2014 Chess Olympiad (Tromso, Norway)

Dear Chess World,

The 2014 Chess Olympiad has begun. Teams from 174 countries totaling 1800 players have assembled for today’s Opening Ceremonies. There are already reports of teams being escorted to the respective hotels for what will be two weeks of chess festivities and action.

China vs. Ukraine, 2-2

Hou Yifan beat Kateryna Lagno in Istanbul, but Lagno is now playing for Russia. Will Lagno help her new federation to a successful defense? Hou will be determined when they meet again. Photo by chessolympiadistanbul.com.

Armenia (open) and Russia (women) will defend their titles in what may be one the largest Olympiads in recent history. The stars will shine at the Olympiad and the top players will defend their national honor for a chance at glory. One special quality about the Olympiad is the social gathering of so many personalities mingling regardless of status.


National fashion will be on display at the Olympiad.
Photo by David Llada.
There will be the donning of national colors and garments with displays of pride only seen at Olympiad tournaments. It is also an event where the world’s brightest chess stars mingle with the amateurs. These players may be amateur players, but legends in their own country. Many human interest stories will unfold at this tournament.

Apart from the competition, there will be the General Assembly and the business of FIDE, the world’s governing body. There is also the FIDE election for President. This will prove to be fiercely competitive. The Chess Drum will be on hand to cover the event live in the second week and will file daily reports and conduct a number of interviews. Follow the action from the main site!

Let the games begin!

~ Dr. Daaim Shabazz, The Chess Drum

Daaim Shabazz

Daaim Shabazz is the founder of The Chess Drum, while serving as a tenured faculty member of Global Business & Marketing at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, USA. He holds a B.S. Computer Science from Chicago State University, an MBA in Marketing and a Ph.D. in International Affairs & Development, both from Clark Atlanta University. He has served the journalist community for more than 30 years and still competes in tournaments occasionally.

31 Comments

  1. 2014 Chess Olympiad: Opening Ceremonies

    Saturday, 2 August 2014

    A record number of teams have assembled in Tromso, Norway for the biennial Chess Olympiad. Approximately 1800 players from a total of 174 nations far and wide will compete in the coming two weeks for a chance at Olympiad glory.

    One of the most interesting occurrences of the Olympiad is the arrival of the teams and their colorful traveling uniforms. Initial impressions of what may become fashion statements throughout the event. It is quite a spectacle and the players walk around proudly with patriotic garments and accessories.

    Teams will don national colors and cultural throughout the event!
    Photo by Peter Doggers/Chess.com.

    Teams will don national colors and cultural throughout the event!
    Photo by Peter Doggers/Chess.com.

    IM Chitumbo Mwali of Zambia looking very smart in cap and scarf. Ethiopians in backgrounds with their colorful uniforms! Photo by chess24.com.

    The Opening Ceremonies represents the crescendo or build up to the event. There was the official welcome from the Siv Jensen, Minister of Finance who gave effusive praise (rightfully so) to Norwegian Magnus Carlsen… “With Magnus Carlsen as World Champion it’s kind of fitting to have an Olympiad here.”

    FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov opened the event and of course the anticipation was riding high on what hopes to be a wonderful event. Garry Kasparov was “pressing the flesh” as his campaigning was in full gear.


    Garry Kasparov making an impression accompanied by running mates Ian Wilkinson and Ignatius Leong.
    Photos by Peter Doggers/Chess.com.

    There are a multitude of ways to follow the action with the advent of social media and multimedia capability. Some of the links are provided in the frame below and others will be added.

    The Chess Drum will be covering the event live during the second half of the tournament! Following is a short video from the opening event.

  2. 2014 Chess Olympiad: Round #1

    Sunday, 3 August 2014

    Top Boards (Open)

    Jordan 0-4 Russia
    Ukraine 4-0 Tunisia
    Norway 2½:1½ Yemen
    Zambia 0-4 France
    Armenia 4-0 Japan

    Full Results

    Madagascar going through security.
    Photo by Paul Truong.

    The 2014 Chess Olympiad kicked off with the usual fanfare and excitement. The bustling of the teams greeting one another and of course finding their boards. For some it would be their first international tournament. Others have had enough appearances to write a book. In fact some Olympians have done such that!

    The first round is an interesting encounter although not much is expected of the lower-rated teams… perhaps a board upset. In fact, it was (now GM) Alejandro Ramirez who nearly shocked GM Alexander Morozevich when Costa Rica faced Russia back in 2002. Morozevich escaped with a draw and Ramirez’s star was born.

    Opening move of the 2014 Chess Olympiad.
    Photo by Paul Truong.

    In today’s match ups, most were 4-0 accounts, but there were a few such upsets. In Nicaragua-Latvia, one was interesting because it featured two IMs… one rated 2156 and the other 2496! Despite this inconsistency in how titles are earned, the lower-rated IM won.

    Greece gave up two draws on the top boards as 2600-rated GMs were held by Botswana. Jamaica’s Damion Davy (2164) drew with Slovakia’s Jan Markos (2602). Zimbabwe’s IM Rodwell Makoto scalped GM Enamul Hossain of Bangladesh. Not a major upset, but enough for a compatriot to make a video.

    Daniel King pointed out in his “Play of the Day” videos the stark contrast between amateurs and professional players. It was certainly on display and these games can be instructive on how to exploit mistakes since strong players are ruthless in this regard. One of the first games to finish was in Russia-Jordan, a game ending in 16 moves.

