Visiting Hamburg and ChessBase

by Alina l'Ami
5/23/2016 – Ever wondered what it was like to come and visit the ChessBase headquarters in Hamburg, Germany? Accompanying her husband, GM Erwin L'Ami, who came to record another excellent DVD (stay tuned for its release!), chess writer, traveler, and photographer extraordinaire Alina L'Ami shares her look at the vibrant city and office where ChessBase and Fritz were born in this photographic tour.

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I'm always in love with chess even when I think I'm not. Too bad this game sometimes turns its back on me but I remain a faithful customer. It is not masochism or addiction, although the latter is making its presence felt in the raptures of joy after winning a brilliant game (disclosed only after my opponent is out of sight, the least I could do to sort of protect a possibly fragile chess ego...). Even though at times chess can turn into mental abuse for the professionals, it also offers one important thing: freedom. In a world governed by routine, duties, chores and roles that one has to comply with, chess players have the luxury of living by their own wits. And enjoying the best freedom of them all: being yourself.

Shutting down from the outside world to make the most of your time is a chess specialty as well

Be yourself! Which “self”?! Who or what defines you for what you 'truly' are?! Yourself, the mirror, the others?! No need to dig further and answer such philosophical questions as chess has the answer, or rather the antidote: you are YOUnique on the 64 squares.

If it is not in your DNA to dress with courage but somehow dream to
do just that, there is a cathartic way: all the crazy and wild ideas can
be implemented on the chess board.

You can be a genius for a change, an artist, a technician, a surgeon, master and slave, rebel and obedient, aggressive and calm, yin and yang – everything at once, successively, alternatively. You can express yourself on the chess board in multiple and endless ways, being consistently inconsistent if that's what you want, without fearing the “divergent” etiquette applicable in similar circumstances in real life. Plus, the cherry on the cake of being an amateur or professional chess player: you ward off the chance of turning into a run-of-the-mill kind of person. Because chess life was and continues to be just that: special. And if this is not the case, then at least we get to feel something else besides the truth of our own ordinariness.

If you think about it, we need so little to be happy or at least to get the feeling life is not too
bad after all. Some have chess, some have... flowers (look right)

A chess player has the traveling part too, which shouldn't be underestimated. A burden
sometimes, but at the end of the journey...

… you will have seen new places, new people and you might even meet... yourself!

Without chess I could have become an interior designer, an explorer, a shop assistant or a waitress (who knows), if chance hadn’t been on my side. And for me, the moment I crossed the Rubicon was not when I became world champion (Brazil 1995, U10) nor when I lost 85 rating points in two consecutive events with a K factor of only 10... but when I sent my very first and very modest photo report in 2011 from Luanda, Angola, to ChessBase. An incredible journey started and continues ever since, with new surprises and discoveries along the way – photography, writing, reporting... Speaking of which, thank you all for having the patience to read my digressions!

Discovering the beauties of Black and White photography

And the challenges and satisfactions of street photography as well

All these images were shot in Hamburg, the day I planned to meet some of my ChessBase colleagues

Just that it took a while to liberate myself from the power of “now”

On the hunt on Hamburg's streets... and for the first time: on my way to ChessBase!

Strangely enough, I had never visited the ChessBase headquarters in Hamburg until recently.

Almost there!

What is hidden behind those doors...?

Welcome to the candy shop!

Not only a feast for chess eyes but also an interesting museum too

And even more 'weird' than such a belated visit, having a boss (dear editor, you know who you are!) (Ed: Not ‘boss’, just colleague and friend) didn't clip my wings either. Constructive feedback is of course necessary and welcome but in these five years I never lost the sense of freedom I appreciate so much. On the contrary, ChessBase gave me space (and bandwidth) to present you the articles you may have seen. The same goes for my husband, Erwin L'Ami, who didn't verbalize his chess thoughts in writing but on a video this time. And just like his wife, had the same feeling when recording the opening lines: at liberty to work when, how or what suited him best and free to make mistakes. It may sound a bit hazardous but I personally prefer risky freedom over serene slavery and so does he.

This is where the magic happens, in a relaxed yet professional atmosphere

Having fun at work helps a lot! To be honest, I wasn’t able to sit on that chair
for long as I got some distractions...

Following the live games under the scrutinous watch of Magnus

I bet you would like to have that! (me too)

The ChessBase exhibition

Working in the chess scene implies a lot of physical activity too! Walking around the DVD repository

The hall of fame

Your chess material(s) could find a spot right here!

In the end, you can also be the proud owner of something that has never been done before, being it an article, a DVD or a short clip on your mind-blowing victory. If you want a piece of that, just cross the Rubicon! Or more realistically put: Hamburg's canals, when heading towards the ChessBase office.

Of course I couldn't leave the camera behind...

… not in Hamburg anyway, which is a vibrant and active city.

I wish I could say more than “the maritime spirit 'marinates' the entire city”, as the presence
of water is felt everywhere, from the architecture to the sounds of seagulls or the menus... I
need more time than I have at my disposal to bring you a more complete picture.

Hey! That looks familiar... Hotel Transylvania?!

I liked Hamburg a lot, it felt energetic and exuberant with very interesting architecture

Art is omnipresent too

Modern yet unique

It was surely far too short a visit but I never said I wouldn't return. After all, the historic and rather bold label of the city, “the gateway to the world”, could easily accept an additional word, “the gateway to the chess world”, for reasons I am sure the reader is well aware of.

Traveling, playing, writing, photographing, may not make me rich per se, but it does make me a living… and happy!

I am very bad at telling jokes but I always appreciate one! (from Hamburg's street humour)

Alina is an International Master and a very enthusiastic person in everything she does. She loves travelling to the world's most remote places in order to play chess tournaments and report about them here on ChessBase! As chance would have it Alina is also an excellent photographer.


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