Dresden Olympiad breaking records!

Facts and Figures of the Chess Olympiad in Dresden

2008 Chess Olympiad

The final turnout of the participants of the Chess Olympiad is now set. “Replacement or new nominations are not possible anymore”, says Werner Stubenvoll of the Technical Administration Panel (TAP).

A total of 1270 chess players take part at the Olympiad in Dresden, 722 of them are men who play in 146 teams, 548 of them are women and play in 111 teams. In addition, 257 team captains and 120 arbiters take part. Several hundred organisers, journalists, physicians, chiefs and FIDE-officials accompany the teams. Their exact number will be announced at the end of the tournament. The players of the 38th Chess Olympiad come from 141 countries.

Among the chess players there are 253 grandmasters, 65 women grandmasters, 176 international masters, 90 women international masters, 91 FIDE-Masters and 86 women FIDE-masters.

Chess Olympiad on the internet: Over 60 million file downloads per day

Over 510 linked chess boards live on the internet – for the first time in history, all games of the chess olympiad could be followed from the beginning without any problems. Michael Breidung, head of IT at the Chess Olympiad and of the Eigenbetrieb IT of the city of Dresden says:

“We are very proud of this achievement. The Chess Olympiad in Dresden has the highest number of chess players, the highest number of boards, and still the equipment worked on a high level.”

During the first hour there were over one million views. On the first day 32 million file downloads were counted. 22 million times the chess boards were looked on, and 10 million times the homepage was retrieved. On the second and also on the third day there were over 60 million file downloads. The peak was between 7 and 8 pm.

A cable of 10 gigabit per second supplies the games on the internet. In addition, five so called blade-centers with several servers and 200 additional computers are necessary. Up to 50 technicians of the Technical University of Dresden, of the Eigenbetrieb IT of the city of Dresden, of PC-Ware, IBM, EMC, Comvenient, Sun, Sysback, of the FIDE and the Deutsche Forschungsnetz worked together on this project.

Press Centre of Chess Olympiad 2008
in International Congress Center
Dresden, Ostra-Ufer
Telephone: (049) 03 51 – 2 16 17 06
Fax: (049) 03 51 – 216 17 07
Email: presse@dresden2008.org


  1. We nearly broke another record when a Mozambican player was allegedly hit by a tram ,Daaim can you report on his condition?

  2. Next time the organizers should get rid of teams like ICSC and IBCA .Being blind or dumb does not limit one’s playing abilities .They should have a kind of paralmpic event for those guys,those “teams”have no place in a Chess Olympiad ,its a backdoor approach to playing in an Olympiad ,they should play for their respective countries.

  3. Blind players should be allowed to have teams at the chess olympiad. I think that is a significant disability and therefore an exception should be made.
    When Paul Morphy was successful at blindfold chess it was a significant achievement.

  4. This probably happens in no other game ,if a blind player can reach 2300 playing strength what then stops them playing for their respective countries???

  5. Darren,

    The same argument is made about women, but the Olympiad is quite a different touranment. It is really not about results more than it is about a celebration of chess diversity around the world. It makes quite a statement to the general population and sponsors. This is the only tournament where you have top-10 players mingling freely and socializing with players who just learned a few years ago. It is quite a different tournament and you have to be here to appreciate the atmosphere. Small federations are still marginalized here and that is a constant struggle. Even in Turin, physically-challenged players did not have adequate services to carry them to the venue. The blind and physically-challenged teams come from different countries. Obviously few would make their national teams.

  6. Dresden Olympiad Breaking Records!?

    The pairing system: Most players including the strongest of the strong could not understand the pairing system, let alone predicting next round’s pairing. I understand that in some rounds the pairings were done manually 🙁

    Board Prizes: By the look of things players who are 2500 ELO points and below should forget about ever getting a board prize in the Olympiad because of the performance rating (TPr). My believe is that a game between two 1800s is as tough as a game between two 2800s, which means the fairest way to determine a board prize should be according to the number of points a player has scored. A player has control over the final score but not the performance rating.

    The pairing system that was used in Dresden does not allow weak teams to play against strong teams which means players with huge rating points will always have a higher performance rating points (TPr) and stand closer to winning a board prize.

    Well I understand it from the pro’s side that they are bound to loose more rating points if each time they play against patzers. Example: if a 2700 plays a 2000 in Rd1 a then a 2600 in Rd2 his average stands at 2300 which means the 2700 is already on the slippery side of ELO curve (already losing ELO points).

    Indeed the Dresden Olympiad was Breaking Records!!

  7. Zawade , Its good to award medals on TPR ,justified ,we cannot reward people for being weak .

    On ratings doesnt FIDE rate each game now??Someone informed me FIDE now rates on a game by game basis.

  8. Darren,

    It’s game by game. However, saying players should not be rewarded for being weak is like saying only elite players be rewarded in all sports. That is certainly not what the Olympiad is about. Most players in this world are not elite players. One problem with chess is the tendancy for the media to focus only on the top 20 players in the world. What about those who are rising? People don’t merely drop themselves in the elite level… they make progress. People play to their level in the present and they should be rewarded for their progress.

  9. I beg to differ with you Zawade.

    ‘The pairing system that was used in Dresden does not allow weak teams to play against strong teams’.
    The pairing system at Dresden and previous Olympiads allow ANY team to play against the strongest teams IF they keep winning or scoring highly in their matches. The pattern with weak teams in Olympiads is that once they meet a strong team, they get walloped 4-0 and they go down to meet a weaker team on a similar score until they get back up again to meet another strong team and get beaten 4-0 again etc. etc. They have therefore not EARNED the right to regularly play the strong teams. This is a competition, not a tea party.

