Café Batavia - Impressions from Amsterdam

by Alina l'Ami
3/4/2014 – Although the international tournament held at Café Batavia was an example of informal coziness, it was also a tribute to the love of chess by all concerned. It starts with the owner, Peter Tames, who made it possible, but consider the efforts of GM David Smerdon, who worked his day job, faced a five-hour commute every day, and played in the tournament. Here is a final illustrated report.

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Finding the best individual method to get into the best shape for the important tournaments has always been a constant preoccupation for a wide category of players. With his article revealing some secrets of his preparation for the 1939 Soviet championship, as well as his general tournament attitude and habits, Botvinnik became a pioneer in this field. His ideas received unanimous approval, but over the decades not many could apply them: self-discipline is so hard to master!

Amsterdam is unique, with its old charm preserved like nowhere else - best would be to have a shot from a helicopter, to properly show you the beautiful 17th century buildings, the endless canals and the hordes of tourists ready to take in that "gezellig" (in translation - something like cozy or convivial) atmosphere, which is easier to experience than to define...

Wasn't this suppose to be in Paris somewhere?
doesn't need words, it is universal.

And some feel the need to lock it forever, not only in their
hearts but also on the Dutch (or French) bridges.

The hectic years we are living in leaves us little possibilities for self-programming. There are simply too many tournaments, too many other things to do for allowing us adopting a scientific tournament policy.

The 2014 Batavia tournament, a round robin event with the possibility of achieving IM and GM norms, offers us some good examples. Three of the players, Sipke Ernst, Zhaoqin Peng and myself, decided to enjoy the comfort of home, resulting in daily train travels to and from the tournament hall.

At first, I considered my daily two and half hours of travelling a serious handicap, but it soon appeared that I chose the best way of investing this time: I read no less than three good books! This proved so inspiring that my games against Merijn van Delft and Jorden van Foreest won the only two beauty prizes awarded by the organizers! Since the latter ended in a draw, I actually shared the award with my opponent.

Candy artisans! Impressive to watch them while working the sugar out

If you ask a Dutch what he misses most while abroad, I am
sure the Gouda cheese will be on the list, if not the first one!
And I understand why, it is simply one of their cultural and
gastronomical highlights.

Amsterdam is a sight to behold at night as well

Cafe Batavia from the other side - hope you can see the chess
pieces despite the light reflections

For Sipke Ernst, the tournament's number one, things proved much harder. Sipke lives in Groningen, resulting in spending five hours on the train every day! He mainly used this time to watch movies on his laptop, but this didn't prove enough to compensate for the fatigue and his final result is well below expectations.

But the player who had the theoretically hardest tournament regime was David Smerdon. David spent every morning on his... regular job; and yet, he played some great chess and won the event!

The tournament winner: David Smerdon - having a speech
in...Dutch! Ok...David is currently living and working in Amsterdam,
so he has some practice.

So, is there any connection between the way we prepare before and act during the tournament and our final result? From the examples above we can infer that this connection is much weaker than generally considered.

True, the tournament 'hardships' left some traces in the final round, when the general fatigue reached its apogee. The leader, David Smerdon, and the runner-up, Twan Burg, both lost. This left the situation at the top unchanged, but for Twan the defeat must have been quite painful: he only needed to win against Ernst to reach a GM norm and on top of this his position was actually winning at a certain point!

Sipke Ernst - last minute preparation

My last round game against Simon Williams featured an amusing mutual chess blindness incident. When told that my opponent had missed a mate in four, the idea was so unexpected that I burst into laughter and Simon blamed it on the purple haze downstairs!

Simon Williams: "It's the fault of the purple haze"

The reader may have noticed that I spoke less (which is rather unusual for me) about the beautiful location – Amsterdam. But this time I need some special effort to share my views about the Dutch capital. I love this city, but after so many years spent in Holland I start feeling like being part of it, which doesn't contradict the fact that I remain truly Romanian :)
And yet, the nomad character of chess life tends to eliminate barriers and contours; with our continuous travelling we all become citizens of the World, so let me detach myself from this place and describe it as if this was my first experience here.

David Smerdon not only worked his job during the day, but
faced five hours of train commutes every day, and managed
to play and win the tournament in good style!

Amsterdam has acquired some fame as the sin capital, or the big city escaped from any control, but this must be a matter of intelligent marketing in combination with a certain amount of truth. It may be more accurate to describe it as a bastion of liberties of all sorts (even though there is a descending tendency over the past years).

The main ruling principle is that one can do whatever he wishes, with one condition: that he (or she) will not disturb the neighbours. We can notice some generalized common sense, according to which everyone self-imposes the needed restrictions, even though theoretically speaking, there are almost no restrictions at all! This paradox is explained by the fact that our brain doesn't properly digest words like “No” or “Don't”, taking them more like a challenge or even like an open invitation to break those prohibitions.

Robert Ris congratulating Jorden for his great performance!

14-year-old Jorden van Foreest made his first IM norm! And he truly deserved it.

The huge affluence of tourists in the rather unfriendly month of February speaks about Amsterdam's countless attractions. The Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, the Hermitage, the Anne Frank commemorative house, the absolutely superb 17th century architecture all over and all these canals make me wish I had a helicopter to take the photos from above. Until I get one, you will have to content yourself with the pictures taken from the height of my stature... (Ed: a tower of strength)

Peter Tames, the owner of the Batavia Cafe, thanks to whom the tournament is
having not only a great location but also a wonderful atmosphere!

Our arbiter at work: Aart Strik and the website technician, Lennart Ootes

Some tourists may even be attracted by a series of paradoxes. Amsterdam has 700.00 inhabitants, but over one million bicycles; tobacco is considered more harmful than marijuana, the latter being enjoyed usually in the (in)famous coffeeshops. But the most interesting detail is that by allowing things which would be unimaginable in other countries, the Dutch authorities manage keeping under control much worse plagues, such as the organized crime and the black market of drugs...

Chess would top the list of many addictions

Chess life moves on continuously and the day after the final round I travelled to the next tournament, Reykjavik, from where I am sending this report. On the way, I witnessed a suggestive incident. At the airport police control, three youngsters were detained right in front of me, because they were in possession of... marijuana! This would be widely tolerated in Amsterdam, but the officers knew these young fellows could face serious problems after landing anywhere outside Holland!

I only wonder about one thing: the Dutch government didn't promulgate any sort of rules regarding chess...this “innocent” game, sport, art, you name it, can prove to be kind of... addictive.

Myself, Alina L'Ami, by the tournament photographer, Bas Beekhuizen

Final standings


The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 12 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

Alina is an International Master and a very enthusiastic person in everything she does. She loves travelling to the world's most remote places in order to play chess tournaments and report about them here on ChessBase! As chance would have it Alina is also an excellent photographer.


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