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Professor Shows a New Purpose for Chess

Susan Harmon
Staff Writer

Photo by Eric Bell
Chess Club Adviser - Robert Graber works in his office in the Babin Business Center. Graber teaches courses in the School of Business.  

   Initially thought of as just a game, one faculty member in the School of Business shows an enlightening purpose for chess. 

   Associate Professor of Finance and Chess Club Sponsor Robert Graber demonstrated a parallel between chess and business in his discussion “Chess Strategy and Business Strategy” presented in October to the Allied Academies International Conference in Nevada and included in their “Paper and Proceedings.” Graber also presented his discussion to The Journal of Economics and Economic Education. Graber published another paper entitled “Managerial Turnover and Myopic Decision-Making” in the Academy of Accounting and Financial Studies Journal. 

   When the chess game begins, each player controls 16 pieces consisting of one king, one queen, two rooks, two knights, two bishops and eight pawns. Each player, either white or black, alternate moving one of their pieces. Each piece requires its own unique method of movement.

   The players must move their pieces to an unoccupied square or an occupied opponent’s square except for captures en passant. En passant refers to removing a piece from play by moving a piece to the square the enemy piece occupies.

   If the king becomes threatened by capture, the player replies “check.” Each player hopes to “checkmate” the king, which means there is no way to remove the king from attack on the next move. Because the game moves so quickly, strategy remains an important aspect of playing and winning the game.

Photo by Latoya Shelton
Chess - Chad Newton and Robert Graber battle it out in chess. Graber believes chess teaches long term thinking and other life lessons.  

   In “Chess Strategy and Business Strategy,” Graber explains how chess rewards and reinforces long-term thinking, looking at the “big picture,” assessing risks and potential rewards, forming contingency plans, learning from mistakes, perseverance, patience and other intellectual and character traits that can lead to success in business and life in general.

  “There are situations in chess called gambits or sacrifices where a player gives up a piece in order to position them self for possible future gain,

which is much like an investment where one has to assess the potential risks as well as the rewards,” Graber said. 

   Business and chess both involve ethics and sportsmanship.  A firm that engages in unethical conduct to make a quick profit pays for it in the long run, and in chess an impulsive decision may result in a loss. Playing in a sportsmanlike and courteous manner also encourages others to play more games in the future, which bear similarities to conducting business in a responsible and ethical manner to encourage repeat business. 

   Business and chess teach the importance of patience by enforcing the ability to differentiate between when to make a bold, decisive action and when to wait, as well as perseverance to continue on despite having gotten into an awkward position. 

   Graber stated that given the parallels between business and chess and the plethora of life lessons that chess can provide, it seems chess can be a useful teaching tool in helping students to develop strategic planning skills.  

  “To sum it up in one sentence, education is an investment so why not have fun with it,” Graber said. 

   Graber’s experience entails 12 years of teaching experience and six years at UAM. Graber taught for two years while working on his dissertation and maintained his doctorate for 10 years. 

   In his past-time, Graber enjoys spending time with his two dogs, Sadie and Natalie. Though he took the dogs in as strays, he now treats them as his children. 


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ŠThe Voice 2007
Revised 09/17/2007 08:12:03 PM —