August 13, 2012 14:40

Biel organizer Olivier Breisacher dies at 44

Olivier Breisacher

Olivier Breisacher, one of the organizers and driving force behind the Biel Chess Festival, passed away on Thursday. The 44-year-old journalist drowned during a holiday in Mallorca, according to Swiss media.

Breisacher grew up in Biel and studied in Geneva, where he earned a master's degree at the Institute of International Studies. Working as a freelancer at the Swiss Teletext in the late eighties, he quickly developed into a highly respected international sports journalist, specializing in tennis, icehockey and football. For example, this year he attended the Icehockey World Championship in Helsinki, Finland as well as the UEFA European Championship in Poland.

For twelve years Breisacher worked for Tribune de Genève, a French-language, regional daily newspaper. At their website a eulogy was published this morning, where it is mentioned that he did exclusive, face-to-face interviews with tennis stars like Roger Federer (his big idol) and Novak Djokovic.

Olivier was a great professional in all his areas of activity.

After Hans Suri quit, Olivier Breisacher became the organizer of the Biel Chess Festival in the summer of 1998, together with Peter Bohnenblust and Peter Burri. Breisacher had worked at the tournament as a press officer before. As one of the main organizers he managed to make the annual Biel Chess Festival bigger and stronger almost every year.

Co-organizer Bohnenblust was quoted by Journal du Jura:

We worked together for 15 years, when I took office, and were very close. Olivier was the soul of the festival. We are all shocked because we lose not only a friend but also a great connoisseur of the chess world.

Breisacher in 2011 | Photo Janis Nisii

GM Yannick Pelletier, who was born in Biel and has known Breisacher for more than 25 years, gave us the following comment:

Olivier was the real driving force behind the Biel Chess Festival. He had very good contacts and also an excellent relationship with all the top grandmasters and that's how he created these strong tournaments. He knew what he wanted as an organizer, and that's how he, together with Bohnenblust and Burri, made it one of the most famous tournaments.

He was a kind person, with a specific sense of humor. He loved anything he would get involved in, and tried to do the best he could. This involved his job but also organizing the chess festival.

Biel will go on, but of course he will not be replaced. It's never going to be the same.

As the editor-in-chief of this website I met Breisacher during the 2011 festival in Biel, and I can only confirm what's already been said and written. When I told Olivier that I wanted to include some shots of Biel in my atmosphere video, he drove me through the town in his car. Despite the rain, he would step out of the car several times and explain things about "his town" with patience. Obviously he showed me the Biel sports complex with great enthusiasm, explaining that it was one of Roger Federer's favourite training locations. I'm still proud that without hesitation he showed the video on a projector screen during the closing ceremony of the tournament.

Unfortuntately I couldn't attend this year's tournament in Biel, and that's why it was in April in Zurich during the Aronian-Kramnik match that I saw Breisacher for the last time. There, he told me that he was still trying to get Magnus Carlsen to Biel again. At some point a list of participants was published without the Norwegian on it, but shortly before the tournament started it was announced that Carlsen did play, instead of Cuban GM Leinier Dominguez. In the comments section there was a lot of speculation about this remarkable development, but knowing Olivier a little I can only say that I'm sure all this was done in a professional way and to the satisfaction of both players.

The chess world could use more people like Olivier Breisacher, a highly experienced professional who knew how to treat chess like a "real" sport.

Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers


Maxim R's picture

Rest in peace, my friend.
I don't know if I'll play in Biel again, but it's obviously not gonna be the same without seeing you around, without you having a joke or two about me.

JanisNisii's picture

I met Olivier at last year's Biel and he was very nice and friendly with me. I also appreciated his good humour and his smiling attitude. This is tragic and I'm very saddened by the news.

Je présente mes condoléances à toute sa famille.

noyb's picture

Very sorry to hear this, I wish the best to his family and friends. I hope that Biel will continue with his level of excellence.

AAR's picture

Seems to be a nice gentleman. May his soul RIP.

Sorry to ask this does a heavy body causes drowning?
If so, time for Chess players to focus on their fitness as well.

Tarjei's picture

What an inapporpirate comment. We have no idea what caused the drowning, and speculations like this are uncalled for.

Latest articles