Eline Roebers, only 15 years old, became the first-ever female winner of the Untergrombach Open on Saturday. Still untitled, the very talented Dutch player defeated GM Vyacheslav Ikonnikov in the final round to finish in sole first place with 6.5/7.
Roebers had already topped the standings before the final round as she was leading the tournament with 5.5/6. However, the biggest challenge was still to come: a game as Black in the final round against top-seed Ikonnikov, a 55-year-old, highly experienced Russian grandmaster.
In a topsy-turvy game that could have gone either way, Roebers turned out to have the strongest nerves as her opponent missed his best chances in time trouble. On move 47, he had to resign, and the 1,000-euro first prize went to Roebers.
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 just one GM. But still, by winning the tournament alone, Roebers has again demonstrated her big talent.
Only 15 years old, she has had quite a few successes already. In November 2020, a month after the launch of The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix, Roebers won the world championship for girls under 14, held online due to the coronavirus pandemic. It was the first-ever 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 managed to win the key game in the final round there as well, vs. Dutch IM Niels Ondersteijn:
Roebers’ biggest success so far was at the European Women’s Team Championship in Brezice, Slovenia, in November. The Dutch team finished in a very decent eighth place, primarily because Roebers scored 7/9. That was good for a 2504 performance rating and her first IM norm.
The strongest opponent that she beat there was IM Iulija Osmak:
Roebers learned to play chess from her father Jan—himself an FM—when she was six years old. She studies chess every day and is trained by IM @RobertRis.
“She is very strong when she has the initiative,” Ris told Chess.com. “But one of her biggest qualities is that she always wants to play,” he added. “Where other players can sometimes be a bit fed up with 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 graph shows her quick progress in recent years:
In 2019, Roebers was leading the Girls U14 World Championship in Mumbai, India, with two rounds to go, which she both lost. According to her trainer, this only stimulated her to work harder on chess. The next year she won, and further results are now coming in.
Roebers seems well on her way to becoming the strongest female player in the Netherlands. Currently rated 2365, she is already ahead of GM Zhaoqin Peng and IM Anne Haast, and just 18 points below GM Anish Giri’s wife, IM Sopiko Guramishvili, who represents the Netherlands as well.
Roebers still hasn’t applied for the FM title (for which a player is eligible after crossing the 2300 Elo mark), but maybe she can go straight for the IM title and perhaps more than that.
Ris: “Her calculation is already strong, her openings are getting better, and her mentality at the board is excellent. The GM title is not out of the question.”