What could be better than looking out of a café window at a scenic street-view, as you drink a cup of coffee and play chess? Apart from being a thoroughly relaxing experience, this also plays an historic significance in the development of our game, because before chess clubs and tournaments had been established, the path to mastery for many talented young players in the 19th- and early 20th-century could often be found through the multitude of global chess cafés.
Chess cafés were places where the chess professionals, the retired and the unemployed could while away the hours playing and analysing games, and where up-and-coming players could challenge regulars and hustlers for a suitable stake. These cafés would often provide chess sets and sometimes clocks, and more often or not, just the mere presence of a ‘house’ master would also attract interest, if not always income.
The most famous (and still in operation today) is the Café de la Régence in Paris, which is regarded by historians as being the world’s first chess club. And recently on ChessBase.com, historian and author Alan McGowan wrote an enlightening feature on the Berlin chess café scene. Here in the US, the term ‘Coffeehouse Player’ in chess also derived from a style of bold, skilful in unsoundness play, that was all but de rigueur in the many coffeehouse (the Americanised version of cafés) arenas around in the 19th century.
And in keeping with this coffeehouse/café culture, we turn our attentions to the only annual grandmaster-level tournaments nowadays to keep the tradition going, namely the 12th Batavia Amsterdam Tournament, held in the Café Batavia, just opposite the Dutch capital’s Central Railway Station, which ran 20 February through to 1 March. This novel tournament is designed to help promote young Dutch talents, so invariably there’s a mixed field of seasoned veterans and young guns looking to make their mark. This year, the Russian-Dutch top seed, GM Dmitri Reinderman, made all the running, as he took first place on 7.5/9, a full point ahead of his nearest rival.
1. GM D. Reinderman (Netherlands) 7.5/9; 2. GM T. Warakomski (Poland) 6.5; 3. IM A. Feuerstack (Germany) 5.5; 4-7. GM F. Nijboer (Netherlands), IM N. Zwirs (Netherlands), IM L. Trent (England), IM I. Sukandar (Indonesia) 4.5; 8. IM E. van Haastert (Netherlands) 3; 9. IM M. Admiraal (Netherlands) 2.5; 10. IM M. Bosboom (Netherlands) 2.
Photo: Dmitri Reinderman takes in his scenic board-side view at the Café Bavtavia | © Lennart Ootes/Batavia Amsterdam Tournament
IM Irine Sukandar – GM Dimitri Reinderman
12th Batavia Amsterdam Tournament, (4)
Philidor’s Defence, Improved Hanham Variation
1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 This line of the Philidor’s Defence we eventually get to was normally reached by 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 Nbd7 5.Bc4 Be7, etc. However, theorists eventually discovered that 4.dxe5 Nxe4 5.Qd5! simply favours White, as Black now can’t get into the Hanham variation – so the fix was avoiding this subtle difference by means of a transposition via the Pirc Defence. 3.Nc3 e5 4.Nf3 Nbd7 5.Bc4 Be7 6.0-0 0-0 7.a4 c6 8.Re1 b6 9.d5 Releasing the tension in the centre only helps Black. Modern-day Hanham heaven comes with 9.Qe2 Bb7 10.Ba2 with Black adopting a long waiting game with 10…a6 to then follow-up with …Qc7, …h6 and …Rfe8 before expanding on the queenside with …b5, answering axb5 with …axb5 and a very complex middlegame struggle of deep manoeuvres for both sides. 9…cxd5 10.Nxd5 Nxd5 11.Bxd5 Rb8 12.h3 Nf6 13.b3 Nxd5 14.Qxd5 Bb7 Also a good option was 14…Be6 with the idea of a Sicilian Defence-like counter-attack with …f5 – but it is better with …Bb7, as there’s pressure on e4. 15.Qd3 f5 16.exf5 Bf6! Much stronger than 16…e4?! 17.Rxe4! Bxe4 18.Qxe4 Bf6 19.Qd5+ Kh8 20.Ra2! which is unclear, as White has genuine attacking chances for the exchange, the major threat being c4, Rd2 and Ba3 to heap pressure on the weak d6-pawn. But the attack on the a1 rook is a decoy – and if White is not careful, then Black will have those central pawns, supported by the bishops, dominating the position. 17.Qe3? Sukander falls into a positional trap hook, line and sinker – she simply had to try 17.Rb1 Re8 18.Nh2!? d5 19.Ng4 with chances for both sides. But after the error of 17.Qe3?, White’s game quickly collapses. 17…Bxf3! 18.gxf3 As 18.Qxf3 walks into the trick of 18…e4 winning the Ra1, this forces the infamous ‘Irish pawn centre‘, as the late, great Tony Miles once famously coined the phrase with the annotation to his game from the 1978 Amsterdam zonal tournament against Ireland’s Eamonn Keogh. 18…Rb7 The IPC is a sitting targets on the f-file, and Black can comfortably build-up his pieces for a lethal strike. 19.Ba3 White perhaps should have tried 19.Rd1 Rbf7 20.Qe4 Be7 21.a5 and try to hang on here – but Black will play 21…b5 and, eventually, White’s kingside will fall to the inevitable. 19…Rbf7 20.Rad1 Be7 21.f4? White’s position is bad, but this, based on a miscalculation, make it even worse. 21…Rxf5 22.Bb2 It was only now that Sukander suddenly realised her intended 22.Bxd6? Bxd6 23.fxe5 was going to lose on the spot to 23…Qg5+ and resignation. 22…Qe8 23.fxe5 Qg6+ 24.Kh1 Rf3 25.Rg1 Qh5 [see diagram] Although Black’s attack is crushing and crashing through, he still has to be wary, as it would be so, so easy to not notice that 25…Qf5 26.Rxg7+ Kxg7 27.exd6+ Bf6 28.Qe7+ Rf7? (Easy to play into, but still winning was 28…Kg6! 29.Rg1+ Kh5 and White is lost.) 29.Rg1+ Kh6 30.Bc1+ Bg5 31.Qxg5+!! Qxg5 32.Bxg5+ Kh5 33.Be7! and White is winning, as the d-pawn can’t be stopped without a heavy loss of material. So better to be safe than sorry, and for that reason alone, Reinderman takes the more pragmatic, “less risky” winning route. 26.Rxg7+ Kxg7 27.exd6+ Bf6 28.Qe7+ Qf7 29.Qxf7+ Kxf7 0-1