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By Macauley Peterson   
May 6, 2007
Photo Fred Lucas

by Macauley Peterson

When was the last time you played in a Swiss where the organizers provided dinner? Or had the chance to take on a grandmaster at the U.S. State Department? Here in the Netherlands, I got to do the equivalent on back-to-back weekends! I've said it beforeand I’ll say it again: In Holland, you see, they do things a little differently.

Two quirky events in recent weeks to report, one a long standing tradition, and the other may well become so. First off, the 14th annual Boerenkool Met Worst Tournament, held in the small West-Frisian hamlet of Wadway, about 50 kilometers north of Amsterdam. “Boerenkool” (pronounced like “boorenkall” — rhymes with “hall”) is basically kale, and “worst” is, of course, a kind of sausage. So, as you might expect at a “Kale with Sausage Tournament,” food and drink are the order of the day.

Unfortunately for the fifty or so participants of this 7-round rapid, the tournament was schedule so late in the Spring this year that no boerenkool was available in the entire country! So the players had to make due with a substitute. I don’t know exactly what we were eating, but after four rounds of play it was quite tasty! Players did get a bit rowdy, however, when it emerged there would be no “toetje” (dessert).

As for the drinks, I mainly stuck to coffee trying to keep my wits about me, but the Amstel Bier was flowing for most of the all-male crowd. Even the prizes for the event were of an alcoholic variety — pricey bottles of single-malt scotch.

The laid back atmosphere, and touch-clock rules, made for some amusing chess, including this position in which both queens and both kings are somehow hanging and no one knows whose move it is!

Photo Peter Doggers of chessvibes.com

Everyone stayed after the last round to cheer on the winner, Daan Zult — sort of an Ed Norton type but with disheveled dirty blond hair. Zult thanked his parents for begetting him as he accepted his trophy, a bouquet of orange roses and the scotch.

Earlier, Daan and Peter "ChessVibes"Doggers (who invited me) shared a few gems of wisdom from a mentor at the Eenhorn chess club:

“You can always take the first pawn.”

“This position is like a wet newspaper.”

“In this position you can just go to the attic and wait until the coffee gets warm.”

No one quite knows what that last one means. Maybe it’s a translation thing.

Timman Simul

The following Friday, I headed south to “Den Haag” (The Hague) where quite a different event had been organized by a gentleman at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The nine-time Dutch Champion and former World Championship candidate, Jan Timman, took on a diverse field of around fifty players in a beautiful wood-paneled meeting hall at the Foreign Ministry.

Photo Fred Lucas of www.momentoo.nl

The players came from thirty countries, ranged in age from 6 to 96 (!), and included elderly parliamentarians, diplomats and other civil servants, students and journalists. I had been invited while covering Corus in Januaryand was the only American playing.

The Dutch Foreign Minister tossed out the ceremonial first move for the grandmaster on his first board, but instead of 1.e4 as instructed, he opted for 1.Nh3?! which amused the crowd to no end.

Timman, a rotund fellow now in his late fifties, moved sprightly around the inner and outer rings of chess boards, alternating between 1.e4, 1.d4, and 1.c4 games, throwing in the occasional 1.Nf3 for good measure.

I found myself next to a professional poker player who wore cufflinks with nude women on them and said he’d only taken up the game in the past year, yet somehow managed to draw.

Having not played seriously myself since last summer, I was somewhat surprised to find this position on my board with black to move.

I had just played 19…Be8, ostensibly to find greener pastures for my light-squared bishop. Timman, overlooking the indirect discovered attack to his, continued 20.h3?

Position after 20.h3

This allowed the relatively simple combination 20…Nf2+ 21.Rxf2 Bxf2 22.Qxf2 Rxd3 which nets black a healthy exchange. From there it was just a question of fending off some desperate attempts to open the queenside while I organized an attack along the g-file.

Two other players scored wins in the simul, notably a young Pole named Kacper Drozdowski who was the Polish boys under-10 champion last year. Drozdowski forced the Dutchman’s resignation in just 23 moves after Timman played 23.Qd2?

Position after 23.Qd2?

Kacper’s 23…Nf4! Must have come as quite a shock!

Harry van Vliet, a Dutch teenager from the Philidor chess club in Leiden also scored a full point, and Timman gave up a dozen draws as well.

I hadn’t played in a simul since Susan Polgar’s first visit to New York in 1989, when I was up two pawns but blew the endgame royally. It was immensely satisfying to be able to hang on for the win against Timman. The government plans to organize a similar simul next year. Condi? Are you taking notes?

Macauley Peterson will be covering the M-Tel Masters tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria for, Chess Life Online and the ICC Chess.FM webcast. He may be reached at www.MacauleyPeterson.com