The Nimzowitsch principle: Chess leaders we deserve

December 31, 2006

Aron Nimzovitsch Chess lore is a rich source of insights about Business strategy. A recent story of cheating at Chess brings to mind what might be termed the Nimzowitsch principle. The great grandmaster had accused his opponent of ‘threatening to cheat’, asserting that in Chess, the threat is stronger than its execution. The principle seems to have more widespread applications

A recent case of cheating in Chess continues a long line of stories going back to the first chess computer (which turned out to be concealing a small but very clever chess player).

Leadership Principle
‘The threat is more powerful than the execution’

The eccentric Grandmaster Tartakower was famously known for putting off opponents by blowing cigar smoke into their faces. Once the great Nimzowitsch called foul, claiming Tartakower was cheating by placing an unsmoked cigar beside him. And (as Nimzowitsch asserted at the time) in Chess, as everyone knows, the threat is more powerful than the execution. This is but one example of a leadership principle to be derived from a knowledge of Chess lore.

Other cheating strategies

Bobby Fischer took paranoia to new heights in his claims against the deviousness of is opponents. Later world championship matches involved a host of most peculiar claims and counter claims. Garry Kasparov remains convinced that his match against IBM’s Big Blue computer was fixed.

The most recent match, which settled a Unification dispute, was nearly scuppered with the charges by Veselin Topalov of excessive toilet breaks used for computer cheating by opponent Vladimir Kramnik. (Kramnik defaulted one game as a protest but then carried on and eventually won).

Now we have the strange case of the Indian chess player whose results improved astonishingly after he had a Bluetooth device stitched into his cap, which he always wore over his ears when playing.

At humbler levels, coarse chess players have assorted means of cheating, too numerous to cover, as any organiser of tournaments will attest.

The chess leaders we deserve

After the scandals in cycling, baseball, athletics, we should not be surprised. But whatever shall we do to get the role models and leaders we deserve for the noble game of Chess?