THE LOVE FOR WOOD GM Jan Timman GM Jan Hein Donner († 27 nov. 1988) I believe it all starts with the love for wood When those shiny pieces are standing in front of you, it’s hard not to touch them. But you may not touch them, as in chess
the rule is: touching is moving. When you’ve touched the piece it’s done. That will be the piece to move. When you are not moving you are, so called, pondering. However, a remarkable moment is the moment you will make your move.
It’s the exact moment you touch the piece. In the split second you touch the piece you’ll see more than you have seen
in the past 30 mins or hour in which you have been thinking. The fysical contact does something that enables you
to see things you did not see before. That is why when someone blunders he sees it
himself the very moment he touches the piece. I once saw how a South American player touched a piece
and if struck by lightning he let go off the piece. He looked around to see if someone noticed He started whistling indifferently… His head turned red… I did see it, but the tournament director, ofcourse, was nowhere
to be seen so I didn’t have any evidence This man still blushes each time he sees me. Because that is the worst thing a chessplayer
can do: touch a piece and not move it. It’s not done. I believe this is a good endgame for you
– yes, for sure …with the bishop here… – Hold on… f5 Well, this is not a possible play
– no That one, this one… that’s an odd situation Then this one. Check. But then I’ll just do this one. No that’s nonsense. No this here is your only option.
– But here’s a possibility as well, in some cases I can take here. Where? – This is here is very solid – Well in some cases…
Oh you mean here? This one? – But it’s nothing really because you got a really strong knight. With this my position is much better, indeed. No, this one is forced. Check. And this position kept me thinking for a long time. Qc4 forces a draw, but in fact I was looking for this! This is damn hard At home I never have a chessboard in front of me
to just move some pieces around. We chessplayers have something special for that: a little booklet with
magnetic checkerlike pieces. These pieces do differ from another, it doesn’t have the uniformitiy
that makes checkers so horrendous But you won’t find a real chessboard in my house. That is not done. You should only use a real chessboard when the battle is real. HOMEWORK
Jan Timman at home I’m working through a variant. It’s preparation. It’s a pretty recent openingvariant. It’s part of a preparation schedule I’m setting up.
In the near future I’ll work with Andersson on this. It’s not done very systematically… Everynow and the I recieve a bulletin on the latest chesstournaments.
They’re spread out on my desk. They’re always closeby and I can take them when I need them For now my focus is on openingpreparation… It’s a field of work that is relatively easy to study.
Well, the problems are complex for sure… But it’s a field of work that is easier to systematically
prepare than, for example, endgames. I’ll take on that later on. Here I’ve got listed what I’ll be working on in the next 10 days. Here for example I have noted: “a variant in the Sicillian; the Rauzer variant” Black castles short, which is uncommon in this variant. And later on I’m writing about a completely new concept, but I’ll keep that to
myself as you never know who’s listening -the Russians for example. Nowadays everything is possible, and the Russians go at great length… Up untill now I couldn’t really get started because
I didn’t adress the subject systematically. It was during the tournaments that I kept up, with ofcourse
the help of bulletins of what had been played. It’s a method that can bring you far and give succes. But on long term it’s
better to work at home. A form of homework basicly. It’s not a word that is handled by chessplayers often, because it sounds
much more schoolish than most professional methods are. In general those methods are less systematically. Some chessplayers keep an entire archive. They recieve a bulletin and highlight a couple games
and add those pages to the section of the variant that was played. One can ofcourse create such an archive, but the
question remains how fruitfull that really is… Because I for example don’t work so systematically, I hardly note anything.
If there is a difficult opening I want to understand it. So I’m studying to understand. Not even to remember certain moves,
but rather the ideas and which direction the game is going. And this is very hard to note down. I always think: if I don’t
understand it then why note it down? That makes no sense. And if I do understand it I dont have to note it down, because when the same position
arises on the board I have to be able to solve it there. An important aspect is to always remain critical on what you have analysed at home.
During a game it is good to question if it’s correct. Don’t move right away. Take your time to memorize what you have learned. Because it happens, probably due to excitement, that on the board you invalidate in
5 minutes what you have studied safely at home over the course of hours. Suddenly you’ve got a very lucid vision. And it is not something
only I have experienced, I know a lot of chessplayers had this. There are also grandmasters who prepare very thoroughly,
but still have such an experience during the game. This also happen to lesser players who are
prepared and play the opening slowly.. and after half an hour they are in lost position- without having thought
alot about it. These are important things to keep in mind. THE SUFFERING
Timman, Ree & Andersson in conversation in Lauswold Are you bothered by external influences?
