Jan Werle: Chess Professional – an interview

by Arne Kaehler
4/13/2020 – Jan Werle is a passionate professional. In 2011 the European Youth Vice Champion U18 of 2001 finished his law degree but instead of becoming a lawyer he decided to pursue a chess career. Which can be a rewarding but difficult job. Especially now, during the times of corona. In an interview the Dutch Grandmaster reveals how he copes with the current situation and why he likes to be a chess professional. | Photo: Jan Werle at the Gibraltar Masters 2020 | Photo: John Saunders

The Rossolimo and Moscow Variation Bundle The Rossolimo and Moscow Variation Bundle

These DVDs will show you dangerous new sidelines that are ideal for combatting the Sicilian after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6/d6 3.Bb5(+), with your author giving you the positional ideas behind less well-trodden Sicilian paths that avoid the main and winding main


"I think it is a privilege to be a chess professional"

Jan Werle, born January 15, 1984 in Warnsveld, Netherlands, learnt to play chess when he was five years old and quickly became a strong player. In 2000, he won bronze at the European Youth Championship U16, one year later, 2001, he won silver in the U18 competition. In the same year he became an International Master and in 2006 he became Grandmaster.

In 2008 Jan Werle won the European Championship in Liverpool, ahead of players such as Michael Adams, Nigel Short, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave or Etienne Bacrot. That might be his biggest achievement so far but in the course of his career Jan Werle has scored a number of other notable results in international tournaments. Recently, at the Gibraltar Open 2020 he finished with 7.0/10 and a performance of 2743.

Arne Kähler: Dear Jan, you are a chess professional who lives from coaching, writing and playing tournaments. How do you cope with the consequences of the corona pandemic?

Jan Werle: In the beginning of March I slowly realized that I have to take care of what to do next as a chess professional due to the coronavirus. I wanted to attend the Grenke Chess Open 2020 for example, but that option fell away of course. It is a pity, because I prepared and sharpened my opening repertoire a lot for this tournament and I wanted to keep up the very good tournament form I had in Gibraltar. On top of that, some courses, group lessons and trainings I normally give just got cancelled, but at least the online courses are still an option.

AK: When did you decide to become a professional chess player?

JW: After finishing my law studies in 2011, I worked as a lawyer for a couple of years but chess got a hold on me, so that was the moment I decided to go fully for chess.

AK: Did you ever regret this decision?

JW: No, I never did, because I started to realize more and more that it's a privilege to be a chess professional. Firstly, there is my love of the game itself. I never get bored and can work all day long analysing positions.
Secondly, as a trainer and coach, I enjoy helping strong players but also beginners to improve and to play better.
Thirdly, the tension and thrill of playing in tournaments and competitions has never made me miss a "regular" job.
And finally, as a chess player I meet all kind of different and friendly people all around the world. Sure, you don't get a monthly pay check, but so much more in return.

Since I started to work as a chess trainer coach in 2018 I have noticed that a lot of people actually need and want a trainer/coach. And thanks to the internet you can coach people all over the world.

AK: How much do tournaments contribute to an income of a grandmaster?

JW: In the last years I mainly get invitations to tournaments – in my case especially from organizers in the Netherlands and Germany – and these tournaments give me a part of my income. From time to time I also play abroad. Sometimes you get a starting fee but most of the time you need to finish at the top to win money. However, it would be a bit of a gamble to rely on this as an income. It is also important to be present, to show new ideas and to play interesting, or even remarkable, games, to make a name for yourself. Though you shouldn't overestimate that.

AK: The coronavirus brought all tournaments to a halt. How do you spend your time during the lockdown?

JW: Well, luckily I now have all the time in the world to finish my newest book. It is called "Unbeatable" and hopefully will be published in September. I also work on my own chess, I study and want to refine my openings. But like everybody I would be happy if the corona crises is over soon.

AK: What are your thoughts on the Candidates Tournament 2020?

JW: I think it was a risky decision to let the tournament proceed. Of course, for the fans it was great to be able to watch all the interesting games. In The Netherlands people were critical about the whole event, especially when they saw pictures of the opening ceremony where hundreds of people were sitting close to each other. I can also understand the anger and frustration of Teimour Radjabov. After all he decided to withdraw from the tournament because he considered it risky to play in the times of corona and postponing the Candidates justified his decision.

AK: Is there a player you would like to win the Candidates?

JW: Anish Giri, of course, since we are both from the Netherlands, but second on my list is Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. He is a very creative player who loves to attack. If one of them will become Carlsen's next challenger, I would be happy.

AK: What is the first thing you will do when things are back to normal after corona?

JW: I am looking forward to giving lessons in elementary school again, and I am looking forward to playing in some tournaments. I can get back to doing sports more effectively and walk around in the city, visiting restaurants with friends.

AK: You recently published a series of DVDs in which you recommend a repertoire against the Sicilian. These DVDs proved to be successful but are there any new projects you are working on?

JW: I was working on a new "Catalan" DVD which I couldn't finish and couldn't record but hopefully I can finish this work on this project in August.

AK: Thank you for your time and the interview!

A modern approach against the Sicilian Vol.1: The Rossolimo Variation

This DVD will show you dangerous new sidelines that are ideal for combatting the Sicilian after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5, with your author giving you the positional ideas behind less well-trodden Sicilian paths that avoid the main and winding main lines.

A modern approach against the Sicilian Vol.2: The Moscow Variation

This DVD will show you dangerous new sidelines that are ideal for combatting the Sicilian after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+, with your author giving you the positional ideas behind less well-trodden Sicilian paths that avoid the main and winding main lines.

A modern approach against the 2...e6-Sicilian

Don't you have time to follow the latest and aggressive developments inthe main lines of the Sicilian? But do you want to obtain a comfortable position with White? In that case you should aim for the solid but venomous lines of 3.b3 against 2...e6.

For your delight, here are three games Jan played in Gibraltar 2020. He won all three with Black and he was kind enough to annotate them.

If you want to contact Jan Werle write to werlechessschool@hotmail.com.



Arne Kaehler, a creative mind who is passionate about board games in general, was born in Hamburg and learned to play chess at a young age. By teaching chess to youth teams and creating chess-related videos on YouTube, Arne was able to expand this passion and has even created an online course for anyone who wants to learn how to play chess. Arne writes for the English and German news sites, but focuses mainly on content for the ChessBase media channels.


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Scorpion29 Scorpion29 4/15/2020 04:11
Thank you Johannes
Johannes Fischer Johannes Fischer 4/13/2020 05:09
@Scorpion29 The email address of Jan Werle is given at the end of the interview.
Scorpion29 Scorpion29 4/13/2020 03:29
Good Interview, and his DVDs are interesting as well. Looking forward to his Catalan work. Any way to contact him?