We’ve called Ken Rogoff one of the most dangerous economists in the world, because his views on sovereign debt have been used by politicians to push all kinds of misguided, premature austerity projects around the world, but after reading this profile of him in the FT, we find it really hard to have anything against him.
That’s because it delves into something quite near and dear to us: chess.
Rogoff, it turns out, achieved grandmaster level at an early age, and even moved to Sarajevo, since Yugoslavia at the time was such a chess powerhouse (#2 after the Soviet Union).
Ultimately, though, he decided to give up chess in favour of economics.
I ask whether it was hard to switch from chess to economics? Rogoff confirms that it was. He says chess people find it difficult to move on, because the game is so addictive. But at graduate school he became convinced that dividing his attention meant that both his chess and his economics were suffering. He had to make a decision. Once he had chosen economics, he had to deal with his chess compulsion. “Being very good at anything involves being somewhat addicted – so part of my strategy of moving on was to give it up completely. I don’t play chess casually … Not unless it’s incredibly rude to decline playing.”
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