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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Minnesota Fats Minnesota Fats 12/18/2021 07:44
I am still feeling astonished that i saw Timman in person on a barbecue dinner in Antwerp...after a blitz chess tournament around 2010 or 2011 where i as a beginner joined, but lost many games. I had won a game against an IM of belgium who was playing blind with three chess games at the same time happening.
After the tournament, me and my friend kept talking to the organiser at the end (we felt like tourists, really) and he invited us all to the after party dinner...With all the GM's having a conversation of chess. We enjoyed the free sausages and the free wine ;) and pretented to be chess players lol.
arzi arzi 12/16/2021 03:48
@lajosarpad: "Timman lost in 990 in the...That was a loong time ago :)True champion over 1000 years! :)
Gonnawin Gonnawin 12/16/2021 12:22
Jan Timman is one of the best study composer of all time. Really love his studies and his great feeling for improvements of already existing themes. He has a wonderful feeling for the beauti of chess and got a very fine personality, is a top chess player and writer. The man has everything. Happy birthday and cheers!
genem genem 12/16/2021 11:40
Oddly, there seems to be no Wikipedia .org webpage dedicated to the 1993 FIDE World Chess Championship title match between Karpov and Timman.
FeatiSoupom FeatiSoupom 12/16/2021 02:20
Happy birthday, Jan Timman. I remember you in Montreal playing against other top players (Karpov, Portisch, Tal, etc.) in 1979. You were one of the best !
lajosarpad lajosarpad 12/15/2021 12:20
Happy birthday, Jan Timman. You are one of the best players of all time. "But after defeating Valery Salov, Lajos Portisch and Jonathan Speelman, Timman lost in 990 in the finals of the Candidates against Karpov." That was a loong time ago :)
Gerald C Gerald C 12/15/2021 07:54
A great champion, an excellent and honest writer ! Long life to Jan !
Heavygeardiver Heavygeardiver 12/15/2021 04:15
This is a Chess site Paula, not a Chest site!!

Timman is a great champion and a true credit for Dutch chess!
Happy Birthday Jan!!
basalaziz basalaziz 12/15/2021 01:36
Happy birthday Timman!