Wimbledon businessman misses out on London Chess Classic title but concedes it was ‘privilege’ to face grandmasters

He might have missed out on the Pro-Biz Cup title but after getting one over a Rugby World Cup winner Wimbledon’s Russell Picot admitted the 6th London Chess Classic would live long in his memory.

Picot, a chief accounting officer at HSBC, was one of eight amateur enthusiasts, including Rugby World Cup winning coach Sir Clive Woodward, who bid for the chance to play in this year’s Pro-Biz Cup at London’s Olympia on Tuesday.

Partnered with former world champion Vladimir Kramnik, Picot took on a man used to winning in Woodward first up but managed to get one over the former England coach.

Next up was American grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura and his partner Jeremy Hodgson, with 57-year-old Picot marching on to the final.

Lifting the title proved a step to far as English grandmaster Nigel Short and Rajko Vujatovic proved too strong, but there was no dampening Picot’s mood.

“It was a very intense final but it has been a wonderful occasion for both the amateurs and the professionals,” he said.

“It was lovely seeing Sir Clive Woodward and playing him in the first round – it’s a privilege for the amateur players to come and have the opportunity of playing with some of the world’s best grandmasters.

“It’s fantastic to be able to play alongside such an outstanding player like Vladimir and understand a little bit about how he thinks – the quality of his chess is just incredible.

“I’ve been playing chess since I was at primary school at the age of six or seven – it’s a fascinating game.

“Whatever level you play at, it’s very deep – even a super grandmaster like Vladimir says he is still enjoying his chess and finds it fascinating.”

Staged by registered charity Chess in Schools and Communities, the event not only plays host to the world’s best players in a six-player classical all-play-all format but also allows people from all walks of life to get to grips with the sport.

And Picot believes that the skills chess can nurture are ones that can help foster the next generation of businessmen and leaders.

“I think the skills needed for chess are definitely transferrable to business – the ability to concentrate and apply yourself,” he added.

“The degree of pressure we were playing under was very great and we had to make decisions in a limited amount of time, make good quality decisions and to be responsible and accountable.

“If you make a mistake it’s your mistake, so you better understand that’s what it is like.

“It gives you that ability to handle pressure, think logically and be very analytical are all very important and translate to the business world. Also that attention to detail and preparation reads across very strongly to the business world.”

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