- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 14, 2017

In a game played between White and Black, chess lost a couple of colorful characters in recent days.

It’s just been revealed that Joop van Oosterom quietly passed away in Monaco at the tail end of 2016. The Dutchman was a personal role model — someone who made a bazillion dollars as a young man and spent the rest of his life frittering away his fortune working on his chess and sponsoring teams and tournaments.

As an organizer, he is best known for bankrolling the Experience vs. Rising Stars tournaments and the famous Melody Amber events, a unique rapid/blind combination event named for his daughter that for 20 years attracted some of the world’s greatest players.

Over the board, van Oosterom achieved his greatest fame by twice winning the world correspondence championship, in 2005 and 2008. One of his better postal efforts came against American correspondence IM Robert Reynolds.

The Budapest Gambit (2…e5) is difficult to meet over the board, but perhaps not the best choice for postal chess, when players have the time and resources to search out the best counterlines. It turns out early attempts by Black to recover the pawn just leave him with a worse position; e.g. 9…Qxa2?! 10. h3 Nh6 11. e4, and Black has real trouble developing his game.

After 15. 0-0 0-0, van Oosterom’s doubled, isolated c-pawns make his extra pawn irrelevant, but it is his positional advantage that leads him to sharpen the play: 16. Nd4 Ne5 17. Nb3 Bf5 (Nxc4? 18. Nxc5 dxc5 19. Bd5+ Be6 20. Qe4! wins decisive material) 18. e4!?, inviting the complications that follow. After 18…Nxe4 (no better is 18…Nxb3 19. axb3 Bg4 20 f3 Bh5 21. Qd2, with a solid positional plus) 19. Bxe4 Nf3+ 20. Bxf3 Bxc2 21. Rxc2 c6, Reynolds keeps the material in balance with three minor pieces for his lost queen, but the powerful bishop pair and two active rooks give White the clear upper hand.

Black has no counterplay and must watch as White steadily improves his game. The denouement: 32. Nf4 Qe8 33. Kh2 b6 34. Bg2 Kh7 (see diagram; on 34…Re1, White has 35. Rxe1 Qxe1 36. Re2! Qc3 37. Re8+ Kh7 38. Be4+ g6 39. Bxg6+ Kg7 40. Bf8+ Kf6 41. Re6+ Kg5 42. Be4 Rg7 43. Be7+! Rxe7 44. Rg6 mate) 35. Be5! (Black must lose more material) Rxe5 (Rxd2 36. Bxe4+) 36. Rxd7 Re1 37. Rd8 Qe5 38. R1d6, and Black mailed it in (literally), not wasting postage on 38…Qxc5 39. Ng6 (threatening instant mate on h8) Re8 40. Rxe8 Qxd6 41. Be4 Qxg6 (the only way to avoid immediate loss) 42. Bxg6+ Kxg6 43. Re6+, with an elementary win.

Raymond Smullyan, the renowned mathematician and logician who taught at Princeton and Yeshiva University, died last week at the ripe old age of 97. A modern-day Lewis Carroll, Smullyan loved games and puzzles and — like the “Alice” author — had a deep affinity for chess.

His engaging 1979 “The Chess Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes” included 50 “tantalizing problems of chess detection” — ingenious retrograde problems in which the solver has to work backward to determine how a position was reached. One of his most famous is today’s diagram, in which you must determine where the White king should be placed and give the previous two legal moves that produced the position.

Sounds impossible, but it turns out there’s one — and only one — solution. Which we will provide here next week.

Van Ooosterom-Reynolds, ICCF World Correspondence Championship, 1996

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 Ng4 4. Bf4 Bb4+ 5. Nc3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 Nc6 7. Nf3 Qe7 8. Qd5 Qa3 9. Rc1 f6 10. exf6 Nxf6 11. Qd1 Ne4 12. Qc2 Qe7 13. g3 d6 14. Bg2 Nc5 15. O-O O-O 16. Nd4 Ne5 17. Nb3 Bf5 18. e4 Nxe4 19. Bxe4 Nf3+ 20. Bxf3 Bxc2 21. Rxc2 c6 22. Rd1 Qf7 23. Bg2 Qxc4 24. Bxd6 Rfe8 25. Bf1 Qg4 26. Rcd2 Rad8 27. c4 Kh8 28. h3 Qh5 29. c5 h6 30. Nd4 Rd7 31. Ne2 Re4 32. Nf4 Qe8 33. Kh2 b6 34. Bg2 Kh7 35. Be5 Rxe5 36. Rxd7 Re1 37. Rd8 Qe5 38. R1d6 Black resigns.

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email at [email protected]

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