The Negotiator Magazine

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Reader’s Review

by John D. Baker

Chess & The Art of Negotiation: Ancient Rules for Modern Combat

By Anatoly Karpov and Jean-François Phelizon with Bachar Kouatly
128 pp., Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Publishers, 2006.
Hardcover Edition, $34.95

Anatoly Karpov is the Russian chess master who won some 130 international chess tournaments and matches. His career in chess soared for over thirty years from 1970 when he became an international grand master through two world champion eras that stretched almost to the end of the century. Karpov was World Champion from 1975 to 1985 and again from 1993 to 1999. There is no question that Karpov is an expert in chess.

Jean-François Phelizon, his co-author, is a top executive of Saint-Goblain Corporation, a part of the multi-national French firm of Compagnie de Saint-Goblain that provides ceramics, glass, plasterboard and other high performance materials throughout the world. There is no question that he is an expert in negotiations.

The discussion is actually built upon a discussion between Karpov and Phelizon and as such requires a moderator to keep it focused and direct the conversation. Bachar Kouatly, Editor of European Chess magazine and also an international chess grandmaster, is the moderator.

I selected this book out of curiosity to see what relationships the men might find between chess and negotiation and in hopes that negotiation was not to be portrayed as either a game or a war. Certainly, in my view, the subtitle proclaiming the work as focusing on “ancient rules for modern combat” was far from comforting about what I feared might lie within the covers. It is also, fortunately, quite misleading.

I have read far too many books on negotiation as a game or a war. My tendency is to quickly examine them and leave others to report on them. This book, however, despite my first assumptions, should be of interest and value to the negotiator and, therefore, I bring it to your attention. Let me explain why.

Jean-François Phelizon, a well-known scholar of writings on ancient warfare as well as of negotiation, begins to clarify the premises of the work early in the book when he states “… the universe of negotiation is closer to the world of chess than of war” (p.7). This perspective established, Anatoly Karpov then states that “… chess is not a model for the military world, the business world, or the political world” (p.8).

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July 2007