Obituary: Sarah (Siegfried) Hornecker (19.03.1986 - 22.03.2024)

by ChessBase
3/27/2024 – At the beginning of 2017 Siegfried Hornecker, who later wanted to be called Sarah, published his first "Study of the Month" on the ChessBase website, which has appeared regularly ever since. These were knowledgeable and entertaining columns in which Hornecker introduced a wide audience to the world of studies, compositions and problems. However, it has now been announced that Hornecker died on Saturday 22 March, shortly after his/her 38th birthday, as a result of sepsis. An obituary by Martin Minski. | Photo: Martin Minski

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Text: Martin Minski

Around 2002 I received a bizarre phone call: "This is Siegfried Hornecker." The name sounded familiar to me. I knew that this young gentleman was also interested in chess studies. Before I could think about it much, the other voice said, "I’m handing the phone over to my mother. – Hello, this is Monika Rehbein, Siegfried’s mother. What can I do for you?" I was so perplexed and overwhelmed by this situation that I stammered a few polite phrases and then somehow managed to end the conversation. A little while later it was time to plan the book Wege zu Schachstudien. Gerhard Josten and Gerd Wilhelm Hörning also wanted to list Siegfried Hornecker as the fourth book author. I made it clear to both of them that I would not start a joint book project with such a "weird guy". As a compromise, he was "allowed" to contribute articles to the book without his name being on the title page.

I met Siegfried personally in 2007 during the Schwalbetagung in Forchheim. I still remember the rather lengthy city tour. We were fed numbers and information by the city guide and there were little thigh-smacking jokes every now and then, although I had the impression that the city guide presented the same gags to any group without paying much attention to the origins or composition of the people outside the city. So the city guide reeled off his program until we descended into a kind of grotto. Suddenly she noticed that Siegfried wasn't wearing any shoes but was walking barefoot. This threw this conservative city guide so off guard that I couldn't help but smile.

In Forchheim, Siegfried unselfishly handed me his first, grandiose scheme for an endgame study. I was immediately excited about it. A symmetrical draw swing, which I was later allowed to add a suitable introduction to. A very fruitful collaboration followed with almost 40 study co-productions, 10 of which have so far been included in the FIDE albums.

For the FIDE Album 2013-15, Siegfried stepped in at short notice as replacement Section Director and provided valuable coordination and support. As a judge involved, I experienced a moment of shock with him. Shortly before the results were published, he wanted to raise a miniature of mine from 2.5 to 3 points because he liked it so much. With sweaty hands, I pointed out to him that this change would mean he would remove more than 20 studies with 7.5 points from the already "scandalous" selection of studies, since otherwise only all studies with at least 8 points would be represented in the Album. To my great relief, he left it at the original rating.

We met at irregular intervals at the Schwalbe conferences and at international congresses such as in Ostroda in 2015, in Belgrade in 2016 and in Dresden in 2017. Siegfried was a friendly and interested conversation partner who was able to have many in-depth conversations with the other congress participants thanks to his excellent English. In 2021 we learned about his increasingly dramatic health condition, which was slowly but surely causing him to lose the will to live. I then took the train with Klaus Rubin towards Güstrow, where we met a visibly happy Siegfried (see photo), who spent a beautiful and sunny day with us and his family.

Especially in recent years, Siegfried has been actively involved in popularizing chess studies. As a supporting member of Schwalbe, he supported Michael Roxlau for years in the studies department of this magazine. His autobiographical book Weltenfern (in English only) can be found on the ARVES website. His now legendary articles in EG and on are very well-founded and worthwhile reading. His active participation in discussions in the Matplus forum is notable.

In May 2023, Siegfried sent me a photo in which he was heavily made up. He told me that he wanted to be called Sarah in the future. At first I suspected it was a more joking role play, but it was actually his new identity that he or she had consciously decided on. In 2015, Monika Rehbein published the book Bastis Welt, in which she describes her dealings with the child, who "acts differently and lives in his own world." I think that Ms. Rehbein tried to accept her child, and to love it in the way it is.

I am grateful to Sarah for the fact that my horizons in terms of tolerance towards other, unfamiliar behaviours have also expanded significantly. Sarah never complained about her serious illness. Until the end she was optimistic that things would get better at some point. For her, the onset of sepsis, which ultimately led to death, was perhaps a relief - for the study community it is a great loss. The many little memories of Sarah/Siegfried and her/his great studies will remain with us.


The following study by Hornecker won first prize in the informal multi-genre tourney of the German chess composition magazine specialized in castling. No less than 162 problems participated. The judge, Hanspeter Suwe, wrote in his laudation: "This study is not the first one featuring the Valladaõ task but since it has three (Q, R, S) promotions it is a highly original first accomplishment. Although the position seems to be relatively brittle, and the key is the only plausible move for White, the significance of this work must not be underestimated. This Valladaõ study certainly is an important achievement: it fully deserves the first prize in the 2007 award" (EG#19995).

M.1 S. Hornecker

1st prize König & Turm 2007

White:   Ke1,Rh1,a2,b4,c5,e6,g5,h2,h4,h6.

Black:   Kg6,Qb7,b5,c6,f7,h5,h7.

e1g6 3100.85 10/7 Win.


1.O-O f5 2.gxf6ep, and:

 - Qc8 3.f7 Qxe6 4.f8S+ Kxh6 5.Sxe6 wins, or:

 - Qa8 3.f7 Qxa2 4.Rf6+ Kxf6 5.f8Q+ wins, or:

 - Qc7 3.f7 Qe5 4.f8R wins.

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