Sunday, 18 September 2011

Amsterdam Adventures

"So I told my friend, '12', and he asked me, 'How many moves do you think ahead?'"
Comedian and chess player Tex de Wit

"Whomever sees no other aim in the game than that of giving checkmate to one's opponent will never become a good chess player." 
Max Euwe

"Is is is in Dutch, isn't it?"
My thoughts while trying to interpret what people are saying on TV.
by Andrew

The title I chose for this post is nice and short, but I instinctively decided to make another assonating title, which is shown below.

"An Actual Available Account Articulating and Appreciating Andrew's Absolutely Amazing Adventures Around Amsterdam -  Are Amsterdam's Alcoholics Anonymous associations as awesome as Andrew's amazing adventures around Amsterdam? Answer: Affirmative." Although "Amsterdam Adventures" assonates accurately anyway and, as aforementioned, acts as an appropriate and attractive alternative.

Now that I've (hopefully) got your attention...

After my tournament in Haarlem, I once again came back to Amsterdam, where I was to spend the next two and a half weeks - from 29th August-15th September. In that time I saw and did a variety of interesting things - from visiting chess museums, to taking canal cruises, to seeing comedy shows - although I did refrain from going to some of the city's more disturbing of tourist attractions...

One of the city's more disturbing tourist attractions ... which I didn't go to.*

*In Amsterdam, a "coffeeshop" is a shop with the primary purpose of selling cannabis and hash (some actually don't even serve coffee), as opposed to a cafe, where drugs are prohibited and the normal stuff is almost invariably available.*

*Say 'invariably available' 10 times fast before you continue reading.

 But although doing touristy things was a top priority, it was also nice for me to have myself a decent break: I had had four consecutive 9-round tournaments (following a 7-round Australian weekender) with only a few days between each one to relax and reflect.

Me relaxing and reflecting ... in Vlissingen.

Although I can't remember the order all that well, all the things I did are listed below - the most blogworthy things, anyway.


The first museum I saw was, I believe, Amsterdam's most famous: The Rijkmuseum. I was actually intending to go to the Max Euwe museum on this day, but I'd gone way past it and couldn't find it, so I decided to go here instead. This was a very old building that at the time was being refurbished. Thankfully it was still open for the general public. The Rijkmuseum contained a lot of fascinating history about the Netherlands, and, among other things, I learned about how the once very powerful Dutch Navy made it to America and founded the city of New Amsterdam. This city was then later colonised by the British and called New York (which made it clearer to me why there was a Haarlem and a Harlem).

Rijkmuseum near Museumplein
The next day I went out again to Leidseplein. Leidseplein (known by some English speakers as Led Zeppelin) is quite a common area for tourists to go to, being close to many museums and other interesting places (and of course coffeeshops), and also a common nightlife destination. In the area that the tram I took stopped at, there was also often live entertainment - bands playing, people breakdancing, and a guy hitting a tennis ball attached to an elastic band for hours on end, in the hope that it would sell his product. My intention on this day was once again to go to the Max Euwe museum, and this time I found a few people watching a giant chess game take place in Max Euwe Square, so I knew I had to be close. However, after looking around for quite a while, I yet again failed to find the museum.

Giant chess board at Max Euweplein

So instead I decided to go to the Van Gogh museum, where I found many fascinating works of his and learned a lot about his short but interesting life. The final museum I went to was the Rembrandthuis (Rembrandt House). This was where the famous painter lived and worked in his prime during the mid-17th century. Here I saw a huge collection of his art and many bizarre sculptures that he collected.

Canal near Museumplein

Max Euwe Museum and Library

I know what you must have been thinking up til now: What 19-year old male would go to Amsterdam and not visit the chess museum!? Well, luckily, one day I did manage to get there after not being able to find the entrance three times already. The 4th time came after I went to see Tex de Wit, whom I had met during the BDO. He had invited me around to his place to play blitz with himself and his friend. I told him about how I had tried to find the Max Euwe Museum and he said that I had to go in the building and press one of the numbers to be let upstairs, and then be taken in by the curator. It wasn't far from his place, and he liked the idea of going there, so we all went together anyway.

When we got there, the curator gave us a tour of the museum, however he only spoke in Dutch, so Tex had to translate for me. I saw lots of pictures of Max Euwe - as well as many other famous players whose faces I wouldn't previously have been able to identify - and learnt some interesting facts about his life. Max Euwe was only an amateur player when he became World Champion, which lasted from 1935-1937. He was also a mathematician, teacher and author. In fact he wrote around 70 chess books, much more than any other World Champion.

The museum also contained several other chess related things, including a timeline showing all the Dutch Grandmasters up to the present day - with 16-year-old Robin van Kampen about to be inlcuded - and an old specially-made Nazi chess set, with tanks, missiles, soliders, etc. for pieces. (The white pieces were the bigger and more powerful weapons, as they were supposed to represent the Nazi army.)

