Interview of GM Stefan Kindermann by Karel van Delft


Table of Contents

The following is a post by Karel van Delft. It is an interview on “Social chess is a fascinating paradox” with GM Stefan Kindermann. Kindermann is an Austrian chess Grandmaster who has represented Germany and Austria in various olympiads. In this interview, GM Kindermann walks us through his thoughts on chess a social mechanism, his activities with the Munich Chess Foundation, and more.

Grandmaster Stefan Kindermann: 
Social chess is a fascinating paradox

by Karel van Delft, Chessable Science Project Manager

It is a fascinating paradox, says Grandmaster Stefan Kindermann. “Chess is aimed at beating your opponent, but we use the thinking tools of chess to help people to develop planning and decision making. That is important for their self-development and social cooperation with others.”

After a successful career as a chess player, Kindermann, now age 64, changed his focus to 
psychological and social aspects of chess. The Munich Chess Academy (Münchener Schachakademie), the Munich Chess Foundation (Münich Schachstiftung), and the training philosophy King’s plan (Köningplan) are his main occupations and his life’s work.

Chess Career

Stefan Kindermann peaked as number 70 in the world. He played for Austria and Germany in eight Olympiads. He also defeated former world champions Spassky, Smyslov, and Khalifman.

Starting in 1995 things began to go downhill for Kindermann in the chess world. The sponsor of the top team Kindermann played on, team Bayern Munchen, died. Many strong players from Eastern Europe challenged German players for limited prize money. The interzonal tournament that he qualified for was cancelled. 

Around this time Kindermann became interested in Neuro Linguistic Programming and concluded that he had qualities as a chess coach. However, he still plays in the German competition for MSA Zugzwang (second league), writes chess books, gives lectures, and writes for newspapers.  

White to play and draw, prize-winning study by Kindermann.


A lecture of GM of study composition Yochanan Afek stimulated Stefan Kindermann in 2001 to 
compose a study himself. He won first prize in the Timman 50 Tourney, named in honor of the 50th birthday of GM Jan Timman. The competition included 95 study composers from 23 countries. 

Chess Benefits:

The Chess Academy initiative started in 2006. The academy is a company, which works closely with the Munich Chess Foundation. Every year a few hundred schoolkids get lessons. Stefan Kindermann is the manager and trainer. “With a modest salary, but I have more sources of income, like columns in newspapers and lectures.” Scientific studies showing positive effects of learning chess for the social, emotional, and cognitive development of children were the impetus for, in 2007, beginning the Munich Chess Foundation. This nonprofit organisation was an initiative by GM Stefan Kindermann, GM Gerald Hertneck, WIM Dijana Dengler, and Roman Krulich. The foundation was financially made possible by Roman Krulich. He is a strong and passionate chess player who runs a real estate company. Krulich is one of the biggest sponsors in Germany. He is convinced of the benefits of chess for children and supports the activities still today substantially.  

Kids doing chess yoga in a school.

Chess offers many benefits to children, says Kindermann. “It is obvious that the ability to concentrate is stimulated, but there is more. The problem with the school system in Germany and some other countries, is that it is very focussed on knowledge. In times of Wikipedia and Google that need has  become less important.” Young people should develop creativity, social intelligence, problem solving,  and flexibility in their approach to situations, he states. Chess can be used as a useful tool to develop such attitude and skills, especially when the didactics encompasses learning by playing, fun, and positive experiences. “The most important thing is they strengthen their self-confidence.” 

Blindfold show in the Taiwanese embassy in Berlin, with Kindermann playing against two top players from Taiwan. Germany’s top-ranked female player Elisabeth Pähtz is commenting.

A simple but very instructive minigame is a position with a white king on b4 and a black king on c8, where White, to move, should bring the king to the eighth rank. This teaches thinking in variations, changing perspective, opposition, and zugzwang. In the chess lessons a variety of interactive methods are used, such as chess yoga, chess theatre, mini-games, chess tactics, game analysis, storytelling, and discussions. All those activities and methods are described on the sites of the academy and foundation as a rich source of inspiration for others.