– No, it hardly bothers me. I am always bothered by Duboyrie, he always has this look on his face: He does that when you’re thinking, it really bugs me. – Yes, but that doesn’t really bother me as
you can always give him a look back. Yes, I have tried that once. When he does it, return the favor. But you feel so dumb
when you do that. He looks plain retard and you do the same. You always end up losing that. Well, that depends, sometimes you win the stare. Well, you lose because you feel ridiculous and he doesn’t. But then give him a punishing look, because
it is plain ridiculous what he does. Yes, well I didn’t try that. I think I didn’t dare to
because my position was worse. Do you ever try such meta-game-influencing?
It sometimes strikes me as an option. I think subconsiously you’re always fighting a psychological battle. Yes, trying to get a superior psychological position. Yes, I once played Karpov and he had me on the ground,
especially if he made this one move… and I maintained a very focussed position,
hoping that he would not make the move. And it worked! He didn’t play that move. But he did end up winning this game. But it did work, I am convinced taking on the pokerface helped. Fisher also describes this phenomenon when he
was playing a Yugoslavian grandmaster. He thought “Ah! This move is excellent. A suprising blow” But he looked at the face of his opponent and
he found him to be suspicously calm. And it turned out to be a trap, a very deep line. He didn’t fall for it, not because he
saw the threat, but because he examined his opponents emotions. – We know about Fisher that he enjoys to see his opponent suffer. Well, that’s being said because he once said in an interview with Dick Cavett: I like to see them squirm like eels in a bucket. And now everyone talks of him as ‘evil Fisher’, but I think
that goes for basicly anyone albeit somewhat conceiled. At least it goes for me. You don’t become a chessplayer for the money or the abstract beauty.
Well, there is abstract bauty but there are also other things that have abstract beauty in it. So there’s also an emotional side to it. And I think part
of this emotional side is to see you opponent suffering. And, yes it may sound cruel, but in the end it’s just a game
so you’re not really hurting someone doing it. But I definetly recognize this feeling. I was marching around the
tournament hall, quite content, and I saw my opponent sitting… And I thought “good game! I’m going to document this one for later.” And… psychiatrists for example think they can give a
theoretical explanation for playing chess. They think everything is related to sado-masochistic-anal-father-murder,
well… you know the drill. – So it can be said that chess deteriorates your personality? Well, perhaps it’s deteriorated personalities who end up playing chess. But perhaps it really is bad for your personality. The good thing about chess is that you
are isolated. You don’t have to go around and talk ‘peaches and cream’ nonsense. But certain traits, that are generally not recognized as human’s best,
are enhanced by chess -I believe that’s true. – Do you recognize the enjoyment of seeing your opponent suffer? No, I don’t recognize that and I don’t agree with Hans
that it is nescessary to have that trait. I don’t believe that’s true. And it’s also not really my style to completely stalemate my opponent.
Well, not stalemate, you leave some room to play but nothing usefull. Here for example I have a position on the board, one by Andersson… – Yes, we do have such a player in our company. Yes, indeed. We have got a poisition here that comes from the Munich tournament
that just finished, and it’s a position against Robatsch. In this position black can do absolutely nothing. He made another
couple moves for the sake of it and then gave up. Andersen often plays these games where his opponent is suffering terribly.
He can make some moves, but within a very limited area. And it’s actually quite interesting, and I want to ask him this question: – And what do you feel when you are in such a position yourself? Oh I’ve been there. In a game against Petrosian this was very obvious. After 20 moves I was about to lose a pawn. It was evident that I could not hold it,
so I reconceiled with the fact that I had to resign in 5 moves. But instead the scoundrel played g3, h3, h4, Kg2…
Only moves that enforced his position. Those moves where completely unnescessary and had no value. They only served
to make me suffer and it was a game that was stuck in my memory for a long time. There should be a rule to be euthanized.. Well, ofcourse you can resign…
-yes, that’s possible
You are not put down. But didn’t Donner call you a scoundrel once? Yes, he once wrote that in a tournament bulletin after a game I won:
“He could have just played these two moves, winning the game.” “But he plays it slow, the scoundrel probably has a
perverse enjoyment in torture.” But that was not true, I just didn’t see that there was a faster way to win. Otherwise I wouldn’t have… well in the end we
have to co-exist on good terms. WORLDCHAMPION WITHOUT AMBITION
Euwe speaks CHESSCAFE
– the shed – Sidenote of the translator:
Chesscafe Het Hok is closeby my former highschool in Amsterdam. I’ve spend a good deal
of time playing cards and chess there while I should have been in class.
