I was numbed and saddened a few days ago to learn that the Dutch problemist Ruud Beugelsdijk had died suddenly at the tragically early age of 52. He was born in Lisse on 31st October 1957 and died at Leiden on 1st November 2009.
Everybody I have talked to remembers him as a cheerful fellow, memories emphasised by the picture on the left, which catches him in typical pose at the Rhodes meeting of the PCCC in 2007. Ruud was multi-talented, and, as well as his chessic talents, he was musical and to my knowledge played the piano and the ukulele, the latter instrument sometimes accompanying him to problemists’ meetings.
As well as composing, Ruud acted as tourney director for composing tourneys, most notably in recent years for the Stoffelen-70 JT. This event involved endgame studies, a genre that means more work for the director than most other types of composing tourney. Ruud also judged tourneys, most notably in recent years the Krabbé-60 JT, in which he and Krabbé judged the more-mover section. When he could be persuaded to take part, Ruud was also a strong competition solver.
The photograph below (courtesy of Franziska Iseli), taken at the BCPS meeting at Cheltenham in 2002 shows a smiling Ruud on the far right, with, from left to right, Franziska Iseli, Dirk Borst and Peter Bakker, also all smiling. Dirk Borst reminds me that this most probably shows the prize giving in the H# section, where Ruud, Peter and Dirk took 1st prize with a H#2 ‘sponsored’ by Piet le Grand, who is standing behind Ruud. Piet sat at the team’s table while they did the composing and he kept them supplied with beer. Franziska might have been a stand-in for the judge, Michel Caillaud, who had an early train to catch, according to The Problemist.
Away from chess, Ruud had other interests, as well as the musical ones already mentioned. Like a lot of Dutch people he was proud of his talents with the English language. At BCPS meetings it is far from unknown for the Dutch (and other nationalities) to beat us at our own language in the non-chess, word-based competitions. Ruud was always a keen participant in these contests.
To keep up his English, Ruud regularly read a newspaper in English – the International Herald Tribune. On one occasion when I was visiting him, he was doing the crossword and I gave him some small amount of help. One answer I suggested was the word ‘awry’, which I pronounced correctly as ‘a-rye’. He had never heard the word spoken before, so didn’t recognise it and he just couldn’t believe that it wasn’t pronounced ‘awe-ry’. That crossword is US style but Ruud could also cope with a standard British cryptic crossword. I have good memories of a long trip by road when Ruud and I were driven by Peter Bakker from The Netherlands to one of the French meetings at Messigny. We passed some of the time by solving the prize crossword in The Guardian (set by the difficult Araucaria), something I would have had trouble completing on my own.
As could be expected from his cheerful disposition, Ruud loved comedy and took great pleasure, thanks to his linguistic talents, in comedy in English. I remember giving him tapes of classic BBC Radio comedy shows such as The Goon Show, Round the Horne and Hancock’s Half Hour. I listened to some of them with him, and although some more obscure British references had to be explained, he chuckled as much as I did. He was also a fan of the American humourist Groucho Marx and he took delight in singing Groucho’s songs, particularly Hello, I Must Be Going, which is particularly poignant now that Ruud has gone after saying hello only a relatively short time ago.
While writing about Ruud and humour, I have to mention the Wageningen meeting in 2001. Ruud and I, with Ward Stoffelen and Marko Bonavoglia, under the direction of Peter Bakker and Dirk Borst, were members of the WCSC control team. Our task was mainly to mark the solvers’ sheets and for that purpose we were sequestered in a lockable room at the venue. I remember that WCSC as one of the most enjoyable that I ever helped control. Ruud’s humour was irrepressible and at one point we came up with the mad, crazy, impossible concept of cheerleaders to encourage the solvers. Of course, once this idea was fixed in our minds, Ruud just had to create chants for a few individual solvers, and he did so with great relish. At that meeting we probably spent more time than we should have done laughing when we should have been marking, but that was what being with Ruud meant. Years later I could mention a name and he would chant the chant.
