Be Prepared | Business Lessons from the World Chess Championship Match Carlsen – Karjakin, Part 3

Carlsen – Karjakin, Game 6, New York 2016The Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616) coined the famous phrase: “To be prepared is half the victory.” The current world chess championship match between titleholder Magnus Carlsen and his challenger Sergey Karjakin is proof that this old wisdom still applies.

Both contestants appear extremely well prepared on three levels: chess openings, mental robustness, and physical fitness.

Opening preparation

At the top level in chess, opening preparation is very important. Both Carlsen and Karjakin are able to exploit even small advantages. In order to avoid a bad position after the opening, both spend a lot of time and care on preparing variations that increase their own chances and are unpleasant for the opponent. The equal character of the match so far – 3.5 to 3.5 points after game 7 – is partly due to the fact that both players and their seconds have done good work in the opening.

Mental robustness

Mental robustness is another key factor, especially after the opening phase is over and each player is own his own. Especially if you have to defend, the mental pressure is very high. A contender for the chess crown has to be exceptionally robust to perform well under pressure. That is particularly true in time trouble. When a game is approaching the first time control at move 40, at least one player is usually in time trouble, which means he has less time per move than he would like to have in order to calculate and evaluate move options sufficiently. Making crucial decisions with insufficient time on the clock requires good nerves.

Physical fitness

Finally, the longer the game lasts, the ability to concentrate fully even after 5 or 6 hours of play becomes very important. Physical fitness can help maintain a good level of concentration for a longer time. Magnus Carlsen is regarded as one of the physically fittest chess players in the world. He plays all kinds of sports to keep himself in good shape. Sergey Karjakin worked on his physical fitness in the months before the match. Especially games 3 and 4 ran very long, with 78 and 94 moves respectively. If both players had not been in good shape, their error rate in these games could have been higher.

Business lesson

Executives and their businesses need to be well prepared to perform well and be competitive. Firstly, they need to master their subject matter, e.g. the generation of their product or service. Secondly, they need to have the mental robustness to keep up their performance when things get rough, i.e. when business is slow and competition is fierce. And finally, paying attention to the physical fitness of executives and employees is important to maintain a high level of performance.