Meet a genuine chess billionaire

by Peter Zhdanov
5/31/2013 – Sergey Galitsky, 45, is a co-owner of a major Russian retail chain Magnit and president of FC Krasnodar. According to Forbes, as of 2013 his personal fortune was estimated at US $8.2 billion, making him the #138th richest person in the world. So why are we interested in his personality? Sergey is also a proficient chess player who can give 20-board simuls! Peter Zhdanov reports.

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Meet Chess Billionaire Sergey Galitsky

Galitsky stands out from the row of Russian tycoons. Not associated with oil export or other natural resources; not supported by the government in any way. Not a golden boy either: he served in the Soviet army for two years, holds a degree in economics, and still prefers to live in Krasnodar, while the prevailing majority of the Russian billionaires dwell in Moscow.

Sergey is widely cited to be the most successful self-made Russian businessman unassociated with redistributing the state property after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Being a hands-on boss, he believes that no manager can run a company as well as a qualified and dedicated owner. Nowadays Galitsky is fully focused on his duties at Magnit and at the football club Krasnodar. However, as a teenager he had another passion – chess.

A web search reveals that many businessmen like chess, but most of them are far from being good at the game. Similarly, there are a few examples of grandmasters, which have retired from chess and founded their own companies. Still, it looks like none of them are as successful in business as Sergey, who is both a strong chess player and a multi-billionaire.

Here is an excerpt of a conversation that took place in 2011 between Sergey Galitsky and a well-known Russian entrepreneur and TV host, Oleg Tinkov. An English transcript of an instructive part of the interview was earlier published at Pogonina.com.

Oleg Tinkov: Tell me, what about your schoolmates and kids from your yard? Why have you become an entrepreneur, while most of them haven’t. Why and where do you think this change happened?

Sergey Galitsky: A few things. I have been thinking about it a little from time to time. I didn't have any special talents. I don't know – I have been hanging out in the street and playing soccer. I was born near Sochi, and all we did was play soccer and snooker. How did I study – well, I guess I wouldn't call myself a great student. I think that in business, especially in the one I am in, logic is extremely important. If you develop this quality – logical thinking – this by itself will become a serious foundation for your future activities. Other qualities are also required – you must really love what you are doing, stay extremely focused. To motivate yourself every day... when you can't eat two breakfasts, but have earned enough... you need to find a way to motivate yourself. However, I believe that logic is the core.

Why am I talking about this? In grades 7-8 [he was about 14-15 years old at that time], when I was done with my soccer career, I have started studying – occasionally – chess. By the way, I did rather well. In two years I became a candidate master [this corresponds to about 2200 FIDE], champion of Sochi and so on – and I realized that I had started thinking differently. I suddenly felt that the school courses are of no use. Logic is a must-have not only for businessmen, but it was a very important foundation for my future. Modern education – I have a lot of concerns about it. It is basically based on pure cramming, which is a stupid thing to do in the twenty-first century. We are studying great amounts of information that can be found within two minutes on the Internet. Is this rational? Of course, basic knowledge in all areas is required. But courses that help people in the real life should also be introduced. I think that logic is something needed by everyone. Chess, by the way, is a very good game model of logic. It seems to me that logic became a stepping stone for all my future activities. 

While believing that a person should be fully focused on his primary occupation, Sergey nevertheless has introduced chess as an obligatory subject for all the kids who are training at the FC Krasnodar School. On May 23, 2013 Sergey personally faced 20 of the brightest young chess players of the school in a simultaneous exhibition! Here are a few pictures from the event:

A billionaire giving a 20-board simultaneous exhibition

The final score: 16.5-3.5 for the simultaneous master, playing against...

... students of the FC Krasnodar School, who had been studying chess for a year

And here is a great video of the simul:

Sergey himself clearly enjoyed playing and tweeted (translation from Russian):

I used to play chess pretty well, so I promised to give a simul to the students of my Academy. All of them have been studying chess for a year. Payback time now! I haven’t played for 25 years, so I’m afraid I will lose all the 20 games! :(((

It’s so awfully hard! 4 hours non-stop, my head is almost exploding. I won 17-3, but agreed to a draw in a winning position against a boy who played remarkably. Hence, the final score is 16.5-3.5.

Had I known how tough it is, I wouldn’t have tried to play on 20 boards. It is so difficult! In a year they will beat me.

There are already two players between 3rd and 2nd category (1600-1800 FIDE). Two of the kids defeated me. Should I expel them from the school? J))))

 



Peter Zhdanov is an IT project manager, expert and author of two books on parliamentary debate
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