Chess on the mud flats

by ChessBase
8/12/2006 – This is possibly the most dangerous form of chess. The players make their moves on boards set up on the North Sea mud flats on the shores of the island of Baltrum. The goal is to finish the tournament before the tide comes in and drowns everyone. This year it took place in driving rain, but we are glad to report that everyone survived. Pictures and video.

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The mud flats of the North Sea

Mudflats are coastal wetlands, formed by silt deposited by tides, and sometimes by rivers, in sheltered areas. Along the North Sea in Germany they consist of iodine rich clay and support a variety of marine life. The area is genuinely flat, so that the sea recedes to a great distance – sometimes miles – during low tide, and then comes in quickly, covering large areas in a very short space of time, when the tide comes in.

A ChessBase office excursion to the mud flats

Creatures of the tide, that live in the mud flats

Crossing the tidal streams ("Priel" in German) through which the tides flow

The tide can come in at great speed and trap people far out in the flats

The main thing is you don't want to be trapped hundreds of yards from land

Chess in the mud flats

The German news magazine Der Spiegel reported on a chess match to be held in Baltrum, an island near the coast of East Frisia, Germany. The island is about 5 km long and 1.5 km wide, covering an area of 6.5 km². The population is around 600, but increases to over 3,000 during the summer tourism months.

The host island of Baltrum – click to visit their cool web site

The mud flat tournament is the brainchild of Horst Unger, who first staged it in 2002. Sixteen participants play the event close to one of the major tidal streams, starting when the tide is at its lowest. The rate of play is five minutes per side per game, and the goal is to finish the tournament before the tide comes in. Otherwise there could be a somewhat embarrassing, perhaps even dangerous, end to the event.

A previous mud flat tournament under ideal conditions

This year the mud flat tournament was plagued by inclement weather. After weeks of tropical heat the temperatures dropped dramatically and it started to rain on the day of the event. But that did not deter the participants, who donned weather-proof attire and proceeded undaunted to the venue. The TV station Radio Bremen produced a nice video report on the mud flat action.

Participants carry the chess equipment to the tournament site and start to play at 3:30 p.m.

The action takes place in driving rain. In the end the equipment has to be carried through the incoming tide.

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