    Top Boards (Women)

    Russia 4-0 Jordan
    Norway 3-1 South Korea
    Luxembourg 0-4 Ukraine
    Georgia 4-0 Kyrgyzstan
    New Zealand 0-4 India

    Full Results

    Beautiful outfits by the Palestinian players who must have so much on their minds at this time given the turmoil gripping Gaza City. Photo by ChessBase.

    The women’s competition was almost identical with no team upsets and a few individual upsets. In fact, Norway’s top player WIM Sheila Sahl, took a loss against 1989-rated Chengjia Wang of South Korea. Must have been devastating to lose on such a grand stage in front of millions of onlookers. South Korea has a player on the ten who is 10-years old! Her name is Yubin Kim and she is seen briefly in the video below.

    While many of the top players rest in what is considered an easy round, Kateryna Lagno got her first victory for Russia beating Jordan’s Lougain Dahdal. This is a relief given the controversy leading up to the Olympiad which the Russian women being initially disqualified. Everything seems to be going smoothly and we look forward to the stars shining and others to be born.

  3. 2014 Chess Olympiad: Round #2

    Monday, 4 August 2014

    Top Boards (Open)

    Russia 3½:½ Qatar
    Norway 2 2-2 Ukraine
    Finland 2-2 Norway 1
    France 4-0 Mongolia
    Australia 1-3 Armenia

    Full Results


    Fabiano Caruana of Italy is now #3 in the world with a 2800 ELO. Photo by chess24.com.
    First major upset of the tournament! The Ukraine was drawn by a Norwegian side… not the Carlsen-led varsity team, but it was Norway 2! GM Vassily Ivanchuk who traditionally has been ruthless at Olympiad tournaments fell on the sword today losing to and unfancied IM by the name of IM Frode Urkedal. In fact the entire team of IMs fought well and held on boards two and three against opposition 200-300 ELO higher. Clearly this will be a crucial setback if the Ukraine is vying for medals. Each point is crucial when determining tiebreak order.

    While there were no more team upsets, there were several board upsets including Richard Rapport’s loss to IM Juan Armando Rohl Montes in Hungary-Venezuela. This was offset by Judit Polgar’s beautiful win!

    Magnus Carlsen was held by Tomi Nyback of Finland which could be called an upset since there is a 280-point ELO difference. Powerful Armenia was also nicked for a couple of draws by Australia. The tournament will heat up as the top teams will begin to face off.

    Magnus Carlsen won most of the attention,
    but was unable to breach Finland’s Tomi Nyback.
    Photo by Paul Truong.

    Daniel King pointed out in his “Play of the Day” featured Shirov-Sulkis (Latvia-Lithuania) with a dashing victory for the Latvian in a “Fried-Liver Attack”. Normally seen in junior chess, this opening may have gotten a boost.

    Top Boards (Women)

    China 4-0 Venezeula
    Ecuador 0-4 Norway
    Brazil 0-4 Russia
    Ukraine 3-1 Australia
    Montengro 1-3 Georgia

    Full Results

    WCM Javanna Smith of Trinidad & Tobago.
    Photo by chess24.com.

    Top teams are still holding their board positions with convincing victories in their matches. The USA had a setback with 1944-rated Wiebke Barbier beat WGM Katerina Nemcova to steak a valuable point. The Americans are led by GM Irina Krush and a host of emigres including Nemcova who recently changed her federation from Czech Republic.

    In the third round, marquee matchups will feature with USA-China and Russia-France. While China and Russia are still ahead, other teams are improving their standard and perhaps there will be some surprises. The Ukranian women suffered a similar fate as their compatriots by ceding two draws to players more than 300 ELO lower. Perhaps the unrest in the country has affected the players. Only time will tell when the teams will settle into their form.

  4. 2014 Chess Olympiad: Round #3

    Monday, 4 August 2014

    Top Boards (Open)

    Armenia 1½:2½ France
    USA 1½:2½ Netherlands
    Norway 3-1 Montenegro
    Germany 2-2 England
    Poland 2-2 Cuba

    Full Results

    Batumi, Georgia putting in a bid for Olympiad 2018.
    Photo by Paul Truong.

    The plot thickened today as top teams began to clash. All the top teams faced a strong opponent… except the Ukraine who was held by Norway 2 yesterday and faced a weakened Filipino team today. Defending champion Armenia went down against France with Laurent Fressinet scoring against Movsesian. Armenia seems to be missing the presence of Tigran Petrosian who was so vital to their gold medal run in Istanbul.

    Hikaru Nakamura finally made it!
    Photo by chess24.com.

    Both American teams stumbled, but the men were slowed by a jet-lagged Hikaru Nakamura who drew with Giri. Nakamru had to spend the night in London, England due to flight changes. Here is one of his tweets:

    Unfortunately in the USA-Netherlands affair, Gata Kamsky was upset by Erwin L’Ami while the other two games were split. Poor start for the U.S. with the women being crushed by China this round. Most of the other top matches were either drawn or decided by a narrow 2½-1½ margins. Poland-Cuba, Italy-India, Turkey-Georgia and Switzerland-Vietnam were drawn, but Serbia, China, Israel and Azerbaijan won narrow margins.

    Carlsen in a classic photo before victory.
    Photo by Paul Truong.

    As for Norway’s Magnus Carlsen, he won today against Montenegro. It has been pointed out that it must be difficult for him to play with so much attention, but perhaps he has gotten used to it. India may have made a mistake in their board order by putting Krishnan Sasikiran on board three as he is clearly the most experienced on this stage.

