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From the chess board to the board room

Contenders in the Chess Challenge

27 October 2015

Friday saw a LUMS Professor, and world-renowned chess player, take on 18 people at a game of chess – simultaneously.

Lancaster students and staff rose to the challenge, taking up places in a horseshoe fashion in the MBA Suite, ready to battle Professor Matros, who went round and round the players, until the end of the evening.

Alexander Matros, an Economist who teaches on the MBA programme, is a World Chess Federation (FIDE) International Master, ranking him among the top players in the world.

Professor Matros took on students — from the MBA programme, the Chess Society and the wider University — and staff and, after the full six hours, Professor Matros won 14 games and declared four to be a draw.

He believes the theory behind the game can be applied to strategic management in the workplace.

He said: “To be successful in a game of chess, you have to take into account how your opponent will respond to your actions, and use that to gain the upper hand and inform your next move. This principle – a central component of ‘game theory’ – is crucial in the competitive market, and particularly the stock market.

“Even though the students had been playing chess for different lengths of time, I was impressed with their ability to make strategic choices.”

Maiko Sasaki, a full-time MBA student, has played chess for over a decade. She thought the event encouraged her to think more strategically – a discipline she has been learning in the classroom as well.

She explained: “Professor Matros has been teaching us 'game theory' in our Microeconomics class and has given us some ideas as to how our learning can be applied in managing strategically, especially as we move on to work in organisations, which is an integral part of the course.”

Maiko was attracted to the ‘Mindful Manager’ module on the MBA programme, which aims to develop business judgement and decision-making ability.

Sofoklis Lekkos, who is also doing the full-time MBA, agrees that the game of chess has real-world relevance: “In my opinion chess was and will always be contemporary. Today we live in a rapidly evolving environment where good strategy is necessary for organisations to survive and to be able to keep up with the times.”

In the latest Financial Times World MBA Ranking,  Lancaster is ranked top in the world for the teaching of Corporate Strategy, is among the top 10 in the UK and is ranked 50th in the world overall.