Jan Louwman, 1924 – 2002

12/6/2002 – On December 4 the computer chess world lost a distinguished personality. 78-year-old Johannes (Jan) Louwman passed away after a long illness in his home town of Rotterdam. Jan was considered the father of Dutch computer chess and for two decades was regarded internationally as one of the leading experts in this area. Eric van Reem and Dr Christian Donninger remember this abrasive, lovable man. Read about Jan Louwmann here.

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Jan Louwman, 25.10.1924 – 04.12.2002

Jan Louwman can be considered the father of Dutch computer chess. There, and in the rest of the world, he has for two decades been considered one of the leading experts in this area. He was tireless in his efforts to promote computer chess, writing articles in the magazines "Computerschaak", Schakend Nederland" and his own publication "Megabyte". He organised computer chess events, operated programs in computer tournaments all over the world, and tested new programs in his home "laboratory" which contained 17 computers. He also accompanied and advised programmers like Ed Schröder and Frans Morsch.

Although Jan was very ill for a number of years he still appeared regularly at computer chess tournaments. In 2001 he operated Chess Tiger at the world championship in Maastricht (picture above). He was always present at the well-known CSVN tournaments in Leiden, as a visitor and operator.


With Vincent Diepeveen in Paderborn 2002

Jan Louwman was much appreciated by many people, but he was also know for his very direct and sometimes impolite remarks. If you talked to him calmly you would always discover the warm, humorous personality. Even during his illness he remained mentally awake and active.

The funeral ceremony for Jan Louwman takes place on Monday, December 9, 2002 at 15:00 hours MET. It will be held in the crematorium "Hofwijk", Delftweg 230 in Rotterdam-Overschie.

Eric van Reem


Bread and butter

Obiturary by Dr Chrilly Donninger

My computer chess debut took place in 1990 at the computer chess Olympiad in Maastricht. My program Nimzo's first game was against Gideon, written by Ed Schröder. The program was operated by Jan Louwman. This gentleman greeted me with the words "Dag Meneer Waldheim" (good day Mr Waldheim). At the time I was living in Holland and knew exactly what he meant. Our Austrian president was Kurt Waldheim, and for the Dutch he was the epitome of the ugly Nazi Austrian.

I should have been insulted, but Jan seemed such a nice, playful fellow that I decided to fight back instead. The people of Limburg and Maastricht consider themselves the Cinderellas of Holand. I asked Jan, who hails from Rotterdam, whether he had been granted a visa to Maastricht. "That is a question only a Waldheim-Austrian could ask," he replied. "This is all Holland!" The last part of his remark drew loud protest from the other visitors from Maastricht. They said they thought the idea of requiring the Dutch to get visas for their part of the country quite a good one. The score was 1:1 and Jan and I shook hands cordially for the beginning of the game.

The word Apartheid, which is part of international vocabulary, was not invented by the South African boors but was imported from their Dutch mother tongue. Unfortunately on its long trip it lost the Dutch element of tolerance. Although we tried hard enough my wife Anni and I spent some time in relative isolation in Holland, "apart" from the others, one could say. Until one day Coby and Jan Louwman invited us to coffee with bread and butter in their home. We really only got coffee, bread and butter. But it was the most beautiful invitation we had ever received. The band was broken, Jan and Coby gave us the feeling that we now belonged here.

Jan's house was packed from top to bottom with chess computers. All over the sets were humming and blinking. He spent his days and nights playing test games for chess programmers. Jan had no idea how they worked, internally, but he often had a better feeling for their strengths and weaknesses than the programmers themselves. Jan proudly showed me a present he had received from the Dutch computer chess organisation. This was a bit surprising since Jan was at the time conducting a "ruzie" (feud) with the organisation. But that was the way he was, not always easy to deal with, but if you did not take everything he said too seriously, he was a helpful, humorous human being who wanted love and appreciation.

Since that time Jan always supported me, and a number of times he operated Nimzo at Dutch computer championships. As a genuine Dutchman he always explained to me patiently how much his presence at these events was costing him. In the last few years Jan had a numer of serious illnesses. The most important therapy he used was his passion for computer chess. So I gave him a bill for the Nimzo "medicine" he was receiving from me. We decided we were even. During the computer chess world championship in 1991 in Vancouver Jan suffered a massive heart attack. Ironically it was his "mortal enemy" Ossi Weiner who acted quickly and saved his life.

Early this year Jan's wife Coby died. At her funeral I told Jan that he had better hang on for a while since I couldn't afford a trip to Holland every two weeks. Jan said he understood very well and shook my hand warmly. But Coby's death had hit him badly. On December 4th he resigned the game that we will all loose in the end.

Thank you Coby and Jan for the bread and butter.



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