Ruud had a love of learning and a very keen eye for detail. Some years ago he was studying a text book by Donald E. Knuth, the renowned computer scientist, Professor Emeritus at Stanford University and author of the classic seven-volume The Art of Computer Programming. The professor also has a keen eye for detail and used to offer small monetary rewards to anybody finding errors in his books. Last time I visited Ruud, there on his wall were two framed cheques made out to him from the professor.
The final photograph is one taken in late 2005 at a restaurant in Voorhout, the town in which Ruud lived. He is on the right, Peter Bakker on the left with Hans Uitenbroek in the middle. This was taken when I was visiting my Dutch chess friends at a time when I was at a particularly low ebb. They all did much to support me, for which I shall be forever grateful.
I shall miss my good and cheerful friend.
To finish this memoir I should make mention of Ruud the composer. He was versatile and to illustrate his work I have chosen a three-mover from twenty years ago that I have fond memories of solving and a helpmate suggested by Chris Feather.
1st Comm., The Problemist, 1989
Mate in 3
1.Rc7! () 1...Rg1, Rgg3 2.Bxg7 (3.d5#) Rxg7 3.Sxg7# Rd3 3.Sxf4# 1...Rff2 2.Bxg7 (3.d5#) Rxg7 3.Sxg7# Rxd2 3.Sxf4# 1...Rf1 2.Bxf4 (3.d5#) Rxd2 3.Sxg7# Rxf4 3.Sxf4# 1...Rg4 2.Rc6+ Kd7 3.e6# 1...Rg5 2.Bxg5 & 3.Rxe7,Sxg7# 1...Rg6 2.Re8 (3.Rexe7,Rcxe7#) Kf7 3.Rcxe7# 1...Bf5 2.Rxf5 (3.d5#) Rxd2 3.Sxg7# Rd3 3.Sxf4# 1...gxh6 2.Sf6 (3.Rc6#) exf6 3.Rxf6,Re8#
The key (1.Rc7!) doesn’t carry a threat, which leaves all of Black’s moves to be accounted for. 1...Bg4, 1...g6 and 1...g5 all interfere with the bRg2, allowing the short mate 2.Sxg7#. If the bRf3 moves off the file, White mates immediately by 2.Sxf4# and if the bRg2 moves off the file, White mates immediately by 2.Sxg7#.
By playing to g3 or g1, the g-rook gives up its option to play …Rxd2, so White can play 2.Bxg7, giving up his option of 3.Sg7# and threatening 3.d5. Knight mates on f4 or g7 follow if Black defends against the threat. If the f-rook goes to f2, it interferes with the g-rook’s power to go to d2, so 2.Bxg7 works again. In a manner analogous to the previous variations, when Black plays 1...Rf1, he gives up his option of playing 2...Rd3 or 2...Rxd2 and so White can give up his option of playing 3.Sxf4#. There follows 2.Bxf4, threatening 3.d5#. Again, Knight mates on f4 or g7 follow if Black defends against the threat. The Black Prevention - White Prevention mechanism of these variations goes under the name of the Munich Theme.
I believe the remainder of the full-length variations to be by-play, but most of them are nonetheless full of interest. 1...Rg4 is an interference with the bBh3 and allows a pawn mate on e6. 1...Rg5 allows a simple capture, while 1...Rg6 turns out to be a distant self-block. 1...Bf5 allows another simple capture and 1...gxh6 leads to a sacrifice of the white knight.
The Problemist, 1991
Helpmate in 2: 2 solutions
1.Rc4 Kxd5 2.Qb3 Sxd2# 1.Bf6 Kxd6 2.Qh6 Sxg3#
White would like to mate with his knight on d2 or g3, but both squares are doubly guarded. White's bishop conveniently guards g1 ready for the planned mates, so he doesn't want to move it, and of course, he doesn't want to move his knight either. The white king has no moves and, as White has two moves to play, this is somewhat inconvenient.
In each solution Black's first move gives the white king a move while taking one guard off one of the mating squares. Black's second move is a hideaway move by the black queen, taking the other guard off the mating square. Note that Black's first move has anticipated his second and occupied a position between the future squares of the white king and the black queen, so stopping Black's second move being check.
This memoir was first posted on my then website on 4th November, 2009.
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