Insights from a Game

What the 2013 World Chess Championship can teach us about leadership style and strategy, pressure handling, and communication.

In November of 2013, a 22-year old Norwegian defeated a 43-year old Chennai native in a game involving 64 squares, to become the second youngest winner of the World Chess Championship title. The ten games of the Championship captured our collective imagination and somehow managed to avoid being completely eclipsed by other news.

The tournament highlighted stark differences between the players – in style and approach. The defender was experienced but tentative, the challenger less inhibited. It was clear that Vishwanathan Anand felt the pressure of playing to the home crowd. For his part, Magnus Carlsen must have been fully conscious of his opportunity from the beginning. Yet, each tried not to let it affect his performance inside the glass enclosure. Outside it, they were gracious, honest and practical, in equal measure.

Our contributors use this clash between two chess giants to answer some questions that are equally relevant outside the world of chess. What are some elements that determine risk taking propensity? How does one build the mental toughness to withstand sustained pressure? How does a leader downplay hype while communicating goals and thoughts? And what, beyond winning, counts in the world of endorsements?