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Friday, December 9, 2016

Peter Thiel, Chess Master...among other things

     I remember seeing the name Peter Thiel appearing in Chess Life years ago and remembered him as a promising young player, but then he seemed to have faded from prominence. 
     When his name popped up in the recent Presidential campaign I didn't make the connection until just recently. It turns out that although Thiel budded from a promising junior into a journeyman master, he has been a busy man heavily involved in many other things. 
     Born October 11, 1967 in Germany Peter Andreas Thiel is a German-American entrepreneur, hedge fund manager, venture capitalist, philanthropist, political activist, and author. Also, Thiel seems to have what many would call aberrant religious views. Thiel, who co-founded PayPal and was the first outside investor in Facebook, is primarily a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley. Often referred to as the "Don of the PayPal Mafia", Thiel was ranked No. 4 on the Forbes Midas List of 2014, with a net worth of $2.2 billion, and No. 246 on the Forbes 400 in 2016, with a net worth of $2.7 billion.
     Thiel was the son of a chemical engineer who moved his family to Cleveland, Ohio when Thiel was only a year old. His father then worked for various mining companies and for a while they lived in Africa and it is believed that it was during that time that Thiel developed some of his philosophies. One of his elementary schools in Africa required the wearing of uniforms and utilized corporal punishment such as whacking student's hands with a ruler for mistakes. This my have been the cause of his distaste for uniformity and regimentation. The family eventually settled in Foster City, California.
     He studied philosophy at Stanford University, graduating with a B.A. in 1989. He then went on to the Stanford Law School, and received his J.D. in 1992.  After graduation, he worked at various jobs before founding Thiel Capital Management in 1996. He then co-founded PayPal in 1998, and served as chief executive officer until its sale to eBay in 2002 for $1.5 billion. After eBay's acquisition of PayPal, he went on to found several other companies. 
     Thiel is gay, pro-marijuana and politically a libertarian who has supported vocally and financially the Republican John McCain and the Libertarian Ron Paul. In November 2016, he was named to the executive committee of President-elect Donald Trump's transition team and is also being considered to head the Food and Drug Administration under Mr. Trump. He has also contributed millions to various causes he believes in. 
     Sidebar...I saw John McCain give a speech in 2008...what stood out to me was that he had on a very nice suit! I don't know a lot about his politics, but I do admire the fact that he endured a great ordeal as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. I went to the speech just because I wanted to say I saw the Republican presidential nominee for the 2008 United States presidential election. When he began speaking, I left. While walking across a field to reach the parking lot and my car I got stopped by a Secret Service agent who wanted to know where I was going. When he found out I had actually been in the building, he immediately wanted know what door I came out of. After being briefly questioned further, I was allowed to proceed. Back to Thiel...
     Thiel is also a man who believes in the power of technology and is on a mission to change the world through technology.  He also wants to find a cure for death. Regarding death, he says, "You can accept it, you can deny it or you can fight it. I think our society is dominated by people who are into denial or acceptance, and I prefer to fight it." 
     Theil has poured millions of dollars into what he calls ‘the immortality project’. He says that he would like to live longer, and would like other people to live longer and as such, he has signed up with a company in the field of cryogenics to be deep-frozen at the time of his death. 
     He started playing chess at the age of 6 and in 1980 was ranked as the 7th-best U.S. player in the under-13 category with a rating of 1791. By the way, these days the top 13 year old in the U.S. is Awonder Liang, rated 2609 and the top 12 year old is Brandon Jacobson rated 2374; times have changed!  His other interests were reading of science fiction, playing Dungeons and Dragons and he was obsessed with Tolkien. In fact, two of his businesses are named after Tolkien references: Mithril and Palantir. 
     His current USCF rating, last published in 2005, stands at 2287 and he holds the titles of Original Life Master, National Master, Life Master with the USCF. His highest rating was 2342 in the early to mid-1990s. He has not played tournament chess in a number of years, but he did make an appearance at the recent World Championship match to make the ceremonial first move at the tiebreaker round.

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