Roelof Westra (10/04/1932 - 26/09/2022).
The lovely celebration of Roelof's 90th Birthday (see below) was, it turned out, the last opportunity that most of his many, many chess friends had to see him again. We are sad to have to announce that Roelof passed away this week (26/09/2022).
An exceptionally strong and successful player – Roelof could have been even better had he not enjoyed the game so much! He guided the development of generations of Hull’s strongest and keenest players. He captained and was the core of numerous winning teams. He won many Congresses, and played many fine games. He loved chess for eight decades – but also loved the friendships, company, fun and companionship it brought him … in the playing hall, and in the bar. He bought many ‘rounds’ for those who needed but perhaps could not manage them. He was the centre of the conversation and energy in any social gathering: knowledgeable, funny, charming, generous and provocative. He has been missed in Hull Chess for several years, since his retirement from over-the-board play – punctuated for us only by occasional gatherings at his ‘local’, The Molescroft. These meetings kept the light he brought going for a few of us. Now it is dimmed. But it will always shine for - and through - those who were lucky enough to know Roelof.
Our deepest sympathy go to Roelof’s family in Holland, and most especially to his beloved brother and friend to our Club, Duko.
Douwe ('Duko') Westra (23/07/1934 - 02/10/2022).
Hardly a week after Roelof's death, Douwe ('Duko') Westra has passed away (02/10/2022). 60 years a friend, player, officer and supporter of our Chess club, Duko will be sadly missed. Rest in peace Duko.
A joint funeral was held for Roelof and Duko at (a very full) St Leonards Church, Molescroft - on Wednesday 19th October 2022.
Many chess friends and other friends joined the brothers' four nephews and nieces and other relatives to celebrate Roelof and Duko's rich lives.
A collection was held - which raised £247 for the Junior Development Fund of the Hull Chess Club. A fitting bequest for Duko especially - who spent so long (together with his friend Ted Johnson) working with Juniors at the Hull Club and in the Association.
A tribute was presented on behalf of the brothers' friends in chess. It can be seen here.
ROELOF WESTRA at 90!!
60 years a member of our Club; the strongest player in Hull for many of those ; former Yorkshire Champion and British veterans Champion; still a nifty on-line player.
Happy Birthday from your friends at the Club Roelof!
Brother Duko, David Stothard, Mark Collinson, Phil Bawden and John Scotter join Roelof and others
at The Molescroft - for birthday meal
Dave Hambly and Phil watch on whilst
Roelof slices the cake (courtesy of Pâtisserie Greep)
A crunching victory at the last round of the Hull Congress in 1994...
White - Roelof Westra Black - Jonathan Arnott
...and 64 years ago, drawing with a world champion (in a simul!)
White - Mikhail Botvinniik Black - Roelof Westra
From Roelof's chess friends ...
I am sorry to hear such sad news, please do pass on my condolences to the family. I will also share as requested a couple of my own memories of a very special man.
As a youth finding my way both in life and as a chess player, he was one of a number of very good players, who found the time to talk with me, both at the club and down the pub afterwards and I somehow even managed to end up sharing a room with him at my one and only visit to the Skegness Congress (a story for another day perhaps)!
I quickly heard and saw for myself how this quite unassuming gentlemen was clearly a wizard (as far as I was concerned) when it came to the chess board, possessing powers that I could only ever hope in my dreams to obtain (and never did). At a congress in Harrogate in the pub (where else) after the days play had finished, I sat in awe listening to his and other assembled players (Colin Crouch the one I recall the most) sitting and laughing as they retold and remembered the various stories they had gathered over the years. These ranged from a cheating world champion adding time to his clock (who had forgotten Roelof and others were stood watching on the opposite side of a one way glass wall) to how he himself had drawn with the one and only Bobby Fischer – he would show me the game at a later time one evening down at the club, I listened in awe as he revealed they had played at the Montreal Chess Club (for me it sounded like a dream place to play chess) but my face must have been a picture when he casually told me the magical Bobby was not yet a teenager when he drew with the great Roelof Westra!
Listening to those same stories (and more) down at the “Welly” over the next few years was a memorable time of my life and the one moment I most recall and therefore will share was the day Roelof revealed he had been in the Dutch Commandoes, much to some people’s (including my) surprise, who knew the Dutch even had commandoes, not me for sure!. The story centred on how he revealed they had been trained to avoid being poked in the eyes by Japanese soldiers, to which John Bycroft (another sadly also no longer with us) persuaded him to demonstrate. Roelof was ready, crowd of chess players sat and watched with baited breathe, as John attempted to poke Roelof in the eyes. The beer that had flowed had of course rendered all of us (perhaps apart from John) with the inability to remember that the height of the average Japanese soldier was likely incredibly shorter than the height of one quite tall John Bycroft. What happened next can only best summed up by what Roelof said next, as John’s equally proportioned long fingers poked Roelof, despite his expert defence, in both eyes – “you have fxxxing blinded me” he cried out – the trigger for the assembled crowd to burst into uncontrollable laughter, as did the great man himself.
Truly happy days and why I have no doubt John already had the board set up and ready (with perhaps the first drink lined up too) in readiness for Roelof’s arrival.
This is very, very sad news. Roelof is a legend and will remain so.