    Fabiano Caruana of Italy won against Parimarjan Negi and moves into #2 on the live ratings at 2805. He mentioned yesterday in a press conference that leaving America to live in Europe was helpful to his development.

    As he continues to thrive, he plans to join the championship cycle for a shot at the world title. However, in the press conference he made some implications that chess is not moving in the right direction since the path to the championship was not clear. He discussed the situation of the Grand Prix and while he did not endorse Kasparov, he gave some views about the FIDE election (see video).

    FM Rashid Yaaqoub was part of the Sudanese upset over Ireland.
    Photo by chess24.com.

    The major upset in today’s round was Sudan beating Ireland 2½-1½ with CM Samir Nadir taking down GM Alexander Baburin. African players are generally underrated due to the inaccessibility of strong tournaments on the large continent. However they are passionate about chess and are gaining access to proper tools to compete. These players are increasingly beating players rated 200-300 ELO points higher, so other teams should take caution when meeting an African team.

    The teams in the lower end of the table also began facing each other and long rivalries are shaped at Olympiad tournaments. However, the spirit of meeting other nations in battle is one of beauty as it is intriguing. New friendships are formed and perhaps new diplomatic and economic relations are established.

    Top Boards (Women)

    USA 1-3 China
    Norway 1-3 Hungary
    Russia 2½-1½ France
    Armenia 3-1 Vietnam
    Bosnia & Herzegovina 0-4 Iran

    Full Results

    World Champion Hou Yifan
    Photo by chess24.com.

    China asserted their authority over the field with a convincing 3-1 victory over the USA. Hou Yifan dispatched Irina Krush in a game that lasted 91 moves with the World Champion finally pushing through her two-pawn advantage. Ju Wenjun also defeated Anna Zatonskih for the margin of victory. Russia kept pace with a 2½-1½ win over France, Alexandra Kosteniuk winning. Armenia beat the usually overachieving Vietnamese team and Iran crush Bosnia & Herzegovina 4-love.

    Top games today are China-Azerbaijan and Germany-Russia. It is a very long tournament, but the fact that strong teams are facing off means that the boards have to be managed properly. On the lower boards, many of the teams are making their first appearances in the Olympiad. We can expect more stories to be told about their respective journeys.

    Puteri Rifqah Fahada Azhar of Malaysia

    Dorcas Allotey of Ghana

    10-year old Yubin Kim of South Korea
    Photos by chess24.com.

  5. 2014 Chess Olympiad: Round #4

    Tuesday, 5 August 2014

    Top Boards (Open)

    France 1½-2½ Azerbaijan
    Serbia 2½-1½ Czech Republic
    Norway 1 3-1 Poland
    Russia 2-2 China
    Netherlands 2-2 Israel

    Full Results

    Kamsky reeling after losing to IM Henry Steel (2399)!
    Photo by Paul Truong

    When was the last time a top 50 player has lost to another player 300 ELO points below in the Olympiad? It would be a matter of record in finding out, but it happened in the fourth round of the Tromso Olympiad when Gata Kamsky (2706) of USA was toppled by IM Henry Steel (2399) of South Africa. It appeared that the match would be 4-0 for the Americans when Kamsky started to dawdle in a completely winning attack. Nevertheless Steel was able to keep the game complicated in order to keep chances alive.

    Kamsky has just played 31.Bxg6+ in a completely winning position, but after Bf2+ 32. Bxf2 Kg7 33. Bh5 Kxh6 white erred with 34. Be3+? allowing black to later simplify into a complicated ending.

    White had two connected passed pawns, but with his king cut off and the two bishops occupied with stopping black’s passed pawns, he ended up in a disastrous ending and ended up ceding the full point. This could be a disastrous loss for the Americans if they are in the medal hunt. Kamsky is clearly out of form and will probably take a rest in round five.

    Vassily Ivanchuk is also having a tough time getting his form and in Bangladesh-Ukraine match drew in 15 moves against GM Ziaur Rahman. Ukraine would will rather handily and will move back up into the top boards after being held by Norway 2.

    In other action, reigning European champions Azerbaijan beat France to move into the top position… Serbia 2½-1½ Czech Republic, China 2-2 Russia (Russia was fortunate to draw), Netherlands 2-2 Israel (Giri beating Gelfand) and Bulgaria 2½-1½ Romania (two old rivals). Norway 2 keeps pace as Magnus Carlsen got the win over Radaslav Wojtaszek. In this game, look at white’s move after 29…Qb6? Carlsen spotted 30.Bh3! Rd8 31.Be6! with a virulent attack on the h-file.

    In other action Jordan and Palestine drew 2-2 (two wins apiece) with both sides grappling with geopolitical issues at home. Jamaica beat regional rival Barbados 2½-1½. These types of dynamics makes the Olympiad a very interesting tournament. While it not likely that Israel would face Palestine, it would be a possibility to face Iran. It would be a match that would certainly evoke high emotions.

    Top Boards (Women)

    Iran 3½-½ Slovakia
    Norway 1 1-3 Czech Republic
    China 3½-½ Azerbaijan
    Indonesia 3-1 Armenia
    Germany 1½-2½ Russia

    Full Results


    Atousa Pourkashiyan leading the way for Iran.
    Photo by Daniel Skog.

    The surprise of the round has to be the performance of Iran who won their fourth straight encounter crushing Slovakia 3½-½. Of course, they have been improving for a long time and are led by the stately presence of WGM Atousa Pourkashiyan. However, her teammates were the ones carrying home decisive games.

