This came to mind when I read Gary Kasparov's review of a new bio of Bobbly Fischer. He writes in the NY Review of Books:
The focus is on Bobby and the chess, as it should be, though I was hoping for a little more meat on the topic of the nature of prodigy and Fischer’s early development, beyond his own famous comment “I just got good”—but perhaps there is nothing more. The nature of genius may not be definable. Fischer’s passion for puzzles was combined with endless hours of studying and playing chess. The ability to put in those hours of work is in itself an innate gift. Hard work is a talent.As I've written before, I don't see any reason the same does not apply to Torah study. What makes a talmid chacham? In short: hasmadah, hasmadah, and more hasmadah. That does not mean anyone can become R' Akiva Eiger or R' Chaim Brisker (who were blessed with hasmadah + truly incredible amounts of genius), but it does mean that a person of "average" intelligence (whatever that means) who truly puts in the time can become an outstanding talmid chacham. The only catch, as Kasparov notes, is that hard work is a rare talent indeed.