From the very start, it was clear that the Freestyle Chess G.O.A.T. Challenge is not like any other tournament. Initiator and host Jan Henric Buettner is a perfectionist and pays attention to the tiniest of details. The eight participants got to know about this on Friday afternoon, the first time they got together at the Weissenhaus for the technical meeting.
Magic, a lottery machine and custom-made jackets
The first novelty was introduced right away when each player received a jacket tailored by Hamburg fashion designer Frank Rudolf, each in a different color. A few weeks before the tournament, the players had named two of their favorite colors to tournament director Sebastian Siebrecht. Everyone was to play in a jacket they liked: Abdusattorov in green, Aronian in magenta, Carlsen in dark blue, Caruana in purple, Ding in ocean blue, Firouzja in orange/vermillion, Gukesh in red and Keymer in mustard yellow.
Organizers also want to be innovative when it comes to presentation. A specially designed, lottery-like machine with 960 small wooden balls (operated by Miss Angola, Teresa Sara) determines the new Chess960 basic position before each round. In the ten minutes they have until the start of the round, the four white players can discuss the position together, as can the black players. All players will wear microphones.
The tournament will also incorporate ideas that have been tried on occasion, such as the confession booth, which allows players to share their thoughts during games, and the measurement of players’ pulse rates to reflect their level of tension.
The tournament starts with a round-robin of seven rounds, for which a drawing of lots took place during the opening dinner on Thursday evening. It was performed by the amazing magician Mikael Szanyiel, who mesmerized the players and guests with card tricks and number wizardry. Now it is time for the players to show their magic on the chessboard. If they want to do so looking even more stylish, they can wear the personalized cufflinks with their initials, which they received as a gift.
Let the game begin, in (free)style.