Roelof Douwe Westra
(photo cribbed from Hull CC website)
As many will by now be aware, the Grand Old Man of Hull chess, Roelof Westra, died on 26/09/2022, after turning 90 earlier this year. He was a well-liked amiable character warmly regarded by chess-players throughout Yorkshire and further afield - and a top notch chess-player in his day. He was a part of Hull and Yorkshire chess furniture.
He and younger brother Duko came to England long ago, perhaps not long after the war. Their parents remained in Holland (or should that technically be the Netherlands?). The brothers jointly made a special trip “back home” on the occasion of their patents’ milestone (golden?) wedding anniversary.
Before retiring, Roelof ran a market gardening business with Duko in Thorngumbald, about ten miles along the main road eastwards out of Hull. In the days when the Yorkshire Championship involved players travelling to each other’s homes to play their games, one player told me how he returned from his trip to Thorngumbald with a supply of fresh produce from the greenhouses!
After retiring, he took up residence in Beverley.
Roelof was of course, in his day, a major component of Hull’s Woodhouse Cup team for many years. He seems not to have been too keen on venturing forth to play in county matches, but represented Yorkshire from time to time, notably in the Yorkshire v Essex English County Championship final on 24/06/2000, when Roelof won his game and Yorkshire won the match. Cohe liked playing in congresses. I once happened to look into the waiting room at Doncaster railway station, and there was Roelof with close friend Tony Stalmans en route together for a weekend congress somewhere.
Roelof was definitely not t-total, and there was a prevalent theory that if you could hold your own against him until the bar opened then the offer of a draw would probably be accepted. I know; more score against Roelof is played one, drew 1. He would not press for a win just for the sake of winning. He was too nice for that.
His playing strength inevitably dwindled as he got older, but he was still a keen congress player. When I was taking entries for the Doncaster Congress of 2015, he entered by phone. My other half answered the phone and clearly was confused by the strange accent coming down the telephone wires, but even from six feet away I recognised the characteristic tones of the caller, and exclaimed, “That’s Roelof!” He wanted to enter the Major, as by that time his grade was “only” 157.
He won the Yorkshire Championship twice, in 1980-81 and 1992-93.
In 1999, 67-year-old Roelof, even back then being described as a “veteran”, played a 19-year-old Peter Shaw in a Woodhouse Cup match, Hull v Wakefield which can be played out on screen here.
A note has been posted on the Hull Chess Club website here. A large number of friends’ reminiscences and the like are to be found there, along with coverage of the 90th birthday festivities earlier in the year, also a couple of games including his draw, in a simultaneous display, with Mikhail Botvinnik!