Reports | October 23, 2012 19:12

Dutch IM Leon Pliester dies at 58

Leon Pliester

Leon Pliester passed away at the age of 58. The Dutch International Master suffered from a liver illness which had affected his kidneys as well. This was reported by the Dutch Chess Federation today on its website.

Leon Pliester | Photo by Dimitri Reinderman

Pliester learnt chess when he was four years old - the game was taught by his uncle Jan. (Dutch readers will now be thinking of Euwe's famous book Oom Jan leert zijn neefje schaken!) At seven he participated in a youth event, and won a prize in the lowest group: a book about combinations. At the age of 12 Pliester became a member of the local chess club in Valkenswaard (EVS), and the next year he won the club championship.

Pliester studied neuropsychology and became International Master in chess. For decades he was a regular name in the Dutch chess scene. In 1990 he participated in the national championship in Hilversum where he finished on a shared 10th place with 4/11.

In 2005 Pliester played in Grandmaster Group C in Wijk aan Zee and scored a decent 5/11. One of his wins was against the now very strong Russian GM Evgeny Alekseev.

In 1995 a book about the Nimzo-Indian by Pliester was published, called The Rubinstein Complex. It was reviewed very positively. On Amazon, one buyer writes:

This is a rare and special book, along with Gligoric's book on the Nimzo-Indian. (...) It is much more than a mere openings book. It is a classic.

Only three days ago Karel van Delft, a well known Dutch chess organizer and father of our editor IM Merijn van Delft, posted on Facebook:

Kind regards to the chess world from IM Leon Pliester. Dutch IM Leon Pliester is in the EMC hospital in Rotterdam. He has liver and kidney problems. He asked me to send his kind regards to the chess world. Postcards to EMC Rotterdam (room ...) are welcome. Visitors also. His phone number is ...

I was thinking about doing something, for example buy a postcard, have it signed by a number of players in Hoogeveen for example, and send it to the Rotterdam hospital. Sadly, it's already too late for that...

Here's a paragraph from an article by Pliester himself from May 2012, posted at Karel van Delft's website. It shows Leon's sense of humor and love of chess.

Something occurred to me a few years ago. I wondered how White should continue in the Alekhine/Chatard variation of the French. This starts with: 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e5 Nfd7 6.h4

PGN string

White is said to get enough compensation if Black takes on g5 twice. But what do you play after 6...a6, I wondered. Luckily I found two games by some IM who played it like this: 7.Qg4 Bxg5 8.hxg5 c5 9.dxc5 Nxe5 10.Qg3 Nbc6 11.O-O-O f5 12.Nf3 Nxf3 13.gxf3 Qe7 14.Bd3 g6 15.Rhe1 Qxc5

PGN string

and now White crashed through with:
16.Bxf5!! gxf5 17.Nxd5 Kf7 18.Qc7+ Kf8 19.g6! hxg6 20.Rh1 Rh5 21.Nf4! and Black resigned.

Who was this brilliant white player then? To my susprise it turned out to be myself (against Gert-Jan de Boer, Dutch league 1987). And if that wasn't enough, it turned out that I had played another nice attacking game in this line. In Edinburgh 1988 Guilian played 11... Qe7 against me, but after 12.f4 Nd7 13.Nxd5! exd5 14.Re1 Nde5 15.Nf3 Be6 16.Nxe5 Nxe5 17.Rxe5 White was already winning.

I analyzed these games for NIC Yearbook 9. Now that I saw these games, it brought back memories, but at first I had completely forgotten about them. In my defence, I can add that I play as many variations as possible with white and black. Well, and then you may forget a few things. But forgetting these two nice attacking games, which are theoretically relevant, that's food for thought.

Personally, I have played a number of games with Pliester and seen many more of his battles. I was always impressed with his understanding of the game, and his attempts to find resources in seemingly quiet positions. Below is a selection of his games (victims include e.g. Grischuk, Piket and Sveshnikov), including the two mentioned above.

PGN file

Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


Anonymous's picture

That was a very nice write-up, Mr.Doggers, and then to remember him by allowing us to play through his strongest games.

RIP Leon.

Steve Giddins's picture

Sorry to hear this. I played Leon once, at the Donner Memorial (I lost!). He was a really nice guy.

PeterV's picture

Thank you. Well done.

Erik Fokke's picture

To Peter Doggers,
Thanks for this meaningful in memoriam.
And for posting some good games by Leon.

Daniel King's picture

Leon was one of the good guys. I'm very sorry to hear of his passing.

Bronkenstein's picture

Really inspirational games.My next French will be (first time black lets me that is) Alekhine-Chatard. RIP Leon.

Frank van Tellingen's picture

Sad news! I remember a training session with Leon Pliester for dutch youngsters organized in 1994 by Karel van Delft. With a lot of humour he talked about the subject of creativity in chess. Creativity, he taught us, is not so much the occassional onligatory queen sacrifice. Rather it was, in his opinion, looking for unexpected moves in your calculations that tip the balance of the game in favour of the player that seemed to be losing it. As an example he mentioned the move Bg4!! in the game Taimanov - Larsen (Vinkovci 1970). To place a piece en prise as a way of covering a check, which turned out to be the winning move, that was something he could appreciate, especially since white's attack seemed crushing. Playing through his games here, e.g. The one against Watson, I see this Larsen-like style in his play; active piece play, optimism and sharp calculations.

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Jan Banis's picture

Sad news. And it brings back nostalgia...I had the pleasure of being at Leon's table when having dinner in Groningen...many years ago when Groningen still had that great tournament. Leon was a very nice guy and seemed unstoppable when it came to language related jokes at the table. I can't remember any of them of course (typical!), but I remember having a great laugh. Sad news, RIP.

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