Jorden van Foreest is a name we’re going to be hearing a lot about in the years to come! In 2016 he became Dutch Champion at the age of 17 and also crossed 2600 on the rating list. Chess has been in his family for six generations and he’s lived up to that legacy. Dorsa Derakhshani tracked him down in Sitges, Spain during the Sunway Chess Festival for an in-depth interview.
At the Sunway Chess Festival in Sitges the hotel and playing venue is right in front of the sea - it's simply breathtaking! Jorden van Foreest also enjoyed it very much and had a decent tournament, after which I was able to talk to him, as well as get his annotations of one of his best games from the event.
Playing venue with a view
Dorsa Derakhshani: You crossed 2600 recently. Does it feel any different? How did you work to cross that milestone?
Jorden van Foreest: It doesn’t really feel different! My rating has been improving since last year and I think it was a continuation of that, but 2600 is not something special to me. When I reach 2700 I’ll be somewhat satisfied. 2600 is something like in between levels. How did I work? Well, I’ve just trained and played lots of tournaments. I think it’s very important that I played lots of strong tournaments against lots of strong opponents.
How does the Dutch Federation support you?
I don’t think they have much money for chess so usually I do most things alone. Of course we have Anish Giri, as you know, and he actually gets something, but the rest of us - not really. Recently, besides the Dutch Chess Federation and money for general sports, the government decided to spend more on youth talent in chess. So we got some money from them to train six weeks per year to study with a strong player, but there’s not much support directly from the chess federation.
So they do care but they don’t have enough money?
Yes, you can say that.
What about teammates? Do you guys train together?
I know the Dutch team members, of course, and talk to them regularly, but I don't specifically train with them. I’ve only trained with Loek (van Wely) once for a few days, and he was my coach at the World Junior last year. And with Benjamin (Bok) we sometimes discuss some openings and some games, but training - not really, as of yet.
Does Anish help you guys out?
I know Erwin is a second of Anish, so they're helping each other. For the rest, I only know that Anish is quite good friends with Benjamin and Robin (van Kampen) so they might be helping each other out. I'm not too sure about others. When I was training with Loek he showed me his games which he’d analysed very well, and he gave me exercises about them.
Do you happen to have your own sponsor?
I did! Two sponsors, actually - Adviesbureau Schrijvers and Hotels.nl. The first one I knew personally, he had a company and he decided to sponsor me. The other one decided to sponsor me for three years or until I had enough strength to cover my own expenses, and recently when I became Dutch Champion they stopped sponsoring me, but they did help me a lot!
You became Dutch Champion right before the Olympiad but you didn’t play in the Olympiad. Why?
Well, I wasn’t invited! When the invitations were sent out my Elo wasn’t high enough, so I hope to play the next one.
Lots of teams decide to give boards to some of their young talents, so it was strange you weren’t in the team.
We had Benjamin Bok. He was a little stronger than me at that point and when our coach decided the players for this year he chose Benjamin Bok, and the rest of team was also quite good.
It goes without saying that this game is Jorden's greatest achievement to date!
Is there some chess school in the Netherlands, or do you just go to regular school and take time off to play tournaments?
I was homeschooled, which is generally not possible in the Netherlands, but somehow my parents figured out a way to do it, so that was really good! But around two years ago I decided that I had to take my exams and so I went to a school with lots of other sportsmen so I could take time off for tournaments easily and I only have to make it for my tests.
There’s no chess scholarship for universities?
Not that I know of. Actually, today I read in a newspaper about Tiviakov wanting this to happen and for chess to enter schools, but nothing clear so far.
Probably for the next generation!Haha, yes. It wasn’t so easy for me because my grades weren’t so good – unlike my chess I don’t have/put enough time into them, so no wonder why. I try to focus mainly on chess, but my grades have become better recently, so I’m allowed to go to tournaments!
Will you go to university next year or you will take some time off?
I’m still considering it!
You’re the oldest of the Van Foreest children and have five siblings, if I’m right. Do they also like playing chess?
Correct! My younger brother Lucas plays and also my sister, Machtled, is around 1900 at the age of nine, so probably she’ll be the best of us! When I was nine I was just starting. The rest of my siblings don’t really play chess.
How did you start playing chess? I remember I read about your grandpa somewhere.
Our family has been involved with chess since the grandpa of my grandpa. He and his brother were both three times Dutch Champions from 1885 onwards, so that was already some chess!
The van Foreest family won the Dutch Championship 6 times in 17 years! (source: Wikipedia)
But neither my dad nor his dad plays chess. My dad just taught me the rules, showed me some books when I was about six, and I liked it. So I played some tournaments, but I didn’t like it. So I didn’t play for three years and one day, when I was nine, I was invited to be a bench player for our school chess team and someone got sick and somehow my team and I reached higher than expected in the competition, so I liked it and started to play more!
Did you have a moment when it hit you and you wanted to be a really good chess player?
