A long journey. From Biel to Graz
So in my so-called chess career there were some (apparent or partial) successes. I never had a real breakthrough. Nevertheless, there were a few eventful journeys, even if many of them took place outside of chess. So it was with this summer trip in 1981.
Angie was my girlfriend. Unfortunately, this relationship was also accompanied by numerous on-and-offs. Typical for my age? And in some way I also had the feeling problem-ridden? If so, it was certainly because of me. Because I often felt like I was wasting time with everything that didn’t have to do with chess. And Angie certainly had to suffer from that. But she was nevertheless an extremely loyal and dear companion and companion to me. To this day, I still feel very close to her in the occasional contact that still takes place. We are familiar with each other.
In any case, we had planned a trip this summer. It was to take us first to Biel. I raved to her about picturesque Switzerland and also about the beauty of Biel. But I had purely selfish motives: I wanted to play in the annual chess festival. C. was also registered there and appeared with his girlfriend Bärbel. At least we had the hope that the two girls would become friends. We actually met in Biel to camp together.
I had always called Christian “C.” since the first time we met, also in Biel. There was a simple reason for that: we saw each other, talked, both also studied the tournament draw and the overall ranking in Biel every day, which hung on a (white) board in front of the tournament hall. Hundreds of participants, but one gradually knew all the names. They were always printed in the form: Paulsen, D. or just Maier, C. So one day I enquired about his name. The affinity had long been established. He answered: “Maier”. I answered: “Oh, C.”
That was the birth of his nickname.
As we discovered when we arrived at the campsite, we were lined up in alphabetical order: A(ngie), B(ärbel), C(hristian), D(irk). And all that on the Z. All right, Angie and I set up our “Dilljurke”, as U.Li., i.e. Ulli Lindner, later aptly remarked. It rained all week. The tent, the smallest on the campsite, almost floated away. At least we were able to go to the swimming pool one morning, the only sunny day.
In addition, I had met a very loyal chess comrade from Berlin there (for the second time): Bodo Kühn. And he was not only a friend but also a patron. And why he did it, I can hardly explain to you, actually also to myself. But Mr Kühn invited us to a great restaurant every evening and we got a real “feast”, at least for chess players and other campers. This kept Angie’s spirits up until the final day. I don’t even remember the result of the tournament, so it was certainly not exhilarating, no cash prize, that’s for sure.
Besides, the big adventure was coming: after the last game, Mr Kühn still held on to the ritual, so with a warm meal in the belly, and late in the evening, off to the station. We had already booked the interrail ticket and had it in our pockets! So off we went on the first train and… well, let’s see where it takes us. Interrail usually meant travelling for a month by train to all the places (in Europe) that had always interested us.
For us it was a little different: As a professional hypochondriac, I always had minor worries and aches and pains anyway. And setting up tents and things like that was exhausting for me, and where, anyway? So every evening it was: let’s go to the station, get on the next train and, well, our permanent sleeping place was a train compartment. Only the seats, of course. Unless we were travelling from Paris to Amsterdam. Then we had another place to sleep. The train was overflowing. At one point we were lying between two carriages, directly in front of the toilet. Everyone who had to get there climbed over us. And there must have been hundreds of them. All in all, we must have slept half an hour.
No problem, we were young, besides, there’s a lot of truth in the saying of a former work colleague of mine: “Today’s stress is tomorrow’s good old days.” So what should I tell you about today, if not…? Arriving in Amsterdam, we went to … yes, once Macdonalds, a hot meal, on the fourth day! And brushing our teeth in the toilet, which was almost free!
We passed Paris, Marseille, Arcachon (near Bordeaux) and even stayed there for three days on the campsite, Atlantic coast, I always wanted to jump into the ocean there. Later London, a short trip to Penzance, another to Inverness to the monster of…. Yes, I bravely went into the lake, Angie armed with camera, we wanted a cuddle picture of me and him. I was probably too ugly for him, retouching didn’t help much either, it remained hidden even in our picture.
