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My name is Rosa and I am a 25 years old chess player from the Netherlands. I started playing as a kid and always felt very much at home in the chess world. During my puberty, I mainly enjoyed the social environment, but in my late teens, I fell back in love with the game itself. I recently finished my Master’s in Artificial Intelligence and am currently working in the chess world as a trainer and freelancer.
why Chess? what attracted you to the game? when did you start playing chess?
There are a lot of things I like about chess: the great variety of ideas, the fact that you can always learn more, the fairness of the game, the interesting people that you meet.
When my father had taught chess to my 1,5 year older brother and I, my brother was immediately sold. He went to a chess club and seemed to have a lot of fun out there and started bringing home trophies. That caught my interest, so I also joined the club (SV Voorschoten, the Netherlands) and am still a member today.
Thanks to a great environment at my chess club and others within the Dutch chess community, I had a very pleasant chess youth. I could play many tournaments and went on a few very enjoyable youth camps. This made me stick to the chess scene, even though I wasn’t too serious about the game itself these days.
As a young adult, I became much more interested in chess. I then had a period of serious training (mainly with IM Merijn van Delft) and studying and that brought me the improvement to reach a WIM title. In the future, I would be happy to get rid of the ‘W’.
what project do you work on right now
I work as a freelancer for Chessity (a website to teach chess to children) and New In Chess (chess publisher). Besides that, I am creating an educational chess platform for adults. The training programs are inspired by legends, which explains the name: Chess with Legends.
who is the greatest player of all time? who are you’re favorite?
I don’t find it very interesting to discuss who is the greatest – there are many amazing, inspiring players. I personally really enjoy watching games of Morphy, Kasparov, and Alpha Zero!
What are the most common mistakes that stop people from improving and what are your advices?
I think the most common mistake is the lack of efficient training methods. Improving in chess is hard work. Playing lots of blitzes (unless you are Nakamura), watching streams passively, and filling your bookcase with chess books are not gonna make you a much better chess player. I believe you need to work actively and focus to make serious steps. Analyzing your games (preferably with a coach), solving exercises, and actively learning new information are activities I recommend if you really want to become a better player.
what are the books that you recommend for beginners? intermediate? and advanced players?
For beginning and intermediate chess players, I recommend the Dutch Steps Method. The method is very well structured and a great example of actively learning new information. There is almost no text in the books, but through solving dozens of exercises you learn the most relevant chess tactics and strategies.
For advanced players, I recommend Game Changer by Sadler and Regan (very interesting) and Aagaard’s series called Grandmaster Preparation (very hard work).
what openings do you recommend for beginners?
For beginning chess players I recommend playing openings that clearly follow the opening principles (develop your pieces, fight for the center, bring your king to safety). Openings where you would be able to explain the logic behind every move. In that way, you can naturally build up your understanding of the opening phase. There are many openings that do so, so I would recommend choosing something that you really enjoy playing. It’s important to feel excited to be playing your openings.
what are the benefits of playing chess?
It’s a lot of fun of course! Besides that, I think you develop quite a few skills that are useful in other parts of your life, such as analytical and abstract thinking, planning, decision making (under pressure), and thinking from another perspective.
what do you think that computers did to the game of chess?
I feel like the influence of computers is quite double-edged. On the one hand, it is a big enrichment. It allows people all over the world to get immediate feedback on their games or analyze positions with an outstanding chess player. On the other hand, I feel like it is easy to misuse computers. The computer – having all the answers – tends to make us lazy, so we need to be careful to use computers to our benefit.
I don’t believe computers will ruin top chess. I think it is always interesting to watch the (amazing) abilities of those we can identify with (a.k.a. humans).
what are the major challenges you faced during your career?
The main challenge of chess for me is that it takes a lot of mental effort, which makes it difficult to combine with studies or mentally challenging jobs. It’s not like you can relax from a hard work/study week by playing some chess competition or training for chess. In that sense, a physical sport is preferable as it leads to a more balanced life.
Chess concept (Zugzwang)
One of my favorite themes in chess is Zugzwang. This is an interesting scenario where a player would rather ‘pass’ because any move would make their position worse. This theme almost exclusively occurs in the endgame, where there are so few pieces on the board that it can happen that all of your pieces are on their ideal squares already.
To exploit Zugzwang you should really put yourself in the shoes of your opponent. How is their situation? What would they move if it were their turn? If you notice that they are low on available moves, there may be a possibility for you to force your opponent into Zugzwang!
This game is special to me, as it was the first time I played an official game against a grandmaster. I was really happy to get that opportunity and was eager to make him at least think. Of course, he wanted to beat me and he started trying a bit too hard in an equal position.
[Event “Haags Weekendtoernooi 2014”]
[White “Ratsma, Rosa”]
[Black “Haslinger, Stewart”]
- e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3 O-O 9. d3 Na5 10. Bc2 c5 11. Nbd2 Nd7 12. Nf1 Nb6 13. h3 Nc6 14. Ne3 Be6 15. Nf5 Bf6 16. Be3 g6 17. Nh6+ Kh8 18. d4 cxd4 19. cxd4 exd4 20. Nxd4 Ne5 21. Nxe6 fxe6 22. Bd4 Nbc4 23. Rb1 Rc8 24. Bb3 Qe7 25. Ng4 Nxg4 26. hxg4 e5 27. Be3 Nxe3 28.Rxe3 Bg5 29. Rd3 Qa7 30. Qe2 Rf6 31. Rf1 Qb6 32. g3 a5 33. Rf3 Rcf8 34. Rxf6 Rxf6 35. Kg2 a4 36. Bd5 Rf8 37. Qc2 Qb8 38. b3 a3 39. b4 Rc8 40. Qd3 Bc1 41.Be6 Rc6 42. Bd7 Rc4 43. Bxb5 Rd4 44. Qe2 Bb2 45. Bc4 Qxb4 46. Bd5 Rd2 47. Qf3 Kg7 48. Qf7+ Kh6 49. Rh1+ Kg5 50. Qe7+ Kxg4 51. Rh4# 1-0