Nazi Chess Set in the Max Euwe Museum
After the tour of the museum, we were shown into the library, which had a collection over 10000 chess books inside. As there are so many different chess books, from opening, to endgame, to strategy, to biographies, etc., many keen chess players often come to this library to study. Also in this collection is one of the oldest surviving books on chess, 'The Bishop', by Ruy Loepez, dating back to the 1500s.

Blitz Tournament

A couple of days after visiting the Max Euwe Museum, Tex asked me if I wanted to come to his club to play in a blitz tournament on Thursday night at 8:00pm. By that stage I hadn't had any competitive chess (apart from the few games at his house) for almost two weeks, and so, eager to get my fix again, I replied with the affirmative. I left the house around 7:00, thinking that the two trams I'd need to take should get me there with 5 or 10 minutes to spare. However, I didn't account for the tram I was taking being 25 minutes late. Nor did I account for not being able to find the place when I got there. So when I finally found the place after 8:30, I was expecting to have already forfeited my first two games. But luckily for me they hadn't started yet.

The blitz was done as a 13 round all-play-all, with playing strength ranging from around 1700 to 2300. I've never really considered myself much of a blitz player, but for some reason today I was feeling pretty good. I got to 4/4, expecting I'd be playing Tex, who'd also been winning all his games. We both got to about 6/6 before he lost one game, but we still hadn't played each other. After several narrow escapes and lucky wins, I managed to get to 12/12, and I was paired with Tex (11/12) for the last round. After thinking for too long in the opening and then missing a nice exchange sacrifice he had, Tex beat me fairly comfortably, so 1st place was shared between us on 12/13.

Results sheet
Unfortunately the only prize for coming equal first in this blitz tournament, was the satisfaction of coming equal first in this blitz tournament. But we decided it was necessary to take a winners' photo, just for the record.*

Tex and me (winners are grinners!)

*This was actually the 8th photo we took... I guess that's what late-night blitz does to you.

Comedy show

At the blitz tournament, I had asked Tex what it was like being a stand-up comedian. He said he had only been performing for around 6 months, so it was a relatively new experience for him. But he asked if I wanted to come to a gig he was doing Friday night, which was going to be entirely in English. So before I knew it, I was at the

There were four acts of stand-up comedy altogether - three Dutch comedians and one English. I thoroughly enjoyed all the performances, but I think I understood some of Tex's chess jokes better than the rest of the audience.

After the show I had the luxury of hanging around with some of the comedians and listening to many entertaining stories about multi-functional steam-cleaners, politically-incorrect Australians, and elephant genitals.

Other news

Before I continue going on about myself, I would like to start off this section by congratulating Max Illingworth, who in the First Saturday GM Tournament in Hungary this September became the youngest Australian ever to make a GM norm, as well as the first to make a GM norm before getting the IM title. Max beat all 3 GMs who played (which could also be a record), and placed =1st in the tournament with 7/9 and a performance rating of 2638!


After suffering from the many disadvantages of not feeding myself properly during the BDO, I decided that it was important for me to find some wholesome, nutritious food to get me back into good condition. After all:

"The stomach is an important part of the chess master."
Bent Larsen

So I went and got the best food a chess player can possibly eat.

But unfortunately, the human-being part of me decided against having only chess-piece chocolate biscuits - which no doubt drastically enhance checkmating abilities - for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So I went and bought a large range of ingredients, which I used to cook up my best meal yet:

Fried rice (already half eaten, believe it or not)

On my last full day in Holland, I went to the Rembrantplein, walked around some scenic areas, bought some souvenirs, and took a canal cruise to finish off a very relaxed and enjoyable day.

Seeing the Statue of Rembrandt at Rembrandtplein

Cruising the canals

And swimming the walking the canals

Having the opportunity to visit and enjoy spending time in one of Europe's most famous and exciting of cities was something that I came to appreciate a lot more during the final two and a half weeks I spent there - and I'm sure I will continue to appreciate it once I am back home, working, and attending my first year of uni. Now that it's time for me to leave Amsterdam, I hope that I will enjoy my experience in Hungary, and be able to come back to Amsterdam in the future.

Maybe even next year...

"Hear that, Mr. Anderson? That is the sound of inevitability."

I'm writing now from Kecskemet in Hungary, and I am about to experience my first ever GM tournament. The Kecskemet tournament and the better-known First Saturday tournament take place each month in Hungary, with the latter being held at the start of each month in Budapest, and the former during the second half, taking place in Kecskemet (a city about 90km south-east of Budapest). My first round begins tomorrow at 3:00pm (11:00pm AEST), but unfortunately there is no website for this event, and nowhere online (at least, not that I've found) to check the results. However, I will be posting regularly during this tournament to keep you informed on how it's going. Until then, I feel it is only appropriate to finish this the way I started.

Adios, Amsterdam! And hopefully historical Hungary has hundred heavenly happenings happening half-hourly. Haha.

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