Germany wins World Cup in Brazil

by Frederic Friedel
7/15/2014 – We estimate that 90% of all chess players are avid soccer fans – and 10% are total fanatics. During the FIFA World Cup there were massive amounts of chat going on, and too much heart-stopping drama for us to ignore. And there is a bit of chess history involved: our headline could have been used 24 years ago, with the addition "Kasparov satisfied". Frederic Friedel explains.

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Germany wins World Cup in Brazil

Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball
for 90 minutes and at the end the Germans win. – Gary Lineker

It was the 7th of July 1990, almost exactly twenty-four years ago. World Champion Garry Kasparov was in Hamburg for a some function or other.

Checking my photo archives I can see that Anatoly Karpov was also present,
but can't for the life of me remember exactly why they were there

During his stay Garry visited the ChessBase office to check out the latest developments. Above you see him with our chief developer Matthias Wüllenweber (left) and Volker Arzt, my mentor at German TV, with whom I had made a number of science documentaries – including one on computer chess.

It was around four p.m. in the afternoon on this summer day, when Garry started to get restless: "I have to get back to the hotel, the game will start soon," he said. It was the World Cup Final between Germany and Argentina, to be played in the Stadio San Nicola, Bari, Italy. The following dialog occurred:

Me: "Why don't we watch it at my place?"

Garry: "Your place? How long will it take us to get there?"

Me: "Half an hour, 40 minutes max, if there is traffic. The game starts at eight p.m., so we have plenty of time."

"Okay, how big is your TV set?" – Turned out it was larger than the one in the hotel. – "What about signal quality?" – Satellite signal by Eurosport, highest quality, English language commentary.

"What about dinner?" – We can have something ready before or during the game. – "Snacks and drinks?" – Plenty of both.

After working out all the conditions for the game Garry agreed to drive with me to our house in Hollenstedt. But it turned out he hadn't thought of everything, and for a very specific reason the evening was ruined for him! I ask you to guess what the chess professional had forgotten to anticipate. The solution is given elsewhere in this article.

World Cup 2014 in Brazil

Garry was not around this time, he was busy running his campaign for FIDE President (you can follow his activities on his campaign page, on Facebook and Twitter). But you can be 100% sure he did not miss the World Cup Final – or some of the key games of the earlier rounds. Like Germany vs Brazil...

I was in London on that memorable occasion, attending the Barclay Yes2Chess event. It was the day when the primary/elementary schools teams from eight countries met for the final showdown. The German team from Hamburg won (a full pictorial report will be presented soon). The same evening Germany played Brazil, which I had intended watching in my room in the Cumberland Hotel. However, at the elevator I met the German Barclaycard sponsoring chief Michael Thomsen. He talked me into watching the game in the hotel bar, which had big flat panel screens.

There we were, then, Michael and me, sitting on one side, with about a dozen Brazilian fans in a cluster a few feet away. We did some pre-game bantering, and then the action started. When Thomas Müller scored for Germany in the eleventh minute there were no hard feelings: "You will be severly punished for that," one Brazilian fan said jokingly to me. Then in the 23rd minute Miroslav Klose scored, then Toni Kroos a minute later, then again two minutes after that, and Sami Khedira three minutes later. It was completely irreal, and instead of trying to describe it myself I hand over to Brian Phillips from Grantland who apparently experienced exactly what I felt:

This can’t be happening. At around the moment when Toni Kroos fired Philipp Lahm’s cross past the diving Júlio César for Germany’s third goal ag

ainst Brazil, that thought started blinking in my brain like the red light at the top of a radio tower. This can’t be real. Only a minute earlier, Miroslav Klose had made it 2-0, breaking Ronaldo’s all-time World Cup goal-scoring record in the process; two minutes later, Kroos swiped the ball from Fernandinho, played a one-two pass with Sami Khedira to slip past Dante in the area, and scored again. 4-0 in the 26th minute. This isn’t possible. Three minutes after that, Khedira got the ball from Mesut Özil and knocked it home from inside the edge of the area. 5-0. I’m imagining this. The Germans had scored four goals in six minutes against the most celebrated nation in soccer history, a team that hadn’t lost a competitive match on home soil since 1975. I’m asleep.

You can watch the highlight of the "schützenfest" or shooting gallery game in this seven-minute Youtube video – or if you do not have the time here's a 40-second animation of the start of the game

The game ended 7:1 for Germany, and Garry Kasparov tweeted: "Some Brazilian fans might be leaving the stadium. Some Brazilian politicians might be leaving the country!" From Unix man Ken Thompson we got the following message: "i watched 10 minutes of some stupid game on tv. the score went from 0-0 to 4-0 in that time. too lop-sided to ever get popular." And "these are supposed to be hardy hardy men. it seems that every time one of them is approached by another from the other team, he falls on the ground writhing in pain." (Ken has never use capital letters in his life).

