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Shelby Lyman on Chess: Football or Chess, Take your Pick

Hint and Explanation: Key Is a ‘Skewer’

On first consideration, it may seem counterintuitive to link both chess and football with success at Wall Street, but each trains people to make complex decisions under extreme pressure.

Top chess players have been successfully recruited for work in the financial arena, including brokerage, commodities, investment banking, hedge funds and international finance.

Notable examples are Ken Rogoff, a grandmaster who was chief economist for the International Monetary Fund and two-time U.S. champion Patrick Wolff, currently portfolio manager of Grandmaster Capital Management, a $230 million hedge fund.

Football, itself, is no slouch in such matters.

Football players “work extremely well in trading environments because, one, it’s almost like playing a game,” said Ron Mitchell, CEO of Careercore in a 2011 interview at Bloomberg.com. “There’s a winner and a loser and you have to be able to recover from losses.”

Notables who straddled football and finance include West Point’s Heisman winner Pete Dawkins, who retired from the military as a brigadier general to become vice chairman of Citigroup Private Bank, and Henry Paulsen, a former Dartmouth college football player and U.S. Treasury secretary.

John Shaffer, a former Penn State quarterback and head of junk bond sales at Goldman Sachs, heralds the connection: “This business humbles everyone that’s been in it, as do the trials and tribulations you have on the athletic field.”

Below is a win by Alexander Grischuk against Ivan Popov from the Championship of Moscow, superfinal.

Grischuk Popov

1. e4 c5

2. Nf3 e6

3. b3 Nc6

4. Bb2 Nf6

5. e5 Nd5

6. Na3 a6

7. g3 Be7

8. Bg2 O-O

9. O-O b5

10. c4 Nc7

11. d4 cxd4

12. Nxd4 b4

13. Nxc6 dxc6

14. Nb1 Bb7

15. Nd2 a5

16. Ne4 Na6

17. Qh5 Kh8

18. Rad1 Qe8

19. Nf6 Bxf6

20. exf6 g6

21. Qxa5 Qc8

22. Qb6 Nb8

23. Qxb4 Rxa2

24. Be5 Ba8

25. Qc5 Re8

26. Qe7 Kg8

27. Bxb8 Qxb8

28. Rd7 Black resigns

Solution to Beginner’s Corner: 1. Nxd6ch! Kxd6 2. Qb4ch! (the skewer) Kc7 3. Qxf8.