(Another) Strong Start for Spoelman at Revived Dutch Championship
Last year he started with 3.0/3, and this year it's not much worse. GM Wouter Spoelman, who rarely plays chess these days as he is very busy with his studies, is leading the Dutch Championship with 2.5/3, ahead of GMs Loek van Wely and Sipke Ernst.
The tournament, which has a new main organizer, is completely revived and has lots of nice side events.
The Dutch Championship had lost some of its glamour in recent years, but now, with a new tournament director (Paul Rump), a daily host (Tex de Wit) and several cultural side events, the Dutch Chess Federation can already be satisfied with the event -- even though it's just three days old.
For starters, the tournament is held at a brand new location: the Manor Hotel Amsterdam, in the east of the Dutch capital, but still rather central. The historic building started as hospital a long time ago: the Burgerziekenhuis (Citizen's Hospital), which was designed by architect A.L. van Gendt and opened in 1891.
One famous Dutchman born in the hospital is Johan Cruijff. According to a book about the history of the hotel, the football player, already famous, once returned to the hospital suffering from headaches. “What do you do for a living?” the neurologist asked. “I'm playing football,” Cruijff answered. “Well, you have to stop using your head then!” said the doctor.
The official website is new as well, and a quick glance shows that a lot is going on in that Manor Hotel. There is daily commentary by the aforementioned Tex de Wit, an FM but also a professional stand-up comedian who performed at the opening ceremony. He is joined by a different Dutch grandmaster (often a former champion!) every day. And each day the commentary is paused for a moment for a “cultural intermezzo,” about art, theater, literature or poetry -- an excellent idea.
However, the commentary would attact more spectators if there weren't another tournament in Amsterdam at the same time. Somehow the organizers of both events haven't been able to figure out a schedule that allows the participants of the open tournament to visit the Dutch Championship, which is less than ten minutes away by bike. A pity.
On Monday night, after the round and in the playing hall, there was a theater performance by the famous Dutch actor Porgy Franssen, whose one-hour monologue was based on Stefan Zweig's famous novel Die Schachnovelle. Another splendid side event which makes this year's championship a special one.
On Tuesday afternoon, there was a lecture about chess and literature, and for Wednesday a “chess pop quiz” was scheduled. That last item had to be cancelled, though -- basically because the whole country has something else to do tomorrow night! The organizer, GM Dimitri Reinderman, intends to hold it next year.
The “cultural emphasis” can also be seen in the playing hall. Four pieces of art are placed alongside the tables and chairs, two by Ivon Drumman and two by the late Frans Fritschy. All in all, the organizers have succeeded in bringing chess back to where it belongs: as an important part of our culture, just like art, literature or theater!
Unfortunately the tournament is a rather short event as both the Dutch Championship and the Dutch Women's Championship are 8-player round robins, and so there are only seven rounds. Another small disappointment: the organizers didn't manage to contract Anish Giri (who will play in Biel), Ivan Sokolov, or Jan Timman.
The “open” group has GMs Loek van Wely (2657), Sergey Tiviakov (2656), Erwin l'Ami (2650), Robin van Kampen (2630), Dimitri Reinderman (2604), Benjamin Bok (2586), Wouter Spoelman, and Sipke Ernst (2554).
After three rounds, the tournament has a surprising leader: Wouter Spoelman, who scored 2.5/3. Well, maybe it's not that surprising when you realize that he started even better last year, when he won his first three games! Somehow the 24-year-old medicine student can find his best shape when it matters, even though he plays rarely these days. Since last year, he played only one tournament (the Groningen Open in December) and some Bundesliga games.
In the first round, Spoelman defeated GM Erwin l'Ami, who did something wrong in a very sharp Nimzo-Indian and got into a worse ending.
The next day, Spoelman got a better rook ending against reigning champion Dimitri Reinderman, and then converted the point convincingly:
There was some luck involved, too. In the third round, Spoelman escaped against the top seed, Loek van Wely, who at some point was two healthy pawns up. But in time trouble, “KingLoek” sacrificed one of them, only to realize that the queen ending was very hard to win.
In the first round, Van Wely had started with a nice victory over Robin van Kampen, who took too much risk as Black in the opening:
Dutch Championship 2014 | Round 3 Standings
The years that Zhaoqin Peng was dominating the women's section are over. In 2012, Tea Lanchava took the title, and last year Lisa Schut won. But Peng should probably still be considered the slight favorite - -she is going for her fourteenth(!) title, by the way!
Anne Haast had started with 2.0/2, but on Tuesday she lost to Bianca Muhren-De Jong:
Dutch Women's Championship 2014 | Round 3 Standings