Chess reigns in Amsterdam as Dutch cabinet resigns

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Chess pianoOn the day the Dutch cabinet of ministers resigned over an issue about sending new troops to Afghanistan, three chess events were being held in Amsterdam, capital of The Netherlands. One was the second round of the annual Batavia Max Euwe Challenge tournament, another was the opening of art exhibition Number Twelve, featuring a 'chess piano'. Pictorial report.

The Max Euwe Challenger tournament is being held in the picturesque Cafe Batavia 1920, right at the corner of Central Station. It is a modest, round robin tournament for ten local heroes and promising young talent, where spectators can spend a typical Amsterdam afternoon at the bar, ordering special Dutch beer or enjoying a typical Dutch meal. The tournament lasts until February 28, and the games can be watched live from 14.00 CET here.

The tall 'Gebouw Batavia 1920' cafe

The Batavia 1920 cafe is located in the oldest part of Amsterdam, close to the infamous red-light district. While the area is currently heavily under construction due to a new subway network, it hasn't lost all of its Golden Age splendour.

A view from the backside of the cafe: the 13th century Old Church, the oldest building in Amsterdam

Highest rated player this year is semi-retired IM Li Riemersma (2431), who is one of four participants living in the Dutch capital. Other notable chess figures are Israelian IM Yochanan Afek and Rumanian WGM Alina Motoc, the girlfriend of Dutch GM Erwin L'Ami. Dutch youngsters like FM Christov Klein and WIM Lisa Schut will no doubt try to achieve some norm here. Two Indians are also playing: Gurpreet Pal Singh and 13-year old Khosla Shiven.

Dutch talent Christov Klein

Lisa Schut taking a moment to herself

Koshla Shiven's board happens to be opposite ... a typically Dutch 'coffeeshop'

The opening round was a bad day for the ladies as both Lisa Schut and Alina Motoc lost their first round games against FM Arno Bezemer and IM Xander Wemmers respectively. Christov Klein, on the other hand, was succesful against Afek while young Shiven drew Henk Vedder, who is a well-known figure in the Dutch chess scene.

In the second round, things heated up as Lisa Schut crushed rating favourite Riemersma in a nice attacking game, young Shiven beat Bezemer and Wemmers won his second game in a row, defeating Afek. Wemmers, who confessed that he hadn't prepared for his game against the well-known endgame composer and subsequently managed to convert a worse middlegame into a win, is now in the clear lead.

Xander Wemmers - Yochanan Afek: 1-0

Gurpreet Pal Singh - Alina Motoc: 1/2-1/2

At the bar, the games are closely watched by visiting GM Dimitri Reinderman and friends

Meanwhile, a rather more unique chess activity could be witnessed in another famous Amsterdam area called De Pijp. There, in art gallery Juliètte Jongma, an exposition was opened by Dutch artist Guido van der Werve. Van der Werve, who acquired international fame with his incredible short movie Number Eight, also known as The Icebreaker, now showed his latest movie Number Twelve, a film about a game of chess being played at the New York Marshall Chess Club between Van der Werve and GM Leonid Yudasin, played on a chess piano, designed and constructed by Van der Werve himself.

The chess piano

The chess piano produces a note (or two notes) whenever a move is played on the board. The eight files of the chess board represent the scales of the notes on an octave, while from queenside to kingside the key changes from minor to major. This fantastic object inspired Van der Werve to a musical composition which can be played and read both as a piece of music and a real game of chess. (In fact, a King's Gambit accepted.) The Number Twelve movie is a recording, at the Marshall Chess Club, of that musical game between the artist and Yudasin, accompanied by a real orchestra. It also features scenes from Mount St. Helens and the San Andreas fault line.

At the current exposition in Amsterdam, which can be seen until April 4, photographs by Van der Werve are also on display. These were all inspired by moments from Van der Werve's game against Yudasin.

One of the chess-music inspired photographs by Guido van der Werve

There was also a small blitz tournament, all games being played on the chess piano, in which yours truly participated as well. It was an extraordinary experience, not only because one has to actually press the squares while moving, just like pressing a key on a piano - making castling a particularly interesting and enjoyable event - but mainly since many moves strangely produce real musical harmony and sometimes the first hint of a melody can even be heard. A small video will be added as soon as possible.

The blitz tournament was enjoyed by the (mostly non-chess playing) audience as much for the music the players produced as for their speed of play (Henk-Jan Visser vs. Frenk van Harreveld)

Van der Werve is a musician himself and it's clear that his chess piano is really an ode to formidably made chess boards (with beautifully made, wooden, heavy pieces) as well as ultra high-quality musical instruments.

Oh, and finally, this weekend the Chess Championship of Amsterdam also started in yet another historical area, De Watergraafsmeer. Politicians often say their work is a lot like chess. After this weekend's resignation of the Dutch government, one can only hope some of its ministers will visit Amsterdam a bit more often to see the real thing.
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