Former NFL offensive lineman John Urschel is an avid chess player and scholar

Football games are often compared to chess games, but for retired NFL offensive lineman John Urschel, the board game was more important than just a sports metaphor.

“Chess, with its dual emphasis on calculation and intuition, naturally appealed to me. I could spend hours thinking about a single position,” Urschel states in his biography, spirit and matter.

Born in Winnipeg, he played college football at Penn State before being drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2014. He played 40 games before deciding to cut short his NFL career to focus on college.

In his second year with the Ravens, he suffered a concussion. It eventually got him thinking about how football and brain damage could jeopardize his college career and his life.

Urschel, 30, has finally completed his doctorate in mathematics and is currently at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. He returned to Winnipeg in 2018 to give a lecture on “The Multiplicative Weights Algorithm”.

He once challenged US champion Fabiano Caruana to a match and held his own for the first few moves before quickly succumbing. For a time, Urschel had ambitions to become a national chess master, but he now focuses mainly on his academic pursuits.

Mads Andersen v Simen Agdestein, Helsingor, 2018
What does Black, a former professional footballer and chess grandmaster, play to win?

31. … Qf2 and White is checked or loses a rook.

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