The cafe still exists today, but changed into a sportscafe with flatscreens everywhere. Back in 1935, was there anyone who had predicted
that you would become worldchampion? No, nobody did. They did predict a gigantic loss, but a win… no, that was not an option. I didn’t really intend to win either, to be honest. To me it was a match for practice. Alehkine was keen to accept, and for The Netherlands this
was a good promotion for chess. – But then why was it possible that you challenged the worldchampion? At that time there where no rules for this. Everybody could issue a challenge, but you needed the support
from people who would finance it. And that is ofcourse easier when you’re succefull in tournaments.
And if I’m correct I was the most succesfull player in those days. I finished twice behind Alekhine, and Nimzowitch and Bogoljubow
wheren’t that high rated compared to me back in those days. – People who financed you, did they do it voluntarily? For marketing purposes? No, I had to scrap it together, fl.2,50 or fl.10,- where the amounts.
I gave simuls for 1 guilder per opponent. (fl.1,-=~$12,- today) The matches from your time seem to not be as
rowdy as nowadays matches, is it not? Well.. no, not as rowdy indeed. But the match between me and Alekhine did have little
incidents. Not between me and Alekhine, but between him and his secondants. – But something like meta gameplay didn’t really exist in those days? No, it didn’t exist. And even if it existed no-one believed in it. – Did Alekhine tried to impress you with a stare? No, but he was a superstitious man. He had two cats,
siamese cats, pretty cute animals by the way… and he believed that if they sniffed the board it was a good sign. – During the game they where present? Yes, during the game his wife had them on her lap. – Fisher would probably not have accepted that… I would’nt know why, cats are after all well-behaved. – Chessplayers where not happy with your choice to be a teacher/professor… No that’s a story. If I’m correct Donner once said that,
but at that time he was 6-7 years old so he could’t know. those words never reached me. On the contrary: people loved it. because they where not bothered by me. – but you where the only worldchampion who
did not have the amition to become one. Yes, that could be true.. – But do you understand that people strive to be world champion? Sure, why not? If you devote yourself to something then it’s ofcourse
great to reach the highest achievable goal. – Can it be said that chess is an addiction? No, I don’t think so.
– but if you look around here? No, not an addiction. But if you are a chessplayer you like to play the game. Playing chess is similar to playing cards. You always wonder: what will be my next hand?
And as a chessplayer you wonder how the game will develop. – But isn’t it a waste of time, it’s a game after all… That all depends how you see chess. Chess is ofcourse more than just a game it’s a way to relax for people who have been working all day. and it’s been said that chess is good for cognition. For sure it
enhances systematical thinking and handling. – according to Hans Ree it corrupts the personality… That could be, but I don’t think everyone experiences it that way. When I look at chessplayers they are not much worse or better people than others. WORSE THEN HARDDRUGS
Timman, Ree & Andersson in Lauswold (continuation) – When you see chessplayers playing a cafe from early morning untill late at night,
then one must conclude that chess is a form of addiction, do you agree? Well, if you ask me: yes. When I was 16 I was obliged to go to school,
but aside that I did nothing else but playing chess. After school I went to my room to play. And because
of that I hardly interacted with other people… And I didn’t mind that, it would only keep me of chess-
But it’s addicting, for sure. A quote from, I think, H.G. Well is: if you see a young gifted person and fear his life will take
a bad turn, then give him a board and chessrules and you wont hear from him again. And that’s how it is.. Then in a way chess is worse than harddrugs. With harddrugs you are finished
at age 30, but you’ll have to live with chess untill 60 years of age. Well, they say you can live with chess. But the biggest part of the chessaddiction is in my opinion the tension.
The tension you experience when in time trouble for example. But that is what keeps me occupied, and in a good way.
Win or lose, no matter what happens. You relive the tense moment everytime. Like a criminal that
returns to the crimescene to relive his crime. That is in my opinion a strong aspect of chess. But that is one way of being addicted… But it’s a sad kind of addiction, because usually when you are in
time trouble you are losing… Well- Sure, but those time trouble player do lose alot of points.
And still they do it every time. Ok, well I don’t mean real time trouble. I mean the
last stage of the game [that I enjoy]. CHESS BY LETTER
Timman and Ree visit correspondence grandmaster
Mulder van Leens Dijkstra in Wier (Frisia) This is a game against World Champion Estrin,
on the primary board of Russia. I will play a couple moves back…
This is the current position. My last move is rook from h8 to a8.
