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In his office at Pfizer’s 42nd Street headquarters in Manhattan, Chief Scientific Officer Mikael Dolsten keeps a chessboard. Dolsten has played since he was a boy in Sweden, but this board has a special provenance: It was a gift from former Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler, after Dolsten delivered to his boss the unwelcome message, in 2009, that the turnaround of the drug giant’s research laboratories would be anything but rapid.

“I told him that, look, it’s not just one investment, it is like playing chess,’’ Dolsten recalled. “You need to have a picture of the entire opening game, win the middle game, and be really good in the end game. And it’s a marathon, Jeff, I told him.” Kindler left the meeting unhappy, but a few days later he appeared in Dolsten’s office with the chess set and his own words of wisdom: “Mikael, Pfizer needs a real chess player.”

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