    China kept their lead with a 3½-½ thrashing of Azerbaijan, a team made up of chess families. Where chemistry is an important part of team events, this would certainly not overcome the relative strength of the Chinese who were 200 ELO points better on each board.

    Russia kept pace by pipping Germany 3½-½ with Kateryna Lagno taking a rest break. European champion Valentina Gunina and Alexandra Kosteniuk carried the victory with wins. Traditional power Georgia drew with the Netherlands setting up a date with Russia in the next round. Lots of history between those nations.

    Haregeweyn Abera Alemu of Ethiopia.
    Photo by Anastasia Karlovich.

  6. 2014 Chess Olympiad: Round #5

    Wednsday, 6 August 2014

    Top Boards (Open)

    Azerbaijan 2-2 Serbia
    Russia 2-2 Bulgaria
    Armenia 2½-1½ Norway 1
    China 2-2 Netherlands
    Ukraine 1½-2½ Uzbekistan

    Full Results


    What’s wrong with Ivanchuk?
    Photo by David Llada.

    The Ukraine has won two Olympiads of the past five with Armenia winning the other three. They are always a credible threat to compete for the gold. A few years back Sergey Karjakin bolted for Russia and last month top woman ace Kateryna Lagno did the same. These defections clearly weakened the Ukraine, but they still boast strong teams. In fact Anna Muzychuk has returned to the Ukraine from Slovenia. However something has gone wrong in the early stages of the Olympiad.

    The men have faltered and Vassily Ivanchuk has not played near his strength. Today they lost to Uzbekistan. Ivanchuk lost to Rustam Kasimdzhanov (which is no disaster) and drew in a lackluster 15 moves in yesterday’s match. In past Olympiad, Ivanchuk has been an “iron man” by playing all the games. Something has gone awry and in today’s game he hung a piece and resigned. The women are also having a difficult time after being crushed 3-1 by Serbia. Is the current conflict in the Ukraine affecting the players?

    The matches were close at the top with Azerbaijan-Serbia, Russia-Bulgaria and China-Netherlands drawing at 2-2. Armenia got back on track with a win over host Norway. Carlsen was able to hold Aronian despite being slightly worse in the game. Cuba notched an important win over Israel putting them in 5th place. The USA is having an uncharacteristically bad stretch as a beleaguered Kamsky sat in lieu of his poor showing. Yet they could only score a draw with continental neighbor Canada. Sam Shankland saved the match by pressing for the win.

    Team Nigeria! Photo David Llada.

    Team Bhutan! Photo Daniel Skog.

    Top Boards (Women)

    Indonesia ½-3½ China
    Barbados 0-4 Czech Republic
    Hungary 2½-1½ Iran
    Russia 2½-1½ Georgia
    Spain 1½-2½ Netherlands

    Full Results


    Iventte Garcia Morales (Mexico).
    Photo by chess24.com.

    China continues to roll with another 3½-½ verdict… this time over Indonesia. China leads 10 pts on 18 game points followed by Hungary on 10 and 16.5 and Russia with 10 and 15.5. China seems determined in this tournament given their disappointed look at the closing ceremonies in Istanbul. Hou Yifan is in incredible form and is twelve ELO points from Judit Polgar who has long been the highest-rated female player in the world. Perhaps Polgar should challenge Hou Yifan while she is still higher rated!

    Polgar’s country Hungary beat upstart Iran with Thanh Trang Hoang winning on board one over Atousa Pourkashiyan.

    Russia kept pace by pipping Germany 3½-½ with Kateryna Lagno taking a rest break. European champion Valentina Gunina and Alexandra Kosteniuk carried the victory with wins. Traditional power Georgia drew with the Netherlands setting up a date with Russia in the next round. Lots of history between those nations.

    Maryam of Pakistan displays a beautiful hijab…

    …while Elise Jacobsen of Norway had another type of head wear!
    Photos by David Llada.

  7. 2014 Chess Olympiad: Round #6

    Friday, 8 August 2014

    Top Boards (Open)

    Azerbaijan 3½-½ Georgia
    Serbia 2-2 Bulgaria
    Italy 1-3 Norway 1
    Cuba 3½-½ Kazakhstan
    Uzbekistan 1½-2½ Russia

    Full Results

    Azerbaijan widens its lead with a crushing victory over Georgia with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov getting a cluster of pieces around the black king with deadly effect. Serbia-Bulgaria drew trading wins on board 1 and 4. Norway kept some momentum as a marquee matchup occurred between Magnus Carlsen of Norway and Fabiano Caruana of Italy.

    Fabiano Caruana (Italy) vs. Magnus Carlsen (Norway)
    Will this be the early stages of an official rivalry?
    Photo David Llada.

    The American-born Italian is one of the few players to have a plus-score against Carlsen. However, today’s game showed that while Caruana has aspirations, Carlsen has a few of his own. Cuba is clearly falling under the radar against they trashed Kazhakhstan to vault into second place in the standings. The Cubans, who just finished a tour in the U.S., have now put themselves into a position to win a medal.

    Russia, France, the Netherlands and China are still in a good position to medal. China pulled into 4th place with a 3½-½ verdict over Egypt. This Olympiad may be a breakthrough for non-European teams as China, Cuba and India are making their presence felt. Armenia also had a slow start but could be back into medal contention with a couple of wins. They turned back England on the strength of Sergei Movsesian’s win over Nigel Short.

