On Chess: St. Louis Corporate Chess League’s Recipe For Success | St. Louis Public Radio

On Chess: St. Louis Corporate Chess League’s Recipe For Success

Oct 24, 2019

In the complex world of financial planning, I will often use the principles of chess to explain to clients how I manage their money.

Together we develop a strategy where the objective is to advance or grow their current position while simultaneously protecting what’s most important to them. 

We also take time to approach each goal initially from a big-picture perspective and then work our way backward to what the next step is right now. Chess players recognize these themes, as they are applied every time we sit down at the board. The game has helped me professionally and personally to sharpen these skills and always remember to enjoy the journey. 

The St. Louis Corporate Chess League consists of eight teams and about 50 players.
Credit Austin Fuller | St. Louis Chess Club

During the holiday months of 2017, a colleague of mine and I were discussing our mutual admiration of playing chess and what it would take to periodically gather a few other coworkers for networking and camaraderie over the chess board. 

We thought about how companies gather groups of people to form corporate softball teams. Why not a chess team? From there, my fledgling idea expanded from only a few coworkers from my firm at Edward Jones to challenging other companies that had teams of their own to compete against one another.

It was in this moment that the idea for the St. Louis Corporate Chess League was born. I immediately picked up the phone and called the St. Louis Chess Club to share my idea. Not only was it received with excitement, but ultimately it led to an offer to host these gatherings and make them exceptional experiences.

From our early beginnings in spring 2018 with two companies, the Corporate Chess League has now expanded to eight teams and nearly 50 players. My vision has taken shape beyond my expectations of giving companies an opportunity to build morale through healthy competition, networking with others while sharing cross-industry ideas and having a lot of fun.

As I alluded to earlier, chess has several principles that apply well to the business world.

Three rank at the top of my list:

  1. Big-picture analysis
  2. Patience
  3. Adaptation

When staring at a chessboard deciding your next move, it can be a disadvantage to only focus on one area. You must be able to observe the entire situation and understand that — whatever move you make — there is the potential that your decision could weaken another area. As a manager or executive, these choices are an everyday occurance.

Chess also helps your mind weigh the options that are presented to you. Often, in our fast-paced world, taking the route of patience and contemplation results in greater success. Blunders in chess and in business can be a common occurrence, but patience forces us to learn from our mistakes and choose more accurately.

The St. Louis Chess Club hosts meetings of the St. Louis Corporate Chess League.
Credit Austin Fuller | St. Louis Chess Club

Finally, rarely are there challenging situations in business or in chess that are exactly the same. Adaptation is a crucial skill set and should be expected. Chess players are quickly able to home in on patterns of different positions from experience, and even if the game throws a curveball your way, the best players know how to adapt.

The St. Louis Corporate Chess League continues to have a positive impact on the participating companies. In addition, more corporate engagement has had a positive impact on the club through partnership and membership. One day, I can see St. Louis playing host to the first National Corporate Chess Championship. 

For now, though, I’m happy to put the friendly challenge out there to our friends in the New York Corporate Chess League.

Alex Kerford is a financial advisor for Edward Jones in Brentwood.