He and I had some great struggles over the board, levelling out over the years. What was characteristic of him was a classical clarity of thinking, a Capablanca-type approach which meant that, once an advantage was gained (either material or positional), there was little chance of escape. Similarly, if he was at a disadvantage, you didn’t expect outrageous swindles. He was a pure chess player.
He was also - more importantly - a warm, generous and sociable human being who always put people before chess. He was the first player I played in 1972 when I came to Hull. We had a respectful draw. But his welcome was unforgettable.
His achievements within the Yorkshire League during Hull’s glory years and at national level in senior championships make clear that he was not just a local star.
I’m sorry to hear about Duko. And, if you get chance, please give him my best wishes and those of Tim who has very, very fond memories of both brothers.
I don’t claim to speak for all HDCA members but, as President, I would want to express the Association’s deepest condolences to Roelof’s wider family and particularly to our friend, Duko.
I was unfortunate to only know Roelof in his later years, having first met him when I returned to chess in 2000 after an eight year break. Although nearly 70 at the time, he was still a formidable opponent and outplayed me in countless blitz, rapid play and standard play games over the next few years. On the rare occasions I won, he was very gracious and complimentary. As he’d asked me to play for the Hull C team which he captained at the time, I also got many opportunities to analyse with him. Despite our age and ability gap, he was never patronising. I remember a kind, generous and friendly man who always wanted me to do well at congresses. He would buy drinks and (in the first years when I knew him) give lifts. Occasionally, his generosity extended to the chessboard and I was offered a draw when he had a winning position. This might well have been because he wanted to get to the bar! It was fascinating to hear his chess anecdotes about all the famous players he had played. I will treasure both my games and my conversations with Roelof. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say he was a legend.
A sad loss and will be missed
So sad to hear that Mr. Hull Chess Club has passed away. Roelof, such an ambassador, so many congresses, so many Woodhouse Cups. So many people will have fond memories of him. What a man!
I am really sad to hear this news. Roelof was a legend and truly one of a kind. Memories and thoughts of him will only ever be good ones.
I am so sorry to hear the news. I remember Friday nights at the Wellington when we played at YPI. He would always play any new members, me included. If you get the chance to please give my condolences to Duko
Very saddened to here of Roelof's death. Roelof was an easy-going character in real life, but at the board he would put on his glasses, his demeanour would change into one of a professional-like authority. And when the game was over he would change back again. "We'll go over the poob now, is it." 🙂 He was someone it was a true pleasure to know - farewell to the New Morphy.
The chess world has lost an icon. RIP Roelof
RIP Roelof. A lovely Chess Guy
Roelof offered to play me when I first arrived at Hull Chess Club. I appreciated his warm greeting - even if he did proceed to demolish me in a series in a series of quick games ! When I did eventually beat him many years later, it felt like a great achievement.
Sincere condolences to all his family, especially Duco, who was particularly supportive of my son, Peter, when he represented Hull Chess Club in Yorkshire League fixtures.
😢Thx 4 the memories Mr. Westra.
One of my favourite people. RIP.
Witty charismatic a great guy and wonderful chess player. I remember when we first played blitz….I was black thinking I will turn this old guy over, I played the Dutch, his comment was aha the Dutch playing against the Dutch! He stuffed me……
Roelof was one of those people who you were glad you knew. He enriched life. I had that pleasure for nearly 30 years. I would imagine my friendship with Roelof was the same for countless many though his time with
Chess in Hull. A truly strong and gifted chess player. Generous to a fault. Way above my level and most of the chess players in the region. Ask yourself why he was so popular. Because he had time for everyone. Didn’t matter who you were, how good a chess player you were or where you were from. All Roelof was bothered about was good company and people who could make him laugh and much as he made us laugh.
The stories we all knew, the ones we were there to witness or the ones we heard about from Roelof himself or the ones recalled by others truly amazed in what many outside believe is a boring game. Roelof was the most well know person I have ever personally met. The trips with him to countless congresses, British Championships and chess events over the years showed how popular he was. Not just in our little corner of Yorkshire but all-around Britain. Everyone knew Roelof. All wanted to spend time in his presence. To see how he was and to hear his stories, sometimes again and again. From beginners to strong Grandmasters, all asked how Roelof was. Events such as the Scarborough Congresses and South Lakes Congresses where a particular weekend highlights. Anyone who went into the Highlander pub during the Scarborough Chess Congress knows how popular Roelof was.
If ever a book about a life playing chess should be written it should be about Roelof. As with John Bycroft, Tony Stalmans, Bob Ross and many many others we have lost over the years we are diminished but enriched with being alive in their era.
So sorry to hear Roloef has passed away. I will always have great memories of him from my junior years. He was generous with his time and a truly one-of-a-kind character. He will be missed.
Very sad to hear the news of the passing of RDW, and my thoughts are with Duko and family ! Roelof not only loved the game of chess, he was ‘in Love with the game’ ! I was lucky enough to have a short interview with him a while back, and he was very open about his life not only in chess but personally. His dedication to the 64 squares was inspiring, and lets face it you don't get that good unless you give your life to chess ? Sadly Caissa has taken another one of the greats, but I know his memory will live on forever both nationally and locally . . .RIP RDW
A good friend who will be sadly missed . RIP Roelof
Steve Mann has added an appreciation of Roelof on his Yorkshire website: THIS LINK