Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Ethics Man

Grandmasters of medicine

BMJ 2019; 366 doi: (Published 20 August 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;366:l5207
  1. Daniel Sokol, medical ethicist and barrister
  1. 12 King’s Bench Walk, London
  1. daniel.sokol{at}
    Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanielSokol9

In medicine, as in chess, the default mode is to look for a good move

Hundreds of millions of people in the world play chess, but fewer than 2000 are grandmasters, the best players. In 2019 there were only 23 active grandmasters in England and one in Wales.

By comparison I am a weak player, but every fortnight I play chess with an old friend. They are bitter contests. To avenge recent defeats I have started taking private lessons in secret with a grandmaster.

During one lesson I reached a position in the game where I did not know what to do next. None of the …

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