My first recollections of me playing chess was when I was around 8 years old, playing games with my cousin without even properly knowing the exact rules. I recall this leading to hilarious discussions type: ‘ You can only move one single pawn two squares forward”, “A bishop can only go forward, ask my dad!”, “A queen can also make knight-moves of course!”. Although I could construct very basic checkmating positions, at that time I thought you had to be a very serious and devoted player to be able to force someone into such checkmate.
All this changed when I ones glanced through a magazine called “Knack” and saw a column with the picture of some chess boards in it. What immediately pulled my attention was that the name Kasparov was mentioned in it. At that time, I was 11 years old, it was the only player that I knew because he was the world champion itself. Here he played a game against Jeroen Piket of the Netherlands. Some kind of code was put in bolt and it was obvious that this was the code for showing the moves played at the board. Suddenly I realized that by taking the chessboard I knew was lying somewhere getting dusty, I would be able to play a game of an incredibly high level, possibly even resulting in a checkmate :-o! The only thing I had to do was cracking the code and indeed eventually I was able to solve it. Indirectly this was also the way I found out that Queens do not move like knights, bishops can also move backwards and that my dad wasn’t perfect etc :-)… To my great astonishment I found that the game ended not in a checkmate, no not by far, it ended with the words “Here Piket resigned”. I was shocked, I could not even understand why he resigned, for me the game was perfectly balanced. Luckily, after the announcement that Mister Piket resigned there were some more comments and lines given, apparently showing the inevitable. Still I didn’t get it … for me it remained a mystery why Piket resigned.
In a way I believe this “frustration” resulted in a sort of fascination for the game and eventually even a true passion. I started to play from time to time against my dad who I fairly easily beat almost right away (wonder why). Around this time I asked my dad also to bring along some chess books from the local library. Those he took home were the series from Max Euwe about opening play, middlegame and endgames which I read with much interest. Here my frustration turned into excitement when I first beat him with an actual checkmate. I remember it clearly as being a back rank mate. I must have been 14 or 15 at the time. As time progressed the mates got more “complex”, being able to mate him in the middle of the board.
The next turning point for my chess was the arrival of our first computer at home and the discovery eventually of the site chessfm on chessclub.com. There I started to play as a guest on some java applet playing 10 0 games. At this point my experience increased dramatically especially tactically. Then a little bit later I entered the community of ICC where I played as a guest but often with longer time controls 20 0. I guess here I gained in accuracy and calculating skills. Many years this was the only way I played chess but I did it with much devotion. I remember when I first attended college I spend sometimes whole nights playing until 6 am just to take a quick nap and be (or not to be) in the classroom at 8.30 am.
In 2003, again playing on the internet on ICC, I decided to take another 7-day free trial to take part in some giant tournament called the Dos Hermanas tourney where we played 8 2 games. Here, I guess in the second round or so in one of the qualification tourneys, I was paired with the grand master Jini (GM) which later I found out was the Greek GM Spyridon Skembris. It started all just after the opening (Carro-Kann) were he blundered carelessly the exchange. I reached (my heart pounding in my chest) a winning position after sacrificing material back to a won endgame in which I messed up to eventually draw. A game of which of course I am very proud nonetheless.
A lot of internet games, chess books, puzzles, frustrations, nights later in January 2006 after I graduated as a civil engineer that summer I decided to enter the local chess club and start playing OTB. Here I played in total 20 rated games ranging from escaping a mate in one against an 1000 ELO player to being victorious over a 2100 ELO player at a tournament where I won 25 € in my rating division having played only 6 of the 7 rounds.
I played OTB games until somewhere in the summer of 2007 when I discovered another, even more challenging hobby, … Ballroom dancing!
My last official national rating is 1685 ELO.