Harm Wiersma Champion
It wasn't until some time in 1992 that the
former Dutch World Champion re-appeared on
the International checkers scene, and when
he began to compete across the checkerboard,
Harm Wiersma had not seemingly lost any of
his skill, techniques or individual checkers
style. Although he had resigned from contesting
in personal games at World Checkers Championships
after 1984, he was back facing opponents across
the checkerboard in the world checkers arena
in Toulon, France. Alexei Tsjizjov defended
his World checkers title from 1988 through
1991 and he succeeded in retaining that title
However, Harm Wiersma
European Champion did return to the national
checkers scene and succeeded in winning the
National checkers tournament and title of Netherlands’ Champion
European Champion Harm Wiersma also joined the field
of Grandmasters to participate in the first half of
the World Championship Cup hosted in Toulon, France.
After a few years absent from the checkerboard
and contenders in the International checkers
circuit, Harm fared surprisingly well. European
Champion Harm Wiersma's final opponent was World Champion,
Alexei Tsjizjov, from the Soviet Union, but his
defeat resulted in his tie for second place
with Rob Clerc, Ton Sijbrands and Alexander
Then European Harm Wiersma was back in form
the following year and gave Alexei a run
for his money at the checkerboard in the
second half of the World
Championship Cup held in Leeuwarden,
Netherlands. In the final round of
the championship, Wiersma challenged the
defending champion to a solid game of checkers,
but Harm couldn't quite pull off a winning
result. The final score ended the game with
22-18 going to the World Champion, Alexei
Tsjizjov. Once again, Tsjizjov successfully
defended his World title.
Harm Wiersma vs Alexei Tsjizjov
There was somewhat of an irony in that total
outcome because European Champion Harm Wiersma
scored the same points in the 1979 and 1981
World Championships against Anatoli Gantwarg.
Harm then continued to contest other local
and national tournaments within the International
In 1998, he entered the 80th National Netherlands
European Championship tournament in Hoogezand-Sappemeer
for the seventh time in his impressive checkers
career for the title of National Champion
in the Netherlands.
At first, the championship checkers play
was less than exciting with Hans Jansen from
the Gelderse Huissen club leading the chase
at the checkerboard, with only Harm Wiersma
coming up for a real challenge. The closer
the challengers moved towards the tournament
the end, the closer Wiersma moved towards
Jansen’s score. Jansen soon felt a
tingling in his neck as Wiersma was closing
in and made a mistake against the youngest
participant, Kees Thijssen, which cost him
in his latter round. In the final round of
the checkers competition, both master players
had accumulated seventeen points in thirteen
games so a playoff was necessary. The first
three games ended in a draw, which was in
Jansen’s favor but against Wiersma.
The tournament then moved into a checkers
game played with an accelerated pace, but
the opponents were closely matched and the
first result at the checkerboard remained
the same. In the second checkers game Wiersma
created a ‘crook’ on
the checkerboard, which took Jansen by surprise
because he didn't know the outcome of the
play. The final result ended in Harm Wiersma
winning the 1998 European Championship
Championship with his renowned creativity.
1998 Netherlands Champion
7th National Checkers Champion Title
Wiersma continued to play within the European
International checkers arena and maintained
his dominance in the mind sport. In September
1999, he contested for his first European
Championship Title in the tournament also
held in the Town Hall of Hoogezand-Sappemeer.
Ton Sijbrands and Harm Wiersma both took
part in this unique tournament and they had
not competed against each other since the
Toulon World Championship of 1992. Before
that they hadn't met in the Netherlands’ tournament
since some time around 1973. Harm Wiersma
certainly entered into a diverse, interesting
and yet strong field of checker MI and GMI:
Ton Sijbrands, Anatoli Gantwarg, Guntis Valneris,
Alexander Getmanski, Alexander Georgiev,
Rob Clerc, Raoul Bubbi, Eduard Boezinski
and other checkerists. Of all these checkers
opponents, only Boezinski was not a former
World Champion. These checkers players represented
quite a cross-section of countries wherein
checkers games are a dominant and popular
mind sport: Netherlands, Russia, Belarus,
Ukraine, Poland, France, Estonia, Lithuania,
Belgium, Italy, Israel and Azerbaidjan.
It wasn't long after the start of the competition
that it became a seesaw affair to see who
would take the lead, maintain the lead and
eventually win the European Championship
title; however, the tournament path at the
checkerboard took on a series of interesting
twists until the final winning combination
unfolded at the end of the road.