    As for your comment on individual medals, I again disagree with you and I am in total agreement with FIDE on this new method of using performance rating points instead of percentages for individual board medals. A game between two 1800s may be tough for the 1800s but is not of the same quality as a game between two 2800s. The 2050 rated player who scores 8.5 out of 9 by playing 1900 rated players should not be rewarded above the 2650 rated player who scores 8 out of 9 against 2600 rated opposition. The OLYMPIAD should reward the best; this is the spirit of the Olympiads whether in chess or any other endeavor. Let me illustrate by a scenario from the recent Beijing Olympics. Usain Bolt comes first in the 100m final while setting a world record of 9.69 seconds. Another athlete (let us call him Vijay) comes 7th in the same final with a time of say 10.08 seconds but this time is the best ever run by far by an athlete from his part of the world. By some magic gymnastics of relativity, Vijay’s effort is regarded as a better performance than Usain Bolt’s world record performance and Vijay gets the gold while Usain gets the silver. How would you feel? I am sure you would be outraged! And you would be right since indeed that would be an outrage and a complete bastardisation of the Olympiad spirit. Only the very best are worthy of the highest honors in the Olympiad!
    On a related note, it will also remove the incentive for some malpractices in the past especially by weaker teams. Some of these teams have been known to play their strongest players on low boards not as a strategy for the team but as a trick to enhance the chances of an individual medal. This sacrifices the team spirit for the individual and is unethical. Even worse, teams have been known to throw matches in order to enhance the chances of such ‘chosen ones’ to score a high percentage by playing very weak players from weaker teams they would not normally be paired against. Again, this is unethical and against the spirit of the games. With this new system, that incentive is removed and only the best get justly rewarded. This is the way Olympiads should be; in any game. If you want medals, improve your performance. if you don’t get a medal enjoy being part of the event. Medals are not everything but they should be what they are: medals. For the best performers!

  10. Daaim if players are competing in an equal field it does not make sense to me to reward the weak.However tournaments specifically for the weak should be organized and there are some like Africa team Championships , All Africa games etc .

  11. Sergio,

    I agree with much of your post, but I will say again that players will play to their level of competition and if they are 9/10 or 11/11, there should be some type of recognition for such a performance. I’m not sure how your track analogy applies since track times are concrete. A 9.69 is a 9.69 and a 10.08 is a 10.08 and they are running against the same exact field. Players don’t necessarily play the same field in a chess tournament… I thought that was your point.

    If the Indian Track Federation wants to give “Vijay” a citation for the best national time, then that’s appropriate and it does happen. We know that a 9/10 is better numerically than a 6.5/8. However, the question of performance versus percentage is interesting. I would agree that they should find a formula to combine the two, or else a player could get “best performance” for scoring 50-60% against strong players. What about the guy from Maldives or Tonga with 11/11?

    In fact, there is nothing interesting about a GMs sterling performance at the Olympiad. It is expected since they are professionals… they’ve had this honor many times. As I watched Topalov, Leko and Gelfand receive their awards, they appeared to be very unenthused about it. I’m sure they were happy, but it was not an exciting moment. (see below) It’s another day’s work for them. They’ll probably put the award in a box somewhere. You think Moses Kawuma of Uganda (9/10) would do that? In fact, he excitedly sent me an e-mail telling me the news about his highest percentage of the tournament.

    Veselin Topalov (6.5/8 - 2821 TPR), Peter Leko (7.5/10 - 2834), Boris Gelfand (7.5/10 - 2833)

    Veselin Topalov (6.5/8 – 2821 TPR), Peter Leko (7.5/10 – 2834),
    Boris Gelfand (7.5/10 – 2833)
    Photo by ChessBase.

    You may remember in 2004, a 14-year old Anya Corke of Hong Kong scoring 9/13. The diminutive girl was an overnight sensation and received hoots and hollars at the ceremony… as did the 11-year old young girl from Peru (youngest participant). Corke made for a big story and gave Hong Kong quite a bit of pride. Olympiad is a different tournament and more of a celebration of the game’s diverse participants. That is what the Olympiad and “Gens Uma Suna” is supposed to be about.

  12. Darren,

    You play the field you’re paired with. Yes… the players are weaker, but they have exceled given their pairings. The African nations do have weaker players for a number of well-known reasons. To take jabs at a continent to being weaker in chess is very mean-spirited and callous.

    Certainly, the African continent is weaker, but I doubt if you would win any of those tournaments you’ve mentioned. If you think Africa is so weak, I’ll set up a quick match between you and Simutowe, Gwaze, Adly, Amin or Adu. They’ll be glad to show you how weak Africa is. Let me know… I know how to contact all of them.

  13. Daaim,The last Olympiad clearly achieved NOTHING for African players.It was the same OLD players and expected results.Africa is certainly lacking in talent development.They need more under 21 players coming up,The Germany Federation must have discovered that and clearly could not bother with Visas for some of the nations.Some of those players you are trying to match me up with have been “IM”s for over 7 years without any real progress.Such a match would hardly appeal to me .I respect Egyptian players because Egypt plays OK but most of the money used for tickets etc to the Olympiad could have been used in developing juniors than taking Old Horses who have long reached their peak.

  14. You’re right on all accounts, but there are no economics in Africa for chess. Folks are simply trying to survive and chess is not a top priority. That is the main reason for the talent gap. There are tons of under-21 players in Africa, but no structure to develop the talent. Few tournaments. Little funds. Few opportunities for improvement. You know this.

    The mayor of Germany made lots of promises in Calvia, Spain in 2004. Promises not kept. They said the visa issue would be worked out and federations will be accommodated where necessary. Promises not kept. FIDE made promises for chess development to Africa in 2006 election. Promises not kept. The chess world mirrors the real world where Africans at the bottom of the food chain. It is apparent when you attend an event like the Olympiad. I’m going to write a story about this. It’s an indictment to the FIDE motto.

    Why would the fact that an IM has held the title for 7+ years matter if you claim to be stronger? You called African players weak so it should be a great challenge to back up those words. So can I set up a round robin tournament or a one-on-one match with Simutowe and/or Solomon? What’s your ICC handle?

