Tireless Youth

After the last round of the PokerStars tournament at the Isle of Man, Jorden van Foreest didn’t return to his hometown Groningen to prepare for his match against Jan Timman in Hoogeveen that would start a week later, but he booked a flight to Berlin to take part in the World Blitz Championship.

“His mother should have forbidden that,” said an older chess lover. But what mother would or could forbid a 16-year old grandmaster to take part in a prestigious tournament where Carlsen, Anand and Kramnik were participating?

Van Foreest seemed tireless, as on the free day of his match against Timman he participated in some side-events such as bicycle chess and Basque chess, and joined the commentator of the day to instruct the public about the match game between Sopiko Guramishvili and Anna-Maja Kazarian and about the games of the open section.

I don’t know the exact rules of bicycle chess and I couldn’t care less, but Basque chess appeals to me. For a few years the name has been used for a competition where the opponents play at two boards simultaneously. It is a watered-down version of an old idea of David Bronstein, who wanted to reduce the anxiety that can occur during a normal game of chess, where every mistake can be fatal. When you play several games at the same time, the effort may be greater, but the stress is much less. No need agonizing over a piece lost on one board, as you can have your revenge on the next board.

Bronstein himself played in 1982 in Tbilisi a match against Mikhail Tal on eight boards simultaneously, which was won by Tal 5½-2½. In 1990 I had the privilege to take part in a tournament along these lines. It was a knock-out tournament in Rotterdam with 32 participants who played their matches on six boards simultaneously. Bronstein himself took part, and in fact the tournament was organized in his honor. He was eliminated in the third round by Jeroen Piket, just as I was by John van der Wiel, who went on to win the tournament by beating Paul van der Sterren in the final 3½ -2½.

It was a tiring but exhilarating day and at the time I hoped and expected that this format would become more popular, but that didn’t happen.

Like his opponent in Hoogeveen, Jorden van Foreest, Jan Timman had also participated in the PokerStars tournament. He hadn’t played as well as Van Foreest, who had scored his fourth grandmaster norm there, which in fact he no longer needed for the title. Timman has 14 rating points more than Van Foreest, which is practically insignificant. And then, a rising young star is always stronger than his rating.

Prior to the match, I thought that Timman would have an advantage that might be more weighty in a match than in a tournament: the experience that gives one a feeling what kind of opening variations would be unpleasant for the opponent. And when Timman took a 3-1 lead, this view seemed to be confirmed.

Especially the third match game, which can be seen in the game viewer, seems a convincing example of “experienced player lures his young opponent into his own territory.” But then my theory was refuted when, in the fifth game (also in the game viewer), Van Foreest got an overwhelming advantage right after the opening.

Timman won the match 3½-2½. All in all it was a wild match, where a winning advantage often changed hands several times. As the Dutch grandmaster Dimitri Reinderman put it in a review of the sixth game that ended in a draw: “In harmony, both players decided not to make use of their chances.”

Van Foreest – Timman

Game 3, Match, Hoogeveen 2015

Van Foreest – Timman

Game 5, Match, Hoogeveen 2015