Prelude to a Wedding

The only thing that can be said against the Dutch championship, held in Amsterdam from July 5 until July 12, is that it was too short, with only eight players and seven rounds. Everything else was fine. The location was a four-star hotel in a nice area. Every day on the outdoor terrace there were less serious Dutch championships, such as that for low-rated amateurs, for pastors (i.e., all those who do pastoral work within the churches) or for chess café’s, and on one day a form of chess new to me was introduced, Hand and Brain, a contest for pairs of players where on every move the “Brain” calls the name of the piece to be played – king, queen, rook, bishop, knight or pawn – which usually leaves a lot of leeway for the “Hand” to decide which move will be played.

There was a cultural program with short theater plays, films, poetry and lectures. The writer A.L. Snijders, known in the Netherlands as the grandmaster of the “Very Short Story,” told us that as a young man he had been a teacher at a school in Delft which had all the Timman children as its pupils. At that stage in his life he had felt insecure as a teacher and as a remedy he had decided that if Jan Timman was obnoxious again, he would send him out of the classroom. And if Jan actually obeyed and left, everything would work out fine with his career as a teacher. And this is what happened.

Jan obnoxious in the classroom? The only thing I can imagine is that he might have been completely immersed in his own thoughts and oblivious to those of the teacher. Fortunately Snijders said later that his stories were not always completely truthful.

Marian Donner, a daughter of the late grandmaster Hein Donner, gave also a lecture, in which she quoted an article by her father from 1972, in which he described how, after having lost a match against me, he had fallen on his bed roaring and screeching and had risen out of bed only three days later. 

My wife, who was present on the day of Marian’s lecture, said, “Strange. Paul van der Sterren has also written that he had burst out in tears after a loss against you. Was it so terrible to be beaten by you?”

The advantage of the short track of only seven rounds was that the last round was still exciting. Three-time champion Anish Giri was a half-point ahead of the reigning champion Loek van Wely, who had won the championship seven times.

This year for Giri his rating is even more important than usually, as the average of the monthly FIDE ratings of 2015 will decide on two places in the candidates tournament of next year. One day when Giri was commenting on a game he had just won, someone from the audience asked him if his rating was more important to him than the championship. “No, no!” said Giri courteously. And then, more honestly, “Ah, well...” 

In the last round Giri with black played a short and uneventful draw against his good friend and partner in opening preparation Robin van Kampen. Not pre-arranged, they claimed, probably truthfully.

It meant that Van Wely would have to win his game against Sipke Ernst to force a play-off with Giri. Ernst was prepared for a good fight. When at the drawing of lots he had learned that he would play Van Wely with white in the last round, he had said, “Good, then I can spoil Loek’s tournament.”

Trash-talk, the youngsters call it. Gentle little punches, like kittens who pat each other with their paws without extending their claws. Anish Giri and Magnus Carlsen like to do it also. 

Ernst did indeed spoil Loek’s tournament by winning a game that had started rather quietly, but blossomed into an extremely complicated and exciting endgame.

A few days later Giri departed to Mtskheta, a holy city of Georgia, to marry his girlfriend Sopiko Guramishvili. Quite a large Dutch contingent joined him, with three players from the championship; Loek van Wely, Robin van Kampen and Erwin l’Ami. Van Kampen and L’Ami (who had lost to Giri at the championship) were Giri’s witnesses at a quite spectacular wedding, as you can see here:

Click here to play through the annotated game:

Ernst – van Wely

2015 Dutch Championship