    Top Boards (Women)

    China 3-1 Hungary
    Venezuela 0-4 Norway
    Serbia ½-3½ Russia
    Netherlands 1-3 Poland
    Slovakia 1-3 France

    Full Results


    WGM Deysi Cori (Peru)
    Photo by chess24.com.

    China and Russia are in a neck-and-neck for the gold and will face each other tomorrow after both scored convincing wins over Hungary and Serbia respectively. Hou Yifan has won four games in a row and seems to be in form. Kateryna Lagno is on +3 in a team missing the Kosintseva sisters.

    This tournament could very well go down to a China-Russia foot race. Both carry unblemished 6/6 records going into their showdown. Of course there are other strong nations comprising of the usual chess contenders. Besides China and Russia, the top ten includes: Poland, France, Romania, Hungary, Indonesia, USA, Armenia and Georgia. Indonesia is a rising force in Asian chess and is making quite and impression.

  8. 2014 Chess Olympiad: Round #7
    Saturday, 9 August 2014

    Top Boards (Open)

    Cuba 1½-2½ Azerbaijan
    Czech Republic 3-1 Russia
    Norway 1 1½-2½ Germany
    Serbia ½-3½ China
    Bulgaria 3-1 Netherlands

    Full Results

    Magnus Carlsen vs. Arkadij Naiditsch, 0-1.
    Photo Paul Truong.

    One of the shocks of the round was not Germany’s win over Norway, but the fact that Magnus Carlsen bungled a pawn advantage into a loss. The World Champion showed some frustration after the game while doing a quick post-mortem. Meeting Naidistch one can sense this was an extremely important victory in his career.


    Semetey Tologontegin of Kyrgyzstan has received lots of compliments on his hat!
    Photo by chess24.com.

    Every match is considered a crucial match from here forward and each game is going to be important in determining tiebreak advantage. Russia was stunned by the Czech Republic by a convincing 3-1 score and perhaps Russia’s chances are already slipping. Russia is always the rating favorite, but there is something missing in their match strategies and they were punished again.

    Cuba had jumped atop the leader board last round, but lost a close contest to Azerbaijan dropping them to 7th. As is common in these competitions, a loss can drop a team far out of the top positions. Azerbaijan, the European Champions, jumped back into 1st place followed by China (who crushed Serbia 3½-½),the Czechs, Bulgaria (Iotov is on 6½/7) and Romania (despite the absence of Nisipeanu). Defending champion Armenia struggled once again and drew with Hungary while France and the USA moved further up the board with convincing wins.

    Following is a gem by GM Leinier Dominguez:

    Top Boards (Women)

    Russia 3-1 China
    Norway 1 ½-3½ Vietnam
    Poland 2-2 France
    Hungary 2½-1½ Romania
    Armenia 2-2 USA

    Full Results

    Kateryna Lagno vs. Hou Yifan, 1-0.
    Photo Paul Truong.

    The highly anticipated China-Russia match ended up in a 3-1 shocker in Russia’s favor. Lagno beat Hou Yifan who had previously won four in a row. The Ukrainian who now represents Russia has shown that the loss of the Kosintseva sisters keeps them as a formidable force.

    There is already talk about a Russia “threepeat” but such talk is rather presumptuous with many rounds to go. It is interesting the same teams vying for medals in the open section are the same ones competing in the women’s. This shows the investment federations are putting into intensive chess training.

  9. African tensions boil at 2014 Olympiad

    Sunday, 10 August 2014

    Fédération Internationale des Échecs  (FIDE)

    The battle for the office of FIDE President is perhaps the most important event during this two week Olympiad. While the games were to take place at 2:00pm, the continental meetings took place today at 9:00am at the Radisson Blu Hotel. One of the main topics was the election for the next FIDE President. The different regions have their own concerns, but one of the most contentious battles is for the votes of 34 African federations. This is a record for most African federations represented at the Olympiad.

    The FIDE General Assembly seating is arranged by alphabetical order. At the 2012 assembly in Istanbul, notice African federations clumped together in the back of the hall. Why was this not corrected? Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    At the 2012 assembly in Istanbul, African federations may be the deciding factor. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    The Chess Drum has followed the developments on the continent concerning the battle for votes. There was a volley of visits by both candidates and both sides getting written commitments from federations. In fact, at Kasparov Polar Bear Festival, there were many African nations there in support. What has resulted (in come cases) was a divided continent and even divided federations. This is apparent in the social media circles and it became more apparent in Tromso. In addition, this may cause irreparable damage regardless of who wins.

    However, the brewing divsions became most apparent in the African session. Lakhdar Mazouz was chairing the meeting when after the coffee break the meeting continued and more debate occurred about the election process. There was a debate on whether certain countries would have a voting seat. A press release by the Seychelles excoriated Garry Kasparov’s campaign for attempting to include Tanzania and Burkina Faso as voting members despite the provisional status. Tanzania is participating in their first Olympiad.

    Ethiopian delegate raises a question. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    Ethiopian delegate raises a question at 2014 African Congress.

    Afrika Msimang of South Africa makes point. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    Afrika Msimang of South Africa makes point.

    Afrika Msimang of South Africa makes point. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    Attentive audience listens to the future course of Africa.

    Ghanaian President George Arko-Dadzie on the floor. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    Ghanaian President George Arko-Dadzie on the floor.
    Photos by Daaim Shabazz.

