Also known as ‘the game of kings,’ Chess is one of the oldest board games, with a history that dates back over a thousand of years. One of the reasons for its popularity is both its simplicity and complexity. The idiom being it can take a day to learn but a life time to master. With that in mind, what are some of the principles one would use to be successful in chess and how can we apply them to business strategy?

  • Zero Error Decision making

The harsh truth of chess is that it is easy to make mistakes or miscalculate a situation and allocate pieces (resources) incorrectly as a result. Just by being able to play at a level where you don’t make mistakes means you will force who-ever you compete against to have to outplay you, where if they make an error themselves, you can exploit the opportunity. For example, on, after each online game, the calculator will rank every move on a 1-5 scale (perfect, good, ok, poor, major error) where the person who only makes good or perfect moves, becomes a formidable adversary. So in your case, think about it in these terms, how many times do you rush to a decision where it is sub optimal? What would happen to your business results if you only made good or perfect decisions? Easier said than done maybe, but none the less, worth striving for.

  • Plan for success

One of the reason chess is so popular is that unlike dice based games, there is no luck or random element. The person who wins is the one who can create an opening that can be exploited into an unassailable position. With that there are pre-set combinations one can learn ahead of the game. What this means is that as the game unfolds, if you already have thought through every combination and analysed in advance what your next move will be, unless the other person has done the same, you will be sure that you set yourself up perfectly without it costing you in real time, whilst your opponent is being forced to invest significant intellectual capital at a time they may not be able to afford to, to stay in the game, or they rush into a poor decision because they didn’t think the situation through properly. In a similar way, in Corporate America, Executives take time out over summer to think, plan and strategize for what they want to achieve the following calendar year. This gives them the time to properly road test their thinking amongst their peer group and scenario plan. This means that come the point they roll out the new strategy, there are less likely to be any errors and they are better placed to deal with any eventuality.

  • Dominate the centre of the board

While a chess board is 8 x 8, the centre 4 x 4 is crucial for determining who is in control of the game. Therefore getting your pieces into central positions where they can both act as a shield and be positioned to launch attacks is crucial. In the same way, make sure your team are organised to be in the right places in combinations, so they can work together and capitalise on opportunities that emerge.

  • Real time situations determine piece value

In chess, a rook, bishop and knight all have a similar piece value but have fundamentally different capabilities. A rook is direct and linear, a bishop is diagonal whilst a knight has a unique capacity to move in an L shape, whilst jump through obstacles which no other piece has. Now depending on the circumstances, the piece that is most useful will vary significantly. In the beginning of a game, where the board is congested, a knight is far more useful than a rook, equally towards the end of a game the opposite is true. In the same way, with your team think through the unique properties and skills you have available to you and make sure you are utilizing everyone to the best potential. Creating a framework which is flexible enough to support each person’s unique assets whilst operating within a standardised environment will reap significant rewards and result in better employee engagement and culture.

  • A pawn can be your best asset

Pawns have a low cost but used collectively can both shield you from attack and be upgraded to being the most powerful pieces on the board. The metaphor therefore is your graduate / trainee hiring strategy. If you can optimise the integration of your hiring of graduates and trainees into your business, then you will have a team of people who will have the potential to be much greater than at the point they join. It requires a much greater level of planning and organisation than anything else, equally once it works, it will pay back your investment over time many times over.


For recruiters, Vacancy data provides a unique way to map out client strategy, which can help you to see if your plan is on track. Using Vacancy Analytics, you can see where clients are hiring by area and function, and just as importantly where they are shifting hiring to. To find out more, contact

Related Posts

Miliband cancels new drilling licenses in the Nort... Miliband cancels new drilling licenses in the North Sea. What now? If Oil & Gas is to be aggressively phased out, what are the implications? ...
Can Labour Kickstart the Northern Powerhouse? Can Labour Kickstart the Northern Powerhouse? Vacancies across the North drop to five year lows Given the recent general ...