Harm Wiersma continued to play within the European
International checkers arena and maintained
his dominance in the mind sport. In September
1999, Harm Wiersma contested for his first
European Championship Title in the tournament
also held in the Town Hall of Hoogezand-Sappemeer.
Harm Wiersma 3
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 was 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 in 2000.
- 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
Wiersma 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
- 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; Harm 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, Harm 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 Wiersma
and Sijbrands claimed that they had no interest
in participating in the World Championship in
Riga, Russia unless it was a worthwhile proposition
European Champion 1999
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
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 Harm Wiersma.
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 Wiersma 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. 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.
Zwartsluis Championship of the Netherlands 2001
In 2001, Wiersma participated in his 8th National checkers championship of the Netherlands at Zwartsluis. However, a little controversy surrounded this competition.
After the regular play between opponents
at the checkerboard, the tournament in Zwartsluis
remained unresolved. The games had not led
to a decisive win for one checkers player;
in fact, three competitors finished in first
place: Harm Wiersma, Hans Jansen, and Hein
After the initial match, Hein Meijer was
eliminated. Then the second match was played
in rapid checkers with an accelerated pace
between Jansen and Wiersma, yet the standing
remained the same after the competition across
the checkerboard. Finally, in the third match,
which now includes speed plus ten seconds
per move limitation ended with ten turns
that were equal and again Jansen and Wiersma
were tied for first place. The KNDB organizers
decided not to try a fourth match, but rejected
Wierma’s suggestion to award the win
to both checkers Grandmasters as a joint
first place win. Instead they elected to
chose the National winner of the Netherlands
by drawing lots! What a way to win the Champion’s
title. It’s like the ending to a top
notch soccer game between two champion teams
when the first place finish is decided by
the fate of ‘shoot outs’. It
doesn't test the skills of the players except
how well each player can withstand the pressure
and for the keeper, the luck of his/her reflexes.
In this game, a reasonable outcome would
have been to give the title to both checker
masters as a joint first place. This was
indeed an unsatisfactory way to win the Championship
title of the Netherlands. However, the final
outcome was that Harm Wiersma won the lot
and won his eighth National Championship
title. Not an easy end to explain to the
outside checkers world.
Harm Wiersma also contested the field of checkers masters
in the 2001 Orap Open held in Den Haag or The Hague.
Once again he faced the opposition of such players
as defending tournament champion, Alexander Baljakin,
Alexei Tsjizjov, Hans Jansen, Kees Thijssen, N’Diaga
Samb, Mustafa Durdyev and Leopold Sekongo, as well
as a roster of other checkerists. Based on the Dutch
national rating system of 2000, Wiersma ranked second
in the Netherlands, just behind Alexander Baljakin.
During the tournament competition, the most eye catching
checker players were Harm Wiersma and Alexei Tsjizjov.
The top contenders maintained a close positioning throughout
the various challenges at the checkerboard, and by
Round 9, the winners had claimed their place. Harm
Wiersma, Kees Thijssen and Alexander Baljakin tied
with a total of 19 points each, but Wiersma won the
championship title with a total of 135.
Shortly after the opening in a game against Fennema,
Alexei Tsjizjov missed an opportunity to make a great
play, but he didn't see the move and then later in
a draw position he made a mistake and lost the game.
This cost him the one point that would have kept him
in the top contention with the other five players who
scored the 19 points.
Alexei Tsjizjov vs Harm Wiersma
Orap Open, Den Haag 2001
Harm Wiersma is Tournament Checkers Champion