Organisation - December 7, 2016

World title match draughts in Wageningen (video)

Yvonne de Hilster

Today, the world title match draughts starts in Wageningen. Three WUR employees will certainly be present. The reason: their club member Jan Groenendijk (18) has a chance to become the youngest World Champion draughts ever.

<Jan Groenendijk during a simultaneous draughts game against his fellow club members of WSDV, photo Simon Oosting>

Simon Oosting, senior lecturer Animal Production Systems, remembers as Jan Groenendijk entered the draughts club WSDV on the Grintweg in Wageningen as a small boy. He was given the nickname ‘Little John’.  ‘But at the age of 8 or 10, he was already better than I’, says Oosting, who plays in the Dutch hoofdklasse, the second highest division in the Netherlands. Oosting says he was surprised that Jan had become this good. ‘Our club has a lot of young players of high level, but getting into the world top is only reserved for a select few.’ Groenendijk, who was born and raised in Wageningen and started studying physics and astronomy in Nijmegen, has already won seven European and three world titles in the juniors and cadets championships.

Lecturer Jozef Linssen of Food Quality and Design remembers that Groenendijk found the Wageningen draughts club through a school draughts programme. ‘Children can get a small package with ten tutorials free of charge. Jan came back a week later: "I finished the booklet", but it usually takes children about two and a half months. At that point, he received a second package, of 20 or 40 lessons. He was back at our door two weeks later.’ He was born for this, is what Linssen means to say.

During the first days of the world championship, Oosting and Linssen kept an eye on the matches via the livestream. ‘The first two matches were spectacular’, tells Oosting. ‘Never has there been such offensive play during a world championship. The game is usually one of anticipation, but these boys went right into it.’ That is also partially due to the new design of the championships: the first to win 3 out of 12 matches, received the title. That makes drawing a game much less interesting.

When Groenendijk and his opponent Roel Boomstra will play games number 8, 9 and 10 of the championships on Thursday, Friday and Saturday in Wageningen, Oosting and Linssen will most certainly be there to watch. Club member Cor Langeveld, contact person education at the Centre for Crop Systems Analysis, will also visit the city hall where the games will take place from 11 o’clock onwards. ‘Never before has the title match been between two Dutch players. Harm Wiersma was the last Dutch world champion in 1984 and I have seen Jan’s rise. He is very talented. He is good at calculations and has a strong will. The fact that Jan often gets pressed for time is very typical of him. He always wants to achieve the best possible result, and as a draughts player, he pushes the boundaries. His soberness, passion and enthusiasm are magnificent to see.’

The best part of being present during a live game is mainly the entourage, according to Linssen. ‘Draughts isn’t a spectator sport, not really, and it is very different than during a football match. Screaming should be done outside. But Ton Sijbrands analyses and comments, and if you know something about draughts, it is an absolute delight.’

Whether Groenendijk is going to win can only be read from tea leaves. Oosting: ‘Roel Boomstra is a stronger draughts player, he is close to getting the upper hand in every game. But Jan is smart and uses many combinations. On Monday, Jan started taking control of the matches. That could also work on a psychological level.’ Linssen admits that Roel Boomstra is favoured based on rating, but still hopes Jan will win. ‘Last year in Emmen, Jan missed the victory in the match for the world title by a minuscule bit.’ Langeveld’s heart also roots for Jan: ‘But my head also tells me he can do it; using his creativity and his tournament mentality, Jan can become world champion.’

livestream world championship matches

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