1) Small and medium Schla..Salzburger
You may also smile at my lousy corny jokes, no one can see: I’m not allowed to say SchlaWiener here, am I?
My theoretical bets were successful. I had also contacted some bookmakers by phone. Some of them seemed interested in at least taking a look at my software. Nevertheless, I had already moved on to placing bets not only theoretically, but also financially, i.e. for money.
So it was my early days in the betting business. I still had no idea how everything worked, but I was reasonably gullible. A betting shop that exists, accepts bets and so on, why shouldn’t that pay off? A lot of bets come in, some have to be paid out. That’s part of the business. And you have to maintain a good reputation, so why make things difficult for the customers?
But it’s not quite that simple. You have to make a sufficiently high turnover, and the odds have to be halfway correct. In addition, there are competitors who can steal your customers away, and you also have a lot of costs, apart from investments, if you want to grow. In other words, a betting office can go bankrupt just like any other business.
Nevertheless, I had sent money to Sportwetten Salzburg, as I had to some others. I had about 600 DM there. Of that, I had bet about DM 400 on “Bayern Munich will be German champion”. That was my computer’s advice, and I followed it. As it happened, I had established a good contact with Sportwetten Salzburg by phone. I knew the managing director and he also knew some of my product. He seemed interested in my software and my way of working.
It was the end of the 1990/91 season, early May. I actually arranged to meet the gentleman for the weekend. We were to meet in Salzburg in his office, I would be very welcome. So I packed my computer, got into the (borrowed) car and drove to Salzburg in good spirits and full of confidence. Friday arrival, Saturday noon was the appointment. So I went to the office at the appointed time on Saturday in the best early summer mood.
I couldn’t believe what I saw, but I can still see it now: the office was locked. I walked around the outside, looked in all the windows. I could see heaps of computers and all kinds of things you would expect to find in a betting office. Only there was a lack of staff. There was no one there. That couldn’t be. It was a Bundesliga match day, the match day was about to kick off. It had to be busy.
I was stunned and desperate for an explanation. I got it days later: all the people in charge had fled, the office was broke. However, I was lucky in that Bayern did not become German champions after all. They would have had to win against Uerdingen on the last matchday and at the same time Kaiserslautern would have had to lose in Cologne, neither of which happened. So the defeat only cost me DM 200 (the money left in my account).
But that wasn’t enough: some time later I heard about a new bookmaker in England, Viking Sports. I immediately got the odds and also deposited money there. I played there for a while, with (little) success. I also called up 2000 DM once, as was then the habit, to test the payment morale. Everything went well, the money arrived.
So I continued to play there. But after half a year the following happened: I placed a bet. Underneath it was “Atalanta X”, so Atalanta Bergamo on a draw, “Game 43 X”, you had to give the game number. Atalanta played X, the other results of the system bet were also favourable. So there was a profit of about DM 6000. On Monday, I called and asked about the account balance. I got a big fright: there was about DM 4000 missing.
I asked in a friendly way how that was possible. The man on the phone read out my bet. Everything was correct, but instead of Game 43 X he read “Game 42 X”. I said, “Yes, there’s the mistake, I played game 43.” He said he had written down 42. That was, you can save the question, of course not X gone out.
Well, I understand what you’re thinking: “I knew you shouldn’t play. You only get cheated anyway.” But the situation is not quite that simple. In fact, I invoked a paragraph from the terms and conditions which clearly stated: “Telephone bets are recorded on tape. In case of ambiguity, the tape can then be listened to.” At least that’s what it said.
So I invoked that paragraph and asked them to just listen to the tape again then. I would of course accept it if I had misspoken or at least if it had not been clear. They asked for a call back in the afternoon.
Do you know what I heard then? “We are sorry to have to tell you this, but the tape had run out. Unfortunately, the conversation was not recorded.” I immediately called in my money and never bet there again, of course. Taking legal action was not something I seriously considered. But do you know what I learned a short time later? Viking Sports was founded by the former “Sportwetten Salzburg” men…
My journey went through several other stations: I visited the betting offices Admiral Sportwetten, Interwetten Wien and Wettbüro Schwechat in Vienna. Then I went to Linz to visit Horst Kleiss from the Linz betting office. Finally, I went to the Vierklee betting office in Innsbruck. Everyone seemed somehow interested but still sceptical. Only the Vierklee betting office then received my odds and assessments for years. The income was not particularly high, but still a small recognition for my work.
