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Summary of the First German Lockpicking Championships

A personal experience by Johannes Markmann

During the Chaos Congress in Hamburg in December 1997 the first German Lockpicking Championship took place.

I trained approximately six weeks long (daily approx. 4 to 6 hours) for this competition. That were six weeks ... knowing it would not be easy to become the champion. My strategy during the preparation was primarily to be able to open as many locks as possible; secondly, I selected my "master" lock -- the lock of mine which the others had to open during the championships. It was a simple five pin euro-cylinder with three special features: 1) the drillings for the pins were outside of the center axis 2) the drillings of the pin guidance were extremely larger than the pin diameter and 3) the lock always behaved differently when trying to pick it. In short, I had a moody lock.

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In the Freestyle, everything can be used ... as long as it doesn't break the lock

My thoughts ran wild. What about the other locks I had to open? One selects a lock which one must open in fifteen minutes which is complicated but which one can realiably open.

My thoughts circled around the question: "How good are the others?" I knew back then only the others from the Leipzig Sport group and only Steffen and Juergen from Hamburg, both of whom are very good at lockpicking.

I had received many different locks from some locksmiths in Leipzig. I had enough practice material in order to practice and to improve. Day in and day out I tried opening different locks. At first I only opened a few but then through much practice and frustation I opened more and more locks, whose "physical" code I had decoded. So, I decided on the three best locks ... these three I took to Hamburg with me. I hadn't considered that there would be so many (23) other sport "friends" with the same goal as mine at the championships.

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We see here that Johannes worked up quite a sweat

I wanted to compete relaxed and thoughtful. However, things didn't happen that way. With the first lock in the first round, which was devided into three different groups, I came to realise with much astonishment how seriously I took these championships. I shook all over. This astonished me. Nevertheless, I went on through and qualified for the final championship round.

During the evening of the first day of the championships, the "hard core" of the sport club couldn't set aside our hobby and talked "shop". Then Reinoud from Hamburg gave me his master lock so I could practice opening it. This astonished me ... since if you were to think only of winning, you wouldn't do such a thing. I was even more amazed when he explained the "tricks" of the lock to me ... and how to open it. I then I began to tell the same information about my lock, since I wanted it to be as open as well. Arthur, our Vice-President, listened to my explanation and tried to achieve a higher understanding of my lock.

During the "King of Disciplines" the Hand Opening, I was very happy at the fact that there is "Fair Play" in our sport club. That the point was an exchange of information and it wasn't all about winning at any price. Thus, during the champions it's totally normal to hear such questions as: "Juergen, how do I set the pins?" or "only the third, then the second?" If one couldn't open the lock after much trying, then the lock owner would stand behind whoever and tell him/her how to open the lock.

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Precision during the championships // Johanness was also filmed by many tv stations

The most beautiful experience of the championships was when I was allowed to see how Arthur opened my really complicated lock after 14 minutes and 34 seconds. The joy of conquering this "bastard" of a lock was clearly seen in his face. And now I would prefer to put that lock into plexiglass, so his golden hook could never again sink into the dark entrails of this lock.

Johannes Markmann January 1998

Note: Johannes (pronounced Yo-han-nes) would go on to become yet better in lockpicking. In 1998 he won the Hand Opening Championships, thus, he may now be referred to as "Master Johannes".