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Row Over Freak Storm Mars Dutch Women's Championship; Roebers (17) Wins 1st Title
Left-right: Anna-Maja Kazarian, Robin Duson, and winner Eline Roebers. Photo: Harry Gielen/KNSB.

Row Over Freak Storm Mars Dutch Women's Championship; Roebers (17) Wins 1st Title

PeterDoggers
| 55 | Chess Event Coverage

The 17-year-old IM Eline Roebers gained her first Dutch Women's Championship on Thursday in Utrecht, the Netherlands, in an event disrupted by a row over a freak "code red" storm that resulted in one player dropping out. Roebers won a double round-robin among four participants. One of them, WIM Arlette van Weersel, withdrew after the fifth round following a conflict with the organizers.

Alongside the open championship, currently underway with GMs Anish Giri and Jorden van Foreest among the participants this year, the Dutch Women's Chess Championship was held in the football stadium of FC Utrecht. Only four players participated this year (with most of the top players missing), and Roebers being the big favorite. She delivered, scoring 5/6.

Though expected, it was still a great result for the only 17-year-old, who earned the IM title in the fall of 2022. On Chess.com, we first learned about this big Dutch talent one and a half years ago when she won an open tournament in Germany, beating a grandmaster along the way. Meanwhile, her rating is up to 2419, and it's safe to say that she has good chances to become the 41st female international grandmaster in the coming years.

Here's Roebers' decisive win against runner-up and well-known Twitch streamer FM Anna-Maja Kazarian:

Dutch Women's Championship 2023 | Final Standings

2023 Dutch Women's Championship Final Standings

Sadly, the tournament was marred by a conflict between Van Weersel and the organizers, which resulted from an unforeseen situation on Wednesday, the day of the fifth round. In the early morning, the Netherlands was hit by the toughest summer storm the country ever experienced. At 4 a.m., the Royal Dutch Meteorologist Institute announced "code orange," meaning it was not advised to travel, and at 8:30 a.m. this turned into "code red," when it's highly dangerous to travel by any means of transportation.

For Van Weersel, who was staying in her hometown of Alkmaar (1.5 hours of train travel from Utrecht) it was impossible to reach the venue all day even though the round was postponed from 1 p.m. till 3 p.m. due to the weather situation. At 4 p.m., an hour after the start of the round, her game was declared lost.

Van Weersel appealed this decision, but the appeal was rejected with the following verdict:

The Appeals Committee considers the following:

  • In the regulations of the Championship (here: Regulations-for-the-match-for-the-personal-women's championship-of-the-Netherlands.pdf (schaakbond.nl)), with the exception of the case of illness referred to in Article 9, does not explicitly include anything about force majeure due to external circumstances
  • Point 5 of the contract that the KNSB has concluded with the player includes a compensation of 100 euros per day for travel and accommodation costs

And comes to the following decision:

While we understand the personal circumstances put forward by the player and do not take lightly the peculiarities of these weather conditions, we cannot but uphold the decision of the arbiter. In our opinion, it was up to the player, given the fact that it had been in the news for several days that there might be bad weather on this day, to take measures to be able to be present in the playing hall. She was also offered a daily allowance of 100 euros for this. However, she took the risk of traveling back and forth to the playing hall every day. The committee would have liked to have seen more room in the regulations to reach a different conclusion, but, with all the information available, can only come to this conclusion.

In her statement, Van Weersel explains that she was in contact with tournament director Jeroen Schuil all morning, who at some point messaged her: "Worst case scenario tomorrow two games..." This promise, which indicated that Wednesday's game could be postponed till Thursday morning, was never fulfilled.

Van Weersel Schuil Whatsapp conversation
The WhatsApp conversation in which the tournament director mentions: "Worst case scenario tomorrow two games..."

