Checkmate the virus!

by Frederic Friedel
7/22/2020 – That's what the chess club in Marburg, Germany, intended when they submitted a video clip for the city initiative to combat the covid pandemic. The three-minute clip was made by quantum physicist and string theorist Vera Spillner, who is a member of the club. It gives chess fans an insight into the game and into club life during Corona, with a clever move, checkmate, included. Vera's video is the first of a series.

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"Marbach handelt!"

That is the name of the action — Marbach acts! The people in the city that was the birthplace of one of Germany's greatest poets and playwrights, Friedrich Schiller, are sticking together during the Covid-19 pandemic. The associations Stadtmarketing and the community of interests of the self-employed in Marbach have initiated the campaign under the patronage of Mayor Jan Trost.

From 11 May 2020 until the end of the summer holidays, artists, self-employed persons and sportsmen and women alike have the opportunity to present themselves with a programme that will enhance the daily lives of the audience. Marbach handelt also enables citizens to buy vouchers from the businesses listed on this website, which they can redeem later. Any company can participate.

"We hope to be of help to one and all by offering our fellow citizens a little entertainment in difficult times," the initiators say. To this end one of our special friends is chipping in.

Vera Spillner

I first got to know Vera in 2006, during the match Kamnik vs Deep Fritz in Bonn, Germany, and then met her at various events, like the World Championship in Bonn two years later. Vera is one of the smartest people I know. She has a doctorate in Quantum Physics and String Theory, speaks at least five different languages, fluently, she is an expert on German poetry, draws and paints beautifully, plays the violin at concert level, writes sumptuous prose — and all that before she had reached the age of 30 (which now she has gracefully done). She also has prosopagnosia (face blindness), an interesting cognitive disorder about which I have written.

Vera explaining quantum collisions and black holes to Aruna and Vishy Anand

Vera is also an amateur chess player. When I introduced her to Vladimir Kramnik he asked her if she played the game. "Just as a very rank amateur, a hobby player," she replied — and went on to analyse the game he had just played without a board with the World Champion.

For the Marbach handelt action Vera is producing a series of videos to encourage youthful and amateur chess players to keep up their love for the game. Here is example one, which is on the Marbach handelt! video page. It is in German (naturally) but of interest, especially to anyone contemplating a similar action.

In addition, if you are interested, here is the violin piece Vera did for Marbach handelt!

And if you enjoyed that, here's an earlier recording of Schubert's Ave Maria, one of my favourites.

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Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.

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