Boaz Weinstein, now a star hedge fund manager of Saba Capital Management, a $4 billion hedge fund firm he founded, was trying to launch his career in finance by applying for a summer internship at Goldman Sachs back in 1991. As an 18-year-old, he was quickly turned down. But he reportedly stopped in the bathroom on the way out and ran into David F. Delucia, then head of corporate bond trading at Goldman, and a ranked expert chess player. Weinstein, a U.S. Chess Federation master, had played Delucia many times. Delucia arranged for a series of interviews which allegedly landed Weinstein his first job on the trading desk at Goldman.
It turns out having a proclivity towards chess or bridge or poker may have a connection with making good investment decisions. Peter Thiel, billionaire co-founder of PayPay and current head of Clarium Capital, is a chess master. Warren Buffet, chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, is an accomplished bridge player. And David Einhorn, head of Greenlight Capital and well known for his legendary bet against Lehman Brothers in 2008, finished fairly well in the 2006 World Series of Poker. Hedge fund manager D. E. Shaw Group lists among its employees a life master at bridge, a past “Jeopardy!” champion and Anna Hahn, the 2003 United States women’s chess champion.
So what is the link between game-playing prowess and investment success? “So many people in the investment world have bull-market mentalities. They do well when things are going well,” says David Norwood, a World Chess Federation grandmaster who moved into trading and investing. But in chess, Norwood says, you are constantly facing setbacks, and the people who become great players learn to overcome them.
Norwood was initially recruited by a Bankers Trust program that set out to target chess players a few years back. He was dumped onto a trading desk without much preparation and quit soon afterward. But a year later, thought again about finance, joined a British private bank, and later retired at age 40 as a multimillionaire.
It may be that people with the brainpower to reach a high national or international level in chess or bridge or other games, also have the analytical vigor to succeed in investing, as one expert points out.
What’s your take? Has playing any type of game (other than political) helped your hedge fund career? Add your comments below.