By the way, when I visited Admiral Sportwetten and wanted to present my programme, I was laughed at right at the door. I then had Mr. Patzelt hand me a betting slip and briefly compared the odds offered with my programme. There weren’t many games left, as it was the end of the season. But at least my computer told me to play two games. I filled out a betting slip and gave it to the boss of the branch, the aforementioned gentleman, with the corresponding stake. I bet 500 shillings (the “um” is the Viennese or all-Austrian version of “for”), about 70 DM.
I was spending the night in Vienna anyway, as I was planning to pay a few other visits there. The games were on in the evening. I can only remember the slightly astonished expression on the gentleman’s face when I entered his shop again the next day and demanded the 3200 ÖS due. Both games were correct, quite good odds, multiplication with stake resulted in 3200 ÖS. My travel fund was considerably improved. What the man thought about me from then on is not known. But of course I know: it was luck, even if I had an advantage. It’s only the little experiences that a) make the stories worth remembering for me and b) always a bit exciting, I think.
2) Little Pauli and the chess world champions
Other little incidents and encounters are certainly left to “chance”, but on the other hand, for my sensibilities, I have always exposed myself to such coincidences and, when they occurred, noticed them (that arrogant snoot; who knows how often he overlooked a coincidence?). In any case, the encounter with the (then still future) world champion Kasparov was not a mirage. Somehow, fate had given him a hint that he would have the chance to meet me on that day and in that place (arrogant; foolish and arrogant, the guy; away with the book and into the oven).
What kind of hint today’s (as of 17.12.2008, Angie’s birthday! I won’t forget the call, it can’t happen) chess world champion got that day, I don’t know exactly. But I’ll tell you the short, little back story:
I was a quarter chess player and three quarters backgammon professional. So one of my best friends, Dirk Maxion, asked me to go to a chess tournament in spring 1986, namely the Festival in Lugano. I have only very superficial memories of the tournament itself. So my result was rather moderate. But the hikes in the surrounding mountains, the overview of the neighbouring laghi (lakes), Lake Maggiore, Lake Lugano and many other, smaller lakes, were an experience. Fantastically beautiful, in March, that is, in Lugano, which is already clearly spring-like.
I only remember one special feature from the tournament: a huge chess talent had arrived and participated in the tournament. His name, practically unpronounceable: Viswanathan Anand. And in the final round, I had the pleasure of playing next to him (after all, since it was an Open tournament, that means we were tied on points; sure enough, I lost the final round). My own game occupied me much less than the way Anand played his opponent to the wall. I watched fascinated as he made move after move perfectly in my insignificant estimation and soon forced his opponent to give up. That alone was not as remarkable as the speed with which he executed his moves. He hardly needed 20 minutes for the whole game! We had already heard about him, but I was able to see it in the flesh.
Not quite enough of a back story: as I studied his game, he probably studied mine. Sure, he had already discarded the bad moves I had painstakingly hatched after tenths of a second. But still. I had to occupy myself with something during my own game, which had long since become boring for him. So he probably even spent a considerable amount of time studying my disfigured face. Of course, for quick thinkers even that only takes a second at most. But even for that: at least. Anand, by the way, was 16 years old on that day.
But now finally back to today’s story: In earlier years, I had already planned my travel routes in such a way that, if possible, I passed by a football stadium on the way. At this moment, space and time reveal their kinship: As soon as I arrived at the location of the stadium in the geographical dimension, a football match was also kicked off in the temporal dimension (one could say: by magic).
