Articles Player Profiles: GM Robin Van Kampen

| 7 | Chess Players

Sometimes this GM wishes he wasn´t a chess player at all....  But 19 year old Robin Van Kampen from the Netherlands always has the spirit to get back in the game, and he finds chess to be something that teaches him lessons in real life. He had the discipline to skip a lot of parties and fun for chess, and now he devotes around five to eight hours a day to the game of Kings. Probably as much time as he spends listening to music. Username: Kempsy


Name: Robin van Kampen                                                       
Title:  Grandmaster                                                                       
Date of birth: 14-11-1994
Fide rating: 2596                                                                                    
Country: The Netherlands

How are you?

I’m doing good! Enjoying a couple of free days before my tournaments and league games start again.

What, if push comes to shove, is your all-time favorite movie?   

All in all probably Scarface. I really like Pulp Fiction and in general Tarantino’s work too. Besides that there is a movie named “Dogville” which I really like, it’s a great movie with very minimalist scenery.   


And your favorite tv-series?

Nothing will ever beat Californication but Spartacus makes a good 2nd place.

What kind of food and drink do you prefer?

I really like Mexican food and the pies they have in Curacao (it’s a Dutch colony in the Caribbean where part of my family lives). As a drink I like Corona or sparkling water with lemon. 

What is your favorite book?

I really like to read autobiographies of sportsmen. "Open" by André Agassi was the most inspiring book I’ve ever read. Currently I’m reading "Total Recall" by Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

What music are you currently grooving to?

I could fill pages with this, but right now I’m listening to some Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana. My dad’s a guitar teacher so I grew up listening to that kind of music. Besides that I like Hiphop/R&B like Drake, and Frank Ocean and lots of electronic music. Currently I especially like Julio Bashmore’s Deep house. Tiesto’s old trance stuff is great, I listen a lot to Dutch Harddance/style like Headhunterz, some Dubstep (Zeds dead, Skream) and Drum&Bass (Netsky/subfocus).

Tell me a chess secret?

I’m not sure it’s a secret but I think that for some reason people who hardly care about their games and results but at the same manage to focus during their games are able to play much better than people who consciously really try hard to do well. 

What is your best chess memory?

When I was 14 years old I won the National Dutch Championship under 20. At that time it was still quite a strong event and only GM Jan Timman managed to pull that off at the same age. The main thing I remember about that tournament is that right before the start of it I had a short training with my coach of that time, IM Jop Delemarre, who asked if I was looking forward to the event. I told him that I didn’t feel like playing at all (I guess I was in some sort of a slump) and I think it got him quite worried. Anyway, I still don’t know how but I managed to change my bad mood and pull off a result that at that time I could have never imagined happening. 

What chess hero had the most influence on your chess development?

The first World Champion I studied in depth was Kasparov and studying his games made me enthusiastic as a kid.

     "Sometimes I wish I wasn’t a chess player

     but all in all I’m very happy I found something I’m

     dedicated to"

Are you self taught in chess or did you get lessons from a master?

Up to the age of 15 I had pretty frequent coaching (at least once a month) but after that I had to work mainly on my own. The person who helped me most in being efficient when working alone is probably Vladimir Chuchelov who at the moment is also the only coach I still sometimes work with.

Is chess almost like a drug to you? 

Sometimes I wish I wasn’t a chess player but all in all I’m very happy I found something I’m dedicated to and teaches me lessons in life. I think I could live without chess in my life but I’d definitely miss the tension of competition a lot.

Was religion a part of growing up?

Not at all, I really like to study about different cultures and religions as I’ve been travelling around the world since I was around 13, but I’m a total atheist.


Robin Van Kampen age 10 playing chess at his local club.

If you were to live 100 years in the future, what do you think the game of chess would look like?

Despite of all the modern technology I don’t think the board and pieces will be replaced. Especially in a very advanced society I think that’s something elegant and old school that people prefer to keep the same way. I’m afraid that the way it will be played is going to be a very big memory game with a bit of calculation left to be done. 

What do you think is the chess of the future?

In my opinion not much has to be changed about the current way chess is and I don’t think any major changes are going to happen in the coming years. The Chess world just needs the right people with the right abilities and connections to make it more understandable for a bigger audience.

What do you think is the primary ingredients in a chessplayer?

Discipline, motivation and confidence.

Do you have an idea of some kind of “ideal chess style”?

I think in modern chess people have to be able to play all sorts of styles. It’s just a matter of taste how a player tries to steer the game into a particular style but in the end he has to be able to adapt to concrete situations anyway. 

How old were you when you began to play chess?

7 years old. My dad and I played a lot of different games like drafts, but when we started to play chess I’d beat him every single time. They decided to send me to a club where I managed to beat one the top youth players who had been training for a while when I just to visit for my first real lesson… that’s more or less how it all started!

What do you do nowadays to get better at chess? How do you train?

I’m analyzing openings and my games while trying to play as much as I can. When I don’t have any upcoming tournaments I really like to work with sparring partners just to get more practice in the lines I prepare. Besides that I’m going to the gym pretty much every day since a couple of months.

What is the best advice your parents gave you?

I can’t really quote something but they’ve always encouraged me to get the best result possible in chess and sometimes in school too.

Do you have a family?

I’m an only child and for the moment I’m not really planning on any family expansions yet J. 

