Mixtape #7: Russia & What We Can Learn From Chess Players

Produced by Camille Duran / Published by Eleen Murphy / Senior Editors Eleen Murphy & Camille Duran / Music Credits: License by Ins. Green White Space.

We make around 35,000 decisions every day, and those decisions – big and small – shape our lives for better or for worse. That’s a good reason to improve your decision making skills, no?

Today we focus on strategic decisions – the decisions that will help you win your bigger battles. The music in this mixtape are symphonies by Alexander Borodin, a genius Russian composer from the mid 1800’s. Something a little different!

This mixtape is designed for 3 specific situations:

S1: You just made a bad decision & you need to make some adjustments and brush up on your skills.
S2: You feel like time-traveling to the Russian Empire of the 19th century and need a soundtrack for your trip.
S3: You’re being challenged to a game of chess, and you want to win.

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Transcript from the Episode

Camille Duran [CD]: At Green Exchange, our mission is to help people working with change make better decisions, and achieve more. And today we are going to talk about the decision-making part. because as adults we make around 35,000 decisions per day. So that’s a big deal!

Whether you are working with change or not, decision-making is the one thing to figure out for a good fulfilling life. I think everyone will agree, people who master the art of decision-making basically master their lives. They perform better on all aspects of their day-to-day, in their relationships, at work, at home, in a traffic jam, or at the supermarket. (Yes you need to perform at the Supermarket…)

Aside: “Why am I buying that piece of sh*t again?”

CD: Decision-making is THE nut to crack.  And it’s difficult of course because the decisions we are making in any given situation are influenced by many parameters: Our history within that specific context, our psychology, our genes, the way we are conditioned as human beings, our ability to control our fear, and more.

So because it’s a complex issue – and to try to get somewhere within 30 minutes, we’re going to focus here on strategic decisions. Not necessarily the decisions about what you’re going to eat today – although that could be strategic – but rather  decisions that will help you win your bigger battles. We all fight battles don’t we?

To do so, we are going to use a simplified terrain, a small-scale decision-making laboratory, just for the sake of this mixtape.

A simplified terrain like a board with 64 squares, 32 pieces, a clock and 2 highly-competitive players stuck to it. Yes, we’re going to play Chess. What can we learn from chess players? And how can we apply this to our own psychology?

The music we choose today is going to transport us through different emotional states that I think are representative of our everyday lives. And I challenge you to really try to get into it because it may not be what you listen to everyday.

This mixtape is designed for 3 specific situations:

  • Situation 1: You just made a bad decision – Really? me too! Not sure this mixtape is the cure to nail every single one of the 35000 decisions you will make today, but at least it may help you understand a bit better what’s going on – and maybe make some adjustments.. who knows?
  • Situation 2: You feel like time-traveling to the Russian Empire of the 19th century and need a soundtrack for your trip. Well today we listen to symphonies from Alexander Borodin, a genius Russian composer from the mid 1800s. It’s quite intense and immersive, i am sure you will like it if you try.
  • Situation 3: Your old uncle is pulling a chessboard out of a dusty closet, and looking at you with a challenging eye, [the only one he has left] and an intimidating smile…

“Want to play?”

“I don’t want to play uncle Frog, I want to defeat you, once and for all so you never open that closet ever again.”

“Haha…good luck, son, I take the black pieces!”

All right… ready to go?


[Audio Clip]

Cody Pomeranz: Life skills. Chess teaches you things devising strategy and tactics; patience and concentration; and most importantly of all, understanding the consequences of your actions and thinking ahead. In chess you’re always thinking two, three, four moves ahead, planning out your future and seeing all possible options. Chess teaches you to think before you move, and in life, that translates into thinking before you act.



CD: Deciding is committing to one out of several options. In a perfect world, this process relies on an exhaustive rational deliberation to determine which of all options maximizes a given goal. But Instead, the majority of our human decisions rely on heuristics, “fast and frugal” solutions fuelled by “gut feelings” and intuitions. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?



