Our second blog post of the day is here for your weekend reading, as we proudly present an interview with Woman FIDE Master Maaike Keetman.
Maaike keeps plenty of other plates spinning too. As a player, she represents The Netherlands at the Chess Olympiads and is currently helping the Chessable White Rose team perform so successfully in the Four Nations Chess League.
It is time to find out more about WFM Maaike Keetman, from her chess early moves to the future plans.
Photograph © Maaike Keetman
This picture was taken at the ARISAN WIM Chess Ladies tournament 2019. Maaike won the event and secured her second Woman International Master norm.
How did your chess journey begin? Do any other members of your family play chess?
When I was only five years old, my parents taught my older brother how to play both chess and checkers. They were both strong checkers players and in fact that was how they met. My brother quickly realized he would never be able to beat them at checkers, so he decided to play chess instead! At some point my sister and I joined him and went to the local chess club as well, and ever since then I have been hooked.
Did you have any particular chess heroes or role models to inspire you in the early days?
When I was young, I really loved studying Mikhail Tal’s attacking games. And of course, Judit Polgar was a huge inspiration!
Which chess books did you find most instructive or inspirational during your early years?
In the Netherlands, it is very common to learn chess using the step-by-step method. I worked through all of the exercise books multiple times, some definitely at least 10 times – sort of using spaced repetition myself, before I knew it existed!
Style and Influences
How would you describe your style of play?
It’s hard to describe but I tend to thrive more in positions that require precise calculation. Also, I always come to fight, aiming for positions that are double-edged. No boring draws in my games!
Were any other players influential in the development of your style?
Besides Judit Polgar, modern top-player Maxime Vachier-Lagrave has a style that I really admire and I always feel inspired after watching his games.
What is your most memorable success (so far!)?
Probably my shared second place in the European Championship for Girls Under-16, Porec 2015.
Can you tell us a little about your experience of playing at the Chess Olympiad?
It was amazing! As the Dutch men’s team is quite strong (thanks to Anish Giri), we stayed at the hotel with all of the top countries. It was also interesting to see everyone at the Bermuda party in a much more relaxed mood than usual!
What can you tell us about the ChessQueens Foundation and your role within it?
Five years ago, the ChessQueens were founded to promote chess among women and girls in the Netherlands. These days, the main focus is on inspiring young girls to play chess. For example, we organize the ChessQueens girls tournament every year, and last year had over 60 girls playing with ex-world champion Zhu Chen as special guest!
COVID-19 has made things harder for us, but we are doing our best and have been organizing online Grand Prix tournaments for the girls on Sundays.
Online elite chess events were a major success over the Summer. Do you embrace the new era of digital chess or are you eager for real-life, over-the-board action to return?
I think it’s great that chess is gaining popularity and is doing well online! However, I do miss over-the-board chess as there are many social aspects related to it – traveling and seeing new places, spending time with friends, meeting new people, analyzing with opponents; I really miss those things.
Do you find playing online very different to over-the-board chess? Does it have any impact, one way or another, on your games in the 4NCL, for example?
It is very different, especially for longer games. It is really hard to stay focused for so long. For the 4NCL online, I make all of the moves on a physical chess board to make it feel more real, but it is still hard as it is very easy to get distracted.
Maaike and Chessable
How did you become involved with Chessable?
I had been working for New in Chess for years already when I first encountered Chessable in the summer of 2018, when I started importing NIC books to the platform. I was very impressed by the company and at some point in early 2019, I made the switch to fully work for Chessable and I still really love it here!
Your new Chessable course, The Fierce Nimzo-Indian, has just been released. What can we expect from the course?
It is a dynamic, fighting repertoire based on the Nimzo-Indian. You can expect a lot of lesser-known set-ups that are nonetheless engine-approved and that will give you good chances to play for a win.
How long did it take you to complete?
About five months. The COVID-19 quarantine period was quite helpful to get more done!
As an active and competitive player, are you concerned that you have given away too many of your secrets by creating a Chessable course?
Not at all! In fact, I learned a lot from it, as it forced me to work very systematically and not miss any strong lines from White. I believe in the soundness of the opening and would be happy to play the lines against anyone!
Can you tell us what else you have in the Chessable pipeline?
I will certainly aim to make a second installment, covering 3 Nf3 and other deviations from White. I have also been working on making a course full of exercises from recent games, to help train decision-making.
Balance and Ambition
When chess is your day job, it is often the case that one lacks chess energy to play games. How you manage such a balance?
It’s very simple: I truly love chess! I gain energy from it and can never get enough of it.
How much time do you devote to working on your own game?
These days not as much as I would wish, as I’m quite busy combining my full-time job with my full-time enrollment in university and with writing courses! However, I still try to train daily to stay sharp.
What ambitions do you have, as a player?
I have always wanted to become an International Master. But first up is gaining my final Woman International Master norm and getting the WIM title!
Club players are always interested in ways to improve their game. What advice would you offer to them?
Critically examine your games to take a detailed and unbiased look on your own decision-making and find out what needs attention, and what areas you could improve in. Then, try to find tools or recommendations to improve them! I really believe that you have to train something until it becomes something second nature and is applied subconsciously, so I can definitely recommend to use Chessable to improve! I also found the discussion Anish Giri recently had with a neuroscientist quite insightful in that regard.
How do you cope with the pain of defeat?
Good company and good food (read: chicken nuggets and ice cream…) never fail to make me feel better.
Maaike’s Favourite Games
Do you have a favourite game of your own?
My win against Grandmaster Danny Gormally in the Hastings 2019-2020 was quite memorable.
Danny Gormally – Maaike Keetman
Black to play
This snippet comes after Maaike has defended very well indeed against Grandmaster Gormally’s attack. The black queen looks like she may have problems rejoining the action, but Maaike’s next move reveals the reality of the situation.
52 …Qa4! Pinning the white knight against the queen and attacking the white rook – and offering a queen sacrifice. If 53 Rxa4, then 53 …Nf3+ dislodges the king from the blockading square, guaranteeing the promotion of the e2-pawn. Checkmate will follow swiftly. (0-1, 57)
How about a favourite game from history?
This is an easy question: the game Alexander Morozevich – Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Biel 2009! This game truly has it all, from interesting play in the opening, sacrifices, surprising defenses and then a fascinating endgame. Highly recommended to play through!
Alexander Morozevich – Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
Black to play
It is certainly an entertaining game, with creative play by both players all the way through.
We encourage readers to find and study the game for themselves. Here is the bizarre endgame. White is limbering up for 73 Bg8 but Vachier-Lagrave was on the ball and played 72 …g5! This ensures Black can control the queening square on h8. There followed 73 fxg6 Rd6 74 Be8 Be5 75 Kb7 Rb6+ 76 Kc8 Kd6 and White resigned.
And finally, which aspect of your chess life gives you the most satisfaction?
Probably playing chess myself, as when you are playing a long classical game, it almost feels like the world stops for a few hours. It’s really an incredible feeling. That said, I love everything about chess and am truly passionate about my job and about writing as well!
Thank you very much, WFM Maaike Keetman!
The Fierce Nimzo-Indian
This new Chessable course is already attracting a lot of attention and it has only been out for a few days. The Nimzo-Indian Defense is a very popular opening and a real challenge to 1 d4 2 c4. Don’t be left behind; head here for further details.
The other interviews in our popular series can be found here: