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Book Conversation: Every Move Must Have a Purpose

April 19, 2009

I love a good game of chess and rarely have the opponent for it. I knew my chess game could use improving because after my friend figured out my strategy, I couldn’t win until I changed my strategy again. I looked for some assistance, but the way chess games are written out like bingo cards  doesn’t do much for me to visualize the play.

“Every Move Must Have A Purpose: Strategies from Chess for Business and Life” by Bruce Pandolefini is the chess book I’ve always wanted to read. Both for chess, and because of how this kind of mental game parallels the practice of making art more than a hobby.

Here are the principles, which were handily summed up at the end of each chapter. Such a neatly organized book!

1. Play the board, not the player. Everything pertinent to the game can be learned from the position of the pieces on the board. (The Board Can’t Lie)

2. Don’t ignore a good hunch. Moves can be right whether or not they make sense. (Some moves explain themselves)

3. Play with a plan. It’s wise to plan, and the best plans are manageable and flexible. (you don’t need to plan if you can afford to fail)

4. Look at your opponent’s moves. Nothing should be played without considering what the opponent has just done. (To see what they see, sit where they sit)

5. Don’t waste material. Material should be treating with respect, according to its existing and potential value. (You can’t save the pieces you’ve already lost)

6. Seize the initiative. To get ahead it’s better to attack first. When responding, make sure you go first.

7. Play for the center. Pieces can do more from the middle. Move away from the middle, but stay in the center.

8. Develop the Pieces. To get the most out of your forces, you must ready them from the start. The meek shall inherit the first rank, if that.

9. Don’t overextend. Promising moves can fail if played too soon or without support. If you know you’ve gone too far, it’s too late.

10. Convert weaknesses into strengths. Practically every situation has hidden value for the opportunist. Some moves are right only because they’re a little wrong.

11. Learn from your mistakes. We progress by admitting our blunders and understanding our losses. The worst mistakes are those you think you haven’t made.

12. Don’t sacrifice without good reason. Sacrifices should be made only if they promise a clear advantage. The smart ones sacrifice their opponent’s pieces.

13. Seek small advantages. Every chance to gain the smallest superiority should be considered. You can go far without going far away.

14. Don’t apply principles mechanically. Specific moves always prevail over general moves. A principle tells you where to look, not what to see.

15. Strive for more than you need. By playing at full throttle you get more from your efforts and avoid letdowns. You never get more than you settle for.

Chess, Business, and Art are all brain games.

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