Munich Chess Foundation

About 1,000 to 1,300 children yearly participate in the activities of the Munich Chess Foundation. Also, 50 to 100 seniors and 50 to 100 physically handicapped people get chess lessons. Many of the participants are from socially deprived areas. There are also projects for special needs groups, such as youngsters with autism or mental diseases. A few hundred refugee kids from Ukraine get chess lessons. They learn chess, which is a success experience, but they also get social contacts and learn German. 

Stefan Kindermann welcomes schoolkids from a socially deprived area in the chess academy.
Photo: Munich Chess Academy

In these activities the Munich Chess Foundation works together with a lot of organisations. Lessons are in their buildings or in the building of the Chess Academy. The foundation’s lessons are free for participants and the lessons are financed by sponsors. The foundation costs about 150,000 to 200,000 euro a year. “Half of my time I spent on fundraising”, Kindermann says. The foundation works with fifteen paid chess trainers of the chess academy. They give lessons using the King’s plan philosophy and didactic system. The organization is mainly done by GM Stefan Kindermann and GM Gerald Hertneck, who work both for free for the foundation. 

The foundation published a few books for lessons with kids. “Schach! Für junge Einsteiger” (Chess! For young beginners) is a book for children based on a fairy tale written by Stefan Kindermann and illustrated by Anne Franke. 

In 2023, Kindermann and his colleague WIM Veronika Exler wrote the book “Schachstrategien für Schule und Leben – der Königsplan für Kinder” (Chess strategies for school and life – the King’s plan for children). In the book they present for trainers and parents the concepts and experiences of their chess lessons for kids in combination with thinking strategies based on the King’s plan. There will be a second book, also in English.

King’s Plan

The common thread in all the projects is the desire to share the benefits of chess with other people, Kindermann says. “We try to give the things which we believe are valuable in chess to give to other people, from kids in socially deprived areas up to top managers in big companies and the government.”

The basic philosophy is formulated in the book King’s plan (Köningsplan). The Köningsplan is a book which was written in 2010 by Stefan Kindermann and economist Prof. Robert K. von Weizsäcker, who is a correspondence chess grandmaster. The book was originally intended for business managers, who could learn and become inspired by the way chess players think. It is a book about planning, organizing and decision making. The book explores how principles and tactics from chess can be applied to develop strategic thinking, improve decision-making skills, and handle complex situations more effectively. By examining famous games and positions, Kindermann illustrates how the strategic planning and critical thinking required in chess can be beneficial in everyday scenarios, such as business negotiations, problem-solving, and achieving personal goals. Unique in the method, Kindermann says, is how to combine rational thinking and intuition.

Intuition is also the topic of many keynotes by Kindermann. Intuition is an important cognitive tool, it is the ability to understand or know something immediately, without conscious reasoning. The brain  can make quick judgments and decisions based on past experiences, knowledge, and patterns. Intuition is most effective if it is used in conjunction with rational and analytical thinking. 

The Köningsplan encompasses self-insight and thinking techniques which are used in all the projects of the academy and foundation and workshops and lectures by Kindermann. To encourage better self-management a lot of analogies with chess are used. For example, a change of perspective, first looking at situations through the eyes of an opponent. “Especially for kids this is very valuable to learn to take other people seriously. If you only look at your own plans, you will fail immediately in chess.”

The Seven Steps of the King’s Plan

English Site

German Site

1. Begin in Best Form: Optimal mind-set 
2. Embrace the Present: Dissect complex situation into single components 
3. Creative Cycle: Room for imagination and intuition 
4. Sensible Search: The forward thinking algorithm (change of perspective, combining intuition and rational thinking) 
5. Good Goals: Define your goal 
6. Back along the Timeline: The final goal as a starting point  
7. Rewarding Reflection: Review in a critical and constructive way

About the author of this article:

Karel van Delft is psychologist and the science project manager of Chessable. He is the author of the book ‘Chess For Educators’ and co-author of the book ‘Developing Chess Talent’. He runs Schaakacademie Apeldoorn (Chess Academy Apeldoorn, in The Netherlands.

Correspondence: [email protected]

Cover Photo by Christoph Vohler

Was this helpful? Share it with a friend :)

4.9 with 3.65K user reviews

Check them on individual course pages