Press Release 19 August 2021

Martin Walinga the world champion again!

Mission accomplished, the match continues.

Marten Walinga has beaten Folkert Groenveld in majestic style to win the Frisian Draughts world championships 2021. After a resounding win in the 8th game the score is now 6½-1½. With three games to go it’s now impossible for Groenveld to surpass Walinga. This became quite clear early on during the 8th game, when straight after the opening, Groenveld’s position kept steadily declining.

Before the match started other players and experts believed that both competitors had a good chance to triumph. It turned out differently. Marten Walinga was a cut above his competitor during all games, he has just mastered more aspects of the game. Even when he was trailing, he would still manage to turn the game around. Only a couple of times during the opening stages did Folkert Groenveld manage to have an advantage. He’s obviously better in this part. However, as the hare and the tortoise fable goes, it’s the end game that matters. And Walinga just happens to be more experienced with that part of the game.

Before the match Marten Walinga acknowledged that his opponent knew more about the opening part than him. That is beneficial for Folkert Groenveld. Marten prefers to diverge from the theory as quickly as possible. ‘I like to play intuitively’. Folkert about Marten: ‘We both don’t like to play defensively. You won’t be successful. You have to gamble now and then to win. But I do believe that Marten sometimes takes too many risks.’ Both players were taught by Hiele Walinga, yes, dad of. Frisian draughts is in their blood. Marten Walinga is entrepreneur, Groenveld is a teacher in his daily life.

The match never managed to get that close. After a disastrous start for Folkert Groenveld when he went as much as 4-0 behind, it still felt as if he could claw it back. Especially as Walinga just wasn’t quite at the top of his game during games 5 and 6. He wasn’t playing at the level that we had gotten used to by then. For example, the way he was able to win the first game when he was at a disadvantage after the opening was stunning.

However, during the 6th game he pulled himself together. According to Jelle Wiersma, a Frisian Champion multiple times, Groenveld could win that game with two fingers up his nose. He had one more piece on the board. But it all fell apart around him. Walinga showed again how much of a pragmatic and flexible player he is: a true match player. Or does Groenveld lack a bit of a killer instinct? In a match that won’t do...

The match format is new in Frisian draughts, this was the first time for both men. However, a Frisian draughts match is incomparable with a match in a different mind sport: a draw is highly unlikely. As a result players really need to take more risk. Groenveld’s idea to play a 20 game match therefore sounds appealing, although in this case he might have run the risk of an even heavier defeat. On the other hand though, he might have been able to draw level. In any case, a match requires a completely different preparation than a tournament.

It hasn’t thrown up much new yet. Marten Walinga twice sacrificed a piece resulting in an exciting phase of the game. That already shows a big difference with ‘diagonal’ draughts and the similarity with chess.

Groenveld deserved to be the challenger. When it mattered, other strong players such as Jelle Wiersma and Alexander Georgiev from Russia crumbled. However, they have often been better match players. Georgiev has already shown this a couple of times with ‘diagonal’ draughts.

Groenveld and Walinga are great ambassadors for Frisian draughts. Both have contributed greatly to both areas of theory and organisation. In that respect, they both deserved to be the first ones to have played a match. However, the difference in training years is quite stark. Walinga started when he was four, Folkert was already 30 (!). In all sports that would mean: you didn’t take advantage when you were younger to help you get to the top. That Groenveld has been able to achieve it is therefore really remarkable. That would be the case in any sport. It shows again that as long as you’re willing to put in the hours, you are able to reach the pinnacle in your sport. You obviously need the talent as well! Folkert will be 60 this year and has dedicated around 30 years to the sport. In ‘diagonal’ draughts 54 year old Alexander Shvartsman is the world champion. That makes him the oldest world champion in that sport. Walinga is also 54 and an exception as well.

Young players are knocking on the door in Frisian draughts: Kanstantsin Nord from Minsk and a young talent, 13 year old Zhuoyuan Du from China. And don’t discount Alexander Georgiev and Jelle Wiersma!

Eight games have been played so far, however, there are still three games to be contested in the beautiful, historic Harns (Harlingen) City Hall. Both can play freely now, so hopefully we will be treated to some fascinating demonstration games which can be watched on Twitch, Toernooibase and Lidraughts. The award ceremony is on Sunday afternoon around 2pm, the award will be presented by Ms Ina Sjerps, burgomaster of Harns (Harlingen).

1. 31-26 20-25 2. 37-31 14-20 3. 32-27 17x37 4. 41x32 16-21 5. 26x17 12x41 6. 46x37 11-16 7. 36-31 8-12 8. 31-27 18-22 9. 27x18 19x17 10. 33-28 2-8 11. 28-22 17x28 12. 32x23 13x33 13. 34x32 12-17 14. 39-34 17-21 15. 44-39 7-11 16. 50-44 8-13 17. 32-28 13-18 18. 28x8 9x7 19. 38-32 21-26 20. 34-30 25x34 21. 39x30 20-25 22. 44-39 25x34 23. 39x30 11-17 24. 43-38 26-31 25. 37x26 16x36 26. 47-41 36x47 27. 48x46 7-11 28. 49-43 11-16 29. 42-37 16-21 30. 32-28 1-7 31. 38-32 7-11 32. 30-24 11-16 33. 28-23 17-22 34. 32x12 21-27 35. 37x17 16x20 36. 43-38 20-24 37. 38-32 3-8 38. 12x3 4x2 39. 32-27 6-11 40. 46-41 11-17 41. 27x7 2x11 42. 41-37 15-20 43. 37-32 11-17