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Joop van Oosterom 1937-2016

Joop van Oosterom 1937-2016

Former Correspondence Chess World Champion and the man behind the famous Melody Amber tournaments Joop van Oosterom died at the end of last year. This was confirmed to Chess.com by the Association Max Euwe in Monaco.

In the year 2016 the chess world lost many personalities. As it turns out, the list was not complete.

Only last Friday it has become clear that chess maecenas Van Oosterom passed away at the end of last year. The news wasn't communicated to the media by his family.

Joop van Oosterom was born in 1937 in Hilversum and died in Monaco—according to other media back in October—as a billionaire.

He made his fortune in IT. In 1966 he founded the company Volmac together with Jan Mol and Nico Leerkamp. In 1988 the company joined the stock exchange, and it was later merged with the French consultancy giant Capgemini.

The chess world owes much to Van Oosterom, who became arguably the biggest maecenas in the history of the game. Numerous events were funded by him, including matches held in Aruba and the more recent Experience vs Rising Stars tournaments in Amsterdam.

The most famous of these events was the Melody Amber tournament, named after one of his daughters. The tournament ran from 1992 to 2011 in Monaco and Nice, and consisted of rapid and blindfold chess. Only the best grandmasters in the world were invited, and they were treated like kings.

In the 1980s and 90s his company also sponsored his chess team Volmac Rotterdam, which became Dutch champion 19 times with players such as Jan Timman and Viktor Kortschnoi.

Van Oosterom, a meritorious chess player himself, played for the HSG team from Hilversum.* His last FIDE rating was 2260. It's still active, because the news of his passing hasn't reached FIDE yet.

In fact in 1955 Van Oosterom won the Dutch Youth Championship. At the World Youth in Antwerp he came seventh, behind e.g. Boris Spassky and Lajos Portisch.

Later he would focus mostly on correspondence chess, and he became world champion twice, in 2005 and 2008. Many chess experts have suggested that the retired grandmaster Jeroen Piket, who finished his career to start working for Van Oosterom in Monaco, not only helped his boss in the company.

Van Oosterom was not only a chess lover. His second passion was billiards, and parallel to the chess events he also organized an annual billiards tournament with the world's best players, named after his other daughter: Crystal Kelly. Both tournaments ended in 2011.

Van Oosterom was a member of honor with both the Dutch Chess Federation and the World Chess Federation. In 1993 he suffered a stroke, and since then he was confined to a wheelchair.

The news about his death in October appeared in Dutch media only last Friday. However, after several months it still hasn't been officially confirmed by his family, and the cause of death is also unknown.

Only after getting a confirmation from the Association Max Euwe in Monaco, Chess.com could publish this obituary.

Viswanathan Anand, who won the rapid part of the Amber tournament a record nine times, commented to Chess.com:

"I  was deeply saddened to hear about the demise of Joop Van Oosterom. A strong chess player himself he was one of our most cherished benefactors.

"His tournaments were legendary for the hospitality & atmosphere. I speak for all chess players who played at Amber, Joop will be greatly missed & his generosity forever remembered.

"Aruna & me wish to express our condolences to the family."

Vladimir Kramnik won the blindfold tournament a record nine times. His reaction:

"Sad. I have many pleasant memories about him and his tournament. I have participated 18 times.

"He was a true chess lover and supported chess for many years. The world of chess needs people like him, true chess enthousiasts. Despite never-ending talks about it from all sides, chess is not fully a commercial sport yet and frankly I am not sure it ever will be, and if it's possible to achieve this at all.

"Therefore, for decades already there are such people like Van Oosterom moving chess forward. It is a big loss for all of us chess players and especially for the ones who knew him personally." 

Veselin Topalov, another top player who participated many times, said:

"The Melody Amber was the tournament of every chess player's dream. Fantastic conditions in fantastic places. I was always going to Monaco or Nice with positive feelings and several times I celebrated my birthday there, so it was like a birthday present for me. It's difficult to explain how much Joop van Oosterom did for chess, but he gave the chess world a lot more than he received from it."

*An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Van Oosterom was one of the players in the Volmac Rotterdam team.

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