Press conference

“We’re breaking new ground”

Jan Henric Buettner, Magnus Carlsen, Vincent Keymer and their challenges

“Wasn’t your intention merely to dabble in chess?” Holly Buettner playfully queried her husband, Jan Henric. She’s well acquainted with his unique nature, which he himself articulated at the inaugural press conference of the WEISSENHAUS Freestyle Chess G.O.A.T. Challenge: “Whenever I embark on a new endeavor, it tends to escalate.”

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Jan Henric Buettner’s chess journey began only a few months ago. Now, millions are poised to witness the escalation, including specifically those previously unfamiliar with the game. The aim is to make chess more approachable, tangible, vibrant. The personalities of its masterful players should be spotlighted more than ever. “We aspire to create something entirely new,” Buettner declares.

Co-organizer Magnus Carlsen, the world’s top-ranked player, and German super grandmaster Vincent Keymer share Buettner’s enthusiasm. “We’re breaking new ground,” Carlsen affirms.

Even the world’s elite players are uncertain of what awaits them at the board. The game to be played is Chess960, or more accurately, 959, as one position will assuredly be absent from the chess arena in the Big Barn Studios – the extensively studied starting position of traditional chess with rooks in the corners and king and queen centrally placed.

Instead, 959 other, unexplored positions await. Carlsen, Keymer, and their peers are venturing into uncharted territory from the outset, risking metaphorical shipwreck from the very first move.


“Sadistic! I’m all for it!”

(Magnus Carlsen)

And the risk isn’t confined to the board, but extends to the clock. Despite Chess960 being played for the first time at the Baltic Sea with a lengthy, classic time control, the grandmasters anticipate time scrambles. The allotted 90 minutes of thinking time for the first 40 moves can evaporate swiftly when one must innovate from the opening move, rather than relying on known variations and patterns.

Carlsen humorously labels the rule of playing without an increment, or additional time per move, as “sadistic”. Effective time management will be paramount. “I’m all for it.”

The organizers now face a big task: making a game that even the best players find challenging accessible to beginners and amateurs. CET daily. Buettner and his team aim to “extract media value of all aspects of the game.”

This begins with the drawing of the starting position ten minutes prior to the game’s commencement and continues as the White and Black players discuss this position in quartets. Microphones will capture the super-grandmasters’ deliberations. The players will also be available during the games, with soundproof booths at their disposal where they can share their thoughts and emotions with the spectators.

By Conrad Schormann

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