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Monday, December 1, 2014

Where Are They Now?

    Patrick Wolff, Michael Wilder and Stuart Rachels are all former United States champions who walked away from the game in order to establish stellar careers in other fields.


    GM Michael Wilder (born August 17, 1962) won the title in 1988 but then enrolled in law school at the University of Michigan, and his chess career was over. In an interview he stated he had neither the energy nor the motivation to keep his skills sharp. His USCF rating was 2601 while his FIDE rating was 2540. Plus, Wilder wanted to be a family man and that required money that was not avaiable as a chess player. These days Wilder is a partner at McDermott Will & Emery in Washington DC where he specializes in corporate tax issues. He is also an adjunct professor at Georgetown Law School and teaches a class on advanced international taxation.

GM Patrick Wolff was the champion in 1992 and again in 1995, when he tied for first. He was managing director of Clarium Capital, a hedge fund started by Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal. These days he is running Grandmaster Capital Management, a hedge-fund firm in San Francisco overseeing about $230 million. He lives in San Francisco. Wolff spent several years as a professional player. He had enrolled at Yale, but after being awarded a Samford Fellowship in 1989 — which is usually given to one top young chess player each year and comes with a $32,000 annual stipend for two years — he took time off to pursue chess full time. Wolff claimed he never intended to be a professional player, but it was fun for a couple of years. In 1992 he was hired to help Anand to prepare for his world championship match. It was his association with Anand that convinced him that while he was good, he would never reach Anand's level and the longer he continued to play chess, the harder it would become to pursue other options. Wisely, he went back to college, graduated from Harvard.

     Stuart Rachels (born September 26, 1969) is an international master and the son of philosopher James Rachels (1941–2003). He tied for first at the US championship in 1989. He is now a philosophy professor at the University of Alabama. He has not played competitively since 1993. Rachels quit when he entered grad school and while he still follows chess, he's happy not playing and says he enjoys a "nice life." Rachels has become an avid bridge player partly because it does not require as much study as chess which he has no desire to return to. His FIDE rating is 2485 and his USCF rating is 2605.
     I posted on GM James Tarjan, another loss to US chess, back in 2011.  Tarjan recently retired as a librarian and successfully returned to tournament play; hopefully he will continue to play for a long time to come.

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