People who must make difficult decisions every day often do so under great pressure and with little time, such as chess players, whose way of reasoning and acting can be very applicable to normal life. The Munich Chess Academy (Germany) has developed a method for this purpose, Königsplan (the king’s plan). After his success with executives of important companies, he has now created a version for children, with whom he has been using chess as an educational tool for fifteen years.
Grandmaster Stefan Kindermann, 63, co-founder of the academy, sums up the different ways of making decisions in this way: “Faced with a situation of great stress and very little time, many executives immediately pick up the phone to take the pressure off. A chess player knows that if he does not act he will lose due to time, but also that making decisions without thinking can be fatal; even if he only has a minute, he will invest the first ten seconds in a global look at the position on the board, to determine the factors that must be taken into account to decide ”.
In it Königsplan, which is offered in German and English, great importance is attached to intuition, which in chess could be defined as the memory of the unconscious: often the player is not aware that the decision he has just made is based on a game which he saw many years before; he doesn’t remember her consciously, but what he learned from her got stuck somewhere in his brain. Kindermann considers this “very important”, and adds: “When we decide by intuition or with our guts we are using everything learned throughout life. The more expert and wise a person is in a certain field, the more reliable their intuition will be.
To understand how essential a good intuition is to play chess well, it is enough to know that after just the first couple of moves (one white and one black) 400 different positions can be generated, and that the number of different games that can be played is one. followed by 123 zeros, larger than the number of atoms in the known universe. “In a way,” Kindermann adds, “the most recent chess software, which is based on neural networks, also employs something close to human intuition, because no computer is yet powerful enough to play chess perfectly.”
And he cites an example from Professor Gerd Gigerenzer, considered the greatest German expert on the decision-making process: “A man in love with two women at the same time did not know who to propose to. They recommended that he write down the virtues of both and what aspects of each he thought might bother him a lot after ten years. He did, and he concluded that woman A ranked much higher than woman B. But he decided to marry woman B and was very happy with her for a long time.” This is his conclusion: “Emotions and intuition, well balanced with reasoning, help us make the best decision.”
Among the principles of Königsplan You couldn’t miss learning about defeats, which in chess “can cause pain for days”, because you can’t blame the referee or that it’s raining. “A good chess player is very self-critical, not only when he analyzes his defeats, but also his victories, because he is sure that there are aspects that can be improved. It is common for an entrepreneur to fail in his second project by applying the same method that led him to success in the first, because he did not analyze it with a self-critical spirit ”, explains Kindermann, creator of the Königsplan together with Robert von Weizsäcker, Professor of Economics at the Technical University of Munich, with important contributions from Dijana Dengler, a great expert in educational chess. The version that they have recently developed for children is based on a 15-year experience applying chess as an educational tool to more than 10,000 children in 25 schools in Munich, as well as disadvantaged children in different environments. All this under the patronage of a foundation chaired by Roman Krulich, a chess player and real estate businessman, who also has an office and business in Gran Canaria.
Be prepared for the black Swan, The unexpected is another essential aspect to make good decisions. Kindermann connects this situation with extreme creativity, with thinking outside the box, with the conventional: “You have a very well-structured plan but, suddenly, your rival does something that breaks everything for you. It doesn’t make sense for you to continue doing what you were doing, you have to adapt quickly to the new”. This time he uses an example from tennis: “Roland Garros, 1989. Chang was the scapegoat against Lendl, and he was already tired. Suddenly, he began serving low, with the ball at knee height. This seemingly childish reaction puzzled Lendl, who ended up losing.
His last advice, for chess and for life, is the combination of thinking forwards and backwards: “The normal thing for a chess player is to think in variants based on the position he has on the board. But sometimes it can be very convenient and effective to think about what you want to achieve, letting go of your imagination, and then see what you would have to do to reach that goal. It is well known that some of the most brilliant combinations in chess history have been achieved in this way.
Zugzwang is a German word that describes a diabolic situation in chess (and in life): the obligation to make a move (you can’t pass the turn without playing, as in mus) leads to defeat, because they are all bad. He Königsplan it also includes that concept, and Kindermann provides as an example the catastrophe suffered by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1812 when he invaded Russia with 600,000 soldiers and complete military equipment. The French emperor, fond of chess, said before winning the battle of Borodino, albeit with terrible losses: “The chess pieces are ready. The game will start tomorrow.”
However, the Russian general Mikhail Kutuzov proved to be a much deeper chess player: he ordered a withdrawal, even allowing the Gauls to take Moscow, knowing that his great ally would be the freezing Russian winter. Napoleon suddenly found himself in a situation where all moves were bad: to keep advancing or to stand still was tantamount to suicide; regress, to failure. He finally returned to Paris with only 10,000 men after some of the most resounding failures in military history.
Kindermann’s lesson: “In that example we can see the amazing effect of planning with great calm, taking into account all the factors that can affect our opponent.”
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