Chess has been a longtime hobby of mine. Finding other chess players in college reignited my desire to play more chess. When I got to Amsterdam I wanted to keep pursuing that hobby. On a slow Tuesday with no class, I found out about the Amsterdam chess museum. Dedicated to Dutch native Max Euwe, who from 1935-1937 was world chess champion. After a quick dive into the history of Dutch chess. I went out to watch people in the square playing on the large outdoor board.
Here is where I met Caesar, the emperor of the chessboard. Messy grey hair and bright old eyes, he dressed in a style all his own; he walked around the board surveying the onlookers. It was clear this wasn’t his first afternoon spent hand-rolling cigarettes and watching chess. We discussed the clumsy maneuvering and missed opportunities of the current players. He was keen to share his story with me. Having moved to the Netherlands at a young age he watched his father hustle chess in the park and learned the game from him.
As the current game ended Caesar and I took the board. We started with a standard slow opening. Everything developed evenly until move 15, I left a knight undefended and he jumped on it. Bolstered by the confidence of being up a piece he pressed the attack. As I worked to regain footing he joked with onlookers. He seemed to know my every move before it was played. He pushed my left flank and forced me to use my queen to defend key positions. He was relentless with his attack. All I could do was play cautiously and hope for an opening. He moved, piling pressure on my rook, moving his knight to attack. This opened up a diagonal for my queen to attack corner to corner capturing his undefended rook. Thrilled with myself for finding a crack in his armor, I couldn’t hold back a beaming smile as I took the piece ready to see his response. He looked over the board shocked. He hadn’t just left the rook undefended he left a center file open too. His king was pinned between my rook and queen with nowhere to hide.
His cronies behind him laughed as he took his shocked loss in stride. I hadn’t even realized I won until he pointed it out. I declined a second game, not trying to push my luck. Telling the story it feels surreal. Caesar was a character I will never forget. I hope to go back to that same square in several years to give Caesar his rematch.