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Creating a strategy for life: 10 ideas from “How Life Imitates chess” by Garry Kasparov

Garry Kasparov is a Genius, who became the youngest world chess champion in 1985 at the age of 22 and defended that title for 15 long years! After retiring from chess he found time to reflect on his past years of struggles and experiences and relate chess to life.

A life strategy is something greatly required in today’s world where there is a tendency to get sucked in every new trend that comes up. This post is the collection of useful ideas about strategy that I have extracted from the book “How life Imitates chess”. All the quotations below are taken from this book.

1.) It is essential to have a Long term Goal.

” If you play without long-term goals your decisions will become purely reactive and you’ll be playing your opponent`s game, not your own.”

Similarly, if you don’t have your own goal for life, you will be always spending your time reacting to the endless distractions around you. Strong chess players never play a game without a goal. To win in chess, you must understand the position well and set your goals according to the demands of a position. And it also applies to life.

2.) Once you have a goal, you must set objectives.

“Too often we set a goal and head straight for it without considering all the steps that will be required to achieve it. The intermediate objectives are essential. Without them we are trying to build a house starting with a roof.”

In chess, the ultimate goal is to checkmate the opponent king. But you cannot go straight for the attack with all your pieces. It is a premature attack which can soon prove faulty against an experienced player. You must first set smaller objectives, such as controlling the center, set your pieces in stronger positions, weaken the opponent`s defences and so on.

In life also, it is important not to get over-excited by the sight of achieving goal. Do not make mistake of going directly after the goal. Check if you are making this mistake and set appropriate objectives.

3.) Once the objectives are set, avoid reacting to other outside forces

“Having a goal and objective is the first step, sticking with them and staying on course is the next.”

How many times have you set a goal, and forgotten about it completely a week later? It happens mostly because we start habitually reacting to the world. You need to stick with your strategy because it is well thought and leading you a step closer to your goal. A well thought strategy deserves adequate time, patience and a will to stay on the path as long as needed.

4.) Master the art of making Decisions.

“There are many chess moves that are obvious to any strong chess player regardless of his style. It’s that other 50%, or even the most complicated 10% , where the difference is made.”

Everyone can make the obvious decisions in life or in business. What makes you unique and stand out is the mastery of making rare 10% of the difficult decisions. Such complicated decisions can be correctly made only with a deep understanding of one’s own strategy in life.

5.) Frequently changed strategy is no strategy at all.

“Change can be essential, but it should be made with careful consideration and just cause. Losing can persuade you to change what doesn’t need to be changed and winning can convince you everything is fine even if you are on the brink of disaster.”

Don’t change your strategy just for the sake of a change. Chess games can be sometimes won because of opponent’s bad play. Winning does not always mean a successful strategy. And losing does not always mean a faulty strategy. You must carefully analyze your actions and results objectively and only then come to a conclusion about whether the change in strategy is required or not.

6.) Ask the question “Why?”

“Why?” is the question that separates functionaries from visionaries, mere tacticians from great strategists. You must ask this question constantly if you are to understand and develop and follow your strategy.”

Top chess players ask “why” before making each move. Think about all your decisions and actions in life. And question them. Why are you doing what you are doing? What are you trying to achieve with your next action? The questions bring self-awareness, which is very important for any kind of progress in life. Have a look at my post on the importance of asking right questions.

7.) Employing a strategy is a matter of desire.

“We must constantly monitor the conditions that will make our strategy succeed or fail. We stay on the track with rigorous questioning of our results, both good and bad, and our ongoing decisions.”

It is easy to get distracted if you don’t consistently analyze yourself. A plan which is made once and then never analyzed is a frozen plan. A successful strategy is never frozen. You must be flexible and aware enough to make required changes and modifications in your strategy. I have recently begun to review my plans everyday. And it keeps my strategy alive. It gives new life to my plans so that they never get old.

8.) When it is your move, You must move

” Tactics is knowing what to do when you have something to do, Strategy is knowing what to do when you have nothing to do.”

Savielly Tartakower

In chess we cannot skip a move. After the opponent moves, we must make a move. Not knowing what to do in some positions can lead to a disaster. In life, we have no such obligations to move. But this kind of a mindset can lead to laziness and a waste of precious time. Everyday new day in life is your move. If you don’t have many things to do, you can still create a strategy to slowly improve your position. but never skip a move. Use every move.

9.) Find Your efficiency

There are various kinds of personalities who have become world chess champions. Everyone has a different style of play. It is important to figure out what motivates you to push yourself to the next level. To give some examples,

  • Some are naturally hard-working and only need to organize and direct their efforts through a schedule, routine and goals.
  • Some are highly competitive and work beyond their limits when they have a strong will to win.
  • Some could be motivated by a thought of inspiring others.

Find out the conditions under which you become most efficient and work with them.

10.) Learn from the Masters

If you read this book, you will understand how deep is Kasparov`s research about his predecessors. He has written 5 volumes of books which is the series “My great predecessors” analysing each world champions style, strengths and weaknesses. Such rigorous study of masters in your field of work brings you a lot of insight to your work and certainly is one of the best ways to reach the top.


These were only a few of the ideas I have extracted from this book. This are the points to conclude:

  • It is important to have goals for yourself. Write down your goals. Don’t make wishes. Writing down makes you commit to them.
  • Once you have goals, discipline yourself to trace down the objectives required to fulfil your goals. Don’t get overexcited and head straight for checkmate. Create objectives and a strategy
  • After making a strategy, stick with it. Do not get reactive to the outside forces.
  • Constantly analyze your strategy. Do not have a frozen plan. Keep it alive and flowing with constant reviews.
  • Do not skip your move in life. Everyday do something to fulfill the objectives towards your goals.
  • Learn from the masters. Continuously learning about your area is the fastest route to the top.

20 thoughts on “Creating a strategy for life: 10 ideas from “How Life Imitates chess” by Garry Kasparov

Add yours

    1. Thank you very much.:) So Happy that you enjoyed this. It is a great book. Kasparov shares very valuable lessons that he learned himself through his struggles and experience. It is certainly worth reading. Thank you very much again! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’m inclined to agree with much of this. But I think it’s important to add two caveats:
    1) Make absolutely certain the Objective (with a capital “O”) is something you really want.
    2) Don’t forget to experience life in the intervening moments. It isn’t merely a sprint to the finish-line.

    Liked by 1 person

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