– and these should be here?
Yes, indeed. And if he moves his bishop to c5 then I will
move my a8 rook to stop this pawn. And eventually I will have to give the exchange, after king e6 for example,
and then try to get an advantageous rook endgame. So how long are you allowed to think on your move? There are rules for that in correspondence chess.. you get 30 days for 10 moves. Do you ever get in time trouble? Allmost never. Especially when the position is bad you would like some extra time. And there are players who time-out in a lost position. They no longer reply?
– No, they stop replying. That’s a bit of a bas sports, isn’t it?
– Yes, I find that bad sports. And how is the technique of correspondence players? Is it good? Yes, the technique, especially for master players, has to be close to perfect. And it usually is. When an inaccuracy is created, it will be taken advantage of for sure. A pawn ahead allmost always ends up in a win. Yes, but that goes for normal games as well.. – Well, in normal chess strange things can happen.. – That’s true. In standard chess you always have to deal with the clock. – I couldn’t be a correspondence player. Have you never played a game? Never finished one. But I did start them. But after a while… I’m just not very good at sending mail in general. So the games silted up.. So you never play any on the board games? No. I haven’t played any on the board games since 1960. First of all correspondence chess is a great way to relax. And second reason is that older masters and grandmasters who
can no longer play on the board turn to correspondence chess. and then continue chess in a wonderfull way. Because they can do it at home and they’ve got all the time in the world. O’Kelly has been a worldchampion. Yes, O’Kelly has been world champion. – Rakoczi too? Rakoczi hasn’t. – So the games are listed in booklets like these. Have you got more of these? Yes, I got four of them. And they can hold up to eight games. These are two booklets from a grandmaster tournament in Finland.
Those are 16 games. And these games are ongoing? Yes, they are. And this booklet is for the European Championship for countryteams. How many are they now, in total? At this moment I’m playing 27 correspondence games. – this looks brilliant.. Yes, he’s getting battered. – indeed. – I’ve got the impression that all the positions favor you,
here in the Olympiad. Is it not? Yes, in all of the remaining games of the Olympiad I am ahead,
either in material or positional. Except the game against Weiner,
my position is a bit worse there. This one, the game in the French. – About Estrin.. I once heared that something was wrong in one of his games. Yes, there have been an issue with a Russian collegue. He got ill, and he resigned the game, just because he got ill- – In a better position, correct? In a better position, correct. And all if a sudden he resigned with a better position,
and Estrin then became the world champion – Isn’t that a disgrace? Shouldn’t something be done about that? What do you want to do? It happens on the board too. I don’t want to ridicule it, but how many
games have we seen where it ends in a draw at move 20? Resigning is somehwat different from that. Yes, but that is also half a point, for those who are involved. – Yes, that’s what I was thinking when Langeweg resigned
after 11 moves against Donner, did you see that? – He played white against Donner and forfeited after 11 moves. How did it happen, can you recall the game? – Yes, I think so… – Where’s going to take Esrtin of the board… [I couldn’t find this game…] THE LOVED ONE OF THE GODS
Donner speaks – Where you glad when you won against Langeweg in 12 moves? Well, this may point to having a bad personiality,
but to that I have to answer wholeheartedly ‘yes’! Winning a game when it is totally undeserved
may be the best thing there is in chess. I’ve once played a game where my opponent timed out
the move before he mated me And if that happens you feel like the beloved one of the gods while you see the other man suffer for the rest of the tournament,
he is in miserable condition. – And happens when you suffer a quick loss? Well, that is one of the hardest things to describe with words… It’s sickening.
That sounds most appropriate. – Is it difficult for a chessplayer to grow older? Not any more difficult than in other sports. And that I know for sure
because chess is something you can play all your life. I have known Mizes (?) at the age 87 in The Hague,
and he played pretty well.. Sometimes you had to point out it was his own knight he took,
but when you did understoond what just happened. Growing older is not that bad for a chessplayer. – So chessplayers maybe are a bit whiny? Well, whiners… it is ofcourse a game that if you lose
then you are the only one to blame. And because of that you will find all kinds of excuses
or external causes to hide that. And people can make up the most ridiculous excuses. I once knew a player Solimo (?), who has passed away,
he drank 25 liters of water during a game. Because someone told him it was good for the brain. And shortly after the war you had the
‘Kopf Massage Bürste’. It was invented by an Austrian guy. He said that if you rubbed your head with it
half an hour before the game than the blood would flow and that’s beneficial. That is all just comedy. But there are two archenemies for a
chessplayer:the flu and being irritated. When you start noticing the audience; ladies on high heels that
make ‘rikketikke’ noise, or even children Children may be the worst. When they start crying for example.