  15. Daiim,
    It is good to encourage people I agree. but at what cost? FIDE gave certain prizes including even money from what I hear to teams who scored highest in their groups. All teams were divided into groups according to rating strength and whichever team scored highest in their group was recognized and rewarded. What else can FIDE do? If you try to be all things to all people, you will end up being nothing to anyone. As for the Ugandan guy, well good for him! He will probably tell this to his grandchildren one day. That should be reward enough. People need to learn to be satisfied with little things.
    On your comment about Peter Leko and co. not seeming interested, well that is your opinion. Using my reference to Usain Bolt, he was awarded male athlete of the year recently, This is addition to two world records in August, several endorsement deals etc. I might opine that he looked bored during the award ceremony but he certainly took the cash and the trophy.
    Finally there are no absolutes such as time (running) and space (jumping and throwing) in chess like in athletics. However, we have a credible substitute in the Elo rating system and yes, players may not play the same field but we can use the rating to compare performances. My main point is that the Olympiad should retain it’s status as a forum to celebrate the very best though everyone may take part. Mr. Kawuma can always be feted by the Ugandan chess Federation or an African Chess organization.

    As for Darren whom I believe to be Jamaican, again I agree he needs to be corrected. I would however have framed my reply to his comment somewhat like this:
    “14. Darren Porter
    Daaim if players are competing in an equal field it does not make sense to me to reward the weak.However tournaments specifically for the weak should be organized and there are some like (Jamaican or Afro Carribean) team Championships , (All Afro Carribean) games etc . ”
    If I am correct, Darren, the likes of Shane Matthews have been top in Jamaican chess for over a decade now. He is a strong player within the environment of Jamaica with all the limitations (small population, relatively small economy etc.) in which he plays his game. I would consider these factors before classifying his play as weak compared to say GM Leko. I agree with you though that African nations should consider putting the money spent on sending players to the Olympiad every two years into developing youth chess (or other forms of sustainable programs). Simply going on a jamboree with the same old tired players seems rather wasteful considering the meagre resources available.

  16. Sergio,my mentioning of weaker tournaments did not mean to insult any continents but was jus indicative of other opportunities where teams and weaker players have a chance .In fact I put an etc afterwards meaning i had not exhausted them all.Bulgaria has 7 million,Hungary 10 million,Slovenia 2 million,Slovakia 5 million.African nations like Ghana,Nigeria,Zambia,South Africa,and Ethiopia seem to have more pple than each of those countries so your argument on smaller populations cannot be used consistently.

  17. Sergio,

    Usian Bolt was estatic in his celebration. That much was seen and was even criticized. He hasn’t been on the top of the track world for long and his time will be short. That is the way sprint is. However Leko… how long has he been around… Gelfand… Topalov? You think this award will make much difference in his career? For Kawuma, it could have gotten him all types of status and who knows… lifelong benefits. It would go a lot further in marketing chess. I don’t think the track analogy is a good, but I see your point. I feel there should be a combination and that people who get impressive scores should be recognized as they were before this Olympiad.

    I feel there is too much emphasis on the professionals in the Olympiad, a tournament of nations. They changed this year from win percentage to performance rating. I’m certainly glad Robert Gwaze got his medal after the 9/9 performance. These fools would have snuffed out such a brilliant performance. Everyone remembers Gwaze’s medal, but who will remember Kawuma’s 9/10? A Gabonese player said something interesting. After his teammate was controversially forfeited after an 8.5/10 start. He said disappointedly, “This could have been a time when people know there is a country named Gabon.” More is being done to cater to professionals like the forfeiture rule. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov even said it was catering to professional sponsorship and Olympic Committee. They should have tested this on another tournament first.


    The amount of people is no indication of whether resources are put into chess. Some countries have a chess tradition and/or access to tournaments and resources, some don’t. Comparing Bulgaria, Slovenia with Zambia, Nigeria and others in Africa is apple to oranges. Using your analogy, USA should be the best in football since they have more people than Europe combined. Of course not… Europe has a football culture and puts money there. The USA does not and are a second-tier football nation.

  18. Daaim if you are following this thread closely,you will note that I was dismissing Sergio ,of coz i’m aware of all the points you raised above and thats the SAME point I was puttin across.

  19. Sergio and Darren,
    Here is a situation: A player rated 2700 gets a TPr of about 2675 which is 25 points below his par. On the other hand we have a 2400 who gets a TPr of 2550 which is 150 above his expected performance. Even though a 2700 had a bad tournament he still gets the medal. How fair is that?

  20. zawade,

    It’s not fair. However, my argument is that awarding on TPR is not the most relevant since most measurements of skills are NOT determined by TPR, but the number of points a player earns given his competition. For example, you don’t get norms based on TPR, but number of points scored. TPR does not really tell you how well you have performed. I can play in a very tough round robin (2700 ELO) and get 3/9, but my TPR will probably be higher than someone who scores 7/9 in a weaker section (2200 ELO). Doesn’t make sense.

  21. Zawade, Daaim
    Let me use my Usain Bolt / Vijay analogy again (by the way Daaim, there are several other possible analogies, but this already has a history on this thread). After the previous debacle, the two “rivals” clash again. Usain Bolt has a 9.69 seconds 100m time as his “par”.Vijay has a much more mediocre “par” of 10.08 seconds. In this new race, Usain comes first in 9.71 while Vijay comes sixth with 10.02 . Usain (who has run a great time but not up to his par by 0.02 seconds) only gets a silver while Vijay who has done better than his par by a full (gasp) 0.06 seconds! is awarded the gold. So, one guy is punished for having set a high standard while mediocrity gets rewarded. I have only one word for that. Sad.

    Let me conclude this with an excerpt from a poem said to be written by Abraham Lincoln to his son’s teacher:
    “Teach him that a dollar EARNED is better than five found”
    When Maurice Ashley was close to getting his third and final GM norm there was a tournament where he thought he had his final norm but there was some controversy. He refused to submit that result for his title preferring instead to EARN his final norm later but without any controversy or doubts. That is the spirit of true acheivement. People who do not have the dignity to earn things and are always looking for loopholes will never truly deserve respect. Many “IM’s” from third world Countries never truly EARNED their titles. They mostly got it by some loophole in scoring a percentage (that word again !) in a regional zonal tournament. That is why some of them have FIDE ratings that are a disgrace to the title. Or how about the Botswana female team with a WGM that recently scored 0! in a World female team championship. That’s right ; they did not even earn one draw. Even the ‘WGM’ did not earn a single draw against WIM’s and even untitled players! Please!