Yes, after about a week, during which we even afforded MacDonalds and the occasional mineral water in far too expensive places, even a coffee in Marseille and things like that (about 10 DM for a water and a coffee each!; but the best mineral water of my life; Perrier, of course) and I already had extreme weaknesses in budgeting at that time anyway, it turned out that our cash was rapidly running out. We wanted to meet other Interrail travellers, friends, in Lulea, on 8 August, northern Sweden. The dream was over. But little Pauli still had an arrow in his quiver:
There was a chess rapid tournament in Denmark, in Vejle. I knew the tournament was the next weekend. From 8.8. – 9.8. Lulea was off anyway. But: four days to get there. On top of that, Vejle was very close to Tunö. A tiny island in the Kattegatt, where I spent many very nice summer holidays as a child. So what could be more obvious than to show Angie this island?
You had to go via Hov, a small village on the coast. That’s where we used to go as children, spend the night there and then take the mail boat over to Tunö the next morning. But that was 1968, also still 74, but now, 1981? We were standing at Hov station, late in the evening. No train, no one, no money for an overnight stay. That was unusual. But you know what? Jürgen Prochnow, alias Kaleun, also said, when “Das Boot” was shot down in the Strait of Gibraltar and he was still steering, deliberately, full speed ahead towards Africa’s coast when the boat finally touched down, at 260m depth: “The good Lord has thrown a shovel of sand under our keel.” So it was here too: Our shovel of sand was a young woman who suddenly and unexpectedly appeared at the station. Was she looking for “stranded” Interrail travellers? I can’t find any other explanation to this day. When, following her purpose, she found out that we were absolutely stuck, she said we could come with her. It was a beautiful, big house. There were about 5 flatmates with whom we could even have a dinner together. And we got a room with a bed all to ourselves! Just a shovel of sand…
The next morning, the mail boat was still sailing in ’81, we really went on to Tunö. We set up our dilljurke where I had always camped with my parents (no: they with me). Then we borrowed bikes, went for a bike ride around the island (about 11 km), got some “Röd Pölser” at the old Brugsen, which we also got, Stegte Lög (fried onions), tartar sauce, mayonnaise and a white bread. Then, at sunset, a campfire, like in the old days, right by the water. Bread and sausages were held in the fire, mayonnaise, tartar sauce for dipping, Stegte Lög on top, and the hot dog was ready. But what a hot dog!
The next day we set off for Vejle. The first big surprise at the campsite. Michael Bilek, my first real chess friend and competitor from my youth, from my chess club was also there, also with his girlfriend! Nice, his girlfriend even went to our school. The girls knew each other, how pleasing. A little less boredom for Angie.
The tournament went well for me. I was always in the lead. In the last round I had to play Gerd Müller (no, not this one). A strong player from Hamburg. Angie was the only one in the tournament room. I had Black. One win and I am in the (good) money. My opponent opened. Angie was still sitting on my lap. I asked Gerd (sure, we know each other, but not very well), “Can my girlfriend make the first move?” Gerd replied in the affirmative. “Why not?”
Now I wasn’t quite sure if Angie knew the moves of all the pieces. With the pawns, however, I was so sure that she would not move them sideways. And at the beginning you can almost only move pawns, and already mechanically hardly to the side. So Gerd had opened 1st knight to f3. Anything could have happened now. But Angie was a real talent. She moved the queenside pawn one square forward (did she know the double move?). 1. d7 – d6. I soon understood her idea. All the pieces had brilliant starting positions. Oh, that’s what she meant! I won the game, in grand style. And with it about 400 DM for 2nd place. And what do I answer to this day to 1. Sf3?
Do you know what the 400 DM earned us in the first place? A hot shower. And it went like this: We immediately drove on to Copenhagen. Patronisingly, I was even able to promise Angie a dress. And a night in a real bed! We moved into our hotel room and … now we realised what we had missed the most: this very shower. And what a shower it was! A whole room was just a shower. The most beautiful shower of my life! The night was also really relaxing, the dress and the visit to Tivoli were also nice, but a real chess professional, and I really was that day, has other obligations.
Yes, I was allowed to play for the national team. Only for the juniors, but still. The World Team Championship took place in Graz. The next Friday was the start. So back to Berlin as soon as possible. And then off to Graz.