“GM Ferdinand Hellers is the second-highest rated player in Sweden. Belonging to the same generation of players such as Anand, Gelfand and Ivantjuk, he became Swedish junior champion at 12 (1981), European junior champion at 15 (1985) and a GM at 19 (1988). On January 1, 1989, he was rated 45 in the world. After playing professionally for a few years, in 1991 he decided to study law and thereafter slowly drifted away from chess, playing his last serious round-robin tournaments in the summer of 1997, his first place in the 1997 Sigeman Malmo tournament being one of his major successes. After raising a family and working as a lawyer for more than 20 years, he has now, at 50, decided to make a comeback playing blitz and speedchess.”
Ferdinand, you disappeared from the chess world for many years. Where have you been?
I studied, worked and raised a family. I am married with four kids, 17, 16, 11 and 9 years old.
You recently started playing classical chess in the Stockholm League, Lag-DM, for your club Wasa SK again. How did that happen?
I sort of drifted back to chess when my youngest son Tomas started to play with the juniors at Wasa. After some time, I decided to give chess a try again.
At the end of November you participated in a strong blitz tournament in Malmö against nine of the Swedish top players. How was the experience of playing against the Swedish elite again?
I was very nervous before the tournament. I played some good games and some bad games, but I think I did not make a fool of myself considering my lack of practice for the last 20 years or so. I believe that I only can play better!
What is attracting you to play for the Sweden Wasabis in the PRO Chess League?
I frankly don´t have the time to play serious classical chess. If I want to play it must be speedchess or blitz during 1-2 days at the most. Playing with the Wasabis online seems a nice way to play for me. It is during an evening and I don´t to travel anywhere.
As you have not really been too active online before, what are you expectations of playing against the world elite online?
None, to be honest. We shall see how it turns out. I am preparing but like to keep how a secret!
What do you think about the potential of chess as eSport in Sweden?
The potential should be excellent. Every day when I am travelling on the subway everybody is looking at their Iphones!
Apart from being one of the strongest players in Swedish chess history, you are also a successful lawyer. Can you tell us about your professional career?
After I got my exam I worked the two customary years at a court before going into private practice. In private practice I have been concentrating for more than 21 years on insolvency law – situations when corporations are in trouble resulting in bankruptcies and reorganisations – and also the personal liability of directors etc. in these situations.
You recently started your own law firm which is also one of the corporate partners of the Wasabis. Can you tell us more about your new firm?
After leaving a middle-sized law firm for my own practice it is my idea to concentrate on giving advice to corporations and individuals in the situations mentioned above, but not primarily being appointed to an official position such as bankruptcy trustee. I also would like to branch out to the management of death estates, a field of law that it quite similar to bankruptcies and in which I sense a great potential. Finally, I would like to get more general corporate clients that not necessarily are in trouble!
Have your chess skills helped you in studying and practicing law?
You need to work hard and know a lot to be a good chess player. Law is no different in my experience.
Is a court case similiar to a game of chess where you anticipate the other side’s moves, choose move candidates and calculate different variations?
I believe so, although I must say that I don´t have much experience with trials. You better ask my colleague and close friend IM Richard Wessman, who is a very experienced trial lawyer.
We as the Wasabis have close ties with Latvia. Have you been there?
Many times, my wife is Latvian!