Recently I typed “chess” in the search window of YouTube to see how many chess videos were there. The answer was “about 2,340,000.” I had asked the same question a few weeks earlier and then the count had stuck at 2,300,000. Apparently the growth rate is about 50,000 chess video’s per month. I find that awesome, more than a thousand chess video’s uploaded every day.
Of course among these “chess’ videos there will be some about the famous Chess Records label, but I think their contribution to the big numbers is insignificant compared to our chess.
The big numbers invite fruitless calculations. How much time would I need to watch them all? Impossible to do it in my lifetime, and anyway if I would spend the rest of my life fast-forwarding them on my screen, millions of new ones would have been added.
Merciful Google, owner of YouTube, knows all our preferences and therefore it did not lead me to one of the million beginners’ chess courses, but to an advanced lecture of which I had not known the existence. It was a lecture which Jan Timman had delivered during the Politiken Cup Tournament in 2015 in the Danish city Helsingor, also known as the residence of Prince Hamlet.
The lecture was about endgame studies, and during the explanation of one of them, composed by Timman himself, I heard the audience, which remained out of view, laugh heartily. That was at the start, when Timman said that computers were rather confused by this study, but especially at the end, when the point became clear: it had started with a white queen imprisoned on a1, and it ended with a black queen imprisoned on the same square, as if it had changed color. After the laughter of the audience came a big applause.
Sometimes I find it difficult to explain to people who don’t play themselves that there is beauty in chess, like in music or ballet. It’s even more difficult to convince them that chess can be humorous. But the spontaneous laughter of the crowd during Timman’s lecture was a clear embrace of authentic chess humor.
In December 2016 Timman reached the age of 65, which used the be the age when most Dutch workers retired. Not chessplayers or chess writers of course; we will happily struggle on till we fall over. But nevertheless, the traditional age of retirement would have been an excellent opportunity to award Timman a royal distinction for his immense services to the chess community. But as far as I know it didn’t happen.
It’s not that our authorities overlook chessplayers. Both IM Hans Böhm and IM Coen Zuidema are Chevalier in the Order of Oranje Nassau. Why not Timman? Maybe he had already received a much higher order long ago, and nobody knows it, because it would be beneath his dignity to flaunt the decorations.
Click here for the study (in the game viewer) that evoked the audience’s laughter.
Jan Timman (after Simkhovitch), first published in New in Chess 2015/6
White to move and win.
To free his queen on a1, White should either eliminate Black’s bishop on f4 or his pawns on b3 and a4.
There are many sidelines that contribute to the difficulty of the study, but do not show the funny point of the main line. In New in Chess, Timman gives 1...Qxe7 2.Rd4 Qe8 3.Bh7 and 1...Be3 2.Bc2 Qxe7 3.Rd3 Kf4 4.c4
Or 2...Kxe6 3.Rb7 Qh8 4.e8Q+ (Black’s queen has to be deflected) 4...Qxe8 5.Rb6+ Ke5 6.Bc2. Without White’s rook on b6, Black would give mate by 6...bxc2+ 7.Kxc2 Qg6+. But now after 6...Qg8 7.Rb4, White will eliminate Black’s queenside pawns.
Again Black’s queen has to be deflected.
3...Qxe8 4.Rf7+ Kxe6 5.Rxf4
By eliminating Black’s Bf4, White has achieved an important goal, but it’s not over yet.
Black is threatening mate. If instead 5...gxf4, White will escape by 6.Kc1.
Black could not go to the d-file or the e-file, as then White’s rook would be able to come back to the defense.
7.Kc1 Qh1+ 8.Kd2 Qxa1 9.Bb1+ gxf4 10.Kc1
The point of the study, both beautiful and funny. The study started with an imprisoned white queen on a1 and at the end the imprisoned queen has changed color. White wins, as either his c-pawn or his g-pawn will promote.