Chess is undeniably tactical, demanding solid skills and technique; a game where nothing is hidden on the board. But it is also true that “luck” plays an important role in deciding who wins.
Whether or not luck decides the outcome of a game is a time-honored debate, but two time British Chess Champion Sir George Alan Thomas said “The popular idea that chess is a game into which luck does not enter at all is quite a fallacy.”
Luck: “Success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.” – Online Oxford Dictionary, 2015.
But some players legitimately depend on the raw chance that an opponent may blunder, don’t they? And an opponent’s blunder can be caused by factors that we as competitors have either encouraged or not, though the mistake is not actually our own action.
In Chess and in Life, we can only make our own moves after all.
There would be no luck in chess if there were no mistakes. Speaking with Radio WNYC about his career, Garry Kasparov talked about the fact that there aren’t any games, no matter how brilliant, which do not contain error. “You win sometimes because your opponent made the last mistake.”
But there’s something more important to strategy than the argument about blunders and making mistakes; it is the learned intuition that grasps when an opponent has overreached. Capitalizing on such knowledge is called Opportunism. Making your opponent pay for a blunder can be your surest, easiest and fastest route to victory.
Opportunism is everywhere, in Chess and Life.
For example, someone you sit next to while traveling invites you to an interview, and in a few weeks you’re a full-fledged employee of a Fortune 500 Company. You may have brought an excellent resume, but so did many others – the world is full of underachievers who finished school with excellent grades world-class skills.
There are better programmers than Mark Zuckerberg; there were more hardworking men than Steve Jobs. They just took hold of opportunity when it presented itself. They saw an inefficiency in how the market was handling technology, and adapted a solution to it.
Luck doesn’t just happen; you make happen it happen. And you can consciously create space in your life for good fortune.
When you’re better, simplify; when you’re worse, complicate…
My father was a lawyer for thirty years, and he told me when he had a losing case he would choose a jury trial, and when he had a winning case, he would want a Judge to decide it. The Jury trial equalized the chances with his opponent’s arguments, while the more scholarly judge’s skill would accentuate his own superior position. He was managing his chances appropriately.
As a chess example, Capablanca was the best chess player of his day, and his own personal motto was “simplify, simplify, simplify.” His competition knew that they had to really muddy the water with new variations if they were to stand any chance at beating him – and occasionally it worked. But the rare exceptions proved the rule that the best players want a level field, and inferior players need complexity, deceit, or randomness.
“The Opportunity for Victory lies in the Opponent; First secure yourself against Defeat, and only then seek out Ways of defeating the Enemy.” – Sun Tzu
In chess and life, good players don’t wait for luck. They play a solid game but create space for opportunity, and they spot it early and capitalize on it; that said though, they do play a solid game in case a mistake or inefficiency does not present itself.
Leave nothing to chance; many things are beyond our control, but sound strategy can account for that. Fortune needs to be molded.
Manage your Luck.
image: Chess, a Creative Commons CC 0.0 photo from Morguefile