Terror strikes near home

by Albert Silver
7/22/2016 – In a world that seems to have gone mad, it was yet another act of terror that has almost left us numb after so many in succession. Gunmen had entered the Olympia mall in Munich, killing eight. The laws of probability said that even chess might someday become a casualty and today seemed like that day might have come as a massive chess event took place right there expecting over ten thousand children.

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It was to be a beautiful chess bonanza all for children lasting the entire week. Spearheaded by GM Sebastien Siebrecht, with the support of Mayor Deiter Reiter, Councilwoman Kathrin Abele, and the Center Manger Christoph von Oelhafen, a slew of non-stop chess activities were to be held all day in the mall’s generous spaces aimed directly at children and adolescents. More than 15 school groups from all over Munich would come to enjoy the colorful chess experience.

GM Sebastian Siebrecht teaching chess to children

Classes of schoolchildren were scheduled to come from all over the city. Thousands in all.

A popular place for all, parents looked forward to the opportunity to enjoy chess with their young ones

There would be detailed chess lessons for classes and groups, simuls by GM Siebrecht himself, national junior player My Lin Tran, and WFM Anna Endress, 5-time German Youth champion. There would also be blitz events, Beat the Grandmaster challenges (with a generous handicap for the challengers), playing with the ChessBase children’s program Fritz and Chesster, and more.

The event and detailed program were announced on the pages of the
German Chess Federation

Chess would be present in all its shapes and forms to promote the game

The final activity of each day would be a fun blitz tournament

It was a dream event, until all hell broke loose. The immediacy of the Internet and cable TV broke the news as it took place: gunmen entering a mall in Munich killing six (later expanded to eight), with three on the loose. For most of us, we just watched in a mix of horror and detachment: horror for what it was, and detachment because of the almost constant flow of such announcements in the last weeks.

This was the front page of CNN.com

The round of Bilbao had finished already when a Skype message came from Nakamura telling me he had heard via Italian TV a chess event had been running in the mall where the tragedies were taking place.

At first I thought that was ridiculous. What event? I am up-to-date on the chess events, and then remembered the obvious: there is a lot more happening in the chess world than elite tournaments, something we can all too easily forget as we follow the big names on Playchess.

I contacted Holger (Lieske) the sysop of Playchess and friend, about it. He quickly dug up the truth, and I was stunned. It was far worse that I had ever imagined. More than 10 thousand children were expected to partake, and Friday would easily be one of the biggest draws with the greatest crowds.

CNN had the news with its usual flow of updates recounting the efforts to find and capture those responsible. There was no news of chess, which in itself was not surprising, but nor did they say who the dead were. We immediately contacted GM Sebastian Siebrecht, who responded almost as quickly with a short but reassuring email:

Hallo Holger,
Hallo Albert,

wir sind wohlauf und in Sicherheit.
Zu dem Zeitpunkt gab ich gerade ein Simultan und wir hatten volles Haus.
Alle sind wohlbehalten und unversehrt.

Beste Grüße,


Hi Holger,
Hi Albert,

We are well and safe.
At the time I was giving a simul and we had a full house.
All are safe and unharmed.

Best regards,

We will provide a follow-up as we receive more information. In the meantime, our hearts go out to those who were not so lucky, and even the survivors who will be marked by this for the rest of their days.

Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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