    Of course these discussions on allegiances and proper voting delegates have been boiling for several months. There is a case of several African nations debating over who had legitimate voting rights.

    In the case of Gabon, FIDE has removed the elected board despite documentation showing the proceedings of the elections. Barthelemy Bongo has been seen around the Olympiad with a document explaining his case. This is supposed to be an item debated at the General Assembly. He told The Chess Drum that since he has been removed as a delegate, it restricts his ability to argue the case.

    So the following election of the FIDE Continental President and the FIDE Presidential office will have a big affect on the continent. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov produced a couple of newsletters with provocative titles such as “Six Empty Promises of Garry Kasparov” and “The Dark Campaign of Garry Kasparov” both painting the former World Champion as a back-dealing, unscrupulous, demagogue.

    Dabilani Buthali (FIDE President for Africa), Lewis Ncube (FIDE Vice President). Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    Lewis Ncube (right is chatting with former FIDE African president Dabilani Buthali at the 2008 Chess Olympiad in Dresden, Germany. Ncube, a Zambian, is standing for the post this election. He has been in the middle of many of these debates. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    However, there are many concerns on the record of the last 19 years of Ilyumzhinov’s regime. Has his regime increased visibility of chess and sustainable sponsorship? Has the 19 years created a succession plan to ensure the integrity of FIDE organs should new leadership come to fore? Has Kasparov learned from his role as an antagonist in Russian politics and now FIDE election? There seems to be more said about the faults of the opposition rather than the accomplishments of either.

    Here are letters from both of the candidates concerning the election. They represent the culmination of months of debate… some spirited and some seemingly uncivil.


    An Open Letter to the Ilyumzhinov Presidential Ticket, the Tromsø Organizing Committee, and the FIDE Delegates

    Since the beginning of my campaign for the FIDE presidency I have strived for greater transparency and fairness in every aspect of the election process. The incumbents have many natural advantages and also many opportunities to abuse official FIDE powers for advantage.

    Garry Kasparov next to the plaque commemorating his visit in Dakar, Senegal. Photo by kasparov2014.com.

    Today I proposed to the Ilyumzhinov ticket a short set of detailed procedures that would guarantee a fair and confidential election for FIDE President on Monday. These proposals are in full compliance with the FIDE rules. They also embody their spirit: to ensure an impartial election where the administrative resources of the incumbents may not be used to entrench them forever, and the best ticket with the best ideas wins.

    Our proposals are in no way controversial and they would apply equally to both sides (they are attached so you can judge for yourself). In fact, they are widespread best practices in democratic societies and should present no discomfort to any party seeking a truly fair contest. We tried in good faith for several days to get the Ilyumzhinov ticket to speak with us about a compromise on election procedures. This afternoon, when we put detailed proposals before them, they refused even to look at them, without offering an explanation.

    This has been an unfair fight from the very start. The incumbents have shamelessly used every trick they can, including simply erasing federations – like ADEG in Gabon – that want a better future for chess. And now we come to the end of a long campaign, and the incumbents still to the last minute refuse to act fairly. Ask yourself why.

    Colleagues, it is the three scrutineers elected by the General Assembly who will have to decide upon the procedures for the elections and make sure that they are confidential and fair. I have proposed the same Chairman of the scrutineers – Carol Jarecki – as in Khanty-Mansiysk four years ago when Kirsan won a solid victory. Under Mrs. Jarecki’s guidance, everyone knows that we will have a fair and confidential vote. And that is what the incumbents fear most.

    I call on the Ilyumzhinov ticket: for the sake of chess (and not just your own personal interests) come to the table and negotiate election procedures that will let a fair, democratic and confidential vote determine who leads our family.

    I call on the Tromsø Organizing Committee: it is your duty as our host and as a democratic nation to ensure that this election is carried out fairly and impartially. Do not let a farce take place on your territory.

    I call on you all, the FIDE Delegates: tell the incumbents that you want them to ensure a free and confidential election by negotiating fair conditions, and if they won’t, elect Mrs. Jarecki and two other impartial scrutineers on Monday. Even if you support the incumbents in this election, you should support these proposals as they will enhance FIDE’s standing around the world. And as you know, these elections are being widely reported. The world is watching.

    Yours in chess,

    Garry Kasparov

    Tromsø, Norway
    9 August 2014

    Link: https://kasparov2014.com/2014/08/10/garry-kasparov-on-election-procedures/

    Ilyumzhinov’s response…

    Open Reply by Kirsan Ilyumzhinov to the Open Letter of Garry Kasparov
    10 August 2014

    Dear Delegates,
    Dear Chess Friends,

    Kirsan Ilyumzhinov at 84th FIDE Congress
    Photo by chess-news.ru.

    In the hours leading up to the FIDE Presidential Election, Garry Kasparov is in panic mode. Painfully aware of his imminent defeat, unable to resign and just go home, he must play to mate. All he can do at the moment is muddy the waters and try to manufacture explanations for his financial backers: he is paying a team of lawyers from one of the most expensive firms in the world (>$725/hour/lawyer) to create fog and confusion. These are the same lawyers from the same New York law firm — White and Case — who with Kasparov have cost FIDE $2m over the last four years (their cases lost, the money wasted); expensive lawyers are the principal instruments of the Kasparov Style in this endgame.

    Since Friday, we have been bombarded with letters from these lawyers. The first had 11 points, the second 25 points, the third 23 points. Most of these points are revisiting questions that the very same lawyers already proposed, presented to the General Assembly – and which were accepted by FIDE – in Istanbul two years ago. Not only is it late in the day to be discussing such issues, but as a candidate I do not have the authority to change rules that were decided on and approved by the General Assembly.

