What I learned from my first ever chess win

Last night I won my first ever game of chess.

Even though it was only against a level 1 computer opponent I’m still happy.

Chess has always been a game that intrigues me but I have never bothered to learn it properly. Every few years I would fire up a game, get soundly beaten, and quickly give up and claim "chess just isn't for me"

This time was different.

Three weeks ago I decided to give chess another go. Early on I lost every game. Quickly too.

Instead of giving up, like I would have previously, I added in some learning. I watched a couple of videos analysing famous chess games (yes this really is a thing and it is truly fascinating) and I even researched some very basic strategy theories.

In the second week I grabbed my first draw which was great but also disappointing. I felt like I was winning the game but I didn't understand all the nuanced rules of end-game chess and thus missed a chance for my first win. More learning required.
During all these games I started observing certain patterns the opponents played and began incorporating these in to my game play. This forced me to tweak some of my own methods - ideas I had held since I first learned the game 25 years ago.

Finally, in week three I started showing more progress. I had a few more stalemates/draws and then, finally, last night I landed my first ever win.

Winning is great but what is more important to me is the process I undertook to achieve it and the lessons I've learned in doing so.

One lesson stands out, and is extremely relevant for anyone who is unhappy in their job or is actively seeking to improve their career.

Lesson: Knowing how all the pieces move is not enough.

My brother taught me chess at age 8. I was a smart kid so memorising the rules of the game and how the pieces moved was easy.

We didn't play too often but I was confident in my own ability.

Then when I was 12 the local primary school chess team came to my high school and needed opponents so I volunteered for a game.

I got smashed.

Trounced by a 10 year old kid - my confidence took a hit and I kept chess at arms length ever since.

Looking back it was obvious I was going to get beaten. I wasn't a chess player. I had no idea what I was doing. I only knew the official mechanics of the game.

I knew how the pieces moved individually but not how to use them together. I had no idea on strategy.

Knowing how the pieces move is not enough.

The same thinking holds true in the career world.

You can understand the individual pieces of a job application, working within your current team, or planning your career but that only gets you so far.

You need to understand how the pieces work together. You need to know the individual strengths and weaknesses. You need to have a strategy.

Let's be specific. Let's talk about job applications.

The recruitment process you go through as part of a job application could include some, or all, of:

  • Cover Letter
  • CV (and portfolio)
  • Phone/Video Interview(s)
  • Face to face interview(s)
  • Technical exam
  • Psychometric testing
  • Reference checks
Each of these is like a single chess piece on the board. Individually they are not good enough to get you the win. They need to all work together to put you in the best possible possition.

It is the interaction between all these pieces that gives you the opportunity to win.

Your cover letter needs to set the scene for the CV, the phone interview shows more personality in order to warrant a face-to-face interview, and so on.

Knowing how to do each of the individual pieces is not enough. You need to know how to combine them, to form a strong strategy, that allows you to dominate the board and win the job.

Knowing how all the pieces move is not enough.

Zac Sky