You may find a chess player today without a chessboard, but you will never catch one without ChessBase on his laptop. From Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen, right down to the eight-year-old kid who plays in a district tournament, everyone uses ChessBase — a computer programme that has revolutionised the way the mind sport is played.
ChessBase is also a database containing millions of games that have been played all over the world. It also brings out popular chess engines such as Houdini, Rybka and Fritz. In other words, you cannot live without ChessBase if you are seriously into the sport.
The man behind this game-changer in chess is Frederic Friedel, who is in the city cheering for both Anand and Carlsen. “I am a friend of both,” he tells The Hindu . “Of course, I have known Anand for much longer. He is now part of my family. I had met him long before he became a top player.
Taste of South-Indian food
“I still remember meeting him for the first time in London a couple of decades ago. He had just finished a tournament and told me that he was going to play in another event in The Netherlands a few days later. I invited him to my home in Hamburg, and he accepted the invitation.”
It meant that the Friedels had to learn how to cook South Indian vegetarian food. “We now have it twice or thrice a week after finding it to be the best food in the world,” says the Mumbai-born Friedel.
“Aruna has taught us many new things too.”
Anand, on the other hand, has made his own contribution to the development of ChessBase. “He was one of the earliest users of the programme,” says Friedel. “He gave us several new ideas.”
The very idea of ChessBase, though, originated after a meeting with Garry Kasparov, the man Anand replaced as the World No. 1.
“I was a science journalist, and while doing a film on chess in the early 1980’s, I met Garry and we became friends straight away,” he recalls.
“He knew what computers could do to chess, though not knowing much about them. In 1985, Kasparov visited Hamburg for a simultaneous display against strong players, including Grandmasters, and lost 3.5-4.5.
By the time he returned for the revenge match, we had a small database — thanks to Matthias Willenweber — with hundreds of games played by his rivals. He analysed those games and won the match 7-1.”
ChessBase was thus born, and the sport was never the same again.