       "I sometimes had a hard time having to skip

        a lot of parties and fun things for chess"


Is the Internet a big part of your life?

Yes, unfortunately I’m also wasting a lot of time on the internet listening to all sorts of music and interviews with artists. It’s not too horrible though, I always tell myself that it’s better then an extremely time consuming addiction to computer games.

Besides that the internet mainly plays a positive role in my life: I get to stay in touch with all my friends from all over the world. 

What was your childhood like?

I grew up in a pretty nice part of the Netherlands, not too far from Amsterdam. As a kid I had a good time with quite a lot of friends and playing a lot of football.

When I started playing serious chess around the time that I got into secondary school I sometimes had a hard time having to skip a lot of parties and fun things for chess. When I was at home I quite often had to spend a lot of time catching up but it was manageable.

At some point I had to switch to a school with sport facilities from the state because I was missing too many classes according to the national school-law. It seemed like a great thing for my chess but in the short-term it made me play bad and I needed time to adapt. My schedule became a bit more busy and because of the new school I didn’t have any time to see my old friends.

Anyway, as I slowly got used to that everything turned out alright and all in all I think I had a different but great childhood. I’ve made a few difficult sacrifices for the benefit of my chess but if I look back it was all worth it. Right now I’m still seeing my friends out of chess every now and then which is really nice since I’m spending most of my time around chess players.

       "I think at that point most people were

        expecting Timman to crush me"

What is your favorite chess game? 

On the point of pure chess level I’m sure I’ve played better games but this is definitely one of the games that I have very sweet memories of. When I was 15 I got a great opportunity to play GM Jan Timman in a 4-game match. The first game I lost with black in an ending without having much chance. I think at that point most people were expecting Timman to crush me, but as you can see in this game I managed to strike back and beat Jan in the 2nd game. By doing so I surprised a lot of people, including myself. Not only did I manage to beat my much more experienced opponent, but also did I do so in a pretty technical style with the queens going off at an early stage in the game.


 Jan Timman and Robin Van Kampen.

What is chess to you – a game of combat or of art? 

Combat, I’ve never really cared more about the beauty in the game then the result.


       "I hate the way many people still have

        a stereotype perception of a nerd when

        they think about a chess player"

How much time do you devote to chess?

Right now I don’t have any school or university so I’d say I train between 5-8 hours a day and 1 hour of sport. 

What is your inner being?

I’m trying hard to answer every question nicely, but I’m really too young for this one!

What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the chess world?

The image of chess players to the people who are not very familiar with our game. I hate the way many people still have a stereotype perception of a nerd when they think about a chess player. I think it’s also one of the reasons that we lack sponsors in chess. 

Do you think one is born a chess player or can a great player be made by hard practice?

Hard work is what gets people somewhere in the long-term. Talent is a great blessing but it’s something you can’t take for granted. From what I’ve seen it’s quite often more of a compensation for people’s laziness then anything else.

How do you deal with the mental stress and nervous strain of playing chess?

Since a few months sports is my main distraction. During tournaments I sometimes go running at night just to get my thoughts straightened out and be ready to sleep without any worries of games I’ve played or still have to play.

Who is your inspiration?

I don’t have a particular person who inspires me. I find it motivating when me and my friends in the chess world are keeping each other up to date, working hard and seeing that it pays off.


What is your greatest fear?

Making wrong choices and regretting them a lot when looking back.

If you could give a beginner in chess only one piece of advice, what would it be?

Enjoy and always learn from your mistakes without getting frustrated or impatient.

Do you prefer blitz, otb tournaments or correspondence style chess?

Correspondence style. I like to play blitz but I prefer to watch and play games where both sides are very much in control of their decision making progress.

Who is your most difficult opponent?

Mr. Van Kampen, I’m still losing to him every now and then J. Besides that I guess that Benjamin Bok is a difficult opponent for me, my score with him is pretty bad.

Is there any chess book that has had a deep and lasting influence on you?

No, I read a lot of good chess books but none of them stood out to me especially. 

If you could choose to live one day of any time in the history of mankind, which time would that be and why?

Only one day? Probably a day of Woodstock 69!  


The Woodstock Festival - a pivotal moment in music history.

Do you have any favorite hobbies?

Listening to music

Are you a superstitious person?

I like to write with the same pen when I win and change it when I’m not playing well.

What is  the most important lesson you’ve learned in chess?

Learning how to self-reflect objectively 

What does your future hold as a chess player?

I think it very much depends on the coming 3-4 years. If I decide to only play serious chess during that period I think I still have a lot of potential to grow as a player.

How would you describe yourself to an alien from another planet?

Not being able to do this without sounding cocky J.


Do you think the future belongs to rapid chess and blitz?

Personally I’m not that interested in the faster time controls but as the majority of people seems to find it more exciting to watch I suppose it is the case. Anyway I’m sure that the classical time control will never disappear and I hope that in the future there will always be a good possibility to enjoy following both types of chess.

Do you have any thoughts on how can get even better?

I think is doing a great job at making studying and playing chess online as accessible and fun as possible. Just for me in particular I miss the amount of strong players to practice against as you might find on other websites. 

More from Englix Player Profiles: FM Mike Klein Player Profiles: FM Mike Klein Player Profiles: GM gmfinegold Player Profiles: GM gmfinegold