1953 ~ present –
The Netherlands has been the home of many
strong and talented Dutch checkers players
who became part of the checkers arena for many
years, especially during the 20th century.
Checkers Champion from Netherlands
Harm Wiersma was born in 1953, at Leeuwarden,
in the province of Friesland, Netherlands.
His father, Chris Wiersma, was a checkers player,
who introduced his son to the world of the
checkerboard when Harm was in 1961 when Harm
was nine years old by taking him to play with
the youth in the Leeuwarden Checkers Club during
1963-64. Then in 1964, when the Leeuwarden
Club joined with Gezellig Samenzijn to form
a new club, De Oldehove Checkers Club, the
Wiersmas moved to the Huizum Checkers Club.
The young Wiersma contested the checkers youth
championship of Friesland in 1963 when he was
10 years old and concluded the tournament with
an excellent placement for his inexperience
and age, which was 4th place behind Sjoerd
Visser, Henk Bos and Gerrit Ybema. Then in
1965, Harm placed 1st and 2nd in 1966. It quickly
became obvious that the young checker player
had an innate sense and intuition when playing
at the checkerboard. Wiersma also won the Netherlands
Youth Championship in checkers around the same
In 1965, 1966 and 1968, Chris Wiersma and
Anton Schotanus organized the International
Turkstra tournaments in the Tivoli Hall. Harm
placed first in the youth division in 1965,
but in 1966, Anton Schotanus won the youth
and Ton Sijbrands placed 2nd in the seniors
division; however, Harm did not finish well
and was disappointed in his 8th place.
The young Dutch checkers novice was developing
skills and individual techniques in the game
and soon began to display a greater mastery
at the checkerboard. In 1967, Harm participated
in the Netherlands National Championship in
the Seniors Division, along with experienced
checkerists like Piet Roozenburg and another
young developing checker player, Ton Sijbrands,
who was only seventeen at the time. At thirteen,
Wiersma displayed his inherent talent at the
checkerboard against his opponents and where
he lacked experience, Harm made up for it in
tenacity and concentration. 1967 Netherlands
National Checkers Championship ~ Utrecht/Apeldoorn
The final result for the Seniors Championship
of the Netherlands in 1967 listed Ton Sijbrands
in 1st place, Piet Roozenburg ranked 2nd and
Harm Wiersma took 3rd. This was quite an achievement
for a thirteen year old checkers player contesting
against mature masters at the checkerboard.
The contender closest to his age was Ton Sijbrands,
with whom Harm would later develop a kinship
in the mind sport as well as a friendship through
Wim de Jong
vs D van der Staay
During the same year, Harm and Ton participated in
the International Match between the Russian and Netherlands
checkers teams, wherein the Soviets defeated the Dutch
team with a final score of 40 to 20. As well, the young
Wiersma also won the title for the Friesland Seniors
Championship in 1967 and would win this checkers tournament
and place 1st through to 1974.
In 1968, Harm was not allowed to participate in the
National Championship of the Netherlands because he
had broken some rules during the World Championship
in Bolzano, Italy, earlier on and exclusion from the
checkers national tournament was his father’s ‘punishment’ for
his actions. The newspaper reports stated that Chris
Wiersma’s actions or decision to keep his son
out of the checkers play was perhaps a little ‘rash’ or
even presumptuous on his part. Harm was not yet 15
at the time. He did, however, contest in the Turkstra
competition and placed first.
That same year in 1968, Wiersma earned the
title of International master or MI and then
in 1970 Harm Wiersma became the youngest
in the world to achieve the title of national
Grandmaster in checkers, GMN and later, GMI,
Iser K. Harm
The following year, the Dutch Grandmaster
participated in the 1971 National checkers
tournament, but placed fifth based on point
accumulation. Ton Sijbrands won first place
and the Netherlands Championship title; however,
in 1972 Harm Wiersma won the national checkers
tournament and became Champion of the Netherlands
in International draughts. He would repeat
his winning performance in 1974 through to
1977 and then again in 1992, 1998 and 2001.
Wiersma also held the title of Student Champion
in the Netherlands in 1972.
Harm was a member of the Huizum Checkers
Club and played the mind sport through this
club for nine years. After the National Championship
in Apeldoorn in 1974 where he placed 1st,
Harm Wiersma moved to a checkers club in
During his early checkers career, Harm Wiersma
participated in numerous checkers competitions
at the local, National, and International
Vignettes from 1972 to 1978
- (1) 1972, Netherlands Championship in
Amsterdam/Apeldoorn, Harm Wiersma took
- (2) 1973, National competition, deep
in thought on the next checkers move.
- (3)1973, Harm & Ton Sijbrands at
Schizpol Airport, leaving for Russian competition.
- (4) 1975, the humorous side of checkerboard
play ~ “What magic can I create?”
- (5) 1977, Netherlands Championship,
Zevenaar, Harm Wiersma was the checkers
- (6) 1976, European checkers tournament
~ “Will my opponent like to lose?”
- (7) 1978, Zevenaar, Harm vs Rob Clerc
in Netherlands Checkers Championship game.
- (8) 1977, Suikertoernooi, Hans Jansen
vs Harm Wiersma, Amsterdam.
European Checkers Tournament
Harm Wiersma participated in the Suikertoernooi in
Amsterdam and joined the checkers arena and
field of experienced masters of the checkerboard,
but displayed his strategies to his advantage
and tied for first place with Ton Sijbrands.
Anatoli Gantwarg vs Harm Wiersma
Suikertoernooi Amsterdam in 1970.
Ton Sijbrands looks on.
During this checkers competition, Harm Wiersma
had an opportunity to meet with and play against
Senegalese Grandmaster, Baba Sy, after ten
years had passed since Harm faced Baba Sy as
a checkers opponent in 1963.
There was also time for a cultural exchange
as Baba Sy displayed and sold African necklaces
from his home country. From 1970 through
to 1977, Harm faced the Senegalese master
across the checkerboard several times, as
well as Mamina N’Diaye, the first
African checkers player from Mali to enter
the checkers circuit in 1975.
(A) From left to right, 1963 ~ Harm Wiersma vs Baba
Sy; 197 ~ 0 Harm & Baba looking at B’s wares;
1972 ~ Ton Sijbrands vs Harm Wiersma, Suikertoernooi.
(B) 1972 ~ Harm vs Carl ‘Buster’ Smith,
USA; 1973 ~ Baba Sy vs Harm Wiersma; 1975 ~
Harm vs Baba .
(C) 1975 ~ Harm vs Vladimir Agafonov;
1975 ~ Harm vs Jan de Ruiter; 1977 ~ Wiersma
vs Baba Sy;
(D1) & (D2) ~ Harm Wiersma vs Mamina
Apart from a regular game of checkers facing
an opponent’s strategies on a one-on-one
basis, Harm Wiersma also favored playing
simultaneous games in much the same way
as Jannes van der Wal and Ton Sijbrands.
He enjoyed playing this style of competitive
checkers as often as possible and was always
seeking new competitors in order to obtain
the highest possible result. Harm was challenged
to improve his score with each simultaneous
checkers match that was played. In 1975,
Wiersma improved on Ton Sijbrand’s
record by playing against 187 opponents
in one sitting.
Harm Wiersma improves on Sijbrand’s simultaneous
record at Hierden in 1975.