Chess is a brilliant game for one powerful reason- there are no outcomes that can be achieved through compromises. Instead, the endgames are overwhelmingly non-negotiable. Pause now for a moment and give the game a thought.
There are 64 squares on a chess board and 32 pieces on it with 16 pieces for each player. There are 400 different positions possible after one moves apiece. This multiplies exponentially to 72,084 positions after two moves. And after four moves, there are more than 288 billion possibilities. Chess theorists have calculated there are more openings, defences and gambits than the number of quarks in the universe. But theoretically, they say, the longest game has to end in 5,949 moves.
Which is why, I often like to think of chess as a metaphor for power. Only those who wield it well know how finite their time is. President Obama, who ranks Number 1 on our list this year, summed it up a few years ago when he told David Axelrod, his chief strategist in the run-up to his presidential campaign: “I like dealing with complicated issues. I’m happy to make decisions. I’m looking forward to it.”