The Charles Leclerc vs Carlos Sainz Chess Challenge

by André Schulz
1/21/2022 – Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. are the drivers of the legendary Scuderia Ferrari in Formula One. Lewis Hamilton is not the only self-confessed chess fan among Formula One racing drivers. The two Ferrari drivers also love the royal game and even engaged in a rapid chess challenge.

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An oft-used metaphor

When it is intended to express that any matter — within a sport, for example — requires some thought, then chess is often used as a metaphor. American football, for example, is frequently compared to chess, since the aim is to gain space with a series of rehearsed plays.

The Klitschko brothers, both chess lovers, also like to compare their boxing to chess. Targeted attacks prepare the decisive hit. “Good boxing requires thought” was the message. Later, there was even a direct connection with the royal game through chess boxing, although in the boxing part there is less thinking, and in the chess part there is little boxing at all.

Vitali Klitschko, Vladimir Kramnik, Peter Leko, Wladimir Klitschko

Vladimir Kramnik, Vitali Klitschko, Wladimir Klitschko and Peter Leko play a game of tandem chess in 2004

Other sportsmen were also attracted to chess. Tennis coach Bob Brett, who died of cancer a little over a year ago at the age of 67, explained strategy on the tennis court to his protégé Boris Becker using chess strategy — he even taught Becker chess and turned him into a world-class player. 

Bob Brett was serious about his interest in chess. He was a customer of ChessBase and regularly stocked up on chess programmes. Once, when he was looking after a protégé who was playing in the Rothenbaum tournament in Hamburg, he personally came to the ChessBase office to shop.

Chess in Formula One

There are chess fans in the Formula One world as well. You might think that racing and chess are exact opposites. One sport is incredibly loud with very fast movements, the other sport is very quiet and — in classical chess — includes little to no movement. But there are similarities too. Above all, the strategy related to choosing the right tyres and dividing up the race in optimal segments plays an important role in racing.

Perhaps that is why racing drivers are attracted to chess, since it offers a sort of deceleration amid their hectic sport. Also, there are very few accidents in chess!

Multiple world champion Lewis Hamilton has often been photographed playing chess. Here, for example, he is facing 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg.

The two Scuderia Ferrari drivers, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, went a little further. In their regular video blog, they engaged in a real chess match.

Sainz, playing black, was completely winning as he had an extra queen and an extra rook. However, the game finished in a draw by stalemate. Leclerc was outplayed in the game, but he did know — unlike his teammate — that the final position was drawn.



André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


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