At 1:15 p.m. Van Weersel received a phone call by arbiter Arno Eliëns. She notified Eliëns that she wasn't going to make it on time and maybe not at all. According to Van Weersel, Eliëns then replied: "Being on time is your own responsibility; then you should have taken the train at 8 a.m. in the morning." Van Weersel, in her statement: "I was suddenly trapped by the organization and literally had nowhere to go." Tournament director Schuil then stated that he had to follow the decision of the arbiter.

The verdict of the appeal committee is full of inconsistencies, says Van Weersel: "To begin with, the organizers decided to move the round from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. due to the weather situation. This way, they acknowledged that there could be problems in reaching the playing hall, revealing once again the absurdity of Arno Eliëns' remark that I should have left only at eight o'clock in the morning and that it is 'my responsibility' to arrive on time."

The committee's main argument for rejecting the appeal was that "it had been in the news for several days that there might be bad weather." Van Weersel notes that even until 8:30 a.m. in the morning it wasn't clear how severe the storm would be as only then code red was announced: "Based on the news reports until Wednesday morning, I could not have drawn any other conclusion than that the trains would run."

The chess federation did not arrange a hotel for the players; instead they were asked to arrange accommodation themselves and received a 100-euro compensation fee per round played. In its verdict, the appeal committee mentions the 100 euros and argues that Van Weersel took the "risk" of traveling back and forth to the playing hall every day.

Van Weersel: "Since 100 euros per night is insufficient for a hotel in Utrecht, the federation could have expected that I, as the mother of a young child, would stay at home in Alkmaar. Furthermore, nothing in the information provided prior to the tournament indicates that the federation saw this as 'irresponsible'. In addition, 1.5 hours travel time can hardly be called risky, especially because I was present an hour in advance for the other rounds to avoid any problems in public transport. Code red does not fall under the usual 'risks' and certainly not in a storm that has never occurred in the Netherlands in the summer."

In its closing sentence, the appeals committee stated that it would have liked "more room in the regulations to reach a different conclusion." This refers back to an earlier sentence, in which the committee indicates that only in the case of illness a postponement of the round was possible. Van Weersel: "It is bizarre to think that a four-hour delay is possible in case of illness, but not in the case of the most violent summer storm the Netherlands has ever known. More generally, I would like to emphasize that the regulations are very limited and therefore offer the freedom to be flexible for the organizers to find a solution. (...) A tournament director has the ability and responsibility to make reasonable and fair decisions in unforeseen situations; that he would be bound by the arbitrator's decision is nonsense."

Van Weersel decided to withdraw from the tournament after having lost her "faith in the tournament organizers and arbiters who made this decision." She said she lost "her love for chess" and noted: "I hope this opens the eyes so that tournaments are held more professionally for the future ladies who still have top chess ambitions."

Chess.com received the following joint statement from the tournament director and the federation:

Dutch Women's Chess Championship continues with three players
To our great regret, WIM Arlette van Weersel has withdrawn from the Dutch Women's Chess Championship. The championship will proceed with the remaining three players.

Forfeit by regulation
Due to the weather conditions, according to Van Weersel it was impossible for her to travel to the playing venue in Utrecht yesterday. Unfortunately, postponing the start time did not provide a solution either. Chief Arbiter Arno Eliëns informed the player that he had no choice but to award her a loss by default according to the regulations, and to not honor her appeal of force majeure. Van Weersel protested this decision to the appeals committee but to no avail. The appeals committee's decision not to honor her protest prompted Van Weersel to withdraw from the tournament and post a statement online.

Publication of statement online
Regarding the content of Van Weersel's statement, we would like to point out a few incorrect assumptions. The tournament director does not have the authority to independently override the decision of the chief arbiter. Additionally, during the digitally organized drawing of lots (on Wednesday, June 28), the participants were made aware of the existence of the appeals committee.

Finally, we would like to emphasize that, in our view, this matter results in only losers.

PeterDoggers
Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by Chess.com in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

In October, Peter's first book The Chess Revolution will be published!


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