Ilya Somin reflects on the compromise between broad interests and specialization. Somin quotes Magnus Carlsen, the youngest chess player to be ranked number one in the world. Carlsen:

Of course it is important for a chess player to be able to concentrate well, but being too intelligent can also be a burden. It can get in your way. I am convinced that the reason the Englishman John Nunn never became world champion is that he is too clever for that...At the age of 15, Nunn started studying mathematics in Oxford; he was the youngest student in the last 500 years, and at 23 he did a PhD in algebraic topology. He has so incredibly much in his head. Simply too much. His enormous powers of understanding and his constant thirst for knowledge distracted him from chess.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to