30 Executives Who Are Excellent At Chess

Patrick Wolff

Photo: Chessgames.com

Games like bridge, poker, and chess are great for business. These games all use methods that can can be incorporated into the way you view and make business decisions. Chess in particular requires strategic decision-making, concentration, tactics, and evaluation.

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

Title: Co-founder of GroupMe

Hecht was a national chess champion in sixth grade. And then he moved on. He writes on his blog:

By the time I retired I had played against Hikaru Nakamura, hustled the hustlers in Washington Square Park, met most of my chess idols, and fulfilled my chess dreams. My chess career peaked at the age of 13. All things considered, that was probably a good thing.

He founded the mobile group messaging app GroupMe in 2010 in New York.

Andrei Filatov

Rating: 1698

Title: Co-owner, N-Trans Group

Filatov's interest in the transportation business began at a chess tournament, he said in a Chessvibes interview:

In my youth I was planning to become a chess arbiter. I entered the Minsk Institute of Physical Culture. But then perestroika happened and my scholarship shrank to $3 overnight. There was an international tournament in Katowice, Poland. I went there with my chess set, analyses, and books, only to discover that my older and more experienced mates were bringing coffee grinders, cameras and fans… It turned out to be good business: buy for roubles and sell in Poland for dollars. The result was a good addition to the stipend. You might say that is how it all started.

Though he doesn't play chess much these days, he makes sure his young daughters get tutored on the game. 'In my youth, it was my life,' he said.

Seth Bannon

Rating: 1772

Title: Founder & CEO, Amicus

This entrepreneur is a former Harvard University student and was involved in the Harvard chess club. His first business was seling chess equipment on eBay while in high school. If you or someone you refer gets hired at Amicus, you'll get a full year's supply of Counter Culture Coffee, an iPad 2, and a cow.

Danielle Rice

Rating: 1781

Title: Senior Managing Consultant at IBM's Healthcare Practice

Rice has over 18 years of consulting experience and believes chess has a strong influence on business strategy and work life. 'Chess develops one's discipline for critical thinking, analysing ones plans targeted to results, and most importantly it teaches patience and the need to learn how to handle (and come back from) defeats gracefully,' she tells us via email.

Rex Sinquefield

Rating: 1944

Title: Co-founder, Dimensional Fund Advisors, Author

Sinquefield studies chess with two-time U.S. women's champion, Jennifer Shahade. When Bobby Fischer died in 2008, Sinquefield purchased his auctioned chess collection, which included floppy disks, periodicals, and manuscript notebooks. 'I am thrilled to have this collection from arguably the greatest chess player in history,' he said in a press release.

Victoria Livschitz

Rating: 1966

Title: Founder, CEO, Grid Dynamics

Livschitz started playing the game when she was six and married a fellow competitor she met at a chess tournament in Bulgaria, according to the NYT. Before starting Grid Dynamics, she and her husband opened up a chess academy to teach students the art of the game.

Joe Lonsdale

Rating: 2000

Title: Co-founder, Palantir Technologies and Addepar

In addition to Palantir and Addepar, Lonsdale is a partner at Formation 8, which specialises in growth-stage venture investing. According to the Addepar website, this former Clarium Capital executive was a 'key player in growing Clarium into a 5 billion AUM world-class global macro hedge fund.'

Josh Weinstein

Rating: 2128

Title: Founder of YouAre.TV

A U.S. High School speed chess champion in 2004, Weinstein went on to found YouAre.TV and a few other startups.

He is friends with Silicon Valley legend and fellow chess master Peter Thiel.

Elina Groberman

Rating: 2134

Title: Former Deutsche Bank trader

Groberman's father taught her to play chess when she was 6, and by the time she was 17 she was the U.S Women's co-champion. 'My ambitions are very simple--to play as well as I can and enjoy as much as I can,' she told the MIT student newspaper, Tech Talk.

Later, Groberman was recruited by Boaz Weinstein at Deutsche Bank.

Boaz Weinstein

Rating: 2168

Title: Hedge fund manager

After an unsuccessful interview at Goldman Sachs in 1991, Weinstein ran into someone he knew in the bathroom: David Delucia, a chess expert who happened to be the head of corporate bond trading. Delucia helped Weinstein get an interview, according to the NYT. 20 years later, Weinstein runs Saba Capital.

Weinstein told the Times that chess helps in trading, teaching him to focus on the important decisions and to accept risk.

Recently Weinstein is rumoured to be the main trader on the other side of a $2 billion loss for JPMorgan.

Alan Trefler

Rating: 2197

Title: CEO, Pegasystems

Trefler's father taught him to play chess, and he was beating his teacher by the time he was 11. He believes the game of chess can be incorporated into the way people do business. 'The board is the board. And 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,' he told Forbes.

