Thursday, July 23, 2009

Benasque 3 - More Coincidences

When I play at Benasque I stay in a campsite about three kilometres up the hill from the town, hotel rooms being pricier than I reckon I can afford. When I'm on my own this means about forty minutes' energetic walk, but when I'm not, it's five short minutes in the car, a difference that's particularly noticeable when it's dark, or raining, or when you're knackered.

After watching Romain Edouard's disaster in round nine we had just set off when we stopped to pick up a hitch-hiker who, though it was neither dark nor raining, had, he told us, been walking all day and didn't really fancy the last couple of miles uphill. Having said "thank you" in English when he got in, he found himself replied to in the same language - and in the conversation that ensued he was interested to hear that I was playing in the chess tournament in the town, since - though there to walk, not to play chess - he had noticed that there was a tournament on, and was, he said, a chessplayer himself.

Obviously at first I assumed he meant he knew how the pieces move. This assumption was upgraded when he asked me what my rating was, since you'd have to be a serious player to ask, and was entirely obliterated when he said that his was 2323, a sizeable distance above my own. His accent wasn't entirely English, having a large component of Australian, but given that he said he had been busy on the English circuit twenty years before - and indeed had a couple of IM norms outstanding from that time - I said I surely had to know his name. I did. By extraordinary coincidence, driving uphill from a tiny Pyrenean town we happened to have picked up a hitch-hiker who turned out to be Erik Teichmann.

I remembered the name from my youth, if not much more than that: I don't think we ever played, not surprisingly since Erik was several classes above me as a player, his name presumably familiar from the top boards and prize lists of tournament where I probably didn't even play in the top section. But I did remember him, and I was also half-sure I had seen it again more recently, though precisely where I didn't know. He said he had been playing a bit more recently, after a long largely inactive spell, and that he'd won a couple of tournaments: indeed he had so perhaps I may have seen his name in a report somewhere.

Anyway, what with those titles Erik's rating is on the up - not bad for a guy who's forty-eight this year, albeit probably the healthiest-looking forty-eight-year-old man I've ever seen, even by the standards obtaining in Australia, where he lives. Erik is now a qualified "life coach" and it appears his old norms are valid, as he thought, so that title too, may yet be his.

Well, you never know who you'll meet on the road, so my advice is: always pick up hitch-hikers. It was a pleasure to meet and talk, so if Erik is reading this - best wishes and best of luck for the future, in chess and elsewhere.

But what's this I hear about a long beard and a single long fingernail?


Anonymous said...

I knew Erik when we were both at Oxford University in the early 1980s. He was a pretty strong player even then: from memory, his BCF grade was about 210. The university entered two teams of equal strength in the Oxfordshire League called Pawns and Pieces. I captained the Pieces one year (not because I was a strong player - I wasn't - but because I already had some captaincy experience from other leagues) and Erik was a regular in that team.

I think the reason why the university didn't put out just one combined team at that time was that it would consist of Ken Regan, William Watson, Jon Levitt, Colin McNab, John Cox, John Hawkesworth, Erik, Tim Upton... and as such it would be too strong for all the other teams in the league.

As I recall, Erik was a Buddhist back then. I don't know whether that would account for the beard and fingernail.

My relationship with Erik came to a sudden end in 1984 when we fell out over a woman and he (understandably) refused to play in my team any more. The episode generated strong feelings on both sides and we never made up.

As others have commented elsewhere (English Chess Forum), Erik was a charismatic and well-regarded figure in English chess. I googled him from time to time and discovered that he was a world traveller. I've often wondered why he felt the need to uproot himself from the land where he grew up (educated at Perse School, Cambridge, if I remember right). Does anyone know?

Anyway, if he's travelling in Europe now, he might start playing in the UK again and that would certainly liven up the chess scene.


ejh said...

He mentioned that he knew Jon Levitt when he was there and I mentioned that I knew Ken Regan had been involved in University chess (I was a student there myself 1983/6 but almost entirely stopped playing OTB at the time and for several years, for reasons I really can't recall). I didn't know about the other names you mentioned.

Adam Raoof said...

Anonymous said...

Erik and Jon Levitt were both at Magdalen College and they were friends, so I'm not surprised at the mention.

I was at Oxford from 1981 to 1984. All the names I gave were there at some point during that period. In the early 80s the University team was one of the strongest in the country - they won the National Club one year.

There's a photo somewhere of at least three of these talented youngsters giving Karpov a fright in a simul he gave against England Youth in about 1980.

Memories are made of this...


Anonymous said...

Erik and i were indeed good friends in the early 80's and shared many a cup of jasmine tea at Magdalen college 1982-1985, where we played countless blitz games. I remember we both had winning runs of more than ten consecutive games against each other. Even then he was spiritually sophisticated (his mum was a pro academic philosopher at Cambridge) and always interesting to talk to. I have lost touch with him in recent years since he is in Australia, but i am not surprised to learn he is now a life coach. He is probably exceptionally good at it.
Jonathan Levitt

Anonymous said...

I was at prep and senior school with Erik in Cambridge - the Perse - aged 10-13. He was a jolly nice chap. We did play chess though the outcome of games in 1971 is rather hazy. We lost touch when I moved to Oxford in 1974.