Almira and the ChessBase Nikolaus

12/29/2005 – Saint Nicholas Day is a festivity for children in much of Europe, related to legends of the saint as a bringer of gifts. It was new to our friend from Moldova, Almira Skripchenko, who attended it for the first time in the ChessBase office – and for once from the other side of a camera lens. Almira's report has a tenuous link to our Christmas puzzle.

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Occasionally, a few times a year, our friend Almira Skripchenko drops by in Hamburg. She is always a welcome guest, uncomplicated and fun to have around. Earlier this month she was there again, exactly at the time when Germans celebrate "Nikolaus". It was a tradition she did not know. In fact Almira revealed to us that she was well over twenty when she first learned about the tradition of Christmas.

"Nikolaus" is usually celebrated in Germany with a disguised Santa visiting children at school or in their homes. He asks them if they have been good, and sometimes ostensibly checks a book for their record, handing out presents on a per-behaviour basis. In earlier times the Nikolaus was accompanied by a character called Knecht Ruprecht, who would threaten to beat, or even eat the children for misbehaviour. This part has been abandoned in modern times, since it tended to instill terror into the hearts of the children. Many, especially the younger ones, still harbour a certain fear of strange man in the red cape with inside knowledge of their activities during the year. But especially after the tradition of having them recite poems was also abandoned the tradition has become a light-hearted and enjoyable one.

Nikolaus is celebrated in the ChessBase offices every year. We took Almira to the office without revealing exactly what was in store for her. She was clearly delighted, enjoying herself almost as much as the children, for whom the celebrations were held. Equipped with a new digital camera Almira spontaneous offered to do the pictorial report on the ChessBase Nikolaus.

Before we get to Almira's report, here the tenuous link to our Christmas Puzzle: it describes a type of problem that was first seen in a 13th century manuscript, the Bonus Socius. The author of this very early work in European chess was a scribe named Nicholaus. So here is our Nikolaus Puzzle.


Nikolaus at ChessBase

A pictorial report by Almira Skripchenko

Travelling to Hamburg to play in a Bundesliga match I got an invitation to visit the ChessBase headquarters, located just a few hundred meters from the playing hall of the games. That was much easier than to embark on another trip to China. Here are my impressions of that day.


The production and shipment room, with the products in all their variety


The storage room, were you can find anything. It contains tens of thousands of items.


Giesela Jäger, the charming lady behind all the packages you receive from ChessBase


Rainer Woisin, Commercial CEO of ChessBase in the middle of the very important task: marketing the latest ChessBase baby Fritz 9


Nadja Woisin, who is responsible for running the ChessBase Spanish distribution and the Spanish news page


The ChessBase TV studio, where many famous GMs, including Kasparov and Korchnoi, have recorded chess DVDs


The studio equipment, with many spotlights


Oliver Reeh, thrilled to be working in the ChessBase office


GM Rainer Knaak supervising the analysis of his IM colleague


Frederic Friedel and André Schulz discussing world chess news. They are the editors of chessbase.com and chessbase.de respectively.


Yared und Pascal making Pfannkuchen (German pancakes), which is a traditional meal for the Sankt Nikolaus celebration


Now you understand the principle: in order to work for ChessBase you have to be able to cook.


Mira Kowalsky, the ChessBase treasurer, is in charge of decorating the table


All the children (and adults) were delighted to find the typical holiday candy on the table


The ChessBase kids – Nikolaus is all about them


Marion Wüllenweber with daughter Juliane


Wolfgang Haar, André Schulz and wife, Wolfgang Stark enjoying their pfannkuchens


Oliver Reeh and Ben Bartels, the ChessBase webmaster


Helga Wellershaus, Giesela Jäger, Mathias Feist, Yvonne Gersdorf, Mira Kowalsky, all part of the ChessBase office team


The arrival of Santa ("der Nikolaus") was highly anticipated and applauded. I think I and the two-year-old child were the only ones who didn’t know what was going on.


Santa came with a long list featuring all the names of the children, and also of those who do not have the privilege to madly run around the office but have to work there: their parents.


He also brought two huge sacks full of presents.


Presents distribution was quite funny, with Santa putting a great act for kids


There were fine chocolates for the adults


And every box was addressed personally


I have to admit that we got others gifts as well, some of which might compromise our credibility as serious grandmasters


Pascal was really glad to get his reward after all his pfannkuchening


Frederic Friedel trying to hide behind his camera, but I was faster!


In the evening at Frederic's home, armed with two remotes...


... watching the unshushables!



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