LIPPSTADT: Hussain Besou was just four when he started asking his father to teach him chess, hovering around the board as he played in the evenings in the Middle East until he said yes. After mastering the basic moves, Besou quickly surprised everyone with his talent. “He started correcting us and telling us what we should have done to win,” said his 43 year-old father Mustafa. Now 11, Besou will play for the German national chess team at the Mitropa Cup in Croatia later this month, making him the youngest German national player in the history of the German Chess Federation. German national youth trainer Bernd Voelker says Besou is an exceptional player. “He is very quick to grasp the chess positions. This really is extraordinary.” When the Besou family, who are Syrian, settled in the western German town of Lippstadt in 2016 as refugees, the first thing Mustafa did was buy a chess set and find a youth chess club for Hussain in the small town. The club trainers soon saw Besou was way ahead of the other children even though he had not yet learned enough German to be able to understand the coaching. They recommended the then 6 year-old attend a club at state level. Besou’s chess teacher Andreas Kuehler said his commitment to the game and desire to win are part of his talent. He recalled an exercise when players were asked to switch sides in the middle of the game and take over their opponent’s strategy. “Hussain strictly refused to turn around his board and would rather stop playing completely,” Kuehler said. Besou began signing up for tournaments, winning first place in Germany’s Under 10 Competition in 2020 and the third place in the World Under 12 Championship last year. For Besou, the game’s similarity to maths is what makes it fun. Today he speaks fluent German, learned during the many tournaments he has played. Staying focused through a game which can take several hours is his biggest challenge, he said. His family have launched a crowd funding campaign to help fund the cost of travel to tournaments and training, and they hope he will eventually find a sponsor. “People only see success as if it’s magic, there is a lot of work and costs behind it,” his father said. But Mustafa also appreciates the support his son has received in Germany, saying his son’s talents would have gone unnoticed if he was in Syria. “If he was in Syria with this talent, he would have needed someone with authority supporting him in order to excel and even then he could only have reached a certain point,” he said. Despite not yet having full German citizenship, Besou will play with the German team as the youngest player in their history. Voelker, who selected Besou, says all that is expected of him is to gain experience in Croatia, given that he will be playing older opponents. Besou himself acknowledges the challenge of being so young, but sees it as an opportunity to work on his skills. “If I win, then thank God for that. If I lose, then I will try to win next time,” he said.