Where chess and football meet

by Yochanan Afek
7/14/2018 – Small local rivalries are a big part of club-level chess. In Spakenburg, a small Dutch village, two strong amateur teams are located next to each other and have frequent confrontations. The squads are known as "the red" and "the blue", much like Arsenal and Chelsea in England, or Inter and Milan in Italy. YOCHANAN AFEK sent a report describing the rapid tournament they organized: it took place in a football stadium and was won by a computer. | Pictured: Kevin van Brummelen | Photos: Frans Peeters

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Chess, fish and chips in Spakenburg

It is a former Dutch fishing village of around twenty-thousand inhabitants located in the province of Utrecht (north of Amersfoort), a part of the municipality of Bunschoten. Dutch players are familiar with the famous chess club En Passant, situated in its own beautiful building shaped like a mighty rook in Bunschoten. The members of this dynamic club constantly seek special challenges. First, they wanted their own club; then, they wanted a national title and their first team made it all the way to the top Dutch Meesterklas; finally, they won the country's team championship three times.

chess club in the shape of a rook

The most recent challenge was to organize a new tournament in a football stadium. There are two rival strong local amateur teams that live side by side in the sports park De Westmaat in the village: SV Spakenburg, nicknamed De Blauwe (the blue), and SV Ijsselmeervogels, nicknamed De Rode (the red). As the locals recounted, if someone shoots a ball over the fence, they will not get the ball back — it is considered a lost item.  Last Saturday, the latest dream came true when black and white warriors invaded the club of the Reds, above the football field, for the first Fishpartners Open rapid tournament. 

Good spirits in Spakenburg: Hans Ree has just forked a pair of rooks | Photo: Frans Peeters

The led boarding in the football field was decorated with famous chess quotations such as: "Chess is the struggle against error" (Zukertort); "I don't believe in psychology, I believe in good moves!" (Fischer); "Chess, like love, like music, has the power to make men happy" (Tarrasch); and one from the former Dutch champion Hans Ree, who was among the participants: "Chess is beautiful enough to waste your life for." 

Exactly 64 (!) players took part in this first edition and enjoyed a fresh supply of delicious Kibbeling and Herring fish. Among the invited players, four legendary Dutch grandmasters made an appearance: Jan Timman, the famous contender for the world supreme title, former Dutch champions Hans Ree and John van der Wiel, local heroes GM Friso Nijboer and  IMs Hans Bohm, and Manuel Bosboom. The four grandmasters happened to meet in the fourth round for a nostalgic reunion: Timman beat van der Wiel and Nijboer beat Ree. 

Four Dutch chess legends met in round four | Photo: Frans Peeters

Three Dutch youth champions were among the favourites: IMs Lucas van Foreest, Thomas Beerdsen and Ting Hing Lai. Special guest stars were two chess computers: Pewatronic GM, rated 3200, and Tasc R30, a program created by one of the club members, rated 2380. Proving to be far too strong for the human mind, especially in rapid time controls, the participation of silicon monsters has gone out of fashion quite a while ago. No wonder some of the top players seemed not to be particularly happy with the attendance of such cyber-power — their presence had been explicitly announced in the invitation, however.

It was experience vs. youth in round five: Beerdsen-Timman, Nijboer-Lai and Bosboom-van Foreest | Photo: Frans Peeters

It did not come as a surprise that Pewatronic scored 6½ points in the 7 Swiss rounds — drawing only against Hing Ting Lai — and declared the formal winner. The real surprise, however, was the clear human winner of the event. A 2100 player, 26-year-old Kevin van Brummelen was lucky enough to avoid the terrible cyber-enemies and scored 6 points. He lost only one game, against IM Ting Lai (him again!) in the second round, and beat three IMs in the last three rounds. His prize was a beautiful trophy and 800 Euros. Runners-up in the final rankings were young Van Foreest and Beerdsen, on 5½. The only female player in the field, young FM Anna Maja Kazarian, did well, as she scored 5 points to share fourth place with six other players. 

The winner gave a speech | Photo: Frans Peeters

It was a cheerful and colourful event, and hopefully the beginning of a new tradition — one that sees chess events organized frequently in sports venues.

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Final standings (top 15)

Nr Name Score M/F Rating TPR W-We WP SB 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1 Pewatronic, GM (computer) 6.5 M 3200 * 2722 +3.00 30.0 27.5 1 1 1 ½ 1 1 1
2 Van Brummelen, Kevin 6.0 M 2090 2397 +2.58 25.5 20.5 1 0 1 1 1 1 1
3 IM Van Foreest, Lucas 5.5 M 2470 2656 +1.08 33.0 24.0 1 1 ½ 1 1 1 0
4 IM Beerdsen, Thomas 5.5 M 2450 2521 +0.72 29.0 22.75 1 1 1 ½ 0 1 1
5 IM Lai, Hing Ting 5.0 M 2432 2504 +0.73 34.5 23.25 1 1 1 ½ ½ 0 1
6 GM Nijboer, Friso 5.0 M 2483 2466 +0.06 31.0 20.75 1 1 ½ 1 ½ 0 1
7 GM Van der Wiel, John 5.0 M 2379 2365 +0.16 29.5 19.75 1 1 ½ 0 1 ½ 1
8 GM Ree, Hans 5.0 M 2295 2279 +0.19 28.5 19.0 1 ½ 1 0 1 ½ 1
9 CM Amesz, Jaap 5.0 M 2215 2262 +0.69 27.0 18.0 1 0 ½ 1 1 ½ 1
10 FM Kazarian, Anna-Maja 5.0 F 2132 2300 +1.39 27.0 16.75 1 0 1 1 ½ ½ 1
11 IM Vedder, Henk 5.0 M 2327 2208 -0.64 25.5 17.75 1 ½ 0 ½ 1 1 1
12 GM Timman, Jan 4.5 M 2545 2529 +0.00 34.5 20.75 1 1 ½ 1 1 0 0
13 IM Van de Griendt, Jan Willem 4.5 M 2354 2263 -0.32 31.5 17.0 1 1 0 1 ½ 1 0
14 IM Bosboom, Manuel 4.5 M 2397 2274 -0.66 30.5 16.75 1 1 ½ 1 0 1 0
15 Dekker, Theo 4.5 M 1912 2101 +0.96 29.0 17.0 1 ½ 1 0 1 0 1


Yochanan was born (1952) and grew up in Tel-Aviv, and now lives in Amsterdam. He has been involved in nearly every aspect of chess, both as a professional and a volunteer, for the last 50 years, and remains an active player, composer, writer, organizer, trainer and commentator. He is an International Master and International Arbiter for chess as well as International Grandmaster for chess composition, and the author of Extreme Chess Tactics (Gambit 2017) and Practical Chess Beauty (Quality Chess 2018).


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