  22. Sergio I fully agree.I have long stated Winner of African Juniors should not be awarded IM until they reach 2400 .FM is suitable.How can one win a tournament with less than 3 people over 2200 and still be awarded IM title?? :mrgreen:

  23. Sergio,

    On your second paragraph, I agree with the notion that titles should be earned with three norms and a rating requirement. I’ve always argued that. You should remember that this awarding of titles applies to all regions, not just Africa. However that’s not the issue here and winning an award based on win percentage was not a loophole. It is exactly the way it had been done until THIS Olympiad when high TPRs will naturally favor ONLY the strong teams. Check olimpbase.org for the history.

    On your track analogy… it’s still doesn’t relate to what we are talking about. I could see if Peter Leko and Moses Kawuma played the same exact players and Kawuma got the gold for having a lower performance or number of points. That is not what’s happening as it was in your case with Vijay and Usain running in the same race against the same field. All other tournament honors are determined by number of points, not performance ratings. Sergio, have you ever seen a tournament crosstable based on TPR?

    Performance rating is a relatively new idea in chess and it is often misunderstood. I have used Peter Svidler (2727) as an example. He scored 50%, had a poor showing, but had a 2651 TPR. His teammates all had high TPRs as well, but only Dmitri Jakovenko (2737 w/2794 TPR) played well given the opposition. Let’s say a player from a country scored 11/11 and a 2700 TPR on board #1. With the current formula, he still would not be recognized in Dresden. That’s against everything an Olympiad stands for. Someone like Robert Gwaze who got 9/9 and a 2600+ TPR in 2002 would never been known.

  24. Daaim i quote “”On your track analogy… it’s still doesn’t relate to what we are talking about. I could see if Peter Leko and Moses Kawuma played the same exact players and Kawuma got the gold for having a lower performance or number of points. That is not what’s happening as it was in your case with Vijay and Usain running in the same race against the same field. “”

    Sergio’s example is relevant the common denominator of field is “”rated opponents”” thats the “same field” in that Athletics race.

  25. Daaim,
    This is an interesting thread and I think the fundamental issues transcend medals, titles and even chess. However, before I go into further clarifications, let me address some side issues first.

    You mention the ecstatic celebration of Usain Bolt but do so out of context. I was NOT talking about his celebration during the Olympics (which was ecstatic, yes) but his demeanor during the more recent 2008 athlete of the year award – the Pole Vaulter Isinbayeva won the female version-. I saw a picture of the two of them side by side with their trophies. Bolt did not look particularly excited to me.

    As for the relevance of my track analogy, I still maintain it is very relevant. I brought it up again specifically to answer Zawade with his hypothetical situation (comment 23) which I consider totally absurd. The bottom line as others have pointed out is that the rating of the opposition can be used to compare performances in chess. It would be a logistical impossibility to expect everyone to ‘play the exact same field’ in every chess tournament not to mention the Olympiad with over 120 teams, each composed of 5 players!

    As for the debacle of unearned ‘one performance’ titles, you mention that you have ‘always argued’ that ‘titles should be earned with three norms and a rating requirement’ and that ‘this award of titles applies to all regions not just Africa’. First of all, I did not single out Africa in my comment. I said ‘many “IM’s” (and let me add “FM’s” to that while I’m at it) from THIRD WORLD Countries never truly EARNED their titles’.There are third world Countries outside of Africa and so this comment does not refer only to African IM’s and FM’s. I fully agree that since the title is the same, the criteria for award should be universal; three norms and a rating requirement. You say you have always argued for this; I am sorry I have not seen the evidence of these your arguments. Even if you have, you certainly have not done so with the passion and relentlesssness with which you now seem to be arguing for unearned medals for the undeserving.
    This is where I have a problem.
    For consistency, there should also for example be a passionate appeal for a retraction of unearned titles since it hurts those who had to go through the eye of the needle to get theirs. Some time ago, Anatoly Karpov was reported to have sent a congratulatory message to his former trainer, Podgaets who had just earned his second GM norm a full twenty years after earning the first!.Let us imagine that Misha Podgaets finally earns his GM title thirty years after his first GM norm. How would he feel if he hears that THE SAME TITLE has been awarded to some guy for A ONE TIME EFFORT of winning some obscure zonal tournament? He would feel completely betrayed! Injustice is injustice and we should be consistent in rejecting it no matter whose ox is gored. Any other position is discriminatory and smacks of double standards.
    You said in congratulating Kimani Stancil on earning his PhD from MIT some years back that you know from personal experience that it is not easy to earn a PhD in anything! As a Professor, I am sure you supervise graduate students and I am sure you would hold them to high standards commensurate with what you had to fulfil to get your own PhD. How would you feel if the PhD is now being awarded automatically in your alma mater to everyone who can, for example ‘cross the ocean to get to an American University’ since the poor dears had to go through so many hardships including tough questions and conditions from visa officers at embassies (sob), and brave ocean waves or long flights to get here,(sob sob). Well boo hoo, if they want the PhD degree they just have to earn it like everybody else or they are not worthy of it. It is that simple. The same thing goes for medals. They are a reward for excellence and not for participation. By it’s very definition, excellence is discriminatory and sometimes even ruthless. It is not and is not meant for everybody. Wishy washy, half-baked, cock-a- doodle-doo, ‘high percentage’ scores against weak opposition are not and have never been worthy of gold, silver or bronze medals in an Olympiad. If such have been awarded medals before, then that is an error that should be corrected.

    Which brings me to the underlying point of my whole argument. It seems the whole world has gradually imbibed a tendency to reward mediocrity for it’s own sake.This insane tendency has in fact become an outright cult and is doing untold damage to the very fabric of humanity; at all levels and in all spheres. It is this insane cult that perpetuates mediocrity, sloppiness, poverty, slothfulness, corruption, criminal negligence and crass greed in most third world Countries. In fact it is what keeps most of these Countries underdeveloped. It needs to be addressed as the serious problem that it is.

    Let me illustrate with a few (there are too many) examples.

