For years, there was hope for a successor to Jan Timman, in 1985 the last Dutch winner of the prestigious Hoogovens chess tournament, which is now known as a Tata Steel tournament. Last year, that wish finally came true, but the name of the chess player who broke the spell was an unexpected one.
“What next?”, the then 21-year-old surprise Jorden van Foreest repeated the question after his sensational coup. “Yeah, I don’t know…”
A year later, he is a lot more confident in front of the camera. “It is perhaps the most prestigious tournament you can win. And I won it as a huge outsider,” he recalls.
Van Foreest won the tournament by catching up with compatriot Anish Giri, the most famous Dutch grandmaster, in the final round and then outwitting him in the jump-off.
Pieces about the board
The loser has long since put that defeat behind him, but will of course be reminded of it several times in the run-up to this year’s edition, which starts on Saturday. “It was a special moment, also because it ended with Dutch players and a fast game where the pieces flew over the board.”
Van Foreest, who promptly received two more sponsors, did not benefit from the overall victory. “It has opened a lot of doors for me. I now have the opportunity to play much better tournaments and measure myself against the best players in the world. Of course you learn a lot from that, which is very valuable for my development as a chess player. “
Van Foreest and Giri regularly work together. “Jorden is a very talented boy with a lot of interesting ideas,” says 27-year-old Giri. “He has a different perspective on the game than I do. He works less systematically and is a bit more creative in certain areas.”
He is looking forward to the start of the next edition of the tournament, which is special to him if only because it is held in his own country. As a result, there is also extra attention for the sport of chess and of course he applauds that.
“And it’s the beginning of the year. People have made good intentions, for example: I’m not going to give away any more pieces. You start with a clean slate and can start right away.” But he knows better, with a smile on his face: “You soon see that that doesn’t work, of course…”
Van Forest is also looking forward to it. “Last year I came here full of uncertainty. Because what if it went completely wrong? But now I have much more self-confidence. I now know: I can do well here, I have the potential to even do very well. That is very nice. And to be here as the defending champion is very special.”
If he was underestimated by his opponents last year, that will certainly not be the case now, with his new status. “Sometimes, or maybe more often than sometimes, they will go into a game more conservatively, because they know: if I do crazy things, Jorden can strike and I lose the game. They are a bit more careful and have more respect. a difference.”
“Of course I want to do extra well now. I want to show that I can still do very well the year after I won. We will see how it goes. I hope for a good start. That is important in such a long tournament.”
And who knows, there may be another Dutch winner on the podium in Wijk aan Zee at the end of this month. “Just ask Magnus Carlsen what he thinks about that,” Giri refers to the five-time and reigning world champion from Norway. “But hopefully…”