Drum Interviews @ Istanbul Olympiad

Olympiad tournaments are full of interesting personalities ranging from professional players, to enthusiastic organizers and to national champions in tiny chess countries.

IM Kenneth Solomon

The Chess Drum was able to get 12 interviews during the 40th Chess Olympiad including its third with three-time Olympic champion Levon Aronian. Please sit back and enjoy these short interviews and feel free to give your feedback! All photos by Daaim Shabazz, The Chess Drum.

IM Kenny Solomon (South Africa) – Solomon fortunes would not be met until later in this tournament, but he had already beaten GM Zhang Zhong and would go on to beat GM Jaime Cuartas of Colombia and GM Ivan Morovic of Chile scoring a “double-norm” and thus adding two norms to the one he already earned. This interview was after round six. 7:52 minutes

CM Duane Rowe (Jamaica) – This former Jamaica national champion is living in Oman as an energy engineer, but still flies the Jamaican flag. He is manning the tables in his 7th Olympiad and talks about his experience and life outside of chess. 5:54 minutes Sorry about quality!

Jamaicans tried to bring the “Lightening Bolt” to Istanbul. Pictured above right to left are: FM Warren Elliott, IM Jomo Pitterson, CM Duane Rowe and Andrew Mellace. Zimbabwe’s Rodwell Makoto looks on.

FM Warren Elliott (Jamaica) – The talisman for Jamaica, Elliott drew GM Alexander Beliavsky in round one and had high hopes for a strong performance. However he mentioned the side effects of rust built up after dedicating time to his academy. With his academy thriving he still has goals for chess. Very optimistic. 6:39 minutes Sorry about quality!

Kebadu Belachew (Ethiopia) – A tireless worker for the advancement of Ethiopian chess, Belachew (FIDE Delegate) talks about the Olympiad experience for the Ethiopians and programs in the country. He talks about Ruth Leykan a player who has found a way out of poverty and now riding a wave of success in Istanbul. 11:40 minutes Sorry about quality!

Kebadu Belachew with the Ethiopian women’s team.

GM Nigel Short (England) – The British legend had just come out of the General Assembly session where he was asked about his views on the Olympiad. He excoriated Ali Nihat Yazici and some of the outrageous conditions offered. He also weighed in on the debate on draws. 8:13 minutes Sorry about quality!

GM Nigel Short making a point at the General Assembly.

Aubrey Kappel (Suriname) – FIDE Delegate of Suriname discusses the Olympiad team, chess in the country and upcoming UMADA Cup hosted in Suriname. He also mentioned Roger Matoewi earning the FM title and chatted about tourism in Turkey. 5:34 minutes

Suriname’s FIDE Delegates Vice President Aubrey Kappel and Carlos dos Ramos, President of Suriname Chess Federation.

Daaim Shabazz and Tshenolo Maruatona

Tshenolo Maruatona (Botswana) – The Vice President of the Botswana Chess Federation speaks about preparation for Olympiad with GM Igor Glek and the resulting accomplishments (IM for Providence Oatlhotse, FM for Ignatius Njobvu and WIM for Tshepiso Lopang). Botswana has busy schedule with ideas of inviting several GMs for exhibitions and also tournaments for GM norms. 8:15 minutes

GM Abhijeet Gupta (India) – A silver medalist on board #4, Gupta shined in his first Olympiad, and discussed India’s performance, the climate for chess in the country and the impact of Viswanathan Anand. Having graduated from the university, he is now shooting for 2700 and is hoping to move forward in his endeavors. 4:04 minutes

GM Abhijeet Gupta (India) and IM Farai Mandizha (Zimbabwe)

IM Farai Mandizha (Zimbabwe) – The dynamic Zim player scored 8/11 in this tournament and notched a couple more Grandmaster scalps. The New York-based player talks about African chess, performance of Zimbabwe and his own ambitions. 3:48 minutes

Hilda Vukikomoala and Kieran Lyons (Fiji) – This Fijian duo completed the Olympiad and gave an upbeat account of their experience and chess in Fiji. An Australian national, Kieran was Fiji’s top board by the virtue that her mother is from the island nation. She was enthralled by the Olympiad experience and is a proponent of promoting women’s chess. Hilda is a very cheerful and smiley high school student who called the experience “eye-opening”. Pleasant conversation… my favorite! 🙂 9:07 minutes

Hilda Vukikomoala and Kieran Lyons of Fiji

GM Ray Robson (USA) – America’s talented hopeful discusses his experience at the Olympiad. Born in Guam, Robson played on the USA team for the World Team Championship so this was his second time in Turkey. He is a freshman at Webster University and speaks a little on his experience there. 3:56 minutes

GM Ray Robson (USA)

GM Levon Aronian (Armenia) – This is the third the Armenian has interviewed here. A big supporter of The Chess Drum, the three-time gold medal champion talks about the gold-medal performance of Armenia, the secret of success and his view on where chess will rise next. The answers may surprise you! 15:23 minutes

GM Levon Aronian being presented with a Usain Bolt momento
from Jamaica’s Chess President Ian Wilkinson.
All photos by Daaim Shabazz.


  1. Sorry, but I am attempting to re-engineer the interviews with Duane Rowe, FM Warren Elliott, Kebadu Belachew and GM Nigel Short. There was some serious distortion in the audio quality. My recorder saved the audio as .voc files and when I converted them using a utility I got all types of distortion and clicks.

  2. Thanks for the interviews. GM Aronian always presents himself with such class. I am very impressed and happy for Kenny Solomon (performance rating of 2600!). Hope he can get the last FIDE points to make it official as a GM at age 32.

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