I was listening to John Watson's interview with Jonathan Rowson on ICC, and he says something that struck me about talent: that it's partly early exposure to high level chess ("how many GMS you play before age 15"), and it's partly genetics, but that genetic "talent" might be more tempermental than mental. He talks about it in terms of being able to sense critical moments, but also in terms of energy and optmisim and the willingness to concentrate for long periods.
I think this is a very interesting reformulation of the idea of talent in chess, that idea that the genetic component we recognize as "talent" is something like persistance, or optimism, or an overriding intellectual curiosity, or the ability to think clearly in stressful situations, or just the willingness to sit through long periods of hard work and anxiety. I feel like for starters, this changes the terms of the conversation about gender in chess. It certainly makes the suggestion that women aren't as good at chess because they don't like playing it more powerful.
I was talking to a friend of mine about talent and he said something like the boys he works with are more talented than the girls. I asked what exact behaviors caused him to say this, and he replied something like "none of the girls would ever be able to solve these endgames immediately, or recognize that this idea is from a classic game." But I think those two things are actually about the work you have done in chess, more than about natural talent. But it's interesting that something that is probably a trained skill, like being able to make comparisons to earlier games ("pattern recognition"?) is sometimes seen, even by strong players/trainers, as talent.
But maybe the conclusion should be that a substantial part of what we mean by talent is the temperment to work? I read an interview with Carlsen where he said something like "probably if I described it, it would seem like I spend a huge amount of time studying chess, but really it never seemed like work to me." I remember in a 'coaches interview' I did for Chess Life a few years ago, Robby Adamson made a comment like "Girls don't work as hard at chess as boys, and that's why they aren't as good. You almost never see girls studying by themselves." I blew that off at the time, but I've come to think maybe he's right. Also, Dmitry Gurevich said to me a few years ago "when girls get good at chess, they peak for a short time but can't maintain it." I also found that annoying and stupid at the time*, but I've come back to think about it a lot.
update: title of uschess.org article: "Garry Kasparov in Nashville: Hard Work is a Talent"
*mostly because my own rating was beginning a free fall. :)