    A few weeks back, the regime of 84 year old Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe declared a National Health Emergency precipitated by an outbreak of cholera. It would be the height of dishonesty to say that they (or anyone else for that matter) did not see it coming. The health and in fact almost all infrastructure in Zimbabwe limp on by a miracle and on the back of the intense suffering of the people. A Country which used to be a regional bread basket has now become a basket case, with inflation in millions of percent, where a billion ‘dollars’ will not buy a loaf of bread. That is if you can find the bread. The cause of all this is the greed and corruption of Robert Mugabe and his cronies who have compounded previous blatant evil acts with the recent brazen stealing of an election. When the inevitable happened with an outbreak of cholera, the European Union IMMEDIATELY pledged NINE MILLION EUROS! in aid to the same regime that caused the problem in the first place! It only takes common sense at the level of a five year old who practices it to know that the bulk of that money will go to Mugabe and his thugs…and the cycle continues. Why will Mugabe and others like him not steal another election in the future? He must go to bed each night shaking with uncontrollable laughter. Indeed incompetence pays!. The formula now runs like this: be incompetent!, do not plan!, create a completely avoidable crisis by your own mediocrity,greed, corruption and negligence; whine ‘I am a victim’ then sit back, relax and await the spoils. ‘Experts’ and ‘activists’ will arise and start a crusade on your behalf. They will blame institutions and organizations; they will blame anyone and everyone but you. I guess ‘experts’ like rebels need a cause to exist. Instead of a good kick in the backside, you will get cuddled because in this new cult, you have attained the iconic status of VICTIMHOOD!. Of course this status must be maintained at all costs since it is so profitable, and so the cycle continues. For crimes against humanity including the genocide of thousands of Matabeles in the infamous gukurahundi in the 1980’s, Robert Mugabe deserves a short trial and serious personal censure. Instead he gets millions of Euro in aid. Insanity!.

    Back to chess. Let us look at some examples from the last Olympiad and take randomly, three Chess Federations from Africa: Ghana, Egypt and Uganda. Ghana, attending their first Olympiad, sorted out their visas and travel matters without any fuss. The German embassy in Ghana issued them visas after they must have met certain laid down criteria. They must have done their planning and arrangements competently and in time. Neither the Ghana Chess Federation nor the German embassy in Ghana have received any mention from you or anyone else for a smooth job well done. The Egyptians are regular attendees at the Olympiad. They also got to Germany with no fuss. For this well oiled synergy between the Chess Federation of Egypt and the German Embassy in Egypt, there is a deafening silence.
    And now we come to Uganda. Like all others, the Ugandan Chess Federation had two years notice of the venue of the Olympiad. Unlike Ghana and Egypt , they left things till the last minute. Inevitably, there was a visa crisis. They arrived in Germany with a two man team and even though they should have been expelled (can you imagine FIFA allowing a team to play with six men in the World cup?), they were magnanimously allowed to play in spite of the fact that this compromises the integrity of the whole event. Having to play a team with only two players is very very unfair to others who have come all the way with their four players and expect their players to PLAY and not walkover absentees. If anything, an apology is owed to these other teams who had two players denied their day at the board. As a result of having to play weak opposition (you cannot score highly with half a team), one of the Ugandan players has a ‘high percentage’ score. He is not given a medal becuse he does not deserve one.
    We now have all the basic components of contrived victimhood.

    In reward for failing to prepare in advance, the Ugandans have become ‘victims’ for whom a crusade must be fought. Moses Kawuma has now become the icon who was ‘cheated’ of a medal. Next thing you know, a signed petition is being sent to FIDE and to various media (a commentator on this forum has even suggested sending a petition on these matters to Barack Obama!) to ‘give Kawuma his medal’. Next thing you know,there is a call for an apology from the German embassy in Uganda (for doing their job for God’s sake!) etc. etc. There is of course no such publicity nor 15 minutes of fame for the Chess Federations of Ghana and Egypt (and very many others) who got things done properly and on time.They are in no position to clamour for an imaginary medal since they played against the proper (and toughest) opposition in the true spirit of the Olympiad. For them,anonymity and obscurity is the reward for good preparation and foresight. Indeed mediocrity pays! Just mess it all up; do not plan; create an unecessary crisis.You will surely be rewarded.

    Unfortunately, the words of Jesus Christ have been turned upside down. In this new order, it is “seek ye first the Kingdom of victimhood and all other things shall be added unto you”.

  26. Sergio,

    OK… let’s set some groundwork. First, my view on titles and norms is well-known and I have written essays about it and have had many discussions with a number of people including Allan Herbert. My position is also expressed in the essay referenced below:


    I cannot fault you for not having read every single essay I’ve written or every page of this website, but you make a lot of unqualified comments without even checking your sources. It’s really quite remarkable that you spout off without the least amount of accuracy in your statements about the Olympiad or its format. Then you go into a long soliloquy about Mugabe. This is a CHESS blog.

    Secondly, the only way to earn a GM title from one tournament is the World Championship or World Junior. You cannot earn a GM outright from a zonal. Your example about a someone getting norms years apart is strange. If that person got norms 20-30 years apart, whose fault is that? They have NOBODY to blame. Again… I’m not a fan of getting titles in one tournament, but as long as that rule is in place, I will recognize the players who earn their titles in this fashion and will assign them their titles in my articles. They did nothing wrong.

    Thirdly… your point about earning the Ph.D. without doing the requisite work, this is not the case in the chess discussion. This is a case where a player IS doing the requisite work of playing who he’s paired with and winning. Your argument about fake degrees is totally different.

    Fourth, you are wrong about Ghana on two counts. This is not their first Olympiad and they also suffered visa problems. I wrote a report here about it and in it I reference a quote:

    When Hasford was refused a visa, he worked tirelessly, chasing the German officials in between games for them to influence the embassy to change their minds, and mid-way thru the tournament he was granted the visa. He got us our jerseys, won some important games for us, provided transport, accomodation, and all other kinds of help. Even his friends and wife helped us with warm clothing etc.


    Edward Lamptey-Thompson and John Hasford

    John Hasford (right) was not issued a visa until mid-tournament.
    He is pictured here with teammate Edward Lamptey-Thompson.