Peter Thiel

Rating: 2199

Title: Hedge Fund Manager, Venture Capitalist, Co-Founder of PayPal

Thiel 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

Title: Hedge Fund Manager, Blogger

Altucher studied chess 10 hours a day to become a Grandmaster, but it just didn't happen. When he was 17, he threw all the pieces of the floor because he lost a match. After 17, he took the game more seriously. '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.'

Jon Crumiller

Rating: 2205

Title: Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Princeton Consultants Inc

This USCF National Master has teamed up with Kasparov and played against Magnus Carlsen. He's also one of the top chess collectors on the planet.

Anna Hahn

Rating: 2235

Title: Trader, D.E Shaw & Co.

When Hahn was seven, her grandfather began taking her to the local chess club. By the time she was 19, she had won the title of Women International Master.

She 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

Title: Director and advisor to Hunter Douglas

Sherwin became an International Chess Master in 1958.

At the same time he was active in the corporate world, serving over a long career as CFO of GAF Corporation, Triangle Industries and Hunter Douglas. In 1988 he 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.

Anjelina Belakovskaia

Rating: 2263

Title: Professor, Advanced risk management at University Of Arizona

This 3-Time US Women's Chess Champion earned the Woman Grandmaster Title at 21 years old. Trying to prove that chess skills are applicable to areas other than chess, she graduated from New York University with Masters Degree in Financial Mathematics and became a Weather Derivatives trader and Head of the Weather Desk for Williams Energy. In 2011, Belakovskaia accepted position at the University of Arizona.

Matthew Herman

Rating: 2394

Title: Hedge Fund Manager

Herman started competing in chess when he was 9, according to the NYT. By 12 he had a rating of 1900. By 15 he had graduated from the State University at Albany and by 17 he had a masters degree in maths from Brown. 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

Title: Research Analyst, Invesco

Gulko is an International Chess Master who was a member of the U.S. chess team for several years. In 1990, she was one of many chess masters to join Banker's Trust. She and her husband, Boris (also an International Chess Master) founded the Gulko Chess Academy.

Duncan Suttles

Rating: 2420

Title: President, Magnetar Games

Suttles was a chess grandmaster who went into software development.

When asked why he retired from chess, he responded, 'I became involved in stocks and in computer programming. I quit 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

Title: Former quantitative financial analyst

A friend taught Rao how to play chess when he was 7. By 16 he was the highest rated junior player in the country. A straight-A student, the teenager owned 120 chess books and was known for his obsession with theory.

Then he got a job a on Wall Street as a quant at a derivatives firm (we haven't been able to determine which one). Rao considered this job 'pleasant mix of investing, maths and computer programming,' according to Chess Life magazine.

Now around 36 years old, Rao lives in Winchester, Mass.

Norman Weinstein

Rating: 2450

Title: Former Trader

Weinstein 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, according to the NYT.

David Norwood

Rating: 2494

Title: Former trader

This Andorra native was awarded the International Master title in 1985.

In 1991, Norwood joined Banker's Trust after they began recruiting top chess players. 'Out of the blue, I got contacted by Bankers Trust who said, 'You would really make a good trader,'' Norwood told the New York Times. 'I had no idea what trading was.

Pascal Charbonneau

Rating: 2517

Title: Analyst at Alpine Associates (According to a tip we received after this article was posted)

A Canadian national champ in 2002 and 2004, Charbonneau started working on Wall Street straight out of college in 2006.

Ken Rogoff

Rating: 2505

Title: Professor of Economics, Harvard University

Rogoff was taught to play chess when he was six by his father. By age 14, he was a U.S. master. 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.

Chess prodigy Bobby Fischer once wrote about Rogoff in Boys' Life magazine after watching him play: 'What I liked best about Ken--who won the championship--was his self-assured style and knowing exactly what he wanted over the chess board.'

Max Dlugy

Rating: 2518

Title: Manager, Diversified Property Fund; Co-founder, International Chess Management Inc.

This Moscow native won the Grandmaster title in Dubai when he was 20. According to his website, he become the youngest president in United States Chess Federation history at 23.

Dlugy 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

Title: Partner at McDermott Will & Emery

Within a year of winning the United States chess championship in 1988, Wilder had already moved on, enrolling in law school at the University of Michigan.

Today he is a partner at McDermott Will & Emery specializing in 'tax issues arising from corporate transactions involving U.S. and foreign entities, such as mergers, spin-offs, liquidations, bankruptcy and insolvency matters as well as restructurings within consolidated and multinational groups.'

Patrick Wolff

Rating: 2564

Title: Director of Grandmaster Capital

Wolf was the United States chess champion in 1992 and 1995.

In 2005, he was hired by Peter Thiel as an analyst at Clarium Capital, where he would become a managing director. Wolff later started his own hedge fund, Grandmaster Capital, with $50 million under management, much of it coming from Thiel, according to the NYT.

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!

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