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The Chess World of Hans Ree

Hans Ree at the presentation. (Photo René Olthof)

The Chess world of Hans Ree

Two chess books, translated from the Dutch language and recently published by Russel Enterprises, were presented last month in Max- Euwe Centre in Amsterdam. You may find all details about that interesting event here:  
www.chessvibes.com/max-euwe-centre-hosts-book-presentation-russell-enterprises.

Hans Ree is a Dutch grandmaster and one of the finest contemporary chess writers known for decades from his lively articles both in the daily NRC Handelsblad and in New in Chess magazine. In “My Chess” he takes us to a fascinating journey in his own chess world through a fascinating selection of his charming short stories. We are privileged to meet a whole range of well known chess celebrities many of whom the author has had a personal acquaintance over many years of his rich chess career, alongside with a gallery of local Dutch heroes barely known to the general chess public. Ree artfully portrays them from his own unique perspective, proving once again that even a chess story may turn by a maestro author into a fine piece of literature. There are 45 such stories in the book and although I managed to spot just one single diagram, I can still gladly recommend it to all chess lovers especially if accompanied by a glass of good wine.

I was especially delighted by the following story and even got a special permission by both author and publisher to give it here in full. Have a good look to see why:

Yochanan Afek

The Israeli IM Yochanan Afek, who has been living in Amsterdam for the last few years, is a multi-talented man. He is a strong chess player, a gifted composer of endgame studies, an experienced chess trainer, a specialist in the area of chess stamp collecting and a prolific publicist.

One Saturday afternoon in the year 2000, we were sitting in the local train from Rotterdam to Amsterdam- at least that’s what we thought. I had played a game in our club competition in Rotterdam and Yochanan had come along as a spectator. While we were travelling back, he gave me some riddles to solve.

“I recently told Arthur Yusupov that I know five grandmasters called Arthur…”   Yochanan wanted me to name them, of course, but I couldn’t. maybe that was exactly what he wanted. I failed the first test.

He continued: ‘Five grandmasters died this year’ That one I should be able to answer, I thought. I listed Lodewijk Prins, George Koltanowski, Abe Yanofsky but number five, Alexei Vyzmanavin, I had already forgotten again, despite the fact that I had been shocked at the time by his early death-from a heart attack- it took six days for him to be found.

“The year 2000 is a dangerous year for grandmasters” said Yochanan, possibly to give me a word of warning. Then we talked about Jacques Mieses (1865- 1954) who, at his 80th birthday party, had said that since he had safely negotiated the dangerous period between 70 and 80, when so many people pass away, he might well go on living forever.

We failed to notice that the train had turned around in Woerden and was on its way back to Rotterdam, from we had set out. It stopped in Gouda. “Gouda, haven’t we been here already?” Yochanan inquired cautiously. Was he now thinking that he knew Holland better than I? “No, no that’s impossible” I said resolutely, with the result that our short train ride turned into a long trip with plenty of time to exchange a lot more interesting chess information.

That same day, April 30th, it was announced that yet another grandmaster had died, the American Arthur Dake (1910-2000). He was one of the five Arthurs that Yochanan had talked about, so besides all his other qualities, you’d almost credit him with a second sight as well.

Shortly after our train trip he received Dutch residence permit, a card that allowed him to practice the “freelance profession of chess player and endgame composer in the Netherlands”. An endgame composer rarely earns any money, so I felt great joy, and a measure of pride, that our authorities had recognized endgame composition as a profession capable of enriching Dutch culture with a unique and irreplaceable contribution.

Posted: October 4 - 2013

 

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