Draughts champion honoured

Draughts player Roel Boomstra won the world title for draughts in a duel with Jan Groenendijk, who often found himself at risk of running out of time. But on Tuesday afternoon, it was the physics student who was almost late to his own ceremony.
By Koen Marée / Translation by Traci White

‘Where is he?’ asked Wouter Sipma, laughing. Sipma acted as his friend Roel Boomstra’s right hand man during the world title competition, but in the wedding room at city hall, there was no sign of the newly appointed champion.

As the clock struck the hour in the Martini tower, Boomstra made his entrance. Suited up, complete with a red tie, he was congratulated by the assembled crowd. After a chat with RUG president Sibrand Poppema, he took his seat beside mayor Peter den Oudsten, who then stood to deliver some remarks.

‘We are unbelievably proud’, Den Oudsten’s ode began. ‘It was an outstanding and unprecedented performance. Groningen has a rich history when it comes to draughts, including Jannes van der Wall and Harm Wiersma, among others, even though our last world title was quite a while ago (1984, ed.). It’s excellent that the world title has made its way back to the Northern Netherlands, and may we hold that title for years to come.’

Since age 11

Once the Groningen sports medal was presented by Den Oudsten and a pair of Groningen cufflinks were given to Boomstra by king’s commissioner René Paas, it was Poppema’s turn. ‘Roel has known since he was 11 years old that he would become the world champion. And that is how we do it at the RUG: if a student starts something, he sees it through to the end. The RUG is enormously proud – we haven’t generated that many world champions. It’s absolutely fantastic that his right hand man is a RUG student, too.’

Then the draughts pieces appeared and Boomstra spontaneously played a few games against sports alderman Paul de Rook, Paas and Poppema. The world champion is not yet used to his new status. ‘It’s still really special. Yesterday, I attended the December dinner of the RUG and I was surrounded by all of these prizewinners. It’s very nice to be able to have those sorts of experiences.’


‘The fact that I am finally the world champion is extremely satisfying. The sense of joy I’m feeling has gone through three different phases. I needed three wins for the world title, so the first time that I celebrated even a little was after winning the third game. And then last Thursday, I was really already the world champion, but we still had two more games to go after that. That was really strange for both Jan and me, but we made the best of it. The final ceremony was the third phase.’

‘It was two great weeks for draughts in the Netherlands. It was also really nice that the RUG was one of the venues where we played. In February, I’ll be starting the Quantum Universe master’s programme, and then the next world championship is in October. But first, I’m just going to enjoy this moment. I get to go to the NOC-NSF sports gala tomorrow.’

He concludes with a tongue-in-cheek remark: ‘Unfortunately, the world title came just too late to be nominated.’



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