Tim Krabbé, Cycling & Chess

While re-reading Krabbé’s ‘The Rider’, I did a little research about the author and was surprised to find him quite heavily involved in chess nowadays. Krabbé runs his own website ‘Tim Krabbé’s Chess Curiosities’, where he kept an open chess diary until 2007 and still discusses tricky situations and famous historic games.

Tim Krabbe, Chess and Cycling

At first sight, it seems a little unusual hobby for an ex-racer, but then … is it too far-fetched to think about similarities or analogies between road racing and chess? Is it a coincidence that Krabbé dedicated a lot of his time to both of these sports?

On the one hand, the contrasts couldn’t be bigger: Burning calories vs. hour-long motionlessness. A crowd of 100 of riders vs. a duel of 2 minds. Kilometer long roads in mountains vs. a small chess board.

On the other hand, it seems as if both ‘games’ demand a very particular kind of tactical thinking. Most of this may be invisible to onlookers, but as we read in ‘The Rider’, the physical task of riding a route is only one dimension of the race. Almost more important is the psychological side: Where should a rider position himself in the crowd? Where to attack, who to attack? And when to attack or ride very closely behind certain riders? Are all these moves not similar to the small yet complex number of moves that chess allows the players?

Also, although many hundred riders may take part in a race, Krabbe describes very well that the actual race is only happening between a very small number of riders. They leave most of the field behind very early and form the peloton, where the tension is high and they watch each others moves very closely. This reminds a bit of the silent situation over a chess board, where the nervous twitches or gestures of one player can be very insightful for his opponent.

Despite the very obvious differences, it seems that there may be some fine links between these two sports that people wouldn’t usually mention in the same breath.

The website ‘Tim Krabbé’s Chess Curiosities’ can be found here.

Tim Krabbé’s ‘The Rider’ can be bought here.

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2 Responses to Tim Krabbé, Cycling & Chess

  1. Nils says:

    Mark Cavendish plays chess to keep his mind sharp and give him a competitive advantage in the sprints http://www.cyclingweekly.co.uk/news/latest/345148/monday-s-british-news-round-up.html

    Although not competitively, chess champions Anand and Kasparov has used cycling to stay physically fit.

  2. John Snuggs says:

    Road racing has been described as “Playing chess in torrential rain while riding down a mountain at 60mph”.

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