16 chess lessons to apply to logistics and business

“Chess is life.” That’s how clear Bobby Fischer felt, one of the greatest geniuses that the black and white board has given. The finding of parallels between the battles of life and the wars represented in this game have been a fertile source of wisdom that has often reached the business world. And that, of course, can be applied to the world of logistics and the supply chain.

Based on quotes from great teachers, players and writers, we are going to explain some of the lessons that logistics can learn from this centuries-old art.

16 chess lessons
learn to improvise

“If I think, I play badly”, Viswanathan Anand
“Genius is knowing how to break the rules at the right time,” Richard. Teichmann

Logistics, which in many cases is the art of designing processes to replicate them as accurately as possible, also requires improvisation. Whether due to the appearance of an incident in a delivery, due to a new customer need or to design a new product, logisticians need to have imagination. And for that, chess is a good mirror: after having studied thousands of games and openings, sooner or later chess players are forced to have to take unexplored paths. Be prepared to find the solutions that are not in the manual.


“They say my games should be more interesting. I could be more interesting and also lose”, Tigrán Petrosian

Knowing how to improvise is a virtue, but so is good planning. Few, if any, sports take game preparation to the extreme that chess does. The meticulous study of the rival, his history, his preferred openings and his style can be compared with the constant study of the market and of the clients that companies have to carry out. Furthermore, within the logistics sector, planning plays a particularly prominent role: the design of supply chains, demand estimates, risk management…


“You have to remove the litter from the board”, José Raúl Capablanca
“We cannot resist the fascination of a sacrifice since the passion for sacrifices is part of the nature of a chess player”, Rudolf Spielmann

Knowing how to discern what is urgent can sometimes be simple. However, in logistics sometimes it is necessary to differentiate between what is very urgent and what is extremely urgent, and that will be a skill that will help you a lot. At other times, the key will not be in speed but in the true long-term importance of the decisions you are making. Chess players are constantly faced with this type of decision, having to choose at all times where and how to use the resources available to them.
Mastering these skills will allow you to go hand in hand with the client and help them see what is most important to them and how to achieve it. Sometimes it will be speed, others security and sometimes cost optimization; In any case, knowing how to choose the right ‘sacrifices’ to prioritize their needs and yours will be a great help.

The importance of position

“Chess is art and calculation”, Mikhail Botvinnik
“An overwhelming position in the center gives the right to attack on a wing”, Aron Nimzovitch

Every chess player knows that the importance of a piece is directly related to its position on the board. And that is something that is repeated in companies. They need to know their position in the market, what their customers value, how to become valuable, etc. In short, knowing our value proposition and how it makes us essential. Knowing where we are located is the first step if we want to keep moving forward.

Align towards a common goal

“The accumulation of small advantages leads to considerable supremacy”, Wilhelm Steinitz
“Over the years I value the peons more”, Paul Keres

Few more obvious metaphors than chess about the advantages of rowing in unison towards a common goal. A good chess player knows that his ultimate goal goes beyond his pieces, and that the performance when they act together is greater than the sum of his individualities. It is a great way to learn the importance of betting on the common result, leaving behind individual egos.

Importance of all the pieces

“The pawn is the most frequent cause of defeat”, Wilhelm Steinitz
“Pawns: they are the soul of chess; Alone, they form attack and defence”, Danican Philidor

A supply chain is a very large ecosystem in which all the pieces are vital. From one end of the chain to the other, all the gears must be well greased for it to work like a clock. From the laborers who are in charge of collecting the merchandise, documenting the shipments and the day-to-day processes to the most noble pieces of the ladder. One without the other cannot achieve its goal.


“Chess is a war on a board. The goal is to crush the opponent’s mind.” Bobby Fischer
“Chess is mental torture”, Garri Kasparov

Most non-chess fans would be surprised by the physical preparation that many of the masters carry out. And it is that being in good shape improves the concentration capacity of some professionals who are going to spend hours in a state of maximum tension. Something that, surely, sounds very familiar to employees of logistics companies.

Combine short and long term

“Petrosian knew how to detect and remove danger twenty plays before it arose”, Bobby Fischer

Logistics and chess share a relationship with chaos theory. A simple move can trigger a cascade of unforeseen consequences. In transport and on the dashboard we have to be able to think about now and tomorrow at the same time. It is essential to know when to make a decision or another in the short term so that it benefits us in the future, but without endangering the present.