    Question… how do you know Egypt’s situation? Do you know that things went smoothly or are you making that assumption? (Note: Just checked with the Head of the Egyptian delegation and was informed that they were initially denied two visas. Reasons? Both players had just graduated, had no work and had never travelled to Europe before. After immense pressure from the media and a barrage of phone calls, they got the visas. Is this an example of your well-oiled synergy??)

    About Uganda… I’ll provide a link on another thread to give you a perspective. Uganda was a difficult case because some of the problems were on both sides. The country has participated in several Olympiad tournaments. This year they struggled to raise funds which I wrote about. They also had problems getting visas and issued a plea. Other details are in my response.


    Cecil Lee posing with the Trinidadian flag at the 1976 Olympiad in Libya.

    Your statements show a deeper lack of understanding about the state of chess in developing countries. Certainly you can have two years to plan, but many things happen in two years time such as political changes, international financial crises and other economic challenges. Countries make attempts to participate in the Olympiad and a chance to represent their country’s flag. To be a part of some a wonderful event as the Olympiad is the crowning moment for many young chess nations. To make it exceedingly difficult to attend (in expensive countries, restrictive visa requirements, excessive documentation, adverse conditions) is not helping the growth of chess. Why are World Cup and Olympic participants accepted so universally in embassies and Olympiad participants are polled and screened?

    How sad was it to hear a Barthelemy Bongo Akanga Ndjila from Gabon speak of his disappointment of the controversial forfeiture of their board #1 player. Jean-Pierre Moulain, who was on 8.5/10, was at the board and had greeted his opponent. He went for a bathroom break shortly before the round began. Minutes later when he returned, he found he had forfeited. His opponent Michael Smith insisted on the forfeit despite the earlier greeting. In my interview with Barthelemy, he said somberly, “This was a chance for people to know that there is a country named Gabon.”

    On your issue about awarding the players who play the toughest competition… we already know who the TOUGHEST players and teams are. Nothing new. What’s important to know is how much the sport of chess has grown and how far it reaches. Many did not know of Alejandro Ramirez of Costa Rica until he nearly beat Alexander Morozevich in 2002 Olympiad. He went on to become one of the world’s youngest GMs in history and Costa Rica’s first. I would imagine that his Olympiad experience gave him a lot of confidence.

    IM Robert Gwaze

    Many other players who won medal at the Olympiads such as Odion Aikhoje (1998 gold) and Amon Simutowe (2002 silver) were recognized for their feats. Simutowe is now a GM-elect. Ten years from now you may not be able to tell me who won the gold medal on board #1 in the 2008 Olympiad. However, most who follow Olympiads remember Robert Gwaze’s golden 9/9 in 2002. Why? It was an anomoly… a fresh face… an improbable success. That’s what makes chess exciting.

    There are many humanistic stories in the Olympiad tournaments that we don’t hear in the regular course of the year because the focus is squarely on Europe. To see an obscure player from Fiji, Maldives, Uganda or even Brazil scoring 11/11 is much more exciting than an established super-GM score 7.5/10 in the Olympiad. We already know these GMs and we expect them to score good results.

    The spirit is far different from what you’re suggesting. Do you ignore a performance like Gwaze’s or Moses Kawuma (9/10) because they play relatively weaker competition? Have you ever scored 9/10 (at any level)? Most of us have not. I’m certainly glad Gwaze got his well-deserved medal because he will forever be associated with the Bled Olympics and his performance (2600 TPR)… it was quite an amazing story while it was happening. If he never pushes another pawn in his life, he will always be throught of as a hero in Zimbabwe and throughout the African Diaspora.

  27. Sergio you mention Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe ,how about Britain and America INVADING Iraq and Afghanistan??Evil is America and Britain my friend forget about fighting your brother Robert MUGABE .What are you doin about that??America and Britain will send that “aid” coz they know they are d ones laughin.Why didnt u mention USA imposing ILLEGAL sanctions in Zimbabwe in 2001?? Seems u watch CNN a lot my friend .How about creating a Zionist Israel inside another country??When Muslims are killed its fine huh?? How do u expect Mugabe to fight this puppet opposition ,sanctions etc


    The Zimbabwe Democracy Economic Recovery Act of 2001 Section 4(c) Subsection 1 allows US executive director to each international financial institution to oppose the vote against any extension by the respective institution of any loan, credit, or guarantee to the Government of Zimbabwe; or any cancellation or reduction of indebtedness owed by the Government of Zimbabwe to the United States or any international financial institution (Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act, 2001. IN IMPOSING SANCTIONS ON A COUNTRY WHO SUFFERS?? OBVIOUSLY THEORDINARY PEOPLE!!The sanctions are illegal how does one country impose sanctions on another without UN approval??

  28. Darren,

    These are unfortunate times and what you point out are some serious contradictions in U.S. foreign policy. I echo your statements about the double standards and can give a litany of cases that would indict the western world. I would hate for us to begin a political debate on this chess blog. However, we can get a glimpse of how the world is structured even by looking at the chess world and the activities in the 2008 Olympiad. The parallels are staggering.

  29. The spirit of the Olympiad is not to reward the strongest GMs for having drawn against each other.

    The chess world needs weaker players as much as it needs strong players. Strong players are there simply because of the existence of weaker players (and the reverse is true). A GM title and a huge rating are reflections of what a player did in the past (performance history, titles and rating points are awarded afterwards). TPr is calculated based on rating points and rating points is history. This gives a highly rated player an automatic head-start whilst a lower rated player is pushed in the negative direction faraway from the starting line, simply because of rating history.

    TPr is a loaded die which favors a small circle of GMs. Lets award the best awards to the best performers. Surely a 9/9 score makes a lot of sense as compared to a 2789TPr. 9/9 means that a player won 9 games out of the possible 9 games. On the other hand we have 2789TPr which makes no sense at all because it has no range.

    If there are people out there who feel that TPr is very important, then I have no problem if they decide to host “TPr Awards” but let board-prizes be board-prizes. TPr is an insignificant indicator.

    If you are giving examples, please give them in the context of chess. Chess, politics, poverty, finance and athletics are incomparable. Chess has its own rules and regulations which are parallel to athletics or politics. Chess is chess.

