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Leadership & Life Lessons from Playing Chess

Ashwet Masango, my late cousin, is the man who believed in me so much that it scared me. He gave me my first shot at playing chess, dedicating his time and energy to teach me the rules of the game. Soon, I was playing well.

By Prechard Mhako

I was just a little boy then, but I knew this game had something about it, that sharpened one’s thinking. I knew then, there was more to the game, than the entertainment value it provided me.

The Lessons:

  1. Have a strategy – To win in a game of chase you must have an overall plan, also known in chess terms as the strategy. A strategy is  in the simplest of terms a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim. You cannot afford to aimlessly move your pieces about. Great thinking must go into every move you make, not only that, your moves must be meant to gain you some advantage that has importance to your grand strategy. Premature moves can be costly. In chess, the term ‘Beseker’ refers to a rash playing style characterized frenzied attacking with one or two pieces, perhaps with little regard for strategy or danger. Thinking; Be result oriented. What is your goal and how do you intend to achieve it? Where are you going and who is going to help you get there?
  2. Avoid the bad bishop – A bad bishop is a bishop whose moves are constrained or made difficult by the existence of friendly pawns on its colour squares. A bad bishop can’t move unless the pawns move out of its way. Thinking: There are people you have to walk away from, if you are to achieve your full potential. They may be friends, neighbors and sometimes relatives who hold you back from becoming a better person. They can be habits that you need to walk away from.
  3. Capture the King not the poisoned pawn – Protecting the King is the essence of chess. A captured King represents a lost cause, a forfeited match. A poisoned pawn on the other hand represents an enemy pawn whose capture causes more harm than benefits to the one capturing, it represents fools’ gold.  Chess is about constantly reminding yourself of what is important, keeping your King safe whilst keeping your enemy King on his toes. Thinking: Some battles are not worth your energy. If its not benefiting your ultimate goal, it probably is not worth pursuing.
  4. The wise Pawn becomes Queen – Promotion is when a pawn reaches the final rank, and it can be exchanged for any other more important piece of choice, Queening is when the piece of choice is a Queen. Thinking: Focus, determination, hard work and persistence and knowing when to move are key ingredients in getting you promoted. Robert Greene says you must play the perfect courtier. He says, “The perfect courtier thrives in a world where everything revolves around power and political dexterity. He has mastered the art of indirection; he flatters, yields to superiors, and asserts power over others in the most oblique and graceful manner.”
  5. Confront the inner-me, enemy! – What is your focal point? A focal point represents a weak square near your King, which can expose your King to constant and direct attacks. Know yourself enough to know your weaknesses. Old thinking and old useless habits must be confronted and dealt with. Align your thoughts and actions to your desired outcomes. Thinking: Your greatest threat to progress might be your thinking, how you handle situations, how you handle yourself around peers and appraisers alike. What is your value system and how does it affect the choices you make? Your inner enemy can present itself in how you deal with people and situations. It can be how you view yourself and the kind of limits that you allow your mind to set for you. In Steve Job’s own words, ” the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

Prechard Mhako MBA* is an entrepreneur, consultant and turnaround strategist.

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  1. Great lesson indeed

  2. Thats so helpful especially in my university lifestyle it has incouraged me to be well alert in my way of thinking and my road to success. Thank you

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