“The King is a fighting piece. Wear it!”, Wilhelm Steinitz
“The pawn is the most important instrument of victory”, Wilhelm Steinitz
“Pawns are the soul of chess”, Danican Philidor

Closely related to the previous point, chess teaches ‘kings’ to roll up their sleeves in various ways. For example, the pawns that manage to promote and become other pieces affect the importance of the team and the development of the workers. The king’s own presence and active participation on the battlefield is also good advice on what a true leader should be, always backing his teams and letting them shine to the fore.

praise of perseverance

“I see in the chess fight an astonishingly accurate model of human life, with its daily bustle, its crises and its incessant ups and downs”, Garri Kasparov
“In chess there are two types of players: the good ones and the tough ones. I am one of the tough ones”, Bobby Fischer

No matter how many difficulties and sprints we have in our day to day, we know that logistics is a long-distance race. This is also how chess players consider their training. They know that talent and inspiration will not be enough if they are not accompanied by effort and dedication. Be prepared for the ups and downs, the losses, the loss of clients, the mistakes that cost games and that can cost contracts. The important thing is to be prepared to turn those troubles into victories.

Knowing how to abandon a plan

“The threat of defeat is more terrible than defeat itself” Anatoli Karpov
“Chess is an intellectual activity that makes it easier to navigate storms and find light in the darkness”, Nelson Pinal

Fear and pride, among other causes, can lead us to follow a path despite the fact that we are seeing that it is not the correct one. Here we also combine humility with the ability to improvise and be brave to recognize when we have to change direction. We may have created a new route that isn’t working, launched a product that doesn’t fit the market, or started a new venture with a client that isn’t working for either party. Don’t be afraid to admit a mistake or correct course.

Learn from mistakes

“From a few games I have learned as much as from most of my defeats”, José Raúl Capablanca
“If the error did not exist, it would have to be invented”, Savielly Tartakower

Even if a mistake costs you a game, tomorrow you will have a new one to win. Mistakes hurt us, which helps us remember them and at the same time teaches us how not to do things. The danger is not in making mistakes, the danger is in not learning from it.

value of creativity

“The beauty of a movement is not reflected only in its appearance, but in the thought behind it”, Siegbert Tarrasch
“Chess is imagination”, David Bronstein
“Thanks to chess, many of us have known the joy of creation”, Tigrán Petrosian
“Chess, with all its philosophical depth, is above all a game in which imagination, character and will are revealed” Boris Spasski

The advancement of technology never ceases to amaze us. And both in transport and in chess, computers do not stop claiming their share of the pie. However, training against supercomputers and the use of logarithms, simulations and formulas in logistics still need to be completed by human creativity, by our ability to break out of pre-established patterns.

constant preparation

“The good player is always lucky”, José Raúl Capablanca
“All chess masters were once beginners”, Irving Chernev, chess writer

Those who need the visit of inspiration for their profession are often advised to make sure that the muses, when they arrive, find them at work. The same goes for logistics: preparation and training are the best way to buy tickets in the “lucky” lottery. The more you know about the sector, about its trends, about the technology that is transforming it, the more educated you are… the more likely it is that you will make the right decision in the next decision that affects your supply chain.

Manage time

“The seven deadly sins of chess are: superficiality, voracity, pusillanimity, inconsistency, waste of time, excessive love of peace and blocking”, Savielly Tartakower
“The mystery of sacrifice is enclosed in the wise transformation of material into time”, Roberto Grau

Lose a knight to gain time gold or use a move to clear the way for your pieces. Rushing in a less important movement or taking all the time in the world, despite the pressure of the clock, at the key moment of the game. Logistics and chess meet again as sciences of the use of time. Transport companies need to time ourselves, to know how long it takes to place an order, to transport a pallet from one point to another, to go from point A to point D in our supply chain… But also to know when to rush with a decision in which The main thing is time or when to stop to meditate before a transcendental decision.

Don’t fear the risk

“Whoever does not take a risk will never win a game”, Paul Keres

Immobility is a slow death. In all areas of life it is necessary to take risks. This is also the case in chess, despite the fact that from the outside it may not seem so due to the (deserved) reputation of an analytical and calculating game. But, despite it, the great teachers will not hesitate to jump in when they see the door open.
Logistics might also seem risk-free, but it’s not. For example, the constant challenge of e-commerce is making it necessary to reduce transit times, inventing new ways of distribution. Or adapting to new technologies, which are increasingly demanded by customers.

The 64 squares of the chessboard offer not only an infinite number of tactical possibilities, but also a miniature reproduction of life itself whose lessons we can apply to business and logistics.

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Khaterine William

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