the video is available here:

Let me know what you think!

Ryan Emmett said...

Hi Josh,

Thanks for analysing the game. It's great to have your thoughts andpointers. I'm so impressed, I've created a new post here to advertise your site!

Ryan Emmett said...

Hi Chessloser - thanks for adding me to your blogroll.

I like the posts on your site too - I think you capture the agony and ecstasy of the game really well!

ashkan said...

In response to a slightly modified question posted earlier

"Is anyone out there prepared to support the idea that chess has some use as a model for success in business?" and other avenues of life.

No, but it does make life interesting. Being a recreational chessplayer, I found the book helpful in that it does act as a stepping stone into other of life's avenues.

The book works by way of analogy. The process can be represented in flow chart form. (chess experience)->(explanation/lessons learned)->(current/historical event)

What Gary's saying is that the pieces and the board can each be taken to resemble something. Richard Feynman (physicist) does this best in "6 easy pieces," where he relates the rules of chess to those of physics.

"Will anyone be buying the book?"

Already have. I read the first couple of chapters, and from the looks of it, the rest seems to follow the pattern outlined above. If your into chess analogies this books for you.

sheela said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


SonofPearl said...

Thank you Sheela!