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Danish CIMMYT staff member breaks cover to break record

Jesper Nørgaard, Project Leader in the Crop Research Informatics Lab (CRIL), is sometimes to be seen playing chess in the atrium at El Batán, but did you know that he is ranked the fifth-best player in Mexico? If not, you are not alone: Jesper is modest about his chess master status, and still surprises colleagues after 15 years at CIMMYT.

You can see him in action from 10 am on Sunday 22 October, in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the most people playing chess at the same time – last set in Cuba by an event with around 13,000 players. Organizers of ‘El Festival de Ajedrez’ are hoping that this time 13,500 people will play chess in the Zócalo in Mexico City. Master players – Jesper among them – will play simultaneous games against around 30 people of all abilities. Anyone can take part, so if you know your knight from your bishop you could help break the record. If you arrive early you could even try requesting Jesper as your opponent!

Chess has been a big part of Jesper’s life. He started playing when he was around nine years old with a chess set given to him by his grandparents, and became serious about it a few years later. He even met his wife through chess: at 19 he took part in the Junior World Chess Championship in Mexico, where his future wife was working as a guide, and so began a relationship that eventually blossomed over years of correspondence.

He usually plays at a chess club several times a week and has been known to play 15-20 tournaments a year, though the birth last December of his baby twins, Majken and Magnus, has meant that he has had a quiet year – on the chess front at least! Jesper enjoys chess for the mental challenge, and because there is no element of luck – as he says, “whether you win or lose you have no-one to blame except yourself.” He attributes his success to hard work, and his advice to budding players is to play regularly, analyze your games for mistakes and missed opportunities, and study openings, endgames, tactics and strategies.

UPDATE: CIMMYT chess player helps shatter world record

Mexico hit the headlines around the world last weekend, and the Zócalo was even more crowded than usual, when thousands arrived to break the world record for the number of simultaneous chess games. CIMMYT’s very own chess master, Jesper Norgaard, was among them.

He was one of around 700 simultaneous players, and played against 25 individuals, winning all 25 games in around two and a half hours. In total, 13,446 acknowledged games were played. Jesper also took part in a blitz tournament with other masters and placed third. Congratulations!

Two other Guinness World Records were also broken: from the air, the players formed a huge chessboard, the biggest ever human logo. Former World Champion Anatolij Karpov broke the third record by signing 1951 books (stopping here at the year he was born!) in a session lasting more than 6 hours