Billionaire Richard Branson: chess is best

by Albert Silver
2/17/2015 – The idea of a self-made billionaire always fascinates not just because of the fabulous wealth that implies, but how they achieved it. Among the most fascinating is unquestionably Richard Branson, with businesses ranging from records, airlines, to even space travel. In his personal blog he says "chess may just be the best game in the world." and that he has played thousands of chess games.

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Richard Branson is one of the most interesting self-made fortunes, having dipped his feet into the wells of many businesses, not only with great success, but in an incredibly wide-range of interests. The name of his business group, most closely connected to his name, the Virgin Group, first came into existence via a the small record label, Virgin Records, he founded in 1972. With its first release, Mike Oldfield’s legendary Tubular Bells in 1973, it was an overnight success.

In 1978, he bought Necker Island, one of the British Virgin Islands, initially offered for sale for $6 million
dollars, but that he counter-offered …. $100 thousand, and eventually bought for $180 thousand with a
few conditions. He describes the story in his blog and how he fell in love with his wife.

Branson’s interests were hardly limited to being a recording giant, and he also launched the famous Virgin Megastores, so popular in the 80s and 90s, as well as the (initially) small airline Virgin Atlantic Airways in 1984, which even caused British Airlines to sweat.


Not content to stick with the classical lines of business, in 2004 he founded Virgin Galactic, a U.S. commercial
spaceflight company that is developing commercial spacecraft and aims to provide suborbital spaceflights to
space tourists, suborbital launches for space science missions, and orbital launches of small satellites.

In that giant mix of business interests that would require 52-hour days for most normal people, he also enjoys kitesurfing, tennis, and breaking world records such as crossing the Atlantic by boat in the record-breaking time of three days, eight hours and 31 minutes, in 1986.

He is also a massive chess fan, who has clocked in thousands of chess games per his own words, and of which he says “I think chess may just be the best game in the world.” In a blog entry at his site, he dedicated a post to it, with many pictures, called “What is the Best Game in the World?”

What is the best game in the world?

By Richard Branson

(Editor's note: this was published shortly before the 2014 World Cup started)

With the World Cup just days away, people around the globe are reaching fever pitch for the historic sporting event in Brazil. But before the big kick-off, I wanted to put forward another candidate for best game in the world.

While my favourite sport is kitesurfing, closely followed by tennis, I think chess may just be the best game in the world. It combines the greatest aspects of many different sports – tactics, planning, bravery and risk-taking – plus you can have a cup of tea and often a stimulating conversation while you play!

I play a lot of chess myself and must have competed in thousands of games in my lifetime. Every game is different, and every player has their own strategies that make for a unique contest. I’ve found lots of entrepreneurs, in particular, are always keen for a game. 

Perhaps it’s the need to take calculated chances to succeed that appeals – as well as the
necessity of learning quickly from mistakes.

The game is believed to have originated in India around 1500 years ago; I often wonder who the genius was who invented chess. One of the most talented chess players of all time is Garry Kasparov, who became the youngest World Chess Champion aged 22 and famously took on the supercomputer Deep Blue. I was hoping some of his talent may rub off on me when we met and shook hands last year! As well as running his non-profit foundation to promote the benefits of chess in education, Garry is currently campaigning for the Presidency of the International Chess Federation, with a focus on the educational benefits of chess for kids and adults. It makes perfect sense for chess to be taught to young people, especially as the game is a great fit for mobile and remote learning.  It would be wonderful if everyone in the world could enjoy the competition and sense of achievement chess can provide.

All photos by Richard Branson

To read more be sure to check out Richard Branson's blog

Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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