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Warren Elliott versus Warren Buffett.

What George Soros, Zulus and Investment taught me about chess.



If you can use some Lateral Thinking for a minute and think of your Chess Opening repertoire like a Portfolio of stocks then you'll understand what George Soros, Zulu Warriors and Warren Buffett taught me about chess.


In the world of Investing, there are always many approaches and methods, each advocated by some as the "Way". Likewise in chess, players as different, in Philosophy, Style and temperament, as Petrosian was from Tal, were able to be world champions.

The first key, to Investment or Chess, is to know your goal. Only by knowing the target, and the time frame you have to operate in, can you select the best strategies to get there.

Learning many strategies is a great idea, initially, since you can then map out your path using the methods that feel right for you.

Warren Buffett has more in common with Warren Elliot than appearances may lead you to believe. Aside from the fact that they both get media attention and are considered among the best in their respective fields. They also both live in remote areas ( Omaha, Kingston, where's that ? ) and they both believe in Value Investing and use Research to be amazingly successful.

Warren Buffett learnt about stocks from Benjamin Graham, while Warren Elliot was guided in chess by Mark Holness. They all spotted value in areas that others overlooked.

Value Investing is based on the following approach:

1. Stick to what you understand.

2. Do your homework

3. Expect Above average returns

4. Buy cheap

5. Don't "churn" your portfolio

6. Keep an open Mind.

Warren Elliott may have used these very ideas to pick his winning "stocks" in the National Chess championships of Jamaica. Elliott was deeply prepared on both sides of the Sicilian Defence and he also studied top players Fischer and Topalov carefully.

Warren Elliot had a natural interest and flair for attack but also did intense home preparation. He knew mastery of his lines would allow him to "raid" both Gibbs and Shane Matthews, his main rivals ( and both value investors who had already invested heavily in the Sicilian ), and he had recent researched material, from the leading proponent of the line, correspondence champion, Sanakoev, easily (cheaply) available. He kept an open mind though and also worked on the Trompovsky Attack.

Another powerful strategy is the Growth Investing approach. Here you find lesser known players to study and somewhat offbeat opening lines to master. Just as a growth investor, on Wall Street, would choose New industries and niche markets, to take risks in, knowing that the rewards can be extremely sweet.

Humphrey Gayle's success, with the Stonewall Attack and his study of players like Pillsbury and Sultan Khan, would be one example of this approach to chess. It should be noted that these methods may overlap at times. For instance Gayle, as Black, religously plays the Kalashnikov variation, in the Sicilian but recently fashion has changed and top players are beginning to play the ( closely related ) Sveshnikov system so much that this "growth stock" is becoming recognised as "blue chip". The Sveshnikov is now attracting Value Investors like Elliott.

In the continual hunt for a surprise edge Growth Investing can also become like Speculation.

The speculative approach is personified by George Soros. This approach requires very deep understanding of market philosophy, risk taking and precise timing. Soros' view is that markets are never effecient and he capitalises on this by using his awareness of "reflexivity". Likewise the Speculative opening specialist sees chess as a game of mistakes and uses the psychological tendencies of the opponent to his continual advantage.

In the final analysis, it's important to find the method that works for you and apply what you understand, and feel comfortable with, consistently.

Jim Slater, made the epic Fischer versus Spassky chess match possible and is also an investment guru. In 1972, he doubled the Fischer-Spassky prize money and subsequently offered prizes for the first five British Grandmasters. At the time, there were no British GMs now there are over twenty. Slater's concept "The Zulu Principle" is worth noting.

Here he explains the origin of the phrase; " This was the name of my first book on investment, taken from an idea I had after observing my wife read a four-page article in Reader's Digest on the subject of Zulus. As a result, within a few minutes she knew more than I did about Zulus and it occurred to me that, if she had then borrowed all the available books on Zulus from the local library, she would have become the leading expert in Surrey. If she had subsequently been invited to stay on a Zulu kraal (by an unsuspecting chief) and read about the history of Zulus at Johannesburg University for another six months, she would have become one of the leading experts in the world."

Jim Slater continues, " The key point is that my wife would have applied a disproportionate effort to becoming relatively expert in a very narrow subject. She would have used a laser beam rather than a scattergun and her intellectual and other resources would, in that narrow context, have been used to maximum advantage. So it is with investment - concentrate on an approach, such as buying growth shares or asset situations, or concentrate on a particular sector. That way, you will become relatively expert in your chosen area. It is only necessary to be six inches taller than the other people in a room to see above everyone's heads.

Applying The Zulu Principle helps you grow those extra six inches."

Another point, being made by Slater, is that if you focus on studying the wrong things it won't be profitable. This is definately true in Chess also. So choose your "Way", your path to success. Remain open minded and interested, put in the time for research and you have every chance of being a Richer and stronger chess player.



Written and copyrighted 2004

by Mark J. B. Bowen.

Visit these sites for more info :


Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett will never lose to computers like Kasparov

Articles by Sanakoev

Assegai Investment Club

The Warren Buffett you don't know

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