Another Dutch chess vanishing

If you happened to read this story and the one about De Ronde one after another, you might get the impression that the Dutch chess world, half a century ago, was full of misfits, wanderers, and vanishing persons. The opposite is true - it was full of teachers, bankers, carpenters, businessmen and lawyers who followed a responsible course in life which, in those days, was not that of their chess talent. The primary example is Euwe, who taught math at a girls' school until his chess career was over.
    Just like De Ronde's, the name of Roele still strikes an enigmatic note in Dutch chess - if ever more faint. There are striking similarities between the two, and one striking contrast. While De Ronde leaned heavily toward communism, Roele admired nazism. They were about as strong, as old, could both be called misfits by choice, played one very striking game each, and qualified both for one Dutch Championship, in 1939. There, they shared 7th and 8th place.
   And they both disappeared.

Roele was born around 1918 and from the latest pre-war years until 1955, he was one of the prominent players in Amsterdam. Misbehaving in the war, he played under a pseudonym for some years afterwards to evade purging. In that period he gave up his job as an office clerk to pursue his real calling which was that of a tramp. During the day, he played for stakes in the Amsterdam chess café, and when his acquaintances arrived home late in the evening, they sometimes found Roele waiting on their doorstep, dying with hunger, and hoping for a place on a mat where he might sleep.
    Around 1960, he disappeared without a trace. A rumour has it that he befriended a band of gypsies, and followed them to southern France to partake in their election for a new king, and that he stayed with them. But most of his old chess friends I was able to contact believe he went to Paris to live the life of a down-and-out under the bridges, and that he froze to death there one winter.
    The following game was played in a small training match in Amsterdam.

Heidenfeld - Roele, Utrecht 1954
1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.f4 d5 4.fxe5 Nxe4 5.d3 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Be7 7.Nf3 O-O 8.Be2 c5 9.d4 Nc6 10.O-O f6 11.Bf4 g5 12.exf6 gxf4 13.fxe7 Qxe7 14.Bd3 c4 15.Re1 Qa3 16.Bxh7+ Kxh7 17.Ng5+ Kg6 18.Ne6 Bxe6 19.Rxe6+ Kf5 20.Rh6 Qxc3 21.Qh5+ Ke4 22.Rd1 Rae8 23.Qg6+ Ke3 24.Rh3+ f3 25.Rxf3+ Ke2 26.Rxc3 Kxd1 (see diagram) It is only fitting that in his one surviving game, Roele's King has migrated to the deep south and finds happiness there. 27.h4 Nxd4 28.Kh2 Ne2 29.Rf3 d4 30.h5 Rxf3 31.gxf3 Re3 32.Qf5 d3 33.cxd3 c3 34.Qc5 Rxf3 35.h6 Rf6 36.Qg5 Rf2+ 37.Kh3 Nf4+ 38.Kg4 Rg2+ 39.Kf5 Rxg5+ 40.Kxg5 c2 41.h7 c1Q 42.h8Q Nxd3+ and White resigned.

PS 26 June 2004: An interesting communication by the South African chessplayer Christoff Mans adds some details to this game. It was the fourth and last game of a match (played in Utrecht, not Amsterdam as I first had it), won by Roele with 2˝ - 1˝. In the April 1954 issue of The South African Chessplayer Heidenfeld described it as "a hair-raising game in which I had won the hostile queen by a very long combination in the course of which my opponent's king had to travel all over the board - and then could not reconcile myself to the fact that it was he and not I who had winning chances. I do not grudge my opponent his win: the fun alone was worth the money."
    Finally, Heidenfeld also gives the third match game, so now Roele has two surviving games.

Roele - Heidenfeld, Utrecht 1954
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.g3 b6 4.Bg2 Bb7 5.O-O Be7 6.c4 O-O 7.Nc3 d5 8.Ne5 c6 9.e4 dxc4 10.Nxc4 Ba6 11.b3 b5 12.Ne3 b4 13.Ne2 Bxe2 14.Qxe2 Qxd4 15.Bb2 Qb6 16.Nc4 Qb5 17.Bxf6 gxf6 18.Rad1 a5 19.Rfe1 Ra7 20.e5 Rd7 21.Qg4+ Kh8 22.exf6 Bxf6 23.Qf3 Bc3 24.Rxd7 Nxd7 25.Rd1 Ne5 26.Qf6+ Kg8 27.Nd6 Qe2 28.Qg5+ Ng6 29.Rf1 Qxa2 30.h4 Qe2 31.Be4 Be5 32.Bxg6 fxg6 33.Qd2 Rxf2 "and Black won in short order", according to Heidenfeld. (Very likely, the final move order was 33.Nc4 Bd4 34.Qd2 Rxf2)

© Tim Krabbé 1999, 2004

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