When I learned chess at the age of five, I would have never imagined that I would still play the game with the same eagerness 15 years later. My father began teaching the rules to me because he noticed I always put up my toy cars nicely symmetrical in order. And if he was not available, an old wooden chess computer was my opponent.

With regard to my further development, the following persons shall be mentioned: Markus Wegner, Dennis Johannsen and Hendrik Schueler. Markus Wegner was a dedicated father who founded a chess club at the elementary school Turmweg. He brought me and many other first-and second-graders to the first tournament, the Hamburg Youth Individual Tournaments (HJET). There, Dennis Johannsen took notice of me, led me to the Schachklub Johanneum Eppendorf (SKJE), and became my first real coach.

At this point, I visited the chess club's game nights regularly, where I was often one of the youngest. The club chairman Hendrik Schueler took me under his wing and looked after me during my first really big tournament, the German Youth Championship U10. With the 19th place, I felt I was already experiencing a little success.

Soon I met Wolfgang Pajeken at the Hamburg state training, who would be my coach and amicable advisor for many years. It was thanks to Pajeken that I was able to gain experience at a young age in International Master (IM) tournaments. He also regularly organized matches with stronger players, which improved my skills and benefited me greatly. According to his view, one that I also share, the biggest progress is made by playing constantly against stronger opponents and analyzing with them.

I made my own personal breakthrough in 2005 at the German U14 Youth Championships. With opening expert Jan Gustafsson as my coach, I became German Champion for the first time with one point ahead of my competitors. With my victory I qualified for the World Championship, where I ended up in 18th place after eleven rounds—a reasonable result, but I had hoped for more. Next year then, my prospects looked very promising at the World Cup. I was in the leading group the whole tournament and would have been world champion of the age group U14 with a victory in the final round. But my nerves failed: I played poorly, lost and finished seventh.

In 2006, I decided to change from SKJE to the Hamburger Schachklub (HSK), the largest chess club in Germany. There, they had a better training environment and the opportunity to play in the first Bundesliga. In fact, I was allowed to make my debut in early 2007 and started off well with a draw against the 400 elo points stronger Mihail Krasenkow.

In October 2007, I would play my first big international tournament, the European Team Cup, similar to the Champions League in soccer. The HSK had qualified by a second place in the Bundesliga, and I was allowed to go there with them. I experienced an incredibly good tournament and scored a grandmaster norm. The same month I won another IM tournament in Hamburg, which meant another IM norm. Along with a norm from the previous year and the GM norm, I had now fulfilled all the criteria for the title of International Master, which I received in 2008. In the same year, at 16 years old, I played the first time for the German national team--first in the summer at the Mitropa Cup (Mitropa stands for Central Europe), and then in November at the Chess Olympiad in Dresden with a Youth Olympic Team. Germany, as the host, was allowed to send multiple teams to field.

2009 was a year of stagnation; school and my approaching graduation had priority. After the final exams were over in the beginning of February 2010, I started playing again. My first tournament was the German Championship, where I ranked 16th. I had already played this tournament twice but did not move mountains in 2006 with the 34th place nor in 2008 with the 16th place. However, this time it would be different. After a moderate start (1.5 points out of the first three rounds) I could score 5.5 points from the remaining six games and became German Champion. In addition, I achieved my second GM norm. With me, the reason for the success is to be found in my attitude. Five times I declined an offer for a draw, including one in the final round. This ambition to fight was instilled in me by Pajeken, who taught me two things: Firstly, playing is the best training and you can not gain anything from a quick draw. Secondly, there are usually also in equal positions enough ways to play on and opportunities to make mistakes. But this logic also applies to yourself, which is why rejecting a draw is always connected with risk.

As a reward for my risk-taking, I was allowed to play the second time for Germany at the Chess Olympiad. Two unfortunate defeats at the end, which were partly also my fault, led to a terrible 64th place after a reasonable tournament. Right after that I was off to the army for the two-month basic training. I had applied beforehand for the sports promotion group in the army and only had to pass the basic training in order to join it. Said and done, after two exhausting months, I had made it. My task as a sports soldier was to represent Germany in chess internationally as well as possible.

My first goal was now to finally get the darn GM title, the highest of all titles in chess. The year 2011 started well for me, because at the first tournament of the year, a grandmaster tournament in Hamburg, I was able to achieve another norm. Now I only needed one more, but this one seemed to take forever. Only in October at the Mitropa Cup was it finally time. With a collectively strong team performance, Germany won the tournament and I finally obtained my last GM norm. As of February 6, 2012, I may now call myself Grand Master.

Maybe due to the euphoria of finally having achieved this big goal, I celebrated two more tournament successes in 2012. I tied for the first place at the Norderstedt tournament in April and then won the St. Pauli tournament in Hamburg for the second time after 2010. Since August 2012, I have been studying psychology at the University of Baltimore, Maryland County (UMBC) in the United States.

I think the reason why I stayed so long devoted to chess, in addition to the success, is the fact that there is always something new to discover, no matter how long you play, or even what skill level you have. The possible combinations are endless; for example after two moves, there are already 70,000 possible different positions. This makes chess incredibly complex, and nobody in the world can claim that he has permeated chess and understands it completely. In addition, I enjoy simply the aesthetics of the game, especially when it comes to sophisticated maneuvers and stunning mate combinations. Generally, for me, having fun and the joy of playing was always to the fore, and I think this is very important. Success is one thing, but one who plays a sport just because of the success is, in my opinion, doomed to fail.


Niclas Huschenbeth                                       Hamburg, 16th January 2013