“In chess, the little one can become the big one.”   

- from Queen of Katwe

Interesting how a photo can speak such volumes.  Typically, this one focuses on the king and queen.  The other players on the board are blurred, blocked, or otherwise not visible.  While I am not sure of the reason or the point of view of the photographer, the imagery speaks volumes.

In the Queen of Katwe, Fiona is little. Economically, socially, and in pretty much every other way you might imagine.  She becomes fascinated with the budding chess club in her shanty town of Katwe, Uganda.  A young girl who seems even more little than her, tells her:

“In chess, the little one can become the big one.”

Fiona’s story is the stuff of inspiration and unearthed glory.  This is one to gather the family for a viewing.  From the first quote in my initial viewing of the trailer, I was hooked.

One of my few remnants of a largely forgotten childhood is a plastic chess set that my dad and I used to frequent.  He was exhausted from a broken marriage, a struggling company, and a ridiculous work schedule.  A game of chess was one of the few things that would hold his attention well enough to keep him awake during our weekend visitations.  I am missing quite a few pieces now, but it is one of those things I can’t seem to discard.

Ironically, not only can the little one (pawn) become the big one (king), it plays a more crucial and active role in the game than the king ever could.  Don’t get me wrong, there is no game without the king, but it actually does very little to contribute to the game.

The pawns are the front line of defense.  They have limited movement, only one space or two and only in one direction.  But they can take down any other figure and when utilized well, often determine the outcome of the game.  They are the point of first engagement.

The rooks, bishops, knights, and queen are the talent.  They move in fancy hop-step-jump fashion, can slash completely across the board, or pretty much go wherever they want, in the case of the queen.  They garnish pretty much all of the attention of the game but would be completely lost without the pawns.

The king does nothing other than try to stay alive.  In fact, the entire game is built on every other player on the board either trying to take him down (opposing team) or keep him alive (his team).  And to make sure we don’t miss this crucial point, with no king, there is no game.  This is not an attempt to undermine the value of the king, but a desire to elevate the value of every other player on the board.

In the game of business, the king is crucial, but it is the pawns and other players that do the majority of the work and largely determine the outcome.  

It should raise the nobility of all of us.  We all exist and were created to serve a King.


  • How aware are you that every other player on your board is at the service of the king?  

  • Do you walk in the humility that being a good king requires?

  • Are you cognizant of how critical those front line pawns are in your organization?

  • Are you and the rest of the assumed “talent” clear on their roles and do you value the others on the board that are crucial to your success?