Grand student chess in Nijmegen

Chess tournaments are organized on a regular basis in the Netherlands and tournaments with over 100 participants are no exception. Nonetheless, tournaments aimed at students are few and far between. This is surprising considering the broad increase in interest in this game over the past two years of lockdowns and the popularity of The Queens Gambit. For this reason, two recently founded associations, SSVN Tussen de Torens from Nijmegen and S.C.C.E. Noesis from Eindhoven, decided to combine their forces to organize a chess tournament tailored to students from all post-high school educational institutions in The Netherlands. For almost half a year, a committee of about 10 people worked hard to realize this event and make it into a great activity.

This photo summarizes the event neatly: a nice playing venue, great people, and a lot of chess! (Photo: Levi Baruch)

In this report we will look back on the event, looking at the (fantastic) atmosphere of the day itself, and the chess results themselves. So, without further ado and in the words of The Black-Eyed Peas: Let’s get it started.

From 10:40 the first students started dropping into “Hal 1” of the sports centre of the Radboud University. A nice mix of students represented all universities in the Netherlands and many Hogescholen, some of which having played chess for a longer time, and many who started during the lockdown. This promised a tournament where everyone should be able to find opponents of their own level. The registration went smoothly and barring a vacuum cleaner whose chess rating could not be determined almost all people who registered showed up, giving a grand total of 115 participants. After a brief welcoming word and some final adjustments to the division of the players into groups, the actual tournament could get started.

“Did you know en passent is forced?” (Photo: Levi Baruch)
Even though it required some headaches sometimes, even the competition software in the end didn't fail the organization (photo: Levi Baruch)

Some quick victories occurred in rounds 1 and 2, where some players needed to get used to playing over the board, combined with the fact that in the first rounds the rating differential is usually quite large. However, after being reenergized by the free lunch in the playing hall, and the prior results more efficiently sorting the players by playing strength, the following rounds were much more tense with even more games going down to the wire. Nonetheless, despite the tension on the board, the atmosphere was mostly very relaxed and sportsmanlike, making it a very “boring” day for the arbiters.

Another tense game finished at the top boards in the A-group, with later winner Chiel (left) managing to score an important point against ultimately 4th-place finisher Carlos (photo: Levi Baruch).
Even during the lunch break some players used the opportunity to discuss their games (photo: Levi Baruch).

With the later rounds approaching, the clear battlefields for the prizes started to become clear in the different groups. Chiel Koster (TU/e) managed to pull ahead of a large group of contenders by winning two chaotic games against two of the top seeds, setting the A-group up for some tense final rounds. In the meantime, the tension in the B-group was even higher; Luuk Tjin a Ton (TU/e), Niels Feijen (Fontys), and Ilja Ognestsikov (Erasmus University) shared first place after 5 rounds with 4.5 points, promising some exciting confrontations in the final round. Finally, in the C-group, Nazar Lonyuk (TU Delft) and Danny Schuurman (Radboud Universiteit) had a small lead of half a point going into the final stretch of the tournament.

The duality of the game of chess – part 1 (photo: Levi Baruch).
The duality of the game of chess – part 2 (photo: Levi Baruch).

The buzz in the A-group came to a boiling point when Vincent Spit (Utrecht University) scored an upset win against Chiel Koster, allowing Luca Olariu (Radboud) and Tim Grutter (UvA) to catch up with him. In the last round, neither of them made a mistake and won their games, leading to a tie in points. Since Chiel Koster had faced the stronger opposition however, he was allowed to lay claim to the first place in the first IMC Grand Student Chess Championship, with Luca and Tim claiming second and third place respectively. In the B-group Luuk Tjin A Ton turned out to find the most stability in his game, by winning the last few rounds and ending on an impressive 6.5 out of 7 points. Here Niels Feijen and Youp van Dijk – who leapfrogged into third place in the last round – took second and third place.

With everyone handing in their score sheet on paper, a smooth tournament was ensured (photo: Levi Baruch).
Triple checking whether the tournament director has the correct names for the prize ceremony (photo: Levi Baruch).

Finally, the C-group victory went to someone who wasn’t even in the top three after round 5. Morris de Haan (UvA) had a bumpy start with a loss already in round 2. However, this awakened his inner GM, because after that round he won all his games and snatched sole first. He was followed by Danny Schuurman, who in a direct confrontation defeated Rijkman Pilaar (TU/e), tragically knocking the latter out of the top three. The podium was completed by Carl Dworzack (Radboud), who jumped from 6th to 3rd with his win in the last round. Of course, it is impossible to cover all the drama that happened during the games at the tournament, with so many exciting endgames, middlegame tactics and novelties happening all the time; keeping track of it all is a nearly impossible task. Nonetheless, the organization greatly enjoyed all the beautiful games played on this nice day in Nijmegen.

Tsz Keung Wong managed to win the most prestigious prize of all: the Shrek checkers set for playing the most draws in the tournament (photo: Levi Baruch).
All prize winners of the first IMC Grand Student Chess Championship (photo: Levi Baruch).

After the tournament and the prize ceremony concluded, many players picked up a goodie bag and dropped by at the borrel next to the playing hall, giving a nice opportunity to unwind and get to know the fellow chess enthusiasts a bit better. And while enjoying a nice beer or soda, the day went to a close, finishing (to our knowledge) the first student chess tournament of this scale in The Netherlands. The IMC Grand Student Chess Championship was a great success in our opinion and will under normal circumstances be continued in the coming years. Keep an eye out of our social media accounts, and we will let the participants of this year know when a new edition is planned again.

Some final reflections on the day were shared during the borrel, under the enjoyment of some nice drinks (photo: Levi Baruch).
A cold beer really helps get your mind away from the mental clutter that is chess (photo: Levi Baruch).

Finally, this tournament is nothing without the people who support it. Therefore, we hereby would like to thank the members of S.C.C.E. Noesis and SSVN Tussen de Torens who helped making this tournament happen. Also a big thank you to our sponsors IMC Trading and Schaakboekenverzendhuis De Beste Zet for their financial support to the tournament, and finally Levi Baruch and Busi Huits are thanked for making photos during the event, allowing us to dress up this report with some nice imagery! Hopefully we will see you all again next year!

And, oh yeah, we still owe you the final standings of the tournament:

The final standings on the tournament, the main tiebreak was the amount of Buchholz points (which is the sum of the scores of your opponents).