Jitse Slump: The more you know, the less you know

Marlous FlierMaandag 25 september 2023 om 16:06

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Jitse Slump: “'The more you know, the less you know' certainly applies in this sport.
Just when Jitse thinks he understands checkers, it turns out he doesn't understand everything.
An interview and a game of checkers at the same time? Fine, because what better way can a grandmaster convey his passion for that mind sport than with his fingers on the checkers? Jitse Slump (24) from Landgraaf has been playing checkers since he was six and is now a member of the international top. From Thursday he will play at the World Cup in Curaçao.
By Marlous Flier
BREDA/LANDGRAAF - Although there is quite a racket outside due to renovations at the neighbors, there is total peace in the student house where Jitse Slump lives in Breda this morning. Actually, that is always the case, says the Landgraven resident; it is not a party palace here. And this means that this accommodation suits him well – at least at the moment. The top drafts player, grandmaster and student of fiscal economics in Tilburg is preparing for the World Cup that starts this week in Curaçao. “No, drinking beers at two in the morning isn't going to help me.”
I'm known for my dirty, vicious tricks. Like giving three checkers and then taking five. People notice that.
Jitse Slump
Here in his attic room, Slump can practice his sport in peace and nobody in the house is surprised. The fact that he misses the social aspect of student life means little to him. Slump is not the type to dance on the bar. “I'm more of a silent enjoyer.” And as perhaps applies to many mind athletes, he likes to be alone.
Then he can make his head work overtime, because when he gets lost in thoughts, playing checkers comes naturally. Then the moves and positions on the board that he saw earlier flash through his mind. Then he ponders. How can you respond to an opponent's move? What is there left to invent and discover? That's what playing draughts is, says Slump, one big voyage of discovery. “On the surface everything seems the same. White against black, how difficult can it be? But when you get deeper into it, a world opens up for you. The adage 'the more you know, the less you know' certainly applies in this sport. Just when you think you understand things, it turns out you don't. And so you can continue to learn and study. Checkers can always surprise you. It is an abstract game, but the fact that I can challenge and beat people within that abstraction makes it fascinating. I wouldn't know how else to describe it.”
Playing a game?
There is a beautiful checkerboard on his table. Wood, with an aluminum edge. The box of stones is next to it. Discs, Slump corrects. “Do you want to play a game?” he asks. He shared some basic knowledge just before that. Concentrate on the center, don't leave too many gaps. A game, come on, when will you get the chance to compete with a grandmaster? “White starts, black wins,” says Slump. And grabs the black stones himself with a wink. Here you don't have to have any illusions about possible profits. “Nice party.” He shakes hands. Soon the stones, the white ones of course, fly off the board. He barely needs five minutes to wipe his opponent off the board. “At the top level it becomes difficult with one disc difference, but with two discs you usually give up immediately.”
On the surface everything seems the same. White against black, how difficult can it be? But when you get deeper into it, a world opens up for you.
Jitse Slump
A top game is almost never ready in five minutes. When the very best compete against each other, a match can easily last five hours. “You have time to think about it every hour and a half. After 45 moves, another half hour can be added and thirty seconds per move. So that is very intensive. Physically it's not too bad, because you can just walk around when it's your opponent's turn. Then you look at other signs. I notice that I sometimes gain better insights from a distance. Sometimes I set the position in my head and come up with new moves in the toilet. When you have so many years of experience and so much work on it, you can visualize every position in your head.”
Slump has experience, because we have to go back to his sixth year of life to end up with anecdotes about his first steps in the drafts world. A colleague of his father's playing checkers arouses the interest of him and his sister. They go to the Eureka club in Heerlen once and it soon turns out that the young boy has talent.
Via De Vaste Zet in Geleen he ended up in Schiedam at the age of fourteen, at the time the leading club in the Netherlands. There he receives lessons from grandmasters and becomes increasingly adept at the sport. In 2022 he will transfer to Witte van Moort, in Westerhaar-Vriezenveensewijk in Overijssel. Every two weeks he chugs there from Breda and is the one who teaches others everything about draughts. “A new role.”
He also trains at Papendal with the best Dutch drafts players, as part of TeamNL.
That is a luxury, because athletes who fall under the TeamNL flag receive financial support and can use all kinds of facilities. The assumption that only the brain needs to be fit in mind sports is incorrect, says Slump. So the drafts players also have a physical program. “Running, going to the gym with weights going. Aimed at improving your fitness. Although there are not many studies that confirm this, we assume that you should benefit from being physically fit. That is why we are also concerned with rest and sleep and reading our body.”
Mentally, long games are intense. “In the past I would rest on the bed afterwards, I would be knocked out, but now things are better. The adrenaline is rushing through my body as the game draws to a close. That eats at you. Especially if it takes several hours. Every decision is crucial, which creates a rollercoaster of emotions.”
Slump will play nineteen matches at the World Cup. One match is scheduled on most days, but on five days he can compete twice.
In the Netherlands, all eyes are on Jan Groenendijk. “He won all the tournaments that matter last summer.” But Slump is seeded fourth. And that certainly does not make him without a chance for the title.
“I hope that I can operate somewhat in Jan's shadow. And then strike when everyone is looking the other way. We all have our own style. I'm known for my dirty, vicious tricks. Like giving three checkers and then taking five. People notice that. They say 'when I play against Jitse I have to make sure I don't fall for that'.”
Jitse Slump. — © Mijntje Wismans.