2023 W.O.C. Teams: The Netherlands30 October 2023
Written by Carlo Affatigato
You can imagine the Dutch team going to the 2023 World Othello Championship as a happy expedition of a group of friends, ready to enjoy a trip together and have fun while collecting three or four top positions in the world's top rankings. It's one of Europe's most competitive environments for Othello, but if you talk to them, if you look at them, it seems more like a family: Makoto Suekuni, Nicky Van Den Biggelaar, and Jan C. De Graaf are the adults guiding the team with their experience, Daniel Dufour and Isabel Zillig are the kids bringing enthusiasm and surprise.
Don't expect them to take it too easy, though. That's the kind of trick they usually play on you when you challenge their mood for any Othello competition. You ask Nicky or Makoto if they are preparing the WOC in some particular way, and they will tell you they are not putting too much effort into that. This means they will just sit in front of the board and rely on their experience and all the tricks they learned in years of practice. Nothing to worry about, right?
As a two-time World Champion (he won in 1997 and 2014), Makoto Suekuni played in the 2023 Dutch circuit at exceptional levels. He finished the Dutch Championship undefeated, and among the tournaments that took place this year in the Netherlands' Grand Prix, he lost only two games in total. He represents this year's new development in the Dutch team after he moved to the Netherlands from Japan: one of the reasons behind the team's fresh enthusiasm in 2023. Nicky Van Den Biggelaar is the other top-class player in the group, stably at the top of the national ranking in the last years. He was the winner of the 2023 Dutch Grand Prix, but you better base your expectations on another element: he was the only one able to win against Makoto in an official tournament this year.
Jan C. De Graaf is the one who managed to conquer the third spot available for the World Othello Championship, and if you happen to know the level of the Dutch players competing for it, you understand the relevance of this achievement. The Netherlands has at least six players who belong to Europe's finest class in Othello, but this year, tournament after tournament, Jan showed an extraordinary progression of results that brought him above the others: he arrives in Rome in excellent conditions, with 37 years of practice on his shoulders and all the intentions of representing a danger for the opponents' plans. Daniel Dufour and Isabel Zillig are the young talents that represent the Netherlands' well-known focus on the new generation: for both of them, Othello runs in the family (Remko Zillig and Mark Dufour, that's what we call good parenting), and they are both arriving in Rome with exceptional preparation, trying to reach the top positions of the Youth Championship. Daniel was Europe's Youth Othello Champion in 2022 and 2023, and Isabel was the second-best young talent in the Netherlands this year. The future is bright in that area of the continent.
This year will be particularly challenging, we all know that, but the unique mix of talent and experience that accompanies the 2023 Dutch WOC team gives them confidence: together with Italy and Switzerland, the Netherlands is there to compete for the best Othello team in Europe.