The Chess Drum's
65th Square

Page 3 … Jamaica at Olympiad 2002 (Ian Wilkinson)

Grandmasters in Abundance

On any given day there were sixty-seven (67) matches in the men's competition, that is five hundred and thirty-six (536) players with approximately one hundred and eighty (180) grandmasters (GMs)!

In the women's competition there were forty-five (45) matches each round with two hundred and seventy (270) players. From my recollection only three "outright" GMs, namely China's Zhu Chen, the world female champion, Georgia's Maia Chiburdanidze, former world female champion and Bulgaria's Antoaneta Stefanova  played in the women's section. "Super GM" Judit Polgar, of course, played on board two for Hungary in the men's competition. Approximately sixty (60) Woman Grandmasters (WGM) competed in each round.

The Playing Hall in 'full swing.' Copyright © Jerry Bibuld, 2002.

The Playing Hall in "full swing."
(Click for larger view)

In summary, between the two competitions there were 403 games played each round. Each board was identified with the number of the match being played thereon and the names, titles and ratings of the competing players. After each game was finished the arbiter would normally indicate the result for all concerned to see by placing the relevant cards (e.g. "0", ½ or 1) in the spaces allotted. At the end of the match the final result (e.g., Jamaica 4 Guernsey 0) would be indicated.

There is Life Apart from Chess: "The Tent"

Chess players showed that there was another side to their character. There was a lot of partying at various venues and a lot of drinking. Beer was one of the chief "victims".

After each round, many players relaxed by visiting the tent which was erected about thirty yards from the Hotel Krim and just a few yards to the east of the playing hall. There were many vendors in the tent selling chess books, equipment and software. The location, however, was particularly attractive because of the seemingly endless supply of food, drinks (alcoholic and otherwise) and music.

The bar annexed to the playing hall was also a common meeting ground where players would relax, chat and have a few beers. Salud Señor Wheeler!

Jomo Pitterson, GM Yasser Seirawan, Shane Matthews in 'The Tent.' Copyright © Ian Wilkinson, 2002.

Jomo Pitterson, GM Yasser Seirawan, Shane Matthews posing under "The Tent."

The "Spinning Pigs"

Rastafarians would have cringed because on a regular basis one would pass the tent in the mornings or during the days and see a whole pig being roasted… spinning inexorably over the fire. We concluded that Slovenes loved meat, especially pork. Sausages were standard fare.

Lake Bled

Lake Bled was the essence of natural charm and is one of Slovenia's greatest attractions. Many players took the time to walk around the Lake (approximately a 90-minute walk) and to enjoy the beautiful flowers, lush vegetation and breath-taking scenery. Trips to the nearby castle were also frequent.

Bled, Slovenia

Negative Moments

For me there were some disappointing moments at the Olympiad and I now list a few:

  • Not being able to participate as a player.
  • Missing the chance to have a good chat with some GMs, especially Alexander Khalifman and Judit Polgar.
  • Jamaica's men's loss to Ethiopia in round eleven.
  • The failure of the Jamaican men to get at least a point from Kyrgyzstan in the final round.
  • The Jamaican women's many misses, especially Maria Palmer overlooking mate in two with a spectacular Queen sacrifice (23.Qxh7!) in her game against Iceland's Lilja Gretarsdottir in round two action, and Hui Zhu missing 25…Ke6! or 25…f5! which would have led to victory against Algerian Woman International Master (WIM) Farida Arouche in round three.
  • Not having enough time to see Slovenia nor one of its residents, the legendary Jamaican track and field athlete Merlene Ottey, who was reputedly in New York, USA during our visit.
  • Watching Zambian IM Amon Simutowe (with shock written all over his face) losing to the Dominican Republic's IM Ramon Mateo in round eleven.

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Photo Credits

Playing Hall (Jerry Bibuld).  Tent Photo (Ian Wilkinson).