  30. To my friend Darren…

    Let me start by acknowledging your sometimes agreements with my opinions. Realise though that I take them all with a pinch of salt since you had stated before that you have always been dismissing me. Thanks.
    About your post on Zimbabwe and Mugabe. I agree with the moderator that we should not dwell on political matters in a chess blog, but then in his own words, he also says (comment 32) “However, we can get a glimpse of how the world is structured even by looking at the chess world and the activities in the 2008 Olympiad. The parallels are staggering.”. I echo that and add “and vice versa “. Which is why I brought up the Mugabe (and even Usain Bolt) analogy in the first place. Yes, we can get a glimpse into one area by looking at another since there are often parallels in human affairs.

    The hegemony of the US is well known. It was wrong to invade Iraq, yes, but nodoby has ever said the US is made up of angels. When one Country has military bases in Japan, Korea, Germany and several other Nations many decades after war end, something is wrong.But then, that is the way of empires and America is an empire.owning an empire always comes with some perks. That is life, deal with it. If you resent the American empire so badly, then build your own…if you can. All empires also come to an end and it will be the same with America.Perhaps this financial crisis and recession is the beginning of that; I do not know but time will tell. There have been other empires before America even in areas described nowadays as the third world. Where are the Mali, Songhai, Zulu, Inca, Aztec, Mongol, Roman and USSR empires today?
    My point is that the excesses of America (they also do many good things by the way) does not excuse the sins of others. The US invasion of Iraq does not excuse fiscal and electoral corruption as well as ethnic genocide in Zimbabwe.
    A few days back, (yes I watch CNN) the Mugabe regime claimed the cholera outbreak was a result of chemical and biological warfare by the western world. How ridiculous. If the western world are so evil, why accept their aid money since you claim to be so morally superior?
    People need to take personal responsibility and stop always shifting blame on others. This is my point. Recently, Ghana conducted a presidential election that was highly praised worldwide. Excellence is possible anywhere if there is a will. Africa and the third world need to look within and stop blaming others for their problems.
    I recommend you read the linked article as I read the one you suggested.


    I will take some of your points and try and address them.

    On your third point, ‘requisite work’ in an Olympiad analogy must be seen as relative. It is not about what you did, but about how it compares with what others did. If there are others who have done better,they deserve the awards more than you even if you have done well. Would you award a PhD to an undergraduate student who scored straight A’s in all his coursework, since he has done well in all the work assigned to him? Of course not.

    On your second point, I stand corrected on the fact that there is no GM title for a zonal tournament victory. However, that is not the crux of the matter. There are such awards at the IM and FM level. I quote you; “If that person got norms 20-30 years apart, whose fault is that? They have NOBODY to blame.” EXACTLY. They have nobody to blame AND THEY ARE NOT BLAMING ANYBODY because those are the rules. In fact, the message from Karpov was sent in a tone of good natured fun.Your tone is very different.
    So you do not believe the IM and FM titles should be awarded from one tournament performance but FIDE does so anyway. That situation helps a group of people of whom you are in support. You write one or two articles in which you mildly mention that you disagree and that is that. Now the same FIDE decides to award Olympiad medals based on TPR. You do not agree with this and it also happens not to reward the same group of people for whom you so obviously have a soft spot. You write several articles and start several blog threads complaining about this. That is not all; hear yourself on comment 21 “I’m certainly glad Robert Gwaze got his medal after the 9/9 performance. These FOOLS (emphasis mine) would have snuffed out such a brilliant performance.” Yes, in this case, you are willing to go as far as calling FIDE officials fools on a public forum.
    I quite appreciate your passion on some of these matters. I however believe that you (like everybody else) can do better if you look up sometimes and get a proper perspective. The officials of FIDE are well accomplished people in their own right and were duly elected. One of them is even the Executive President of his Country.While we may sometimes disagree with them, they deserve basic respect if only as fellow human beings.

    On your fourth point, I stand corrected on the fact that this was not Ghana’s first Olympiad. As for Ghana and Egypt having some visa issues, ok, I did not know the details and do not see why I should. Hiccups in visa matters are not that unusual. If the Ghanaians and Egyptians were able to recover in spite of some hitches, that in fact probably indicates that they applied ON TIME. In any case, like in the previous point, all these are peripheral and do not address the crux of the matter.
    Please note from my illustration “let us look at some examples from the last Olympiad and take RANDOMLY,three Chess Federations from Africa: Ghana, Egypt and Uganda.” Also note “There is of course no such publicity nor 15 minutes of fame for the Chess Federations of Ghana and Egypt (AND VERY MANY OTHERS)”.
    In place of Ghana and Egypt, I could very well have made the same argument with any two of say :South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Angola, Algeria, Tunisia etc. I could even have gone outside Africa and taken any of say Barbados, Mexico, Mongolia etc. The essence of the argument would still remain the same; in spite of the normal problems, some people solved them because they prepared. Some did not.
    You have not addressed this basic point.
    In any case,nothing says you must attend an Olympiad.You may pass if you are not ready as I am sure some Countries did. Those that came unprepared should not be given excuses when they face the inevitable consequences of their own lack of planning.

    Some more of your comments:

    “Why are World Cup and Olympic participants accepted so universally in embassies and Olympiad participants are polled and screened?”.
    Now it is you who is spouting off with very limited understanding. The World Cup and Olympic games have in built winnowing processes. To QUALIFY for the World Cup requires going through a gruelling multi-stage process. For the Olympic games, there are also minimum standards based on ability. You must be able to jump a certain minimum height before you can participate in the Olympic high jump event for example. Merely being the best from your Country is not enough. It is easy to see why embassies will be more willing to believe that a team from say Colombia who have gone through a three year process to qualify for the World Cup should be granted visas. It is very different in chess. A team of four players each rated as low as 1300 may represent their Country at the Chess Olympiad.Once they are members in good standing with FIDE, they may play.The difference is obvious. When it gets to the extent that even an incomplete team of two players (instead of the normal four) is allowed to play, this further erodes the image of the event in the eyes of the World as well as foreign embassies.

    “Ten years from now you may not be able to tell me who won the gold medal on board #1 in the 2008 Olympiad.”
    How do you know?