I didn’t really have such a moment. I just played as much as I could and enjoyed it! Maybe when I became Under 10 Dutch Champion – it was quite an achievement for me.
What other results do you consider achievements?
Besides U10 Dutch Champion I was U14 European Champion and I won a tournament in France this year – Vaujany. I haven’t won many opens so far, although I did win in my hometown of Groningen last year.
Replay all the games from the Sunway Chess Festival in Sitges:
How did you learn about this tournament?
It’s actually a funny story! My brother Lucas wanted to play with a friend of his, but instead he decided to play that tournament in my hometown – which I won last year – so he told me about this tournament and I found it interesting since it’s in Spain and the weather is amazing! Also I haven’t played a tournament in Spain. I did play once in Mallorca and I was on vacation in Spain. It seems there are many tournaments here in Spain during summer.
Yes, mucho mucho tournaments here! So how did you like the Sunway Sitges tournament?
The weather was just awesome! Also the hotel was really great. I liked my room a lot, the food was terrific and the fact that the playing hall is in the same hotel was great.
Which of your games did you prefer?
1. e4 c5 2. ♘f3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. ♘xd4 ♘f6 5. ♘c3 a6 6. ♗g5 Earlier in the tournament I had played 6. Rg1 without much success against Sasikiran. For this game I decided to play something more serious.
11... ♗b7 Now 12. a3 would transpose back to the main lines, but I had other plans...
12. e5⁉ Now a forcing line leads the game to an interesting position.
12... dxe5 13. fxe5 ♘d5 14. ♗xe7 ♘xc3 15. bxc3 ♔xe7 16. ♗xb7 ♕xb7 This position I actually knew with the pawn on g3. With the pawn on g3 the position is probably winning for White as the white queen has access to the g4 and h5 squares. With the pawn on g4, however, it's not so easy and the position is equal!
17. ♕d2 I played this move thinking it's very strong, but possibly 17. Rhf1 is a better try for an advantage.
17... ♖he8? My opponent played this move rather quickly, which surprised me quite a bit, as the position is quite complicated and there are many tricks. In fact the move appears to be the losing mistake already. While my opponent was thinking the move ...Ke8 came to my mind, however before I'd reached a conclusion he'd already made his move. Later it transpired that indeed 17...Ke8 is by far the best move.
21... ♕b8 is the move I was expecting. I was planning to take on g7, but even stronger is 22. ♕d4 (22. ♖xg7 ) 22... ♖e7 23. ♖f8+ ♖e8 24. ♕f2! A nice move - there's no satisfactory defence against 25. Qf7. 24... a5 25. ♖f7
I was also pretty happy with the draw with Ivanisevic, since I was almost lost for the entire game.
And which game do you like in general?
How do you prepare during a tournament? Some like doing physical stuff, some like walks, some likes movies etc. What about you?
This tournament I wasn’t preparing at all! I was only checking maybe 30 minutes each round, because my laptop crashed about a month ago and I was kind of lazy about getting a new one So I was preparing on my friend’s laptop. I was spending time in the city, mostly, and walking on the beach. I was also in the gym once, which if you look at my muscles shows I don’t do it so often!
Which activities do you like besides chess?
I like spending time with friends!
How do you train at home?
I haven’t been training much recently because I’m in the last year of school, so I have to do lots of school stuff, but usually when I train, I do it mostly with my computer. However, I started reading Kasparov’s books (My Great Predecessors) because I thought my defence is not good enough, so I started looking at Petrosian's games. I also train with my trainer, Tiviakov, but I don’t train much with my brother, somehow!
Do you read books often? Which is your favourite?
I don’t remember reading a book from start to end, but now I’m trying with the Kasparov ones. I’ve always liked Dvoretsky’s books - all of them! I think I checked them three times.
How many hours would you say you spend on chess?
Recently not much due to school, but usually I’d say about six hours a day.
What are your next tournaments?
I’m playing in Basel. I was there two years ago. Also Wijk aan Zee and Aeroflot and then the French Team Championship, so far.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Being a professional chess player and living with my girlfriend. We’ll see!
Awww, that’s so nice! Sonja, right? Since you brought it up, can we talk a bit more about her?
I remember you making eyes at her in the 2014 Durban World Youth Championship! Did the spark occur then?
she thought I was sort of stupid at first because I had a Dutch flag and I was
told I had to wave it and it looks super stupid! I was there with a friend of
mine who’s Dutch but lives in Germany, so I was hanging out with Germans a lot
because I was the only Dutch player there and it was kind of boring, and there
she was! When I saw her during my first round I was happy to find out she’s
from Germany and not so far away, so then we decided to spend some time together
there and she started to see me as a bit less stupid, but this tournament
specifically didn’t do much, because she lives far away and she didn’t think it
could become anything. But then, about three months later, I met her in another
tournament and I started to get better.
Thanks a lot for sharing. Best of luck!