7 reasons to hire a chess player

Skills to enhance your business

According to TARGET-jobs, one of the UK’s most used graduate agencies, problem solving, organization and the ability to work under pressure are among the top 10 soft skills for a graduate. In my own experience, I would also include strategic thinking and passion. All of the above, combined with others, are inherent and well practiced skills for a chess player.

While education and previous work experience are important to a fresh graduate, it’s not the elements of the resume that will provide a competitive advantage. It is the cumulative effort and choices over the years that shape the personality and skills of the individual (Hamel & Prahalad, 1994) and turn an employee into a valuable asset. Below are 7 (+1) reasons why you should hire a chess player.

1. Chess players solve problems

Even a young amateur chess player solves about 20 chess problems a week; move to a semi-professional level this number can increase to 20 problems per day. From this process, the individual develops not only analytical and problem-solving skills (Burgoyne, et al., 2016) but also perseverance in order to find the right solution. From a professional point of view, a chess player is a tenacious and self-reliant problem solver who aims to meet any challenge.

2. Chess players have experience with time management

Although chess is perceived as a very slow game, we all know that is not true in our lived experience. An average professional game lasts almost two hours for each player in which the player must play an average of 40 moves; which means that each movement cannot take longer than 3 minutes. In these circumstances, the player must allocate and manage time effectively so as not to be under pressure.

3. Chess players work a lot under time pressure

Even if the player has perfect time management skills, there are occasions when there just isn’t enough time. On these occasions the chess player must make a decision within a minute, which in practice means that over time players learn to function under pressure (Unterrainer, et al., 2011). Practicing decision making and working under time pressure can help a person meet deadlines and complete tasks with limited resources.

4. Chess players have organizational skills

A chess player knows how to compartmentalize information and prioritize tasks. Playing along rows, diagonals, and columns can help a chess player put everything in order and work efficiently and productively to accomplish any task. It is necessary in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world to have the capacity to have distinct approaches (Bennett and Lemoine, 2014) in order to organize such an environment.

5. Chess players have passion

Winning titles and becoming a champion can be an end goal for anyone. However, to achieve this goal, a chess player has to sacrifice a lot. The desire to become the best requires sacrificing one’s personal and social life, even from an early age, without obtaining the glory or recognition of a footballer or basketball player. This passion and intrinsic motivation for a game of bewildering complexity is what distinguishes chess players from other sportsmen (Unterrainer, et al., 2011). As a result, the chess player is able to have the same passion and level of motivation as an employee for work that inspires and elevates their own ambitions.

6. Chess players have patience and a long-term orientation

Chess is not about quick and easy wins; failures mean long-term goals, hard work, and patience. Any gains or results are not necessarily easily visible, as the individual cannot see their body transforming and becoming stronger or faster. Patience and long-term planning are also absolutely essential during the game. As mentioned, an average game lasts 40 moves which must be calculated and planned precisely because even a small mistake can collapse a winning position. This patience and long-term focus can help an employee see the big picture, not rushing to quick and easy fixes, but tackling any problem at its root.

7. Chess players think creatively

Chess has been seen as a boring game akin to pure math and overworked analysis, but to master the game the player must also be a viciously creative thinker (Waters, et al., 2002). To play chess is to think and to imagine in advance because, on average, a position three moves ahead theoretically requires the calculation of nearly 4 billion different positions (Rice, 2008) — impossible if you are not a machine. So, creative thinking skills can help find innovative moves and strategies with less math. Using these creative skills in combination with abstract reasoning and pattern recognition in real-life problems or scenarios can help an employee come up with innovative solutions to a variety of problems.

BONUS: Chess players practice strategic thinking

Excelling in chess is synonymous with excelling in strategic thinking. Strategy, in short, is having a plan and executing it; similarly, chess players undertake exactly the same process. They combine their problem-solving and creative thinking skills while respecting constraints in order to establish a plan and see it through. The process requires patience and precise execution until the last moment to be successful. Yet even a losing game can be part of their overall learning experience. Learning from failure is a feature, not a bug. Therefore, just as in the working environment, a chess player can be an excellent strategist who can both formulate and implement the strategy of the organization while avoiding straying too far from this process (Mintzberg et al., 2009).


The references

Bennett, N. & Lemoine, GJ, 2014. What VUCA really means to you. harvard business reviewJanuary February.

Burgoyne, AP et al., 2016. The relationship between cognitive ability and chess proficiency: a comprehensive meta-analysis. Intelligence, Volume 59, p. 72-83.

Hamel, G. & Prahalad, C., 1994. Competing for the future. Boston: Harvard Business SchoolPress.

Hecht, H., 2018. Swim swam. [Accessed 30 05 2019].

Mintzberg, H., Ahlstrand, B. & Lampel, J., 2009. Strategy Safari: The complete guide through the twists and turns of strategic management. 2nd ed. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.

Rice, B., 2008. Three steps ahead: what chess can teach you about business (even if you’ve never played it). 1st ed. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Unterrainer, J., Kaller, C., Leonhart, R. & Rahm, B., 2011. Reviewing Superior Planning Performance in Chess Players: The Impact of Time Restriction and Motivational Aspects. American Journal of Psychology, Volume 124, p. 213–225.

Waters, AJ, Gobet, F. & Leyden, G., 2002. Visuo-spatial abilities in chess players. British Journal of Psychology, Volume 30, pages 303-311.

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