    White and Case’s lead lawyer, Ank Santens and the Kasparov Campaign Representative, Jøran Aulin-Jansson (who also happens to be one of the Olympiad Organizers), met with Mr. Makropoulos in the afternoon of August 9th to discuss the 11-point proposal letter. When she suddenly pulled a 25-point proposal out of her purse, a stunned Makropoulos protested that as no one had seen this document they must return to the 11-point letter.

    Arriving at point 3 of the 11-point letter (a rewriting of the rules for Scrutineers) the White and Case lawyer offered a deal to pre-arrange the 3 members of the Scrutineer Committee. This is in direct violation of the democratic procedures described in our statutes and regulations. Mr Makropoulos reminded her that for many months a great number of people from many countries (including her) had worked to finalize the current regulations and he felt it would be anti-democratic to make changes now at the last minute without consulting the General Assembly. He also reminded the lawyer that she and Kasparov not only supported the regulations in Istanbul, but that she herself presented the regulations to the Assembly and urged their approval.

    With nowhere to turn, Mrs Santens then insisted to stop the discussion based on the 11-point letter and to start discussing the 25-point letter. When Mr Makropoulos naturally refused to address a document that he had never seen, the lawyer abruptly got up and left the meeting, clearly following an exit strategy suggested by her client Garry Kasparov.

    Later that evening, the third 23-point letter was released. In his declarations of transparency, Kasparov neglects to mention the multiple versions of his proposal letters, the meeting with Makropoulos and the erratic behavior of his lawyer and his Campaign Representative, Jøran Aulin-Jansson.

    Along with the fog and confusion his lawyers are generating, his PR department (probably less well-paid) is manufacturing crises, confusion and conflict. Please beware of the distortions and omissions in his communications. Kasparov’s supposed transparency is getting more and more cloudy and dark as his sun sets.

    I call on Garry Kasparov to respect, even in the last moment of this campaign, the statutes and regulations of FIDE, follow its democratic procedures and to stop provoking the up-to-now peaceful atmosphere of these elections.

    I call on the Tromsø Organising Committee to discourage, rather than encourage, the cheap and disruptive last-minute political tactics of Garry Kasparov.

    I call on all FIDE Delegates to to be vigilant and protect the General Assembly from a repetition of the anti-democratic and provocative behaviour that Garry Kasparov demonstrated in Khanty-Mansiysk. «Garry, respect the house!» should again be our watchword against the audacity and impulsiveness of the former world champion.

    As a last note, in order to avoid giving the wrong impression, I would like to remind the lawyers that Mrs. Carol Jarecki has been among my nominations to be a Scrutineer in all of our recent elections.

    Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

    FIDE President

    Link: https://fidefirst.com/?p=3568


    Which of the leadership offers a better package? This will be analyzed and the voting process will take place on Monday, August 11th, 2014 at the General Assembly at 9:00am.

  10. 2014 Chess Olympiad: Round #8

    Sunday, 10 August 2014

    Top Boards (Open)

    China 3-1 Azerbaijan
    Romania 3-1 Czech Republic
    Bosnia & Herzegovina 1-3 Norway
    Ukraine 2½-1½ Bulgaria
    France ½-1½ Poland

    Full Results


    Ding Liren is one of China’s bright hopes for future dominance. Both he and Yu Yangyi are picking up the slack for China’s absent number one player, Wang Hao.
    Photo by chess24.com.

    China put a stamp on of authority on today’s match winning 3-1 over Azerbaijan. This may be the opening the Chinese needed to win their first gold medal. This time the bottom boards did the damage with Yu Yangyi and an in-form Ni Hua winning. One may not be surprised that China is in the top position until you find they are doing it without their top player Wang Hao!

    There were a number of close matches today including Romania-Czech Republic 2-2 draw. The Ukraine has suddenly found itself back into the medal hunt after beating Bulgaria 2½-1½. Unlike previous where Ivanchuk has carried the team, his compatriots have had to compensate for his poor form. However, he has stabilized just in time for the final medal push.

    France kept pace winning over Poland which Germany-Cuba and India-Armenia were 2-2 deadlocks. Parimarjan Negi who told The Chess Drum he is considering Stanford University has been playing solid on top board.


    GM Krishnan Sasikiran of India… intensity personified!
    Photo by David Llada.

    The USA is still in striking distance on the strength of Sam Shankland’s incredible 7/7 score. Shankland won a nice game against Hungary’s Judit Polgar. Russia-Spain was drawn as well keeping the teams mathematically alive.

    Top Boards (Women)

    Russia 3½-½ Hungary
    Turkey 1½-2½ Norway 1
    China 3-1 Poland
    France 2½-1½ USA
    Ukraine 2-2 Georgia

    Full Results


    Stunning shot by David Llada!

    What is becoming more clear each round is the Olympiad has become a two-horse race between China and Russia with others fighting for the bronze medal. Russia destroyed Hungary as Valentina Guinina pulled off a tactical gem against veteran Olympian Ildiko Madl. Both the of the Gara sisters were beaten as well.

    Meanwhile China stifled Poland by a 3-1 margin, but still trail Russia by a two-point margin. Both have only lost two games! France, Armenia and the Ukraine remain three points out of the lead, but it will be difficult to make up ground since in the latter rounds the pairings become strange.

