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  1. #1
    CC Grandmaster Capablanca-Fan's Avatar
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    RIP Nell van de Graaff (1915–2017)

    I was sorry to hear the news that Nell died only a few weeks before the 2017 Nell Van De Graaff Classic, aged 102. I'm sorry that I never met her in person. Graham Gardiner was kind enough to get her to sign a copy of her book We Survived: A Mother's Story of Japanese Captivity for me. This was about her harrowing wartime experiences, which she relates without bitterness, and has been translated into several languages, including Japanese. A while ago, I wrote a review:

    When the Japanese invaded Dutch-held Indonesia in WW2, Nell, the Indonesian-born daughter of a Dutch minister, was a young mother with three children under 5 and one on the way, while her husband was serving in the army. For a while, they were hidden by friendly Indonesians, but this didn't last and they were interned in several different Japanese internment camps. The conditions were frightful, with starvation and disease killing many, as well as some cruel guards, although there was one kind commandant, Dr Mizukuchi. Nell herself was probably literally one meal away from death by starvation, and says that she couldn't have survived two more months of the war.

    But then she describes an incredible and persistent rumour whispered around the camps that the Americans had dropped a bomb of such annihilating power that the Japanese soon surrendered. The thought of soon being free caused a wave of elation in the camp. And this was followed by strange happenings, such as the nastiest Japanese guards being nowhere to be seen. Soon they were officially freed, and given proper nutrition and health care.

    Then there was a new danger: Indonesian nationalists who didn't mind killing Dutch people. But she was reunited with her beloved husband in Thailand on Christmas Eve; neither had known whether the other still lived.

    The book races through the next quarter century: another child, emigrating to Australia, a sixth child, all growing up and marrying and having families of their own, and sudden death of her husband. The last two chapters describe the adventures of Nell returning to Indonesia and finding the kind Indonesians who had helped her so long before.

    The book doesn't mention chess though.

    Here is a thread celebrating her centennial, and GM Ian Rogers wrote a column about it. She was very cultured, crediting chess with helping her keep mentally sharp, and she also liked music and literature.

    In 2008, at the age of 92, she drew in a simul with GM Gawain Jones, who tried his hardest to win. Unfortunately, I can't find the game; it doesn't appear in Rogers' column any more.
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  2. #2
    CC Grandmaster Adamski's Avatar
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    Sorry to hear this news. May Nell RIP. Fascinating first post above too.
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  3. #3
    Illuminati Bill Gletsos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Capablanca-Fan View Post
    In 2008, at the age of 92, she drew in a simul with GM Gawain Jones, who tried his hardest to win. Unfortunately, I can't find the game; it doesn't appear in Rogers' column any more.
    Here it is:

    [Date "2008"]
    [White "Van de Graff, Nell"]
    [Black "Jones, Gawain"]
    [Result "1/2-1/2"]
    PGN Viewer
     
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  4. #4
    CC Grandmaster Capablanca-Fan's Avatar
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    Much obliged ↑ Evidently Nell was not doing well out of the opening and middle game, but fought back well by freeing her B and attacking that Nd7. Once the P was recovered, she didn't go wrong and held the draw despite his best efforts. 24.. g5 seems like a better idea, fixing the White Ps on the same colour as the B.
    “If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions.” — Abba Eban on the UN general assembly

    “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.” — Obi-Wan Kenobi on the UN kakistocracy

  5. #5
    CC Grandmaster Garrett's Avatar
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    I met Nell about 10 years ago at one of the tournaments.
    A very nice lady, RIP Nell.

  6. #6
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    Nell Van De Graaff Eulogy

    This is a summary of the eulogy I delivered at Nell's funeral 3 weeks ago.

    In the early 1990s, when the Gold Coast Chess Club had been reformed a short time previously, I was working as Development Manager in the Somerset College Development Office. In the space of a week, I got three phone calls from the same lady. On the first occasion she enquired about tickets for the Somerset Master Musicians series, on the second about the Somerset Celebration of Literature, and on the third about joining the Gold Coast Chess Club. She was responding to three separate adverts and coincidentally got me each time. Soon after I met Nell at each event, and we soon became close friends.

    I recall that in those early days, when Nell was still in her late seventies, she played regular tennis. In about 1993, when GM Ian Rogers was conducting a simul at Pacific Fair Shopping Centre, Nell played a game against (now WIM) Arianne Caoili to promote female chess. The result was unimportant, but I recall it was a beautiful sight, and worthy as a promotion for women's chess.

    Throughout the 1990s Nell worked as a volunteer at the continually growing inter-school chess competitions.

    Nell became famous for her book 'We Survived' which told the story of how she and her four young children survived the war in a Japanese Prisoner of War camp in Borneo. The book was not a particularly big seller in Australia, but sold very well in Japan, as she told her story without any malice at all towards her Japanese captors. Many years later she was asked to present at the Somerset Celebration of Literature alongside well known authors, and captivated the young students with her story.

    At the age of 95 Nell drew with GM Gawain Jones in a simul. The game was published by GM Ian Rogers in his newspaper column, who wrote that the famous Grandmaster did not go 'soft' on Nell.

    In the early days of the Gardiner Chess Centre (post 2002) Nell was a very regular visitor, with her friend Catherine Wright.

    In her later years Nell liked to play against her chess computer whilst painting saying this exercised both sides of her brain. She had regular chess visitors who played chess with her, including former Gold Coast Chess Club President Bruce Harris, Dr Toby Straton who I believe is now located in Hobart, and Catherine Wright.

    Nell ended life as the matriarch of an extended family of over 50. I have never heard a single bad word spoken about her. She was one of the kindest, caring and most forgiving people I have ever known.

    Several years ago the Gold Coast Classic chess tournament was renamed the Nell Van De Graaff Classic. This was recommended at the time by Dr David Richards, a regular at the Gardiner Chess centre.

    Words that come to mind to describe Nell: Wise, Positive, Enthusiastic, Grateful, Inspirational, Legend.

    RIP Nell

  7. #7
    CC Grandmaster Capablanca-Fan's Avatar
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    Very good ↑↑ Evidently the participants at the Nell v.d. Graaff Classic listened raptly to the expanded version, according to Stokesy.
    “If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions.” — Abba Eban on the UN general assembly

    “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.” — Obi-Wan Kenobi on the UN kakistocracy

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