If any of you have read the political thriller, House of Cards, by Michael Dobbs or have seen the recent US television adaptation of the same title, you may know the conniving nature of the central character, Francis Urquhart (Underhill in the US adaptation). His quest to gain ultimate power begins after being overlooked for a more prominent role in the newly elected government, despite being a key figure in his party’s win. Through his cunning and ruthlessness, Urquhart plots his revenge using a patient, long-term approach that is steady in unfavourable winds, ultimately succeeding.
It is important to realise that although the above example is fictional, the key concept is the ability to plan for the long haul, particularly in all aspects of life, not just your retirement fund; career goals, for instance, require a commitment and a focus stretching beyond the short-term. Anybody familiar with Indian infrastructure and public services departments will realise the prevalent short-termism: just have a look the road conditions during each monsoon! So how are your long-term planning skill enhanced?
Why, chess, of course! Popularised in India by Viswanathan Anand, it remains the oldest and most popular game where parents do not mind their children spending too much time, knowing that some value comes of it; that value, is the skill of long-term planning. Throughout history, the highest echelons of power have used masterstrokes to change the destiny of countries, including ours; India became colonised due to foreign powers first sensing and then exploiting the weaknesses of our quarrelling regional princes. Even today, the direction of our country rests in the hand of a few, who we hope have a vision for it: from city/town to finances to geopolitics, long-term planning is an intrinsic skill that goes beyond the quick fix.
If you dream of becoming prime minister, an army general, or CEO of a company, chess provides an unparalleled understanding of developing a strategy to win and using tactical manoeuvres to outwit your opponent, while able to adjust in unfavourable situations. Pick up that board and the pieces and go challenge your family and friends!