Person of day   -  7 OCTOBER 2018

LOEK VAN WELY

LOEK VAN WELY

In the 1990s, Dutch grandmaster Loek van Wely became the heir of Euwe-Timman and led the national team until the ascent of Anish Giri. 

Van Wely was born in Heesch on 7th October 1972. He regularly competed for medals at European and world championships; in 1987, at the world U16 championship, he competed against Gata Kamsky and Michael Adams until the very final rounds. In 1990, he made his debut at the men’s Dutch championship and became an international master. 

His breakthrough came at the zonal tournament in Brussels in 1993- Loek split victory with another Dutchman called Paul van der Sterren and became a grandmaster, before performing admirably at the inter-zonal. Van Wely became one of the best chess players in the world and started to receive invites to prestigious tournaments. Shortly afterward, his rating surpassed Jeroen Piket’s- another Dutch grandmaster- and, at the initiative of magnate Joop van Oosterom, the two leading Dutch players did battle in Monaco. Van Wely was leading 3,5:1,5, but Piket equalised at the finish and the match ended in a 4:4 draw. However, Jeroen quit chess shortly after and the intrigue surrounding his competition with Loek disappeared.  

In 1998, Van Wely played against Jan Timman. Once again, the match ended in a draw, but Loek was stronger during the play-off and he thus received the right to be considered the best player in his country. Relations between Timman and Van Wely remained cold- the younger grandmaster often published unflattering remarks about his older colleague. 

Loek played in 12 Olympiads with the Dutch national team, playing at the first board in five of them. In 2001 and 2005, Holland won the European team championship with their leader. He has also won the Dutch championship with Panfox-Breda and De Variant, as well as winning medals at the European Cup.  

Between 2000 and 2005, Loek van Wely won the Dutch national championship six consecutive times and his rating reached 2714, which put the grandmaster in the top 10 of FIDE’s rating. 

Loek Van Wely is an erudite in openings and a threat to any established chess grand. He has defeated Anatoly Karpov, Vladimir Kramnik, Vishy Anand, Magnus Carlsen and other stars. In 2006, he drew against the Norwegian wunderkind in classical chess- Magnus only won in blitz. He also drew 2:2 against the computer program Rebel. 

In recent years, the grandmaster has concentrated on training others. His students include leading young Dutchmen like Jorden Van Foreest and Benjamin Bok. However, it has not always been smooth sailing for Van Wely in this job.

“The last time I flew to New York, in answer to a question about my purpose of visit, I replied that I intended to give chess lessons. Oddly enough, Americans view chess not as a profession, but as a hobby or a favourite game. Oh yes? You came to give chess lessons? I was treated like a common criminal, taken to a cell- the whole procedure- since I had no work permit and I intended to work. Before being taken to my cell, I was searched thoroughly to determine if I had a rope of any sort so I wouldn’t hang myself. I spent a night in the cell and was deported to the Netherlands the next day. Since then, I have been a persona non grata in America.” (Loek Van Wely)