Momentoo – chess in available light

9/6/2004 – ChessBase.com is know for its emphasis on visuals – spectacular picture reports that accompany tournaments. Recently we found a man to whom we can only tip our collective hats. Dutch photographer Fred Lucas has shot some of the best portraits of chess players that we have ever seen. Here's a selection...

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Momentoo Photography

By Fred Lucas

My relation with chess is simple. I'm a photographer who tried to get better at chess – owned the ChessBase programm and Fritz from version 1.0 up till 8.0, and bought a lot of ChessBase disks and CDs. But by now I have to accept that trying to improve is further time-wasting. Time to give up trying...

I'm very fond of the game however, love the atmosphere at tournaments – it's if you can really feel all the ideas coming up on all those boards – and I love to make pictures, especially with available light. So I started making photos of chess players who played tournaments here in Holland. I also feel the imagery of chess – in the broad sense – can improve.


Improving the image of chess: self-portrait of Fred Lucas

What I like most when photographing chess players is to get their emotions that are otherwise hard to see, because life immediately proceeds to the next moment. Before the start of a game most players are busy with themselves, concentrating and some give you the impression that they really don't want to pay attention to anything else than the game to come.


A Fred Lucas portrait of top Dutch GM Luc van Wely

And they are right! But when you are near with the camera, they somehow do look at you, cast a glance. You can't see it, but you can shoot it! Those are the moments, in which they reveal something of themselves that you can't see in normal life. Hard to get, unfortunately.


Judit Polgar collecting her thoughts before the start of a game

Most photographs of chess players are taken. Some can be made a bit. I like to do posing-work with players, like I did a few with Magnus Carlsen and Anand at Corus, and recently with Van Wely at the Amsterdam Chess Tournament. There you get other moments of course, but for different reasons also difficult to grasp; a lot of people around and they have to play this tournament. A good portrait needs time, for the sitter to relax and for me to get truthful information.


Chess legend Jan Timman, captured in Fred's famous "available light"

I do my work in digital format, and that's fine because there are a lot of benefits. But digital images are seldom okay right from the start. You have to do some postprocessing – if only cropping the image.


Alexei Shirov captured in a very special shot by the Dutch photographer

The chess images on my website are only a part of what I have got so far. The archive will grow however, because there are some good chess tournaments here in the Netherlands, and I hope to shoot some more nice pictures of players and tournaments in the near future.


Magnus Carlsen – a moving shot of the world's youngest grandmaster at work


Israeli IM and problem chess expert Yochanan Afek


FIDE world champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov


12th world champion Anatoly Karpov


Dutch GM Friso Nijboer


One of our favourite portraits, of Indian superstar Vishy Anand


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