Book Review: “Every Move Must Have a Purpose” by Bruce Pandolfini

As a long time chess player, I’ve often thought of chess as a metaphor for life.  Decisions made at the chess board, like those made in life, can never be undone so you need to choose your moves carefully. As Thomas Wolfe said, “You can’t go home again”. In chess, as in life, you can play a perfect game, only to throw it all away with one bad move. And I’ve often been fascinated by the way a player’s style over the board mirrors his or her personality. My wife plays a cautious, analytical game whereas I tend to play impatiently, relying on intuition, often overextending myself.

Bruce Pandolfini, national master, prolific chess author and teacher, and inspiration for the chess tutor in Searching for Bobby Fischer, has written a tiny (105 pages) gem of a book that examines the idea of chess as a metaphor for decision making in business. Each chapter examines an important principle in chess and then shows how that concept applies in the business world and in life. Some sample themes:

  • Play with a Plan
  • Look at Your Opponent’s Move
  • Don’t Overextend
  • Seek Small Advantages
  • Don’t Apply Principles Mechanically

It’s worth noting that this is not really a “chess book”, per se – it doesn’t attempt to teach the reader how to play or improve their chess game in any specific way and it doesn’t require or expect the reader to know anything about chess. The focus is on what we can learn from sound chess principles and how we can apply those same ideas to business and life decisions. It’s interesting and, I think, healthy to ponder how the ideas in this book might help you in your own personal game of chess – you’re playing one every day, whether you realize it or not. :)

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