Eline Roebers, only 15 years old, became the very first female winner of the Untergrombach Open on Saturday. Still untitled, the highly talented Dutch player GM defeated Vyacheslav Ikonnikov in the final round to finish first with 6.5/7.
Roebers was already at the top of the standings before the last round, as she led the tournament with 5.5/6. However, the biggest challenge was yet to come: a final round match as Black against top-seed Ikonnikov, a 55-year-old, highly experienced Russian grandmaster.
In a turbulent game that could have gone either way, Roebers appeared to have the strongest nerves because her opponent missed his best opportunities in time trouble. On move 47 he had to resign and the first prize of 1,000 euros went to Roebers.
Untergrombach Open 2022 | Final standings (Top 20)
|6||I AM||Cernov, Vadim||2320||5||1||1||5.5||194.5|
(The full final standings here.)
Admittedly, the Untergrombach Open (January 4-8, Untergrombach, 15 km northeast of Karlsruhe) was a rather small open tournament with among the 134 participants 10 FMs, two IMs and only one GM. Still, by winning the tournament alone, Roebers once again showed her great talent.
She is only 15 years old and has already achieved many successes. In November 2020, one month after the launch of The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix, Roebers won the Girls’ Under-14 World Championship, which was held online due to the coronavirus pandemic. It was the very first Dutch world title in a youth category.
In August 2021, she won the Brugse Meesters, an open tournament in Bruges, Belgium that was somewhat comparable in strength to the Untergrombach Open. Rated only 2173 at the time, she also managed to win the key match in the final round there, vs. the Dutch IM Niels Ondersteijn:
Roebers’ biggest success to date was at the European Championship for Women’s Teams in Brezice, Slovenia, in November. The Dutch team finished in a very good eighth place, especially because Roebers scored 7/9. That was good for a performance rating of 2504 and her first IM standard.
The strongest opponent she defeated there was IM Iulija Osmak:
Roebers learned to play chess from her father Jan – an FM himself – when she was six years old. She studies chess every day and is trained by IM @RobertRis.
“She’s very strong when she has the initiative,” Ris told Chess.com. “But one of her greatest qualities is that she always wants to play,” he added. “Where other players can sometimes get a little tired of playing chess, she is always ready for her next tournament.”
Playing a lot is perhaps the best way to improve as a young player. Roebers’ rating chart shows her rapid progress in recent years:
In 2019, Roebers led the Girls U14 World Championship in Mumbai, India with two rounds remaining, losing both of them. According to her trainer, this only stimulated her to work harder at chess. The following year she won, and now more results are rolling in.
Roebers seems well on his way to become the strongest player in the Netherlands. Currently rated at 2365, she is already ahead of GM Zhaoqin Peng and IM Anne Haast, and just 18 points lower than GM Anish Giri’s wife, IM Sopiko Guramishvili, who also represents the Netherlands.
Roebers still hasn’t applied for the FM title (which a player qualifies for after crossing the 2300 Elo mark), but maybe she can go straight for the IM title and maybe more than that.
Ris: “Her calculation is already strong, her openings are getting better and her management mentality is excellent. The GM title is not out of the question.”