The answer to success after Brexit? Taking up chess

Ilya Merenzon
2016 World Chess Championship - November 12
Chess champs like Magnus Carlsen plan for every possible scenario (Source: Getty)

The most prestigious chess tournament in the world is coming to the capital.

The World Chess Championship match, which takes place in November, will be the climax of a season of high-profile drama, where the smartest people on the planet fight to have a shot at the championship title.

Chess is already enjoying increased popularity around the world, and it’s the only game pre-downloaded on nearly every new smartphone. According to YouGov, hundreds of millions of games are played online every week, and more people play chess regularly than golf and tennis combined.

But the benefits of chess go beyond fun with the family, or passing time on the morning commute. Chess is proven to promote improved brain functionality, raise IQ, help prevent Alzheimer’s, and aid recovery from a stroke.

I regularly meet with business leaders who are keen to be involved in the tournament, and the same topic comes up time and again: the skills deployed in chess – strategic thinking, memorisation, problem solving, creativity, and competitiveness – are all essential skills for success in business and life away from the chessboard (or smartphone).

As the UK prepares for an uncertain future after leaving the European Union, instilling these skills into Britain’s young people is a no-brainer.

Chess is about understanding the game from your opponent’s point of view. This could be useful to Britain’s negotiators as they facilitate an exit from the EU.

So much of politics, business and life is about working out what another person is thinking. As Britain enters a world of deals, trading arrangements, and complex international relationships, having a generation of young people equipped with this mindset will be invaluable.

The best chess players, like the current World Champion Magnus Carlsen, take their time. They manage a situation by thinking at least two moves ahead, and they plan for every possible scenario. That’s what the best leaders in every field do.

Magnus is just 27 years old and has helped transform the profile of chess around the world. When he won the World Championship in New York in 2016, Mark Zuckerberg, Jay-Z, and Bill Gates were among the 1.5bn people glued to his every move.

If the UK is to prepare for an uncertain future, bringing the world’s greatest minds to London could inspire the next British Carlsen, or even Zuckerberg.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

Related articles