A Remarkable Family

Near the end of the 19th century, the Dutch championship (though it did not have that name yet) was dominated by two brothers, Dirk and Arnold van Foreest, both members of the lower Dutch nobility. Dirk won the championship in 1885, 1886 and 1887 and Arnold in 1889, 1893 and 1896. 

Much later Dirk van Foreest gained a place in international chess lore because of a game in The Hague in 1949 between him and Jacques Mieses. Dirk van Foreest was 86 at the time. Mieses was much younger, a mere 84. Mieses won and exclaimed happily, “Youth has triumphed!”

Nowadays the Foreest chess tradition is being continued by a remarkable family of five brothers and one sister, who are great-great-grandchildren of Arnold and who all play chess. The oldest, Jorden (16) is an IM with a rating of 2541 who has scored two GM norms, and who is also an acclaimed composer of endgame studies. Lucas (14) has a rating of 2314 and in a recent interview he called The Berlin Defence his favorite book.

The Berlin endgame, a favorite of a 14-year old?!? Shouldn’t these kids play the King’s Gambit, and as Black the Najdorf or the Dragon? That’s what an oldie might think, but times change and youngsters seem prematurely mature nowadays.

Of the others, young sister Machteld (8) made a name for herself at the age of 6 by winning the U-10 Dutch championship for girls. Now and then their parents will drive all their children in an old, camouflage-painted army truck to compete in some opens in France.

At the recent chess festival in the German town Lüneburg, the family was only represented by Jorden and Lucas. I followed their results rather vaguely and at some point I wondered if Jorden was playing in the Open or in the closed GM group. It turned out that he played in both tournaments at the same time, the GM group in the mornings and the Open in the afternoons. 

Insatiable chess hunger which was not caused by deprivation, as this summer he had already played in opens at Teplice, Dieren and Vlissingen.

In the Open at Lüneburg he met his brother Lucas. They played a long game which ended as a draw.

In the interview I mentioned (in the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad) the interviewer Steven Verseput asked the brothers if they ever fixed the results between them in advance. Only once, they said, to be able to stroll around in Paris. Lucas said, “We were on holiday, we wanted to do some tourism, instead of playing chess. Jorden didn’t want a draw, so I decided to lose.”

In the open in Lüneburg, Jorden did not only play against his brother, but also against his German girlfriend Sonja-Maria Bluhm. Jorden won, which was no surprise as his rating was almost 400 points higher. 

But interviewer Verseput noted the following conversation: The father: “And if you play against your girlfriend?” Jorden: “Then it’s more difficult. At the tournament in Germany I played against her. About that game we’d better not speak.” Lucas: “That was pre-arranged, rather obviously too.” Jorden, awkwardly: “That game was not pre-arranged.” 

These kids seem remarkably frank, almost unaware of the journalist, as if he were hiding in a flower pot and secretly taping their conversation. But what about the future, when perhaps all these six Van Foreest kids plus the German girlfriend may be prominent international players? Anti-Soviet measures may be in order.

In Lüneburg, playing two tournaments at the same time may have been a bit too much for Jorden, as in the Open he only reached sixth place, which he shared with ten others. Lucas did better, sharing second and third place. But in the GM tournament Jorden scored a GM norm and shared first place with Andreas Heimann, who was declared winner on tiebreak.

In the game viewer, there is a game by Jorden from the GM tournament against the German WGM Elisabeth Pähtz that shows that appearances can deceive, as it appeared at first sight that Black was doing well, and one from the Open against the Ukrainian GM Mikhail Simantsev that illustrates that Jorden still has a weakness that can be easily set right: a rather lackadaisical attitude toward the openings.

Simantsev also played two tournaments simultaneously in Lüneburg and in the GM tournament, the one that counted, Jorden beat him.


Click to view the annotated games:

Van Foreest – Pähtz

Lüneburg (GM) 2015

Van Foreest – Simantsev

Lüneburg (Open) 2015