7 reasons you should hire a chess player

by Leonidas Liaskos
7/10/2019 – ...well actually 7+1 — just in case seven reasons isn't enough...LEONIDAS LIASKOS was looking for a job and found his chess skills could be an asset. Coming across a 2018 article recommending human resources managers take a close look at competitive swimmers, he got inspired to write his own version for chess players. | Photos: Micael Sáez, Unsplash.com

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Skills to enhance your company

According to TARGET-jobs, one of the most-used UK agencies for graduates, problem-solving, organisation, and ability to work under pressure are among the Top-10 soft skills for a graduate. In my own experience, I would include also strategic thinking and passion. All of the above in combination with some others are inherent and well-practised skills for a chess player.

Even though education and prior work experience are important to a young graduate, these are not the resume items that will offer a competitive advantage. It is the cumulative effort and choices over the years that shape the individual’s personality and skills (Hamel & Prahalad, 1994) and transform an employee to a valuable asset. Below are 7 (+1) reasons why you should hire a chess player.

1. Chess players are problem solvers

Even a young amateur chess player solves on the order of 20 chess problems per week; going to a semi-professional level this number might 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 persistence in order to find the right solution. From a working point of view a chess player is a self-driven tenacious problem solver that aims to tackle any challenge. 

2. Chess players have time-management experience

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

3. Chess players work extensively under time pressure

Even if the player has perfect time-management skills, however, there are occasions that there is simply not enough time. On these occasions the chess player has to make a decision in less than a minute which in practice means that, over time, the players learns how to operate under pressure (Unterrainer, et al., 2011). Practising decision-making and working under time pressure can assist an individual in meeting deadlines and performing tasks with limited resources.

4.Chess Players have organizational skills

A chess player knows how to compartmentalize information and prioritize tasks. Playing along lines, diagonals and columns can assist a chess player in getting everything in order and working both efficiently and productively to complete any assignment. It is necessary in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world to have the ability to have distinct approaches (Bennett & 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, in order to reach that goal a chess player has to sacrifice a lot. The willingness to become the best requires sacrificing your personal and social life, even from a young age, without getting the glory or the recognition of a football or basketball player. This passion and intrinsic motivation for a bafflingly complex game is what distinguishes chess players from other sportsmen (Unterrainer, et al., 2011). Accordingly, the chess player is capable of having the same passion and level of motivation as an employee for a job that inspires and elevates its own ambitions.

6. Chess players have patience and long-term orientation

Chess is not about quick and easy wins; chess is about long-term goals, hard work and patience. Any gains or results are not necessarily easily visible, as the individual cannot see his or her body been transformed and getting stronger or quicker. Patience and long-term planning are also absolutely essential during the game. As mentioned, an average game lasts 40 moves which have to be precisely calculated and planned as even a small error can make a winning position collapse. This patience and long-term orientation can assist an employee to see the bigger picture, not rushing into quick and easy solutions, but tackling any issue by getting to its root.

7. Chess players have creative thinking

Micael Sáez, UnsplashChess has been perceived as a dull game akin to pure mathematics and overwrought analysis, but in order to master the game the player has to be a viciously creative thinker too (Waters, et al., 2002). Playing chess is about thinking and imagining ahead as, on average, a position three moves ahead theoretically requires calculating almost 4 billion different positions (Rice, 2008) — impossible if you are not a machine. Thus, the creative thinking skills can assist in order to find innovative moves and strategies with less calculating. Using these creative skills in combination with abstract reasoning and pattern recognition in real-life problems or scenarios can assist an employee to find innovative solutions to a variety of problems.

BONUS: Chess players train strategic thinking

Excelling at chess is synonymous with excelling at strategic thinking. Strategy, in short, is about having a plan and executing it; likewise chess players undertake exactly the same process. They combine their problem solving and creative thinking skills while respecting any constraints in order to set out a plan and see it through. The process requires patience and precise execution to the last moment in order to succeed. Yet, even a losing game can be a part of their overall learning experience. Learning from failure is a feature not a bug. Therefore, much like in the work environment a chess player can be a great strategist who can both formulate and implement the strategy of the organization while avoiding straying to far from that process (Mintzberg, et al., 2009).


Bennett, N. & Lemoine, G. J., 2014. What VUCA Really Means for You. Harvard Business Review, January-February.

Burgoyne, A. P. et al., 2016. The relationship between cognitive ability and chess skill: A comprehensive meta-analysis. Intelligence, Volume 59, pp. 72-83.

Hamel, G. & Prahalad, C., 1994. Competing for thr Future. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Hecht, H., 2018. SwimSwam. [Accessed 30 05 2019].

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

Rice, B., 2008. Three Moves Ahead: What Chess can teach you about Business (even if you've never played). 1st ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Unterrainer, J., Kaller, C., Leonhart, R. & Rahm, B., 2011. Revising superior planning performance in chess players : The impact of time restriction and motivation aspects. American Journal of Psychology, Volume 124, p. 213–225.

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

Leonidas is a former semi-professional chess player and ‘FIDE Instructor’ level coach from Greece. In 2018, he played chess in Wales, UK where he won the West Wales Chess League Championship with the ‘White Knights’ team and the Welsh Chess Premier League Championship with the ‘The Vale’ team. Besides chess, he has a bachelor’s and master’s in chemical engineering and currently he is a post-graduate student in business management in the University of Warwick in UK. You can contact him on his LinkedIn page.


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