Sunday 11 October 2009

Chess Players Run The World

Apologies for the long silence. I've still been here, beavering away at the magazine, website, Britbase, Gibraltar website, etc, but haven't felt very bloggish for a while.

But now I do. Occasionally I stumble on something interesting on the web about a chessplayer who has left the game, gone away - and is now quietly running the world. This familiar story goes back to the dawn of (chess) time and includes along the line the remarkable tale of the group of chessplayers who congregated at Bletchley Park and helped to shorten WW2 by means of their amazing code-cracking skills. Always remember that story when some non-chessplaying infidel challenges you with a question such as "what have chessplayers ever done for us?".

I came across a similar story whilst googling recently. Nick Patterson, born in London in 1947 of Irish parents, was a very strong chessplayer of the 1960s and early 1970s and was one of the formidable posse of strong players who made the Cambridge University Chess Club the strongest in the UK at that time. Had he carried on with chess he might well have rivalled the likes of Hartston and Keene for strength but he turned to the groves of academe.

In fact, during the past 35+ years Nick Patterson has migrated from one Cambridge to another - the one in Massachusetts in the USA. He says he is a "data guy". But this doesn't give any idea of the vast span of highly critical and significant areas in which he has worked - cryptography, high finance and the human genome. He has turned his data skills to all of these high-profile areas of research. I'm rapidly going out of my depth, so I'll pass you onto a link which I found from the New York Times. It is three years old but very interesting...

Nick Patterson interview in the New York Times