Chess, the game of startups

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Queens Gambit
The Queens Gambit.

Could chess playing-children be more likely to found successful startups?

A recent study by Monash University and Deakin University found that playing chess at a young age may reduce risk aversion, among other benefits.

Too much risk aversion is know to be detrimental to founding a startup.

The study was conducted with more than 400 students who had regular chess lessons over three weeks. The 30-hour program was endorsed by the World Chess Federation.

Participants were assessed for various behavioral changes including response to risk, time management and ability to focus.

The study found that children who play chess from a young age benefit from decreased risk aversion. That is the tendency for someone to avoid risk and rather choose a path of certainty.

Chess teaches kids the benefits of stratigic risk-taking.

The study was led by Professor Asad Islam who is the director of the Centre for Development Economics and Sustainability at Monash Business School.

Asad explains that the game of chess well articulates the concept of risk and reward.

“Players often sacrifice pawns, knights and bishops if it helps checkmate the opponent’s king and win the game. Such sacrifices are inherently risky because if one’s calculations are faulty, the sacrifice could prove to be ‘fatal’, eventually leading to a quick loss.”

Professor Asad Islam

Too much risk aversion is know to be a killer of ideas and innovation. But chess benefits its players beyond future business, as Asad explains.

“Children need to know how to take calculated risks. If children are too risk averse it might prevent them from swimming at the beach, going to a public park or participating in contact sports for risk of injury.

“Later in life, this could also extend to adolescent behaviours such as drugs, smoking, truancy, involvement in crime and in romantic relationships.

“In many life situations, it is also the case that with great risk often comes great reward. However, the line between necessary calculated risk-taking and reckless behaviour is sometimes difficult to determine. Learning chess can help bridge that gap.”

Chess is already a compulsory part of primary school learning in some countries such as Armenia and Poland.

In this sense, Australia is lagging behind. Based on research, schools across Australia would benefit from integrating chess into the curriculum.