Chess is a Great Teacher: Life Lessons from Chess Grandmaster Henrik Danielsen

Note 10/30/2018: This post refers to a series of over 100 internet blitz games recorded and published by Henrik Danielsen. While his channel was lost due to his email account being hacked, I elected to republish the original post for posterity.

I discovered Mr. Danielsen’s work on his YouTube channel. His self-styled variant of the Bird’s Opening called the “Polar Bear System” is very interesting to watch, but perhaps more interesting for me was his live-game commentary.

So what does Chess have to do with IT Management? More than you might think! Understanding how components work together, making the most of strengths and weaknesses, planning ahead, perseverance in the face of adversity, execution and timing are all critical in the IT field, but also happen to be central themes in Chess!

In the process of watching his games, I collected little snippets of wisdom he imparts along the way. Amazingly, he does this while playing Live opponents in Blitz games (3 minute timer)!

Here are some of my favorites:

“Every young child is elastic, so keep your position elastic!”  (Live Blitz #106)

Are you keeping an open mind when it comes to evaluating new technologies? Is your production network capable of scaling to meet the demands of future growth, even if it grows quicker than what you’d originally anticipated? The most important thing to remember about change is that it’s going to happen, with or without you; either learn to adapt or be left behind!


“If you know where you’re going, you can get there very fast.”(Paraphrased in many of Live Blitz games)

No matter what you do to prevent them, problems will occur. Knowing your way around your management tools and network is the key to solving issues quickly!


“Everything has it’s own Rhythm…try to use the Rhythms that are successful.” (Live Blitz #51)

To me, this speaks to the importance of forming good habits. Whether it’s maintaining a healthy work/life balance, continual professional growth and learning or proactively managing your infrastructure (checking backups, testing fail-over capability, keeping up with documentation etc.).


“..It’s like you have to keep the pillow in front of his face and not let him breath.” (Hunting with the Polar Bear #2)

This one’s a bit sadistic, but a touch humorous as well, so I just had to throw it in :). The point he’s trying to get across is that you can’t let up when you’ve got your objective on the run!


“…remember our thoughts and our feelings are creating our reality, so you better think big, and you better be positive about your life.” (Live Blitz #81-82)

Set realistic stretch goals, determine what steps you’ll need to take to achieve them, then set a timeline for completion. Most importantly, stay positive!

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