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Football and chess again (XI)

For some time now, many soccer players and coaches have begun to be passionate about chess, finding many similarities with soccer in the 64 square


For some time now, many soccer players and coaches have begun to be passionate about chess, finding many similarities with soccer in the 64 squares. You can do a whole tour of Europe now that the clubs are in preseason.

The Italian Enzo Marescawho is already part of the technical team of Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, after having coached their under-23 team, he decided to transfer his chess knowledge to the pitch.

In an interview in the quarterly magazine of the Italian Chess Federation (FSI), Scacchitaliathe former player, among others, from Bologna, Sampdoria and Juventus, and in Spain from Seville and Malaga, confessed his passion: «For my schemes I am inspired by chess tactics», pointing out that from a tactical and strategic point of view «the need to control the center» by remembering the phases of the game (middle game, opening, end game)», adding that his passion is both football and chess.

A passion that was born at the end of his career as a footballer, but which allowed him to obtain a coaching license: «My passion for chess dates back to a few years ago, when I realized that my career as a player was ending, and I started to think that I would like to train. And chess caught my attention, because it seemed to me that it had many things in common with football».

The general principles of chess are explained in the control of the center. In a certain sense, it is the contrast between the classic and the hyper-modern game: Guardiola’s game is more similar to the classic, in which the focus is on occupying the center, the “defense and counterattack” game is similar to those schemes in which it opens from the side, and “you leave the center to the opposite”.

Finally, he makes an accurate reflection on chess: «It is a useful training at any age to learn certain fundamental skills: even the mere fact of having to spend time to think can help from all points of view, especially to a generation accustomed to being with the mobile every moment. The beauty of chess is that it teaches you to think flexibly, because what is true now may not be true later. It will be true in five minutes.

Christian Pulisic vs. Magnus Carlsen

For his part, the striker Christian Pulisic, from Chelsea, captain of the United States team, has been addicted to digital chess since 2020, playing a couple of hours a week. He learned the game from his late paternal grandfather, Matte Pulisic“It is a memory that I keep in my heart.” On his body he has a tattoo with a Lady, below the word Mate and points out that his favorite piece is the bishop, “I just like the bishop.”

He is always asked if it helps him to play football: “It can really help you stay sharp, you have to think really fast.” He adds: “It’s an amazing game that can help you with many things, like solving problems or seeing different patterns,” he says of chess. “I’m not saying it directly correlates with me being a better footballer, but it’s certainly better than looking at a screen.”

Pulisic also plays with his compatriot in the national team, the footballer Walker Zimmermann and even played a charity game against the world champion, the Norwegian Magnus Carlson lasting twenty-five moves and has been praised on his game by the British grandmaster David Howell.

Crystal Palace player Martin KellyCrystal Palace player Martin Kelly

An aside, the Liverpool international defender, Trent alexander arnold he also played against the world champion and the Crystal Palace defender (team linked to the noble game) Martin Kelly played in the so-called ‘Eagle’s Gambit’ against the nine-time British women’s chess champion Jovanka Houska.

In addition to Pulisic, at Chelsea the list of teammates who play with whom he shared a dressing room, before and now, at the London club includes, among others, the defender Reece Jameswho has already publicized his confrontations with the defender Benjamin Chilwell.

But they can also be added to Italian-Brazilian Jorginho and the British midfielder Mason Mountas well as three ex-soccer players from the blues, the recent signing of Barcelona, ​​the Danish Andreas Christensenthe French Olivier Giroud -today at Milan- and Tammy Abraham -currently in Rome-.

But the club’s undisputed chess champion in the 2020-21 season was the French international midfielder N’Golo Kante.

Now let’s move on to France, the current coach of FC Metz, a club relegated this season and which will play in Ligue 2, the Romanian Laszlo Boloniin his first appearance after being booked, he left a resounding phrase: “I’m a chess player, not a poker player.”

It has also been written about the recent signing of PSG, the Portuguese international Vitinha twenty-two years old, another allusive phrase: “play chess while others play Chinese chess” (referring to the one known as Go).

In Germany, the central defender Oliver Hussing, recently signed from Heidenheim to Arminia Bielefeld, in the Second Division, plays chess after training, pointing out that he always wants to make a checkmate before going to bed. Regarding which piece is his favorite, he points out that the Lady, “because she is the one with the most possibilities.”

Bayern Munich player Leon Goretzka at the board.  It can be seen that he has his two black bishops on squares of the same color, somewhat irregularBayern Munich player Leon Goretzka at the board. It can be seen that he has his two black bishops on squares of the same color, somewhat irregular

Without going far, to the south, in Bavaria the midfielder trains Leon Goretzka of Bayern Munich, who uploaded a photo on social networks in front of the board, during a trip on a jet, although those who saw it noticed a detail, their two bishops were on squares of the same color.

On the other hand, the best German chess clubs are fighting for the title in a very special place, no less than the Weserstadion, the stadium of Werder Bremen that has just been promoted to the Bundesliga. The club, a history of German football, has propagated the event. The favorite is the OSG Baden-Baden club, which celebrates its centenary this year and where the current world champion, Magnus Carlsen, came to play.

Also in the Market Square of the town of more than half a million inhabitants, more than a thousand children will play under the slogan ‘Chess makes you smart’. It is an initiative of the former international soccer player Frame Bodepassionate about chess and who developed his entire football career among the Die Grün-Weiss.

In Italy, Milan has a French player, of Algerian origin, who played for the relegated Girondins de Bordeaux, Yacine Adliwho confesses his passion for the 64 squares when he is not on the pitch.

Also in the transalpine country, the Spanish Joseph, ‘Pep’ Clotetreturns in a second stage to train Brescia in Serie B (Second Division), he is a great chess lover who helps him do his tactical analysis.

Seeing all these examples and many more, the Real Sociedad footballer should not be ashamed of his passion Martin Zubimendiwho confessed: «people laugh, but I like to play chess».

Very close, he has returned to Athletic Bilbao in a third stage as coach Ernest Valverde, who considers that there are “many similarities” between football and chess. For the coach, both sports share common concepts such as “control of the center, spaces, flanks, weaknesses, numerical superiority, mobility, combined play or initiative.”

And since we are, let’s finish in Spain with that viral debate about the coach of Atlético Madrid, Cholo Simeoneand chess due to some photos he uploaded on a social network when he played with his son, the footballer John.

It is necessary to clarify that Cholo knows how to play (in this case he did it with lose-win or suicidal chess) with which the debate is unnecessary, and even more the joke, nothing less than the International Chess Federation (FIDE) that in its social networks made an unfortunate message offering him some lessons and inviting him to the Candidates tournament in Madrid.

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