Friday, December 6, 2013

Hnefatafl In Action!

The following was sent to me for publication by Rene Gralla from Hamburg, Germany.  I think it's great!


By René Gralla, Hamburg (Germany)

The Chess of the Vikings is back with a Big Bang: The ancient strategic game "HNEFATAFL" that has been extremely popular throughout the north of Europe between the 11th and 13th century has now seen his Second Coming during an international tournament of standard chess conforming to the rules of FIDE. The Scandinavian brand of the Game of Games was part of the accompanying program of the "8th International Ladies Chess Gala" on November 28th, 2013, at Berlin, Germany.

Norway's WIM Silje Bjerke played a spectacular exhibition game of HNEFATAFL against Mr. Olaf Koppe, the managing director of the German daily "neues deutschland" (translation: "New Germany") that hosts the annual contest between four aspiring stars of women chess since 2006. The historic duel of HNEFATAFL that had been integrated into the timetable of the tournament because of the initiative of German journalist René Gralla took place during the break between the three preliminary rounds and the finals of that competition of rapid chess that has been won by reigning Russian Women Champion WGM Valentina Gunina after prevailing over Germany's WGM Elisabeth Paehtz whereas Norway's Silje Bjerke finally conquered the fourth rank.

But the real highlight of that very Thursday afternoon in late November at the German capital was the showdown of HNEFATAFL between 31-year-old Silje Bjerke who actually studies gender science at Oslo University and the CEO of "neues deutschland", Mr. Olaf Koppe. The trial of strength - with Silje Bjerke leading the defending white army with her King hurrying to reach one of four fortified refuges at the corners of the board whereas Mr. Olaf Koppe's black attackers tried to stop that - attracted many spectators. Some people even climbed chairs and tables in order to have a better look at the battle that saw the Norwegian Amazon smartly outmaneuvering her opponent and forcing her opponent to gracefully resign.

"Silje Bjerke has demonstrated great talent", said one of the bystanders approvingly, a young man with long hair who might just have ridden in on his own drake. The 19-year-old Arne Roland knew what he was talking about: the student of math is - by fighting under his dreaded nick "Nath" - the reigning World Champion of online-HNEFATAFL 2013 after having prevailed over twelve opponents on the Danish platform just some monthes ago.

The successful premiere of HNEFATAFL in the context of a well-established tournament of standard chess has extensively been covered by German media. Just have a look at the publications as follows:

And even the website of the German Chess Federation (!) has mentioned the event:

WIM Silje Bjerke's stunt in the Chess of The Vikings has been the test run for Tromsö 2014 where there will be staged a tournament of HNEFATAFL on the first day off during the Chess Olympiad in next year's August. And WIM Silje Bjerke already today is up for making a run at the noble title of becoming Admiral of the Drakes: "The game is fun!", said the Lady Viking redivivus after her first raid on Berlin.

A couple of photos:

Reigning Online-World Champion of HNEFATAFL Arne "Nath" Roland (left) plays a casual game against Norwegian Professor Kjetil Jakobsen (right) who actually lectures on Scandinavian Studies at Humboldt University Berlin.  Photo: Joachim Lissner
Norway's WIM Silje Bjerke faces the CEO of the German daily "neues deutschland", Mr. Olaf Koppe, during an exhibition game that was one if the highlights of the "8th International Ladies Chess Gala 2013" that has been organized by the Berlin-based paper "neues deutschland", translation: "New Germany".  Photo: Joachim Lissner
There are some more photos, I will download and publish them tomorrow. 

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