a guest blog by Anthony Modena

Chief Executive Officer, Modena Design Centres 


Many years ago, when I was introduced to the game of chess, I was given a small book that taught a strategy for winning at chess. I have long ago lost the book and no longer remember the author. However, I became a keen chess player because of this simple book. My thanks and acknowledgement to the author for sharing the simple, yet enduring, rule of thumb.

The strategy was so simple that it could be adapted to virtually any competitive situation. I have since regularly adopted and used the framework in many other areas of my career since those heady school days.

Controlling Force, Space, and Time – The Winning Strategy 

The strategy is based on the premise that if you control at least two of three factors (Force, Space and Time) you have a good chance of success, even if the opponent has a significant hold on the third factor.


This factor is founded on your skills and the resources available. To command control of this factor you need to be better in your knowledge of the resources available to you than your opponent. This may be equated to being bigger, stronger, or faster, or having greater numbers, but also to be more able or skilled in the use of these resources.

In chess if you manage to have dominance of two Knights to one, you have an advantage. But if the opponent is more adept at using his one Knight, he could still dominate your play. The Queen is the most powerful piece and needs to be used well. If you are able to capture your opponent’s Queen, the chances of winning the game are significantly enhanced.

Another example is found in sport. If the Red Sox have the all the best players in the Major League Baseball, they have a good chance of success. However, if one or two of the best are not performing at their peak, an opponent with equally skilled players may be able to counter this factor.

The First and Second World Wars have many examples where a predominance of Force was used by the Axis Armies and they were able to dominate in the beginning. The Allies were ultimately able to win these wars because of their ability to be overwhelmingly dominant, among other things, in the forces and equipment that they were able to deploy.

In business, the Blackberry device initially captured a significant portion of the market due to the use of the Qwerty Keyboard on their mobile devices. Other products battled to compete against this initial dominance and surpassed Blackberry due to more strategic uses of new technologies and innovations.


This factor is controlled by holding, or at least controlling, most of the space in which you are operating.

The chess board is an easy example of how holding the centre spaces on the board allows one to dominate the game.

During the 2018 FIFA World Cup, teams that were able to play in their opponent’s half were more likely to score goals and win. This is also evident in Rugby Union where the “All Blacks” are very good at ensuring that they play more than 70% of the game in their opponent’s half of the field.

In the First and Second World Wars, while Axis forces initially managed to control much of the territory on both fronts, the Allies were able to gain control of the seas and skies. The Allies control of these two areas led to their success in both the European and Asian theatres. Regaining territory was only a matter of moving to gain control of Time and Force!

Blackberry and Nokia initially managed to capture much of the mobile device market. However, since Apple has turned the tide and captured much of that market share, Apple has owned the space. Despite inroads from newer competitive devices, Apple has been successfully maintained hold and control over market share.

An interesting and perhaps related thought – once the “mind” space of a user has been obtained, it is often very difficult to convince the user to purchase another device or use a competitive product.


First movers usually have a very good advantage. Probably the most important factor for maintaining dominance, control of “Time” has a major influence on winning or losing.

The chess player who can force his opponent to move a piece back or to move another piece into a blocking position has gained time on his opponent. Due to the fact that the opponent was forced to respond to the first player’s game, the opponent is unable to implement his own plan. The opponent will, from there on, be constantly reconsidering his plan and defending against the first player’s moves. The only way for the opponent to win, from that point onwards, would be for the first player to make an error

If we again consider the 2018 FIFA World Cup, it was clear that once a team had scored, the closer it came to the end of game time without score, the less likely it was for the opponent to win. The teams who were able to keep control of the ball, and keep it away from their opponents, controlled time. The team with the control of the ball (or who are able to force the opponent to lose control of the ball most) were most likely to win. This also applies to Rugby Union football and most other ball games.

During the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon managed to dominate the first day of the battle, where he drove the British forward pickets back and decisively defeated the Prussian forces under Blucher at Ligny. Napoleon also dominated for a good portion of the second day. The delay that Wellington was then able to impose on Napoleon was enough to allow the Prussian troops to return to the battlefield. The Prussians were able to then intervene, drive off the final French assaults, and help Wellington in his famous victory against Napoleon.

Microsoft is another example of a company who gained dominance early. Having acquired this position, Microsoft has been maintaining its position in the market through adoption and then continual improvement on new technologies. Many of the products developed alongside Microsoft in the 1980’s are now gone or are hardly heard of anymore.

An alternate example of early, innovative thought that ensured business success is from the late Dr. W. Edwards Deming. He is acknowledged for his work in quality control, despite many companies not thinking much of his ideas at first. The companies who were first to implement these practices, particularly in Japan, have become leaders in their industries or markets. The chance for followers to catch up was automatically limited by their late implementation of quality control practices.

The Winning Strategy

A prime example of the practical and extraordinary success achieved by the efficient use of the factors of Force, Space and Time in unison can be seen in some Special Forces Operations. Recent wars have a number of case studies where successful operations by relatively small teams can be attributed to having command and control of at least two of the factors.

There is much science, knowledge and very detailed practice in the various fields of human endeavor. Also, there are many ways to ensure success in our endeavors and many very experienced people in their chosen fields. However, a simply articulated chess strategy has proved to be a valuable formula for success with cases in sports, history, business, and technology. Perhaps illuminating these three factors and their interaction will help someone, somewhere, to intentionally plan for the success of their next product marketing program or their next sales negotiation.

Author Riverbend

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