Chess lessons from a soccer model

12/5/2004 – Why did a man who looks disconcertingly like Arnold Schwarzenegger visit a beautiful soccer model last weekend? For a chess lesson he had won in a competition? During a trip to a tiny island off the German coast? Which the British had tried to blow up with 6800 tons of explosives? Even if you don't believe this convoluted tale, at least enjoy the pictures...

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The ChessBase field trip

Helgoland is a small German island, just over a mile long, with a population of 1,650. It is approximately two hours' sailing time from the mouth of the river Elbe. Originally Helgoland belonged to the Danes, but in 1807 during the Napoleonic wars it was seized by the British, who gave up the island to Germany in 1890 (in return for Zanzibar). Helgoland became a major naval base, and in April 1945 over a thousand allied bombers attacked the islands, leaving nothing standing. On 18 April 1947, the Royal Navy detonated 6800 tons of explosives in a concerted attempt to obliterate the main island. Only the military installations were destroyed. In 1952 the islands were restored to the German authorities, where it became a holiday resort that enjoys a tax exempt status.

We at ChessBase like to do things in style, so instead of taking the three hour slow boat we took a ship that just might have been the inspiration for NASA's X-43A scramjet

Forget propellers, this thing runs on high-speed water jets and gets you to Helgoland in a fraction of the time traditional ships take.

Birds roosting on the cliffs of Helgoland, which is one of Germany's foremost bird sanctuaries

You can only stare at the water jets in awe for that long. The ChessBase team spent the return trip playing games and solving quizzes.

One of the quizzes was to guess who would win the European soccer championship, and one of the ChessBase staff who guessed most of the places right was Jeroen van den Belt, who in normal life looks after the 3D graphics of Fritz, the online database, the Chess Media System and other odds and ends. By guessing the correct winners of the European Championship Jeroen won a special prize. Which brings us to today's subject of discourse.

The luckiest man in the world

The prize Jeroen won was a one-hour lesson from WGM Almira Skripchenko, onetime European champion. In chess, we hasten to stress, even thought some of the pictures below would suggest that it may have very appropriately been connected with soccer instead.

And this is the lady Jeroen got his chess lesson from, during last weekend's German Team Championships. Almira plays for Werder Bremen, where the chess department is part of the club that has one of the strongest national soccer teams. Almira has become the spokesperson of the club, the soccer model whose picture is on posters all over the city.

This is Jeroen getting instructions from one of the world's leading women players, while fellow programmer Mathias Feist looks on in envy


You follow what I'm saying, Jeroen?


This, dear friend, is what you have to do in the position


Almira in full training mode


In the hall outside the German Bundesliga is under way


Some final points are made, some last instructions for the road


In the end Jeroen gives his teacher a typical present from Holland: wooden shoes


Yes, that's what elegant chess teachers are wearing these days


Afterwards a visit to the Christmas Market in Bremen's historical city


And there Almira finds some friends from her childhood fairy tales, the Bremen Town-Musicians

The soccer model

And what about the posters for the soccer club? The ones that you see all over Bremen? Due to our very special relations with the Bremen sports club (actually to Almira) we were able to obtain not just the original shot of the poster but plenty of outtakes.

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