Amazing Olympiad results!

by admin on November 26, 2008

While I’m working on my series of posts about the Bird Variation of the Ruy Lopez, I shouldn’t ignore the rest of the chess world. So I’ve just spent the last half hour catching up on the Chess Olympiad, which concluded yesterday in Dresden, Germany.

For fans of the U.S., a miracle occurred in the final round. The U.S. team smashed the number-two rated team in the tournament, Ukraine, by a score of 3½-½. The victory enabled them to catch Ukraine in match points (with 8½ out of 11), but more importantly the huge margin of victory also enabled them to squeak past Ukraine on tiebreaks and win the bronze medal.

The American team was outrated on every board, but Gata Kamsky beat Ivanchuk on board 1, Hikaru Nakamura drew with Karjakin on board 2, Alexander Onischuk beat Eljanov on board 3, and Yuri Shulman beat Efimenko (as Black!) on board 4. This was the only match that Ukraine lost in the entire Olympiad. Going into the last round, they had been the last undefeated team (7 wins and 3 ties).

The U.S. women’s team also finished third. They didn’t need as many last-round dramatics, but they did defeat a French team that outrated them on three out of four boards. They tied with Russia for third but, like the men’s team, took the bronze medal on tiebreaks.

It’s worth mentioning that two other teams had spectacular results on the men’s side. Armenia, which was ranked 9th going into the event, finished first and Israel, ranked 8th pre-tournament, finished second. It’s pretty amazing that the teams ranked 8-9-10 actually finished 2-1-3. That has probably never happened before — certainly not during the years of Russian dominance! By the way, the Russians finished out of the medals in both the men’s and women’s tournament. The Russian men were 5th and the Russian women were 4th. I wonder when is the last time that the U.S. men and the U.S. women both finished ahead of the Russian teams? Probably never.

Interestingly, the ChessPro website ( reports that the president of Armenia flew to Dresden before the last round and had dinner with the Armenian team. There’s a great picture here of the Armenian president laughing it up with Levon Aronian, the first board, just before the final match began.

Can you imagine an American president, either our departing one or our newly elected one, flying to another country to cheer on the U.S. chess team? Hmmm, didn’t think so.

Actually, George Bush did go to the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, and I was a little bit surprised to hear that this was the first time an American president had ever attended the Olympic Games in another country. So maybe there’s hope … if the chess Olympics someday merged with the “real” Olympics (a longshot, I know), then maybe the U.S. president might accidentally trip over a chess player.

The other interesting thing in the ChessPro report (which hasn’t been mentioned yet at, so maybe this is a scoop) is that the rules for the next World Championship cycle were announced. There will be an eight-man candidates’ tournament in 2010, which will consist of the following people:

  • Two qualifiers from the 2009 World Cup
  • Two qualifiers from the Grand Prix
  • The losers of the two matches, Topalov vs. Kamsky and Anand vs. Somebody (i.e., the winner of Topalov-Kamsky)
  • The highest-rated player who has not qualified otherwise (hello, Magnus Carlsen?)
  • And one player nominated by the country that hosts the event, subject to the conditions that the player must be rated 2700 or above and that player’s chess federation must pay FIDE 1 million Euros.

I’m not making this up! 1 million euros! Can you say “scam”?

Give me an S!

Give me a C!

Give me an A!

Give me an M!

What does it spell?

Interestingly, the official FIDE press release does not mention anything about the 1 million euro extortion … er … entry fee. So maybe I’m just perpetuating a rumor. But somehow, I doubt it.

Do you think that this scam will actually work? Is there any chess federation in the world that can afford to pony up $1.29 million (converting the euros to dollars) to send its favorite son to the world chess candidates’ tournament? On second thought, maybe the operative word is not “scam” or “bribe” but “delusional thinking.”

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

thadeusfrei November 28, 2008 at 6:08 pm

wow what an amazing upset ,was their a swiss team?


admin November 29, 2008 at 9:53 am

The Switzerland men’s team finished 51st, with 6 wins and 5 losses. I did not see a Swiss women’s team on the results list.

By the way, there is extremely thorough coverage of the Olympiad at Susan Polgar’s chess blog, She was in Dresden; in fact, there is a photograph of her on stage at the closing ceremony. By the way, her blog does not make any mention of the 1 million euro entry fee that the Russian chess correspondent wrote about.

Susan’s blog contains press clippings from several countries about their teams’ results in the Olympiad. Armenia, as I already mentioned, had a personal visit from the Armenian president, and also got to fly back home on the president’s plane. Israel’s second place — their first medal ever — was duly noted in the Israeli press. The U.S.’s bronze-medal finish has (to my knowledge) not been covered in any major newspaper. There were no clippings about the U.S. team in Susan’s blog, and I feel certain that she would have posted them. I did a search on “chess olympiad” at the New York Times website, and did not see anything about the U.S.’s upset … the latest item was Dylan Loeb McClain’s blog post after *round 10*.

We are the invisible people …


thadeusfrei November 29, 2008 at 1:24 pm

thanks for the info, I couldn’t find a list.


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