Chess stars in PlusCity

9/14/2006 – The scene: a mega mall in Linz, Austria. The actors: Garry Kasparov, Viktor Korchnoi, Elisabeth Pähtz and Kateryna Lahno. The event: two days of total chess, with grandmasters, simuls and scantily clad airbrushed models. And the head of the Austrian government, Wolfgang Schüssel. We bring part one of a big pictorial report.

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The "Superlative Chess Event" in PlusCity

Part one of a report from Linz by Frederic Friedel

The megamall PlusCity was first opened in October 1989 and lies on the outskirts south-west of the city of Linz. 2000 people work here, and there is parking space for 4000 cars. A "Hollywood Megaplex" is attached.

At 70.000 m² and with a total of more than 200 individual shops, PlusCity is the second largest mall complex in Austria. It is divided into sectors which have names like "Leonardo da Vinci Square" and "Markusplatz" (named after the Piazza San Marco in Venice).

For the "Superlative Chess Event" the organisers had promised to transform PlusCity into a gigantic chess board. A team of event workers spent days preparing for the spectacle.

The invitees: Viktor Korchnoi, many times world championship challenger, Kateryna Lahno, the youngest European women's champion ever, Elisabeth Pähtz, U18 and U20 world champion, and Garry Kasparov, 13th world champion in the history of the game.

First item on the agenda: a 20 board simultaneous exhibition with Viktor Korchnoi

In March this year Viktor Korchnoi celebrated his 75th birthday. Watching this veteran work his way through the simultaneous exhibition, conceding just two draws, is a fascinating experience, not just for the lay public in the shopping mall. Even the chess experts were deeply impressed.

A startling encounter between the very big and the very small. It is amazing to note that both these animals are of the same species.

Another startling encounter: a model, dressed in just a micro slip, being airbrushed with chess motifs in the mall. After walking past a couple of times we worked up the courage to ask if we could take pictures. Sure, go ahead, no problem. Shall I pose? No, that's fine with the airbrushing in progress.

Afterwards the two chess models strolled around the hall, wearing little more than their body paint and eliciting smiles and curious glances. The reason for this makeup soon became clear: the two would play the roles of the black and white queens in a living chess game.

The living chess game is about to start, with thousands of spectators watching in fascination.

The two players who controlled the pieces in the living chess game: Kateryna Lahno of Ukraine, and Elisabeth Pähtz from Germany.

The human pieces on the giant chessboard...

...and the two players executed their moves on a regular chessboard.

The Chancellor and the World Champion

With the living chess still under way, undressed queens and all, the Chancellor of Austria, Wolfgang Schüssel arrives on the scene.

The head of the Austrian government with the main guest of the even, Garry Kasparov.

Anchor Sabine Lindorfer, tournament organiser Michael Stöttinger, the CEO of PlusCity Ernst Kirchmayr, Garry Kasparov and Wolfgang Schüssel

The former world chess champion and the current executive head of Austria. The 61-year-old Chancellor, who succeeded Tony Blair as European President on January 1st this year, enjoys mountaineering in the Austrian Alps, and has even written a book on the subject. His other hobby is music, and he plays several instruments, including the piano.

In PlusCity the Chancellor and Kasparov discovered a common interest: their love for books. They visited the co-sponsor of the event, the Thalia book store, thumbing through books. Then Schüssel invited Kasparov to a coffee in one of the mall restaurants – causing a minor panic amongst the security detail.

The visit of the Chancellor in PlusCity was scheduled for half an hour, with the Mayor of Linz next on the agenda. An hour into his stay Schüssel sent a message to the Mayor's office saying he would be late, the chess event was far to interesting to leave in a hurry. In the end he stayed for over two hours.

Gala dinner in Pöstlingberg

In the evening there was a gala dinner planned in the beautiful Pöstlingberg Restaurant overlooking the city. It is run by two brothers who own other restaurants in the city and who treat this one as a special enterprise. The food is excellent (their top priority), the view spectacular and the prices moderate (their second priority).

Elisabeth Pähtz, organiser Michael Stöttinger, and Kateryna Lahno with Viktor Korchnoi and Garry Kasparov at dinner.

Elisabeth's parents Thomas and Anne Pähtz. Thomas is a grandmaster and Elli's first teacher.

Young Katya was initially quite shy about joining the chess legends at the head of the table, but soon found herself fully included in their conversation and jokes. On the right in the above picture: Petra Korchnoi.

Kateryna, Garry, and Viktor the Indefatigable. Afterwards the three were always together, enjoying animated conversation – unfortunately mostly in Russian.


Kateryna Lahno, one of the crowd

Pictures by Thomas Pähtz and Frederic Friedel



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