"Chess makes you smart": Huge scholastic tournament in Bremen

by André Schulz
6/25/2019 – Marco Bode is a German football legend, famous for his fair play and his loyalty to his club, Werder Bremen. Bode is also a passionate chess player who is keen to teach young kids the game and to make chess a subject in schools. Last week, Bode's efforts led 1,000 primary school students to play a huge tournament in the center of Bremen. | Photos: Pascal Simon/ Rainer Woisin

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Chess in the city

The city of Bremen has about 570.000 inhabitants, lies in the north of Germany and is a major cultural and economic hub. But last week it was chess that made the headlines. The reason: 1,000 pupils from primary schools in Bremen had met on the Rathausplatz, right in the centre of the city, to play chess against — or, better, with — each other. An impressive sight that made it to the frontpage of Weserkurier, one of the most important local newspapers.

Chess as frontpage news

Chess as frontpage news

Following the motto "Schach macht schlau" ("Chess makes you smart") the pupils in Bremen's primary schools now once a week learn chess in school. Teachers and education experts agree that chess is very useful for young kids. The children learn to focus, to follow their goals systematically, and they simply enjoy the playful lessons in school.

This initiative goes back to the association "Das erste Buch" (The first book) from Bremen. A driving force behind the initiative is the well-known football player Marco Bode, a local hero in Bremen. Bode was part of the German national team that won the European Championship in 1996 and was also part of the team that finished second in the World Cup 2002.

Throughout his professional career, Bode was loyal to his local club, Werder Bremen. From 1989 to 2002 he played for Bremen in Germany's Premier League, and is still famous for being an exceptionally fair player. In his 379 games for Werder he was penalized only ten times and was never sent off.

Marco Bode signs autographs

In his youth, Bode who is now chairman of the supervisory board at Werder Bremen, liked to play chess and realized how helpful the game is for developing your personality. But Bode has never lost his love for chess and has actively supported the idea to introduce chess as a subject in schools. He convinced the senator of education in Bremen of the advantages of this idea and now chess is subject in all primary schools in Bremen. 

Some banter before the game

Bremen musiciansHowever, chess not only helps in the education of young pupils, it is also a sport. That is reason why the primary schools were invited to join a huge chess tournament in the centre of town. At seven in the morning Bode and chess fans from Bremen (plus a few diligent helpers from ChessBase) started to set up 500 boards. Three hours later, at 10:00, the students sat down to begin their games.

The players were divided into four groups, symbolized by the legendary four town musicians of Bremen which appear in a popular fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm (pictured): donkey, dog, cat and rooster. This helped to pair students of the same age and roughly equal playing strength against each other.

Students who had won their game were rewarded with a walnut. In case of a draw, both players received a hazelnut. After the game, the students threw these nuts into a glass pillar that had been assigned to their group. From the pillar that contained most nuts the winning class was determined by lot.

the winners

Victory ceremony

The "roosters" won and the prize went to class 1c of the Primary School Lessingstraße.

The winners with their prize

The first XXL Scholastic Chess tournament of this kind in Bremen went smoothly and without problems. "I am proud that everything straight away worked so well," said a happy Marco Bode. Next year, the scholastic chess project will continue.

After the tournament followed an information event for teachers. Björn Lengwenus, creator of the Fritz & Chesster program presented the teaching material for the chess project: the Fritz & Chesster program, the Fritz & Chesster workbooks, and schachmachtschlau.de the website of the project.

Positive result: Next year, probably 2,500 primary school students from 125 classes will have one hour per week of chess as a subject in school. In 2020, the centre of town might get crowded! (List of participating schools and classes.)

The project was supported by the association Das Erste Buch e.V. and a lot of partners: the senator for education, the Bremische Volksbank, BLG Logistics, Werder Bremen, Bremische Bürgerschaft, DSB, Schulschachstiftung, SchachMagazin64, and ChessBase.

Press review

The event was widely reviewed in the local and the German press, for those interested...

Translation from German: Johannes Fischer




André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.
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basler88 basler88 6/25/2019 07:13
Fantastic! That's the way to go!! Thank you Mr. Bode keep it up. Why can't we do that in the USA???
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