That can have a devastiating effect. And nowadays people like Korchnoi are talking about the meta gameplay alot.
I don’t really believe such things. But I do believe in hinderance. Like when someone is watching you from
the public stand like this for hours. And such thing should be forbidden! If you ask me
such a person should be exempted. And I wouldn’t call this whining. It’s just the pose that
people in absolute solitude tend to take on. A CALCULATION ERROR Chesschampionship The Netherlands – Knight g3 to f5. Well, that will all be discussed… – Because at this time there is no way Ligterink can prevent
the manouver knight to f4… …so this is a very logical reply. – Ofcourse play for the weak square f5. Timman has to make a choice here. This square he cannot defend. But he has all forseen this. And we now understand
why a grandmaster has to think for so long… That is a case that is so comprehensive, with all the
consequences following from the move g6-g5… and that takes alot of time. Timman eventually choose for the move knight to f4… We just lost a knight, but fortunatly I got one in my pocket… – don’t you think the Dutch championships is an annoying tournament? -inaudible- – For your high rating this is a bad tournament as well.. [partly inaudible] Yes, but it has nice aspects.. It’s not always bad. I remember that Larsen once played
the Danish Championship in 1964 with 50% […]. Shortly after he won the […] tournament. So that is possible too. But, isn’t Larsen just fooling around in such a tournament?
You don’t do such things. I don’t play fully concentrated [partly inaudible]. Then what are you doing? Dozing off? Yes, a little bit. So how long are you actually thinking during such
a game? 5 minutes? And I mean real thinking here.. – Jan, you have lost the game due to chessblindness,
a blunder. Is that correct? Well, you can’t say it’s a blunder, I just missed something. – But it was a very serious mistake. Yes, it was a mistake that lost the game right away. – Was it a good position? Yes, it probably was a very good position,
but it was a calculation error. – How does such a thing happen? How does a
calculation occur? You just completely overlook it. – But is it because you count wrong? Today I evidently didn’t, I don’t know. But it’s quite interesting because in fact it where two calculation errors.
And both had to do with the knight going to f6 giving check. So it was the same principle that I overlooked twice.
In two variants it was important. – And then it was done right away. Yes, completely lost without oppurtunities. But it was a shame, because game just got interesting. – So that must feel pretty bad. I mean you’ve also lost
the championship with this game. Yes, indeed. Ah well, I blew more important stuff before. – Like what? Well, more important tournaments. For Gert this championship is more important than it is to me. – Yes, is that true? Or does it feel like just another win? Yes, it was a bit of a gift. But it doesn’t feel that way. Because
when Jan resigned I didn’t think my position was that bad. – But did you have such a bad position? No, I don’t think so. Yes, it was a complicated battle
and everything was possible. I didn’t judge it as better or worse. It was just a
very sharp position which was undetermined. – But when you analysed it did you have a bad position? Yes, Jan probably had a better position. – So now you are the Dutch champion. Is that a reason
to become chess professional? – Is that a profession you want to have? It is a nice profession, a lot better than some other professions. – But isn’t that only interesting enough when you are a grandmaster? Yes, you should be. Being a chessprofessional is a bit of a survival. You’ll have
to make articles for the newspaper for 50 guilders, radioitems for 15 guilders… – So it’s a bit sad… Yes it is, well with this championship a make a big sum,
but that is gone in notime as well. It’s much more profitable when you are invited alot.
The way Jan is chessprofessional is ofcourse much more fun. – Are you able to reach that? I don’t know. I do realize that everything went well here.
It is a peak in variation and to win this everything has to go just right. It has to happen that you don’t lose worse positions,
and the opponents have to falter a bit more than usual. – Jan, did you ever feel being a chessprofessional can be a tad saddening? Well, I don’t think sad is the proper word. Yes, let’s not overact. It’s always better than, to
name something, selling icecream. – Yes, but the moment you lose must be horrible. Sure, it’s no fun. But it’s part of the deal.
And usually it’s finished in one move, so… – But it doesn’t feel like it’s only a game at such a moment? No, it’s not like that. When I’m not swept of the board, but just
lose due to a blunder or calculational error then I don’t mind as much. Then I can better explain to myself why I lost. – It doesn’t feel like a breach on your personality? No, not like that. It would have been harder to digest when it turns out
my strategy is wrong and that afterwards it is very hard for me to find out why. Let’s see.. this?