The passion of chess

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During his second year of study at Graz, Tesla developed a passion for (and became very proficient at) billiards, chess and card-playing, sometimes spending more than 48 hours in a stretch at a gaming table.

Tesla graduated from the Serbian equivalent of a four-year high school program in just three years. Then, at the age of 17, he exposed himself to cholera. Why would a genius intentionally expose himself to a deadly disease? Tesla was simply avoiding required military service, so that he could continue his studies. Though Tesla had largely recovered when the military doctor arrived to examine him, he managed to appear weak enough to receive a certificate of disability. This “critical illness” allowed him to secretly return to his studies after a year of rest (during which Tesla reportedly read novels, learned to play billiards with his father, and meticulously memorized the majority of the contents of his local library).

At the Polytechnic Institute in Graz, Austria, and at Prague University, Tesla continued his quest for knowledge and conclusively proved himself a nerd. He regularly woke at 3:00 am to work on his most difficult homework problems (after sleeping only four hours). During the first year of college, Tesla passed nine subject exams when most students only took five subjects. A letter from the dean of Prague University to Tesla’s parents declared that, “Your son is a star of the first magnitude.” In his free time, Tesla organized the first intercollegiate activity in which a team from one university would challenge a team from another university: chess.

 

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