Business Insider: 24 executives who are exceptional at chess

7/2/2012 – Games like bridge, poker, and chess all use methods that can be incorporated into the way you view and make business decisions. Chess in particular requires strategic decision-making, concentration, tactics, and evaluation. The US business/entertainment news website Business Insider lists chess masters and amateurs who moved on to successful financial careers.

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24 executives who are exceptional at chess

Bob Rice, author of Three Moves Ahead: What Chess Can Teach You About Business, wrote: "The more you look at the business world, the more you see that successful companies and the people who run them use chess strategies routinely (whether they know it or not)."

While many chess masters play the game full time, we tracked some exceptional players who also excelled in business. Let us know who we missed and we'll add them too.

  • Jared Hecht, rating 1622, Co-founder of GroupMe, whose chess career peaked at the age of 13 ("all things considered, that was probably a good thing).

  • Andrei Filatov, rating 1698, Co-owner, N-Trans Group, doesn't play chess much these days, but makes sure his young daughters get tutored on the game. "In my youth, it was my life," he said.

  • Seth Bannon, rating 1772, Founder & CEO of Amicus, where if you get hired you'll get a full year's supply of Counter Culture Coffee, an iPad 2, and a cow.

  • Rex Sinquefield, rating 1944, Co-founder, Dimensional Fund Advisors, Author. When Bobby Fischer died in 2008, Sinquefield purchased his auctioned chess collection, which included floppy disks, periodicals, and manuscript notebooks.

  • Victoria Livschitz, rating 1966, Founder, CEO, Grid Dynamics. Before starting the company she and her husband opened up a chess academy to teach students the art of the game.

  • Joe Lonsdale, rating 2000, Co-founder, Palantir Technologies and Addepar, an an executive who was a "key player in growing Clarium into a five billion AUM world-class global macro hedge fund."

  • Josh Weinstein, rating 2128, Founder of YouAre.TV, a U.S. High School speed chess champion in 2004 who is friends with Silicon Valley legend and fellow chess master Peter Thiel.

  • Elina Groberman, rating 2134, Former Deutsche Bank trader, whose father taught her to play chess when she was six – and by the time she was 17 she was the U.S Women's co-champion.

  • Barney Pell, rating 2149, Co-Founder of Powerset; Founder of Moon Express, beat Peter Thiel, whom he plays frequently, at a match during a penthouse party. He admits that Thiel usually wins when there are fewer distractions.

  • Boaz Weinstein, rating 2168, Hedge fund manager who runs Saba Capital. Weinstein says that chess helps in trading, teaching him to focus on the important decisions and to accept risk. Recently he is rumored to be the main trader on the other side of a $2 billion loss for JPMorgan.

  • Alan Trefler, rating 2197, CEO, Pegasystems, believes the game of chess can be incorporated into the way people do business. "You always need to step back and look at the actual position and make sure you're not missing a counter strategy and make sure you haven't fallen in love with the direction you've chosen."

  • Peter Thiel, rating 2199, Hedge Fund Manager, Venture Capitalist, Co-Founder of PayPal, was a US-rated Chess Master and one of the highest ranked under-21 players in the country. Thiel lectures at Stanford University and integrates chess concepts into his lessons.

  • James Altucher, rating 2204, Hedge Fund Manager, Blogger, who studied chess ten hours a day to become a grandmaster, which just didn't happen. "I was playing three, four hours a day. I would go into the city to play, because that's where all the strong competition was."

  • Anna Hahn, rating 2235, Trader, D.E Shaw & Co. graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in finance and computer science and worked at Goldman Sachs as a programmer before becoming a senior trader at D.E Shaw & Co, according to ChessBase.com.

  • James Sherwin, rating 2246, Director and advisor to Hunter Douglas, who in 1988 was investigated for stock manipulation, in a case that was eventually dismissed with prejudice. He lives in the UK where he plays a lot of chess.

  • Matthew Herman, rating 2394, Hedge Fund Manager, had a rating of 1900 at the age of 12. At age 18, he took a job at Goldman Sachs. Currently he is working at a hedge fund and continues to play competitive chess.

  • Anna Gulko, rating 2397, Research Analyst, Invesco, was one of many chess masters to join Banker's Trust. She and her husband, GM Boris, founded the Gulko Chess Academy.

  • Duncan Suttles, rating 2420, President, Magnetar Games, a chess grandmaster who went into software development. "I quit chess because I felt I had developed a satisfactory strategic understanding of the game and whatever improvement remained was in technique. This would require a lot of effort for minimal returns."

  • Vivek Rao, rating 2435, Former quantitative financial analyst, who by 16 he was the highest rated junior player in the country, known for his obsession with theory. He got a job a on Wall Street and considered this job "pleasant mix of investing, math and computer programming."

  • Norman Weinstein, rating 2450, Former Trader, was the first chess wiz hired by Banker's Trust in the early 1990s. He was so successful that they kicked off a recruitment program for other strong chess players, which brought in David Norwood, Max Dlugy, Anna Gulko and more.

  • David Norwood, rating 2494, Former trader, joined Banker's Trust in 1991 after they began recruiting top chess players. "Out of the blue, I got contacted. I had no idea what trading was.” He retired as a millionaire four years ago at the age of 40.

  • Pascal Charbonneau, rating 2517, Analyst at Alpine Associates, a Canadian national champ in 2002 and 2004, who started working on Wall Street straight out of college in 2006.

  • Ken Rogoff, rating 2505, Professor of Economics, Harvard University, was a U.S. master at the age of 14. He missed out on most of his last two years of high school to play in tournaments across Europe and lived off of his prize winnings.

  • Max Dlugy, rating 2518, Manager, Diversified Property Fund; Co-founder, International Chess Management Inc., dipped into the business world when he replied to an ad posted by Banker's Trust requesting chess players. He worked on their foreign exchange spot desk and later started his own hedge fund.

  • Michael Wilder, rating 2540, Partner at McDermott Will & Emery, winner of the US championsip in 1988, today a partner at McDermott Will & Emery specializing in "tax issues arising from corporate transactions involving US and foreign entities."

  • Patrick Wolff, rating 2564, Director of Grandmaster Capital, was the US chess champion in 1992 and 1995. In 2005, he was hired by Peter Thiel as an analyst. Wolff later started his own hedge fund, Grandmaster Capital, with $50 million under management, much of it coming from Thiel.

  • Bonus: Look who else plays chess! Famous chess buffs include Bill Gates, George Soros, Carl Icahn, Pierre Omidyar, Michael Birch, A.G. Lafley, Jim Slater, Douglas Hirsch and Auren Hoffman. Bob Rich of Tangent Capital authored a book on chess and business and created the Wall Street Chess Club. One of the best players in the country, 20-year-old Robert Hess, interned at Fortress Investment Group and is considering going to the Street. "Let us know who we missed!" says Business Insider.

  • Read the full Business Insider article with pictures


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