Linh Tran: “I took a lot of competitiveness from chess to foosball actually”

Table soccer world champion visits Weissenhaus

The WEISSENHAUS Freestyle Chess G.O.A.T. Challenge has the reigning world champion (Ding Liren) and the former world champion (Magnus Carlsen) among its participants, but since Sunday, we have a third world champion among us. The 28-year-old Linh Tran is a highly successful foosball (table football) player from Hamburg, and a three-time world champion and multiple World Series winner.

Tran, who used to play chess herself from the age of nine till she was eighteen, was invited by Sebastian Siebrecht, an old friend and the tournament director here at Weissenhaus. Over the coming week, Tran will give several foosball workshops, sharing the secrets of successful attack and defense in table football.

“I started table soccer back in 2014 where I joined the well known football club FC St. Pauli, where they also have a separate department for table soccer,” said Tran. “There, I started to learn foosball and I was very competitive already because I am also a former chess player actually.”

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Linh Tran (front, left) playing with tournament benefactor and host Jan Henric Buettner (front, left) and friends. Photo: Peter Doggers.

Tran’s rise to the top was fast and furious: “I just ran into it, and four years later I saw myself being a world champion actually,” she said. “It was a surprise because I was a newcomer but at some point I was just breaking through and since since 2019, when I had my first world title. I was just continuing with collecting titles, I would say.”

During her teenage years, Tran was quite a strong chess player. She was German vice champion among girls under 16, and reached an Elo over 2100. She said it helped her to get good at table soccer: “I took a lot of competitiveness from chess to foosball actually, which helped me to climb up the ladder very quickly. In chess, it’s well known that you have the preparation and after the game, you have to analyze your game and stuff like that. And I always did that from the beginning and I think this helped me to have a big advantage over my opponents.”

Tran said she is enjoying the event very much so far: “The vibe here is very special, I think. I didn’t get the chance to see a lot yet because I just arrived today but it is crazy from the stream, I checked out the stream, I was following Freestyle on Instagram and it’s crazy, it’s absolutely crazy. I never saw this before in, especially in chess. I would say this would be absolute heaven to have such a tournament for the players and also with the live stream and everything with the media team, it’s really insane. It’s a sports dream actually.”

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Linh Tran interviewed for the official tournament social channels. Photo: Peter Doggers.

We spoke to Tran after her first morning session on Sunday, which was too early for the top grandmasters but they might join one of her evening workshops. Tran expects them to be fast learners: “I think they would understand the fussball game very quickly. Maybe they are not as much coordinate as I am, but I think the understanding of the technique and everything what is happening can be really well related to chess.”

There are a lot of similarities between chess and football, “at least on the mental side,” Tran said: “In both sports, you are across each other, but you cannot touch each other physically like in other sports. So it’s all about the game, which is between the two opponents and it’s mostly one against one. And in chess, you analyze a lot, right, so in football, you have to do this too to have a consistent result and be on the top.”

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Playing with Peter Heine Nielsen (back, left), his wife Viktorija and their son Marius. Photo: Peter Doggers.

By Peter Doggers

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