How Jorden van Foreest Dominated Dutch News For A Day
Jorden van Foreest. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

How Jorden van Foreest Dominated Dutch News For A Day

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
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63 | Chess Players

It was big news in the Netherlands when GM Jorden van Foreest won the prestigious Tata Steel Chess Tournament last Sunday. He appeared in the national news, as well as sports programs, the talk show "Jinek" and all major newspapers.

The facts are impressive. As the 11th seed, rated 2671, Van Foreest won the "Wimbledon of Chess" with a 2839 performance. Over 13 rounds, he didn't lose a single game, despite the fact that the world's top two players participating. On top of all that, he earned 30 rating points and joined the 2700 club as the new world #36.

And still, some of our readers might have thought: who is this van Foreest?

Jorden van Foreest Tata Steel Chess 2021 trophy
Van Foreest with the Tata Steel Chess 2021 trophy. Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit/Tata Steel Chess.

It's not that he came out of nowhere. Followers of top-level tournaments know that his performance in last year's Tata Steel Chess Tournament was not too shabby either: he finished in shared fourth place behind super-GMs Fabiano Caruana, Magnus Carlsen, and Wesley So.

Winning Tata Steel, however, is different. It's truly something very special and, as we know, even more so for a Dutch participant. GM Jan Timman, the last Dutchman who had won in Wijk aan Zee back in 1985, commented to Dutch media that he was delighted.

Timman praised his 48 years younger countryman for his spectacular victory: "It's great for Dutch chess that we now have a new player among the top, capable of reaching the top 10."

Another big name from earlier days, none other than GM Garry Kasparov himself (the winner in all three editions he played, in the years 1999-2001), gave his congratulations via Twitter.

Apart from news and the papers, being a guest on Monday evening in the popular talk show "Jinek" was further proof that the Dutch media had picked up the news from the chess world. The success of "The Queen's Gambit" definitely played a role there as well.

Jorden van Foreest Jinek
Van Foreest in "Jinek" last Monday. Image: still from Jinek.

Van Foreest called his victory "bizarre" as he appeared on TV a day after the tournament ended. "I knew that I had a small chance, but of course, I didn't expect this."

The grandmaster explained to the Dutch TV audience what it means to use pattern recognition, and how it's possible to make three moves in one second. "A lot of it is reacting on the opponent; you cannot predict too much."

Van Foreest also noted that his opponent in the playoff, GM Anish Giri, is a good friend with whom he has worked a lot. "A few minutes before the playoff we were still chatting but that's just nice. Eventually, you play against the board, not the opponent, as my first coach told me."

Now 21, Jorden is the oldest brother in a family of chess playing-siblings. The most active are his 19-year-old Lucas (also a grandmaster) and his 13-year-old sister Machteld, who is already a 2100-player. Three more brothers (Nanne, Pieter, and Tristan) also play, but less.

You could say that chess is in Van Foreest's DNA—almost literally. Van Foreest's great-great grandfather, Arnold van Foreest, was a three-time Dutch champion (1889, 1893, and 1902), and Arnold’s older brother, Dirk, also won three championships (1885 to 1887).

Living in Groningen in the northeast of the country, the Van Foreest family became more known to the public when a documentary was made and broadcast in 2017. It revealed similarities with the Polgar family; for example, the children were educated at home by their parents to free up more time to spend on chess and other activities. 

Jorden's first international success came in 2013 when he won the under-14 European Youth Championship with an undefeated score. A year later, he became an international master and another year later already a grandmaster, the youngest ever in the Netherlands.

In 2016, aged 17, he won the Dutch Champion with 5.5/7 points. Three years later, in 2019, Jorden was very close to clinching his second national title. He tied for first place with his younger brother Lucas, who ended up winning a playoff.

Lucas van Foreest
Lucas van Foreest. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

In 2019, Jorden made a rather modest debut in the Tata Steel Chess Masters, finishing in last place together with former world champion Vladimir Kramnik, who would announce his retirement from classical chess a few days later.

Jorden did beat GM Ian Nepomniachtchi in a fine game, which he chose to show in a video produced for this year's tournament:

In what was only his second appearance, van Foreest did rather well in 2020. His score was 7/13, with victories against GMs Daniil Dubov, Nikita Vitiugov, and Yu Yangyi. More telling was the fact that he didn't lose against any of the big names. He showed that, while still having an adventurous style, he got rid of his occasional sloppy play as he had become a more solid player.

Van Foreest actually got to play a bit of over-the-board chess during the pandemic, perhaps more than most of his opponents in Wijk aan Zee. In September, he played in the Bundesliga and then also in the Spanish Team Championship. In early December, he participated in an international event between young Spanish players and young international players in Los Cancajos, La Palma, Spain.

Still, it seemed a pity that he couldn't play more, and get more experience, after his good tournament in Wijk aan Zee in January 2020. The big question was, whether he could repeat it. Had his progress been halted?

In a portrait video made just before the tournament, he said: "I just try to win the tournament basically, how unlikely the chance may be. I think on betting sites I get like a one in 250 chance to win so that's pretty slim, but you never know. I just want to play good chess and, well, you know, miracles happen."

Well, as they say, the rest is history. Van Foreest shocked the chess world and put the crowning achievement on his still-young career by winning the 83rd Tata Steel Chess Tournament.

His win against GM Anish Giri in the blitz playoff was "just a coin flip," in his own words, but his undefeated 8.5/13 score definitely wasn't. He defeated GMs Pentala Harikrishna, Aryan Tari, Nils Grandelius, and David Anton and again drew all his games against the big guns.

Van Foreest's win in the final round against Grandelius was the perfect example of his play in the whole tournament. It was a combination of excellent opening preparation (helped by his second GM Max Warmerdam) and powerful play behind the board.

The tournament victory came in a dramatic tiebreaker, which was recapped in this video:

Van Foreest's last few days must have been crazy, with all the media attention he has been getting. He seems to be handling it well, giving the same calm, down-to-earth impression as he did in his interview during Tata Steel Chess Tournament.

"A lot of people think that chess players are rather introvert people, but that's not true," he told Dutch newspaper "De Volkskrant." "I'm just a regular guy, with a girlfriend."

It's all the more impressive that this "regular guy" won such a big tournament. Is this the beginning of something more?

"The chance that I will achieve something like this again is almost zero," Van Foreest himself said on Sunday.

Timman answered the question whether his young compatriot can become world champion: "There are not that many world champions. I don't know if he's cold-blooded enough for that. But it cannot be ruled out."

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