Have you ever given up on a game of chess

Helene Mira: From acting to chess

Reprinted from Neues Deutschland


"It's never too late to learn chess!"
The actor and chess teacher Helen Mira

She has a famous name - Helene Mira - and on top of that she is also a professional colleague of the legendary Brigitte Mira from Berlin, who died a few months ago. And like the Fassbinder muse, who wonderfully led the galloping youth craze ad absurdum, the Mira from Austria is now proving that women can get really far ahead despite a delayed start. The Austrian Helene Misera, who is called Helene Mira on stage, is successfully working on a second career as a chess performer, even though she has already celebrated her 50th birthday. While the top athletes are mostly getting younger and younger on the 64-field court - the current case: the Norwegian child prodigy Magnus Carlsen, who was just 13 years old when he was proclaimed grandmaster - the late-calling from the Alpine republic shows all the youngsters perky Middle finger and unmoved aiming for a top spot in the national Olympic selection. At the same time, Helene Mira, who has already won the title "International Master of Women" (WIM), has opened a "chess workshop" in beautiful Bregenz; and how this surprising change came about, away from the boards that mean the world for many and towards those mini-boards that can also be a world in themselves, that is what the author Dr. Let René Gralla tell the story.

We didn't even know that there was a chess player in the family of the great Brigitte Mira, who unfortunately recently passed away. How are you related to Brigitte Mira?

Not at all. My maiden name is Misera ...

... that sounds a bit depressing for its part ...

... I personally don't think so. However, my real family name could tempt some theater critics who absolutely want to be original by proving their supposed knowledge of foreign languages ​​- "Misera" means "the unfortunate" - to play on words. At least that's what my first director meant - and he simply shortened my name to "Mira".

Have you ever met your relatives Brigitte Mira in person during her lifetime?

Unfortunately, no.

You started your stage career at the Volkstheater Vienna, and later you also performed in Nuremberg and Klagenfurt. Your greatest successes?

I spent my longest time in Bregenz, at the Theater für Vorarlberg. My greatest successes include Elisabeth in "Maria Stuart" and Mrs. John in "Ratten".

You gave up your acting profession two years ago by your own admission. Why?

After a change of direction at the house where I had been involved for 25 years, I was bullied out by the new management.

Can that actually work: a goodbye forever to those boards that mean the world?

The future will tell. Right now I don't take the time to think about it.

Now you run the "Bregenz Chess Workshop". What are you doing?


Helen Mira (right) with IM Eva Moser and students

This is a training center for everyone who is interested in chess but who doesn't want to be served dry food. After all, chess has to be fun.

What do the courses cost for you?

Beginners pay between 50 and 80 euros for ten times an hour and a half; the price for advanced learners ranges between 80 and 120 euros for ten times two and a half hours.

The struggle for survival is tough in these globalized times. What good is it for me to learn chess as well?

Chess promotes mental agility. The game calms you down, it's fun - and it makes you friends. After all, chess is a global game. Over 120 nations take part in the Chess Olympiads; these are people of all races and creeds, from all social classes and of all ages.

You also teach a women's group in the "chess workshop" ...

... and that makes me particularly happy. These are women between 40 and 60 who always thought that chess was too complicated for them. And who have been enthusiastically coming once a week for a year and a half. In general, I am of the opinion that too few women still play chess, although they are certainly no less talented than men. That's why I particularly like to train girls to give them the self-confidence they need.

So your "chess workshop" is also aimed at young people?

Absolutely. Chess is an excellent school of life: the children learn to get up again after losses. They learn to adjust to their respective counterparts and to respect them. Your ability to concentrate is strengthened - and all of this in a playful way. Children can therefore be introduced to chess from preschool age.

How does an actress come to turn to chess of all things after a career breakdown?

Chess has always been a part of my life. But in the early years of acting, I didn't have time to focus on chess; back then I had to steal the time for it. Today chess has become my profession.

Indeed? Acting is extroverted - especially on the theater stage. Chess is introverted, has something lonely about it. Again: what is it that fascinates actress Helene Mira about chess?

The actress is fascinated by chess, which she practically directs herself. Plus, acting and chess have more in common than you might think. Chess, like theater, is a sign of a highly developed culture. Another point: a chess player needs the creativity and curiosity of an actor.

But an actor wants to reach as many people as possible with his art. As a chess player, however, you can only reach a few people - namely the minority who are familiar with the rules.

In the age of the Internet, this minority is already quite large. By the way, you shouldn't overestimate the number of people who can judge an acting performance in all its subtleties.

You became successful in chess comparatively late ...

... I learned the game when I was 17 years old; I only started tournament chess when I was 30. In this respect, my chess career is not entirely typical. On the other hand, however, chess has no fixed age structures.

Do you want to become a grandmaster?

I'm still curious about my limits. And I'm ready to do something about it.

The grandmasters today are getting younger and younger - while players in more mature years are considered "old iron". Ms. Mira: Do you want to override the biological laws?

There are more and more examples that one can successfully play chess among the world's best into old age; I only mention the 73-year-old Viktor Korchnoj. I think that at the age of 50 the physical resilience diminishes somewhat, but the conscious desire and enjoyment of the game gives a lot of strength. In addition, we don't want to completely forget the lead in experience. When the physical strength decreases, it takes more discipline, better preparation and a youthful will to win to compensate.

You, Ms. Mira, are therefore a beacon of hope for older people. According to the motto: "Don't be bluffed, you are better than you think!" Definitely in chess ?!

Yes. For me it has always been fascinating to see how older people have kept their mental fitness through chess. Youth and old age are not opposites in chess: Chess connects both; And there is hardly any other sport where different generations can compete against each other even in the same tournament without the winner being certain in advance.

When is it too late to learn chess?

As long as the memory is reasonably intact - never.

Interview: Dr. René Gralla / Hamburg

In the summer of 1995 in Berlin, Helen Mira managed a dramaturgically very nice victory against grandmaster Andrei Kovalov with the help of a farmer's wedge pushed deep into the black position:

Helen Mira versus A. Kovalev, Berlin Summer 1995 ...

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Contact to the "Bregenz Chess Workshop":
Weiherstrasse 2, 6900 Bregenz; Tel. 0043/664 396 7800; Email: [email protected]