Loek van Wely Wins Dutch Championship in Playoff
He's not on life support! After a three-year hiatus, 41-year-old GM Loek van Wely returned to the Dutch Championship this year in Amsterdam, at a former hospital. After a nine-year gap, he found himself in the winner's circle.
The former Dutch top player won 2-0 in a playoff against GM Sergei Tiviakov to claim his seventh national title. Previously, he won six straight from 2000-2005 but he had not competed since 2010.
The hospital and tournament have also had a renaissance. As reported previously, the playing site is now a hotel, while the organizers also take time out each day for cultural "intermezzos" like poetry or theater.
Van Wely was the top-rated in the eight-player field, but only by a point over two-time champion Tiviakov (2657 to 2656).
The drama really began unfolding in the last round of classical chess. With early leader GM Wouter Spoelman clinging to a half-point lead over the field (4/6), van Wely was on 3.5/6 and essentially needed to win as Black against last year's champion, GM Dimitry Reinderman.
The win boosted van Wely, as Spoelman lost to GM Benjamin Bok. However the championship was not yet won as Tiviakov (3.5/6 as well) also won as Black, beating GM Erwin L'ami.
Like van Wely, he went pawn grabbing, and didn't suffer any ill effects.
The playoff could have gone the way of the U.S. Championship with three players, but alas GM Sipke Ernst could only muster a draw versus GM Robin van Kampen. Poor Spoelman, the 2007 Dutch Junior Champion, went from almost winning his first "open" title to nearly landing in fourth place, all in one round (he came very close last year also, losing to Reinderman in a playoff).
The blitz playoff began with a win for van Wely.
Tiviakov once again needed a win to stay in the tournament, but he couldn't provoke any weaknesses against van Wely's king. In the end, his own king was too exposed.
In the women's section, WIM Anne Haast (5.5/7) captured her first Dutch Women's Championship in style.
She beat 13-time (!) champion GM Peng Zhaoqin as Black in the final round to secure a half-point margin over WGM Bianca De Jong-Muhren (5/7). Had the result gone the other way, Zhaoqin would have tied for first herself.
After Zhaoqin's incredible run of winning a dozen titles in a row from 2000-2011, other women have now won the last three years. But consider that van Wely and Zhaoqin's championship streaks both began in 2000 and hers lasted exactly twice as long!