12 tips Start-ups can learn from the game of Chess

As an average chess player, and playing online daily, I have noticed some similarities between chess and starting or running a business, i have a certain preference for fast games known as Bullet chess, because not only you get to play against the other player, but most importantly you are playing against time, as each player gets 1 minute per game and has to checkmate or be faster than the opponent.

There’s a lot of lessons startups can learn from fast chess. As an entrepreneur who have founded or been involved in several startups, here’s what I have learned:

Lesson 1, All that glitters is not gold:
Never trust appearances, I only play online chess with players having higher rating, as a result my rating doesn’t really reflect my strength, because It is more likely to be defeated and to lose rating when only playing stronger players, the same can apply to businesses, appearance does not reflect the reality of a company, companies sometimes project a certain luxury image, simply because their clients expect so, keep that in mind when doing business with such companies.

Lesson 2, Small spiders can catch big ones:
Don’t underestimate competition, players with a couple hundred points higher rating often underestimated me, but were often surprised to be checkmated quickly, the same in business, you shouldn’t underestimate small competitors, because you don’t know what they can do and how they can fundamentally disrupt your market!

Lesson 3, Don’t waste time trying to reinvent the wheel:
in these 1 min games time is very important, thus you should try to avoid wasting it when possible, and it is only possible at the beginning of the game, when the pieces can be moved strategically without any drastic effects, these openings are standard and some people memorize them and play them automatically, the same apply for start-ups and small businesses … there’s a set of steps that should be taken automatically, like branding , marketing, press coverage, etc …

automatic steps startups take
Don’t try to reinvent the wheel!

Lesson 4, Deploy all your nets, you’ll catch more fish:
You have a better chance of winning when all the pieces are developed, because you can take advantage of some wrong moves made by your opponent and have more opportunities to take, basically it’s like having more firepower. In business, the success rate is higher if all the team members/ employees are well involved, you will get more feedback, and you can find more opportunities and clients through their extended network.

let opportunities happen
let opportunities happen

Lesson 5, Don’t lose your winning horse:
The Queen changes the game, losing a queen early  will give advantage to the opponent, similarly the presence and lack of presence of a talent can make a start-up succeed or be the reason of its failure, this talent can be sales, management, development or even marketing.

Lesson 6, Free yourself from pressure:
It’s very important to Castle the King early, not only it will help you better protect him, but you will also avoid losing important pieces in the crossfire of a check move; Start-up wise try to quickly achieve a main revenue stream, so you can remove the financial threat, and focus on growing without worrying about the money.

Free yourself from pressure
Free yourself from pressure

Lesson 7, Time is gold, act accordingly:
Fast chess means time flies fast, the same with funding for start-ups, don’t waste time because money flies fast as well.

Lesson 8, Sacrifice or be sacrificed:
in fast chess it is better sacrificing pieces early to execute your attack strategy, not at the end of the game due to little time left, the same in business better sacrifice few eggs to have the best team since early beginnings than having to sacrifice everyone at the end.

Lesson 9, Specialized roles lead to stronger performance:
In a chess game every piece has its role and a start location, changing the start location of your pieces will make your pieces more vulnerable, same in business you should assign people to positions they can specialize in, and not shuffle them all the time .

lesson 10, Outthink others:
Like in chess be 1 step ahead your opponent and competitors, innovate, think outside of the box, be aggressive business wise!

Lesson 11, Keep an eye on competition:
Don’t be absorbed in your plan and ignore the opponents’, if focused only on your attack plan you might lose unexpectedly… the same in business you should keep an eye on the competition and adapt quickly before it’s too late.

keep an eye on the goal and on competition
keep an eye on the goal and on competition

Lesson 12, Keep an eye on the goal:
keep in mind that the goal is to checkmate not capturing all the pieces, same in business try to work for your goal and avoid getting lost in details.

And, one final thought: You get better with practise!

Share if you care

Abdallah Alaili

I'm a serial entrepreneur (mostly tech) and micro-investor (tiny), this is a blog to learn from other entrepreneurs and spread the wisdom to many more. You can find me on: Instagram - Twitter - Linkedin - more about me

1 thought on “12 tips Start-ups can learn from the game of Chess

  • VGoodChessPlayer

    As a former chess tourney player with a master rating I have to add this bit: to succeed at Chess you ultimately learn that you need a ‘killer instinct’ An important term which has become a calque in pop culture has been borrowed from Chess. Its called a ZUGZWANG (archaic German for ‘a compulsive move”- probably originally used by German/Jewish GrandMaster E. Lasker) …When you are caught in a ‘ZUGZ’ – you are up against it. You’ve no escape. Yet you have to move anyway. As in tennis, you can be down 2 sets and Love–40, but you can still dig yourself out cant you? Thats the beauty of a ZUGZ, its an opportunity to make a comeback and not necessarily your undoing.

Comments are closed.