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How Hobby and Career Intersect for a Global Chess Master

Wouldn’t it be nice to find one activity that would never become boring? Warren Harper, staff specialist product developer, BMC, has found his. Harper is an avid chess player and regularly competes in tournaments worldwide.

By winning titles both in the U.S. and internationally, Harper has established himself as a global chess master. He holds a U.S. Master Title and a Master Title from El Federation Internationale des Echecs (FIDE). “To become a chess master, you have to get a rating of at least 2,200 or above depending on your local chess federation,” says Harper. “FIDE has higher standards for its master title, and for that you have to get 2,300 to become a master under the federation.” Harper’s FIDE rating is 2,348, and his rating with the U.S. Chess Federation is 2,477—93rd overall in the U.S.

Chess has taken him all over the globe. “Chess definitely requires you to travel a lot, especially since it’s bigger in Europe than the U.S. I’ve been to Turkey, Moscow and all over the U.S. for chess events.”

Chess, Past and Present

Harper stumbled upon his interest in chess at an early age. “It just happened by chance,” he says. “I was 11 and I had a gift card to Best Buy. I loved PC games, but there wasn’t anything that looked interesting. I picked out something called ‘Chess Master 9000,’ partly out of desperation, but it turned out I really liked the game.” From that point on, chess became a regular part of Harper’s life.

Chess also plays a part in Harper’s professional life, equipping him with skills well suited to his career choice. “When you play chess, you’re forced to work under pressure, you learn from your failures and mistakes, you make educated guesses and you seek help from more experienced peers,” says Harper. “These kinds of skills translate directly into the workplace.” But, he notes, there are even more direct connections between chess and his career; “IBM itself has a lot of ties to chess with the development of Deep Blue, the chess engine that took down the world champion at the time.”

Getting Social

Harper also emphasized the social aspects of chess—something that might surprise most people. “Chess is actually a social game. We’re stereotyped as a bunch of nerds getting together at chess club, but it’s so much different than that,” says Harper. “You make friends really easily at chess tournaments, and people are always talking or hanging out in the hallways after the games.”

Creating new friendships is one of the most rewarding aspects of chess for Harper, but he truly appreciates how dynamic the game can be. “It just doesn’t get old. It’s fresh every single time you play a game.”