I took advantage of this commonality of space and time on that day as well. My journey home took me, and not entirely by chance, from Innsbruck via Munich back to Berlin. In Munich there was a football match, even in the Olympic Stadium, from the Bundesliga, to boot. I went to the game. As always, I consulted my friend, the Internet, for the purpose of clean research: It was the game Bayern – Frankfurt on 11.5.1991, final score 2:0. I left the stadium, got into the Honda Civic borrowed from Abi and wanted to leave the parking garage. Suddenly, an overzealous and hurried other road user hit me on the side of the wing. It was more like a touch. But German thoroughness demands that the police be called, a report made, the question of guilt clarified as far as possible, and the insurance companies exchanged. Well, the police car first had to make its way to the scene of the accident through the other vehicles leaving the car park. Translated, this means: there was a considerable time delay. But there was nothing that particularly pressed me, only that the day was progressing. It was already well into the evening when I could finally start my journey home (as a reminder: the final whistle for Saturday matches is 17:15 in the 1st BL).
I had already travelled the distance Innsbruck – Munich, visited a stadium and had a small accident. My stomach was also starting to growl, so I decided to stop at the next best pizzeria. After the meal, I could decide whether to stay the night or continue my journey home.
These thoughts, noticing a pizzeria in the corner of my eye and stopping spontaneously were virtually one. The car was parked, I opened the door of the pizzeria, no, I was about to open it, when another guest beat me to it just then. He turned to me briefly and I recognised him immediately. I really don’t know how long it took him, but geniuses are capable of special achievements, and one thing is certain: he also recognised me. It was Viswanathan Anand.
We greeted each other, briefly repeated the circumstances of our first meeting and took our seats together. Now that’s what I call a meeting! And how this meeting came about by chance, please read the story.
Our conversation also lasted a good 10 minutes, during which we were just the two of us. And, I hope I won’t offend “Vishi” if I reproduce a few of his dark thoughts from that evening here: He was 21 years old by now. And he was still not a world champion, which must have pushed him for a while. He seemed, not untypical of chess players by the way, to be lagging behind his own standards. He even expressed thoughts of retirement. Most likely, he had just spoiled a game that day, because the reason for his presence was soon determined:
The famous grandmaster tournament was being held in Munich. First of all, the English grandmaster Dr. John Nunn entered the pizzeria. I had drawn against Nunn with Black at the Open in Hamburg a few years ago, and we also knew each other from the German Chess League. John Nunn has also written several highly interesting and equally high-quality chess books. Then Eric Lobron also came in, with whom I had played numerous German Youth Championships (individual and team) together. This meant that I had found my next conversation partner for the course of the evening.
I had a real friendship with Eric at that time.
So we reminisced and had a beer or two. My decision had long been made at that point, also due to my alcohol level: I’m staying.
The next day, I even had the pleasure of looking over the shoulders of a few grandmasters. Of course, on recommendation and for lack of alternatives, I stayed at the players’ hotel. This was also the venue of the tournament.
Of course, I met lots of chess players and old acquaintances. They were a little surprised at my sudden change of heart: not only did they think I had long since stopped playing chess intensively, but nobody would have expected me to be a “kibitzer” in chess-enthusiastic times. So I had to repeatedly put it right that my stay there was the result of a chain of huge coincidences and was anything but planned.
After all, I also met Dr. Robert Hübner there, at that time still the undisputed champion of the Germans. Well, it was not so unusual that we saw each other from time to time. That inevitably happened at the national chess league weekends. It’s just that in the course of the last few years a kind of friendship had even developed (I may count myself among the small number of the chosen ones who were allowed to visit Robert in person). But you will be amazed: we did not talk about chess, we did not play chess or analyse chess games, but: We played backgammon at our meetings in the evening! And from Robert I also got the wisdom that in backgammon it would be so comparatively pleasant to lose because, quote: “…it’s just the stupid dice that are to blame. Unlike chess, where you build up a winning position in 5 hours of hard work and then throw it all away with a blunder…” (of course, he was referring to his legendary game against Korchnoi in the battle to determine Karpov’s challenger in 1980, when he lost a rook in a position he had almost won with a knight fork and gave up the match shortly afterwards).
So I spent two more nights in Munich in this way. I even made a few bets there, from the hotel room, which also turned out favourably, had renewed a few friendships, well, that’s the way to live.