Chess Business Lessons—the Deadly Zs

Brocken Inaglory (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Brocken Inaglory (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Chess has many life lessons for our personal life but even more for business and war. Business is just a series of battles that usually draw no blood or hurt people but which puts the business in a stronger or weaker positions–and this is why chess so perfectly teaches us so many lessons. At the end of the glossary of chess terms there are some powerful lessons from words only Germans can pronounce right (lol)…the deadly and dreaded Z words:

Zeitnot Having time pressure or running out of times to make the necessary moves.

Zugzwang My favorite tactic, getting to a position where all possible moves weaken the opponent

Zwischenzug and Zwischenschach An in-between move sometimes used as a delay and sometimes as complication move.

To arrive at these tactics a great deal of thought and strategy needs to occur if you are on the winning end. If you are on the losing end a great deal of thought and prayer is required because these situations are usually deadly in consequences.


I am not a strong player but as per my previous chess article I do bring outside influences to try to even the skill level of a much stronger opponent. After all in Love and War everything is fair and as long as my tactics do not break the rules and only stretch them to the limit, I use them. One of the main things I do is (if I am not trying to learn from my opponent and get stronger—a lesson for another day) is to complicate things to try to eat up his or her time. Time constraints are common especially in speed chess but they teach us a great deal and they do strengthen and speed our tactical skills. However, when you are sure to lose, complicating the game to eat up your opponent’s time is legal and just about the only thing you have available other than psych-out tactics which is the second thing I employee. The sly smile, the overemphasis on a move, the hovering over a piece that does not makes sense to move to pause them, etc. etc. In business you often need to push the limits of the rules to win. I do not advocate cheating but I do advocate bending rules to the limit much like Facebook did at the beginning but not quite as much as Uber is doing now which is causing them terrible perception problems. In today’s fast speed world where you must think ahead to stay ahead of the game, if you are in a position of weakness do everything legal you can slow your competitor down if you cannot speed up and hopefully slow them down enough to catch up or gain some advantage.


In business sometimes there are no right moves, there is only bad moves. Your aim is to put your competitor in a position of Zugzwang where they can only weaken with any possible response to your strategy that they make. This is not easy, you must trip them up and cause them to run out of time or be so superior that any move they have does not matter. Get them off-balance and paint them into a corner with superior tactics, time constraints, or just out-innovate them. Whatever you do make sure that no matter what they do is not enough and any action they take puts them deeper behind you.

Zwischenzug and Zwischenschach

This is not a great position to be in but sometimes despite your best efforts you are in a weaker position with some doom hanging over you. However, like in chess, you can be one move away from mate and stretch out the game for many many move to prevent the impending doom. However, unlike chess there may be many more outside factors that can help a business and delaying the doom just a bit may bring the cavalry to your rescue. Putting your opponent into this position can cause them to make a mistake or run out of time if no cavalry is coming their way. It gives more wiggle room than Zugzwang so it is not as good but it is a pressure tool that can lead to victory over your competitor because the doom can usually only be delayed.

Chess teaches business many valuable lessons. Learn them but remember they are just a strategic tactic. As complex as chess is, real life is even more complex as often there are more than 32 pieces on the board, so use what it teaches you and adapt it to the more complex board of life!

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