The top five finishers automatically
qualified for the World Championship in
Riga and by the fourteenth round there
was a clear indication as to which players
were already seeded to the World Championship
- Sijbrands started out strong with an
early lead of 5/6 wins but after round
6 Boezinski caught up to the GM.
- Alexander Georgiev had a slow start
with two draws and a postponed game and
by round 7, he had not won a game; eventually
he did win a game.
- At one point in the tournament, Harm
could only draw his checkers games and
dropped back to third place, but by round
7 Wiersma had worked his way to the top
with 10/14 and now rivaled his Dutch compatriot
for the lead spot; both were undefeated.
- The checkers race for points between
Gantwarg, Valneris and Getmanski was neck
and neck at 13/18.
- By the 12th round, the Dutch duo of
Wiersma/Sijbrands had put some distance
between their play and the rest of the
checkers field and both were undefeated;
Boezinski and Gantwarg were close behind,
as was Guntis.
- In the second last round, 14/15 Harm
Wiersma put forth extra effort at the checkerboard
and his skill placed him first, one point
ahead of rival, Sijbrands; Wiersma held
at 22/28, and neither GM had been defeated
in his play.
- Then Ton Sijbrands failed to use his supreme checkers skill in his last round against Azerbaidjan Eldar Aliev and lost his chance at first place because he now remained one point behind the leader, Wiersma.
- In the same round, Wiersma defeated
Russian Grandmaster, Anatoli Gantwarg.
- Guntis Valneris won three checkers games in a row.
- In the final round, Sijbrands played
to a draw with his opponent, Alexander
Getmanski from Russia.
- Harm Wiersma also played to a checkers
draw against Italian, Raoul Bubbi, who
posed no threat in the title championship.
- In the end, the major competitor to
finally come out of his modest corner was
Lithuanian checkerist, Eduard Boezinski.
- Rob Clerc, usually a strong checkers
player, did not seemingly pose much threat
throughout the European Championship and
finished in 7th place overall with 15 points.
When all rounds were complete and the final
score was tallied, Harm Wiersma won his first
European Championship title in his illustrious
checkers career with a total score of 23
points in fifteen games. Ton Sijbrands and
Guntis Valneris finished with 22/15 and tied
for 2nd place, Eduard Boezinski and Anatoli
Gantwarg ranked in a 3rd place tie with 21/15
and the next contender was Alexander Getmanski
with 16/15. Both European players Wiersma
and Sijbrands claimed that they had no interest
in participating in the World Championship
in Riga, Russia unless it was a worthwhile
After this European Championship tournament, neither
Harm nor Ton attended the World Championship match
in Riga. When considering a World competition, a major
consideration was the location of the tournament.
For Ton Sijbrands especially, he would consider playing
if the checkers championship was held in the Netherlands,
but would not likely participate in a Russian setting
because traditionally these checkers tournaments
had been poorly organized and run. Ton commented that
the Dutch players would take timers, checkerboards
and checkers with them on the plane when they traveled
to participate in the Russian locale. The only real
incentive that would possibly override this decision
would be if a substantial purse was awarded as prizes
for the first through fourth placements.
Harm & Raoul Bubbi
European Champion 1999
Harm Wiersma & Ton Sijbrands
Both Harm and Ton had taken time off from the World
Championship checkers circuit for different reasons.
Sijbrands had left the arena for a longer period than
Wiersma, which spanned 1973-1988. He stated that he
spent time as a publicist and game analyst, but part
of his personal reason was also that the checkers
championships had been very stressful for him. During
these major tournaments, he had great difficulty
in dealing with the tension and stress in past competitions.
Over the years, Sijbrands’ analyses and reflections
on the game of International checkers and the arena
surrounding the game became his trademark. He admitted
that he had prepared with some intensity for the European
championship and it was only with one slight miscalculation
that cost him the tying point for first place with
Wiersma left the World Championship stage in 1984
and focused on his business, writing checkers games
analyses in the De Telegraaf,
coaching for the KNDB, Netherlands Checkers Association
and organizing various checkers tournaments and participating
in simultaneous play.
Harm observed the affect of an ‘old
feud’ between Ton Sijbrands and Rob Clerc
during the 1999 European Championship on Ton, who
refused to consider reconciliation with the other
Grandmaster. Clerc took it in stride but commented
that Sijbrands was an introvert with symptoms of a
borderline paranoia complex. Wiersma commented that
Ton was certainly not as outgoing as he was, nor was
he as light hearted with the same sense of humor as
Harm, but they were a good counterpart for each other.
European Champion Harm Wiersma
praised Ton’s analytical ability and
innate checkers skill and stated that Sijbrands’ presence
in a championship or less tournament definitely raised
the caliber of play.