    In concluding, let me once more mention that your enthusiasm and efforts in running and maintaining this site are well appreciated. You also help to bring a unique angle on chess. However, we all can learn to refine our perspectives for better effect.
    On another note, I have for example noticed your support for Amon Simutowe who as you have often stated on your site is now a GM elect and striving for the rating requirement to get his title. My point is this. Nice articles on the internet are one thing but will only go so far. Why, my dear Professor do you not use your considerable influence to help Mr Simutowe obtain a graduate (Master or PhD level) scholarship in an American University? He graduated with a high GPA from UTD in Dallas. Surely something must be possible.
    And please do not tell me it will conflict with his GM quest.India’s Panchanathan who attended UTD as an undergraduate on the same scholarship like him, earned his GM norms and title while still at UTD. Kenneth Roggoff, the famous World Bank financial expert got his final GM norm and title while he was a PhD student at MIT. If this is done, I am sure Simutowe can get his GM title quicker WHILE also improving his professional skills in other areas. It must be tough raising funds all by himself to go all over the World seeking rating points. I also believe this sort of step will be a very effective way for you to help African diaspora -and in fact all- chess players.

    If you can do this, Professor, I will personally lead a crusade to grant you:
    1. Honorary Zambian citizenship and a key to the city of Lusaka
    2. A permanent seat on the FIDE African Continental congress.
    3. AOB at your request

    I rest my case.

  31. Sergio,

    I no longer have to tell you why it is not advisable to write about non-related topics no matter what analogies you are trying to draw. Your Mugabe tirade had nothing to do with chess and was not a simple analogy. You wrote the equivalent of a full page of politics that many chess players either (1) do not understand (2) do not care about or (3) care about but do not want to discuss them here.

    There are enough political blogs on the net to espouse these views. Why not speak of chess instead of using analogies? Do you not know enough about the chess issue? There is no other point in using non-chess analogies (track, politics, academics) to a chess audience if you are knowledgeable enough about the subject.

    You still have a number of points wrong, but it’s hard to address your entire post. Again… you are assuming that the reason visas were denied was because of tardiness, but that was not true in the majority of the cases. Some people of the same delegation were granted and some were denied… as in Ethiopia’s case. I cannot recount each and every visa case (they are mentioned elsewhere), but you are making gross assumptions that you know nothing about. You also make some outright lies like, “You write several articles and start several blog threads complaining about this.” (medal issue) False. I started one thread about the medal issue. You also write:

    To QUALIFY for the World Cup requires going through a gruelling multi-stage process. For the Olympic games, there are also minimum standards based on ability. You must be able to jump a certain minimum height before you can participate in the Olympic high jump event for example.

    That’s all fine and good, but we’re talking about getting a visa, not qualifying for the Olympics! These are two separate processes. I have actually worked in a Consulate before and the things you are saying are simply wrong. Despite the winnowing process and pre-qualification tournaments, getting a visa to the World Cup and Olympiad in a different country is still another matter.

    Visas are not granted merely because of your overall athletic performance. Unbeknownst to you, an athlete at any level (beginner to professional) can represent his/her country in the quadrennial Olympics, so the fact that a team has four low-rated players is irrelevant. Practically Olympiad teams all have some type of qualifying process just as the Olympic teams does, so that should not be a deterrent. People in the visa office may not know anything of the sport or the qualifying process. Perhaps if you are seeking a visa in a sport that is not prevalent in the country, they may have some caution. Jamaican bobsledders would be an exception. 😕

    Wanyama Harold
    The Ugandan’s impassioned visa plea got little action.

    Granting of visas basically depends on what you are able to prove or show. The onus is on those applying for the visa; however, sometimes an abundance of proof is not sufficient… especially if there is a quota. Visa decisions are affected by the type of visa and based on a number of factors. Some are whether you have income or employment, have education or skills, have traveled before, have a proper sponsor, have assurances of your character and so many other factors. That is why interviews at the embassy or consulate are done.

    There are also a number of political reasons that people are denied. The main problem is that FIDE has not done due diligence to market the Olympiad as a serious event, so the embassies have been able deny players and not approve the entire delegation as they do in other hundreds of other events. Chess is not known in this regard and many embassies may not understand the enormity of the Olympiad. Ethiopia was actually told by their German Embassy that the FIDE invitation was not enough. Better conditions as laid out by the governing bodies such as FIFA and IOC (and not merely an invitation e-mail as FIDE has done) have helped them gained the credibility so that each FIFA and IOC member doesn’t go through these hassles.

    About Simutowe… all I can say is that you seem to have little understanding of his life and the plans he’s already made. I will not go into his personal matters. Why aren’t you helping him?

  32. Interesting dialogue. Many good points were brought forth here except of course the unnecessary angle introduced by Sergio that Daaim should have helped Amon Simutowe obtain a graduate Scholarship in an American University. Just where did that come from in the midst of the brilliant discourse that is on the table Sergio? It is clearly an unfair statement from you to Daaim and that should be taken off the table immediately.

    As for the visa denial issue, I have a lot to say about this but will wait until another time to air my view. All I can say here for now is that the Olympiad organizers dropped the ball big time with the visa issue and reaction to this will be forth coming soon. If you accept to host an Olympiad, you have to prepare for all scenarios and assign people to deal with them even when you have issued a disclaimer and gave a time limit for visa application. A disclaimer does not exonerate the organizers from assisting those in need of a visa, even at the tail end of the Olympiad. The world doesn’t operate in a perfect way, so we must anticipate some problems ahead of time and prepare for them. That is how good organizers operate.

  33. Daaim,
    This will be my last comment on this thread and this site as a whole.
    I stumbled on this site some years back and thought the idea of a chess site dedicated to a certain group of people was interesting. Now I am not so sure.
    As has been pointed out by others, my comment on Simutowe is out of line and I apologize. In any case, Simutowe no doubt has his own plans which may be very different from what I said.
    I guess we will just have to agree to disagree on some of these things. Bye and good luck.

  34. Sergio,
    Good of you to apologize for the Simutowe comments but I must say I find your other comments thought provoking and i would like to read more of your insighful comments in the future. We all have a lot to learn from each other and this forum has provided us an avenue to do that.

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