Jan Timman celebrates 70th birthday

by André Schulz
12/14/2021 – From the 1970s to the 1990s Jan Timman, born in Amsterdam on 14 December 1951, was one of the world's best players. He qualified several times for the candidates and in 1993 he became FIDE Vice World Champion. Timman is also a renowned study composer and a prolific and excellent writer. Today, the Dutch Grandmaster celebrates his 70th birthday.

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Jan Timman: A remarkable chess career

At the age of eight, Timman learned to play chess from his father Reinier Timman, a mathematician. The father owned a sizeable chess library that included a lot of old chess books, written before World War II. Timman's first ambition was to beat his older brother Ton (1948-2016). After Jan managed to do so regularly, Ton no longer wanted to play against his younger brother and Jan enrolled in a chess club. At the age of twelve, Timman played and drew against former World Champion Max Euwe in a simul.

Timman had a special relationship to Euwe. Euwe was the mathematics teacher of Timman's mother and the families knew each other well. When Timman's great chess talent became apparent, Euwe found backers who established a "Timman Committee" to give Timman the financial backing to eventually become a professional chess player.

Timman's first coach was IM Hans Bouwmeester. The two trained every Wednesday afternoon, the only afternoon when there was no school. Bouwmeester loved the games of Botvinnik and Smylov, and Botvinnik also became a chess ideal for Timman.

As a 15-year-old, Timman first attracted international attention when he finished third at the U20 World Championship in Jerusalem 1967. In 1970 Timman decided to become a chess professional and one year later, in 1971, he became an International Master. Another three years later, in 1974, Timman became a Grandmaster.

Timman and Hans Böhm in Biel 1969 | Photo: HansBohm.com 

Between 1974 and 1996 Timman won the Dutch National Championship nine times. He regularly and with great success took part in international tournaments and won in Hastings 1973/74, Amsterdam 1978, Nikšić 1978, Amsterdam 1981, Las Palmas 1981, Wijk aan Zee 1981, Mar del Plata 1982, Bugojno 1984, Bugojno 1984, Wijk aan Zee 1985, Amsterdam 1985, Tilburg 1987, Linares 1988, Amsterdam 1989, Hoogeveen 1999 and Malmö/Copenhagen 2005 to name just a few.

In 1979, played his first Interzonal in Rio de Janeiro but narrowly missed the qualification for the Candidates. The first three qualified for the Candidates, but Timman finished fourth. Three years later, in the next cycle, he again failed to qualify for the Candidates, but in 1985 he won the Interzonal Tournament and became a Candidate but lost against Artur Jussupow in the quarterfinals of the Candidate Matches.

In 1987 Timman won the Interzonal in Tilburg and qualified again for the Candidates. But after defeating Valery Salov, Lajos Portisch and Jonathan Speelman, Timman lost in 990 in the finals of the Candidates against Karpov.

In the next cycle Timman won his Candidate Matches against Robert Hübner, Viktor Korchnoi and Artur Jussupow but then lost the Candidates Final, this time against Nigel Short.

But when Kasparov and Short decided to play their 1993 World Championship match outside of FIDE, Timman had a chance to play for the FIDE title, as FIDE organised a substitute World Championship match between Timman and Karpov. However, here Timman lost to Karpov again.

In January 1982 Timman was the world's official number two, behind World Champion Karpov. However, Timman reached his Elo-peak in 1990 when he had a rating of 2680.

Apart from his impressive career as a player, Timman was and is also active as a writer and journalist. He is editor of the New in Chess magazine and has written a number of successful and critically acclaimed books. On top of that, Timman is also a prolific and renowned study composer.

Timman loves music and literature, especially the Russian classics such as Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy. He also enjoys reading the works of Borges and Kafka.

Timman counts his victory over Karpov in the 1982 Mar del Plata tournament as one of his best games.



"Timman-70" Composition Tourney

André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


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