    There is already talk about a Russia “threepeat” but such talk is rather presumptuous with many rounds to go. It is interesting the same teams vying for medals in the open section are the same ones competing in the women’s. This shows the investment federations are putting into intensive chess training.

  11. 2014 Chess Olympiad: Round #9
    Monday, 11 August 2014

    Top Boards (Open)

    China 2-2 Ukraine
    Czech Republic 1½-2½ France
    Norway 2-2 Turkey
    Azerbaijan 2-2 Romania
    Israel 1-3 Hungary

    Full Results

    The parity of this year’s Olympiad means that many teams retain medal chances even after a setback. In order to win the gold, a team is generally undefeated. China is the only undefeated team remaining and logically in first place. In the 9th round there were several draws on the top boards which meant the positions did not change very much. However, Hungary has inched up in the standings. However, with China is a holding position, there needs to be more pressure applied to prevent the Dragon from roaring to victory. For many years, it seemed inevitable that China would make a breakthrough. That time seems to have come.

    Top Boards (Women)

    Armenia 1½-2½ Russia
    Estonia 1½-2½ Norway 1
    France ½-3½ China
    India 1½-2½ Ukraine
    Spain 3½-½ Argentina

    Full Results

    Russia seems destined for a “threepeat” after another victory. With a stunning 9/9, the Russian women have welcomed Kateryna Lagno’s addition with an inspired performance. While China continues to pile up board points, Russia piles up wins. Lagno did lose today against Elena Danielian, but Russia still beat Chinese crushed France, the Ukraine edged India moving into 3rd position. This also show how strong the Ukraine was… losing their first board (Lagno), but gaining another (A. Muzychuk).

  12. Ilyumzhinov wins 2014 FIDE election 110-61

    The buildup to the 2014 FIDE election in Tromso, Norway was so tense you could feel it in the air. As representatives from 176 federations filed into the Universitetet i Tromsø (UIT) auditorium there was a buzzing of excitement. However, it was a matter of time before the meeting had to address controversial issues during the campaign.

    Ironically, most of the meeting centered around the well-known case of Gabon and the violation of it constitutional voting rights. The founder of the Gabonnaise Chess Federation Bartholemy Bongo was unceremoniously replaced as a delegate by FIDE. He alleges that this was discovered that the board was removed once the federation was found to be supporting Garry Kasparov.


    George Arko-Dadzie, President of Ghana Chess Federation,
    raising an inquiry about Gabon.


    Kasparov also weighs in on several issues including that of Gabon.

    Lewis Ncube of Zambia (center) is a FIDE Vice President and candidate for Continental President. He was directly involved in the Gabon case and contends that there were problems with the official minutes of Gabon’s ADEG.

    The Chess Drum ran a story on the issue which the issue became a legal battle. This set off a series of frantic exchanges with a number of authorities. Dr. Jean-Claude Essis Essoh spoke on behalf of Gabon (since Bongo was no longer a valid delegate) and asked how there was such a change made.

    The FIDE Electoral Commission (headed by Margaret Murphy of U.S. Virgin Islands) had to address how they arrived at the decision. Both George Arko-Dadzie and Githinji Hinga of Kenya also pressed the issue on this matter. GM Nigel Short accused Murphy of evading the question of how they decided to retain a delegate who apparently had little documentation.


    Nigel Short was on the attack concerning
    the AGON agreement with Andrew Paulson.

    Murphy repeated that all the documents were reviewed and a decision was reached. In a shocking development, Ilyumzhinov decided to award Gabon’s proxy to Kasparov ticket. However, this was received with consternation because Bongo was seeking a reinstatement of his office and voting rights and not merely a vote for Kasparov. The Chess Drum was able to get an interview with Bongo. Here is what he had to say…

    Interview Bartholemy Akanga Ndjila Bongo

    After the roll call, there was a coffee break. One could obviously see strategies and tactics being laid out. When the session reconvened, GM Short raised a point about the dealings of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and his role in AGON. The FIDE President denied any complicity in these dealings. After indicating that Ilyumzhinov had a conflict of interest, Short later asked about the sum of $500,000 that AGON owed FIDE. Nigel Freeman deflected this by stating that the circumstances of the Grand Prix event being cancelled resulted in a deference of payment.


    A showdown occurred between Dr. Jean-Claude Essoh of Cote d’Ivoire and….


    Georgios Makropolous seen gesturing.

    Another contentious moment in the meeting also involved an African nation as Dr. Jean-Claude Essoh of the Cote d’Ivoire demanded to know why FIDE has neglected and ignored African concerns. He cited that there were only five trips this year to Africa… all being in the election year. Georgios Makropoulous had little patience for his line of questioning since he had pressed issues earlier and at the African Assembly. He told Essoh sit down and wanted him to relinquish the microphone. Essoh refused and stated that he would not relinquish the microphone.


    I am a dues-paying member of FIDE and I have the right to be heard.
    ~Dr. Jean-Claude Essoh, Cote d’Ivoire Delegate


    Ilyumzhinov waved his hands to indicate that Essoh should speak, but Makropoulous kept asking for the microphone and even hinted at having him removed. After a standoff Essoh decided to relent, but he attracted several interviews afterwards to get his point amplified even more. What was his point? Here are his words… coming near tears at the very end.

    “I was trying to give him an opportunity to recognize with me that the situation of chess in Africa is dire. There is a need for a lot of efforts to bring Africa up to speed and give it the possibility to compete with the other portions of the world…The FIDE President is accountable for this situation because