December 13, 2018 by Dymphna

The Chess Masters Guide Winning Life

An ancient chess strategy might hold the key to your success

I remember how disappointed I was when I found out how chess computers worked.

I always imagined them like some sort of super-intelligent army general, with a treasury of battleplans, a dash of cunning, and an uncanny ability to predict its opponents move.

That is not what they are like. Chess computers are more like the nerdy back-office statistician. Mostly they’re working with probability. They’re crunching all the available moves, and counter-moves and counter-moves and so on, and seeing which ones lead to the highest probability of victory.

Then after it’s opponentmoves, it runs all the calculations again, always iterating towards whatever move has the highest probability of victory.

That’s it. It’s simply a numbers game. (What else did I expect from a computer?)

But then it turns out that humans don’t play it all that differently.

I was talking to a student who used to play in chess tournaments. He said,

“You have a few tricks and openings, but atmy level, until I had my opponent figured out, I just tried to control thecentre.”

“Control the centre?”

“Yeah, it’s the four squares in the middle of the board. If you control them then you can influence every corner of theboard. If you control them, you have maximum flexibility. You have options.”

Aha. Control the centre,and you just increase the likelihood of victory, even if you don’t have any idea of what the path to victory actually is.

In an age of intense uncertainty, it feels like there’s a lesson in this.

And I feel sorry for kids these days. How do you set yourself up with a trade or put yourself through Uni, when you’ve got no idea what the job market in 5 or 10 years will be like?

Maybe a robot will bedoing that job by the time you graduate. I studied accounting and economics andUni because I thought that would always put in me in a job. Now, accountants look like they’re first in the firing line.

Robots are coming for more jobs than we realise. And aren’t we all in the same boat? How many of us are totally confident that our jobs will still exist by the time we’re coming into the runway of our 60s?

And now it might be tempting to try and get all strategic about it – to try and get on top of current trends, and map out the path to victory.

But how are you going to do that? We don’t even know what technology is there waiting for us over a 10-year time horizon, let alone how it is going to influence the job market.

Like chess, it’s practically impossible to predict.

And so I think the same principles apply. We need to control the centre and keep our options open.

And so what I would recommend to kids (and everyone really) these days is just do whatever it is that expands your potential.

Get your head around the basics of marketing. Every business needs that. Maybe learn the principles of design if your aesthetically inclined – you could leverage that into architecture, product manufacturing or game design. Learn a bit of publics peaking – get some tricks to help you get your ideas across.

And work on your creativity – probably the last bastion of human specialness.

Sure, get credentials. Commit to your trade, but don’t get too settled. Keep expanding your potential. Keep your options open. In the face of intense uncertainty, I think this is our best hope of victory.