The Final

In the days after this surreal and historic game Argentina defeated Holland in the other Semifinal – in penalty shootouts – and on Sunday Germany faced Argentina in the Final. The game was very intense, with heart-stopping chances for both sides.

The Final ended when 22-year-old Mario Götze, an attacking midfielder for Bayern Munich in the German Bundesliga, was brought on as a substitute. The Germany manager Joachim Löw sent him on the field with the words: “Show the world you are better than Messi”. He did – at least in this game, scoring the winner in the 113th minute. After 24 years Germany was World Champion once again, the first European team to take the title when it was staged in South America. Mario Götze, one journalist said, will never have to buy himself a drink again.

The Argenian striker Lionel Messi received the award for best player of
the 2014 World Cup, but was heart wrenchingly dejected at the prizegiving

A typical Messi situation (from an earlier game): he is attacked by five players and produces a goal

Messi is generally considered the best football player of all time – if you have any doubts watch the following video of his development since childhood – or spend a couple of hours compulsively browsing these on Youtube.


Immediately after the final had finished we received the following email from our friend Maurice Ashley:

Hello my German friends!

I just wanted to extend my congratulations to you all for an amazing victory in the World Cup. Your team was clearly the best, and they provided the most epic performance of the tournament with their memorable demolition of Brazil (not a good way to treat your hosts!). I'm sure there is a lot of partying going on in Hamburg right now. It would be cool to be there to witness the spectacle.

Once again, congratulations!

In Hamburg fireworks were sill going off well after midnight, Maurice – but look what it was like in Berlin! There the Korean car manufacturer Hyundai had arrange a 100,000 sqm "Fan Park" between the Brandenburger Gate and the Street of the 17th of June, for the German qualification rounds and then for all the knockout rounds.

Multiple giant screens provided live coverage for the biggest public viewing in German history

About half a million soccer fans turned up to watch the final – you can watch over two hours of this
spectacle (the fans, not the soccer) in the livestream provided by Hyundai or the 2h 20min on RT TV

As we write these lines, on Tuesday, July 15, again almost half a million people are gathered in the Fanmeile in Berlin to celebrate the return of their soccer heroes. Go here (if you dare) to get a visual impression of what is going on in Germany today.


We estimate that 90% of all chess players are avid soccer fans – and 10% are total fanatics. During the World Cup there were massive amounts of chat going on about that event, and many Skype and email exchanges. Here is one you shouldn't take too seriously.

Yasser Seirawan:
Strange thing this "football." Did you know that when the ball is kicked off the field that you must use your hands to "throw" the ball back into play? Also that a player called a "goalie" – which is a very nice word if you think about it at great length – is "blessed" above all others. This lucky fellow can use his hands and arms in a limited area called a "penalty box." It is like this: it's clearly an advantage to be able to use hands and arms, with legs concentrating on running. But "footballers" insist they not be used all the time, rather only at select moments by all and only within a space by one person. Strange eh? It really is a great advantage to use your hands and arms, which is why "American football" is such an awesomely superior experience. I say all of this of course as a by-the-way way of mentioning that the Seattle Seahawks are the American Super bowl champions. Because as every Russian schoolboy knows, "all good things come from Seattle."

Frederic Friedel:
American Football is similar to chess: you have two players, called quarterbacks, who have black and white pieces (difference to chess: it is much better to have black pieces). They plan short-range tactics, fight for space, try to capture (incapacitate) opposing pieces, and finish individual games with checkmate (or touch down). They have huge bull-like fighters who are considered world-class athletes, and they are unleashed on antelope-like pieces called runners, whom they block. The use of force and even overt violence is not only permitted but appears to be mandatory. Hospitalizing a minor piece is greeted with cheers, with the spectators occasionally showering gold pieces on the field. Friedel's Invented History of Sports tells us that the game was first played in the Roman Colosseum, when spears were used by the runners (läufer) to defend against the bull stoppers. Unfortunately this was discontinued when the sport came to the New World. And one other thing: rumour has it that they bring chains onto the field to measure progress. Seriously, this I cannot believe. PS: Next time we discuss "base ball" (as opposed to Cricket).

Why Kasparov's evening was ruined

Here's the solution to the puzzle we gave you above: We got to my home on time, had dinner, the TV set was big and the signal great. But when the Final between Germany and Argentina started Garry discovered that Fred was rooting for the South Americans! "How can you do that?" he exclaimed in horror. "You are German, Germany is the better team." Garry had never forgiven Maradona for his Hand of God goal against England four years earlier.

The 1990 final was not of the highest quality: the Germany dominated but were unable to score, until the closing moments when two Argentineans were sent off and the Mexican referee awarded a penalty to Germany. Andreas Brehme converted and Germany won 1-0. Argentina were the first team in history to fail to score in a World Cup Final. Now they have done it again.

Incidentally: we welcome corrections to any of the facts or opinions expressed above. Please do so in the discussion section below, but without gratuitous aggression or animosity. Football, like chess, is only a game – as people who know nothing about these games are wont to say.

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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