[Audio Clip]

Eugene Brown: Chess is a game of three stages: there’s an opening, there’s a middle, and there’s an end game. He said that the best players see their end game while they’re in the opening. He said the same thing about kids that see their end game while they’re in their young age. Some kids already know they’re going to take over their parent’s business at an early age. You very seldom see those kids get off track. He said, what you need to understand is that chess is a game that can’t be lost – you don’t win or lose at chess, all you do is learn lessons or you teach lessons.



CD: Whatever your situation when faced with a decision, choose the path that

improves your situation. Your choice doesn’t have to solve your problem or take you to the promised land. Just improve your position and you’ll find yourself a little closer to where you ultimately want to be.



CD: After reviewing all possible moves, I usually try to narrow the selection down to 2 or 3 realistic possibilities. By comparing these moves and the process of elimination, I will go with the move that is the most naturally aggressive and fits in line with my long-term strategic goals.



[Audio Clip]

Garry Kasparov: I think that before we actually make any selection and try to create our unique recipe, we should learn how to trust our gut, intuition. Because in most of the stories I looked at, and in most of the quotes I collected, I didn’t see people picking up intuition as a crucial element of success. While, in my profession in chess, intuition is virtually everything. Because chess, some people don’t recognise, is a mathematically infinite game. The number of moves in the game of chess contains one hundred and twenty zeroes, which is more than the number of seconds since the moment the Big Bang created the universe. So, how can you find your way in this ocean of possibilities? And, of course, how a man can fight a machine that can calculate tens of millions of positions per second? Intuition.



[Audio Clip]

Garry Kasparov: Your nature is your nature, whether you play chess, whether you do business, whether you have your family affairs or you’re in politics – you should understand that the moment you face challenges, most likely your reaction will be very much based on your nature. And that’s why you have to work it out and do the regular research of your own strength and weaknesses.



CD: The man you heard a couple of times here is called Garry Kasparov. He is considered the best chess player of all times. He is also a real change agent. He reached his top level at chess in the mid 80s in the Soviet Union where… let’s say he was not the favourite candidate of the state… he was a little bit hard to control for a soviet intellectual, and was perceived as the voice of independence.

The game of chess started to get politicised and his role as a political figure probably took shape when he won over his opponent Karpov in late ’85. Karpov was the State favourite because he incarnated all the values of the Soviet Union at the time.


CD: Fast forward…

Berlin wall falls, soviet system is crumbling. Things start to get dangerous & unstable, especially in Azerbaijan in his hometown Baku where it got seriously bloody. It’s at that time that  Garry and his family left the country and never came back, together with 200,000 Armenians.

[Fast forward]

1991 Soviet union collapses.

[Fast forward]

1996 Garry wins over Deep Blue – the IBM supercomputer.

[Fast forward]

1999 Vladimir  Putin is given the power by Boris Yeltsin who resigned under a lot of internal pressure.

This is when Garry Kasparov started taking things to the next level by opposing Putin publicly.


[Audio Clip]

Garry Kasparov: This regime is criminal, it is a police state. They arrest people everywhere because a scared state…[voices drown him out, violence].

CD: He’s been arrested a couple of times, took part in several protests,  went to prison as well. In 2007 he decided to run for Presidency as the candidate of the coalition called “The Other Russia”. He was forced to abandon because he could not even manage to get a hold of a meeting hall to hold a 500 people meeting – This ability to hold meetings was a pre-requirement mentioned by Russian law so he was forced to quit.

[Fast forward]

CD: 2012 he was arrested and beaten when attending the verdict of the punk band Pussy Riot – you may remember this. Since then he’s been writing a lot, speaking in opposition of the regime and some say he is next on Putin’s list.


CD: That’s for the big picture. There is tons of media online about Garry Kasparov if you are interested. The main point is… not only he is a smart man, but a brave man.

That’s all for today, think about your strategic decisions and how to improve them, learn how to play chess, beat your uncle – at chess I mean, and stay tuned! because we’ll be back soon with more green knowledge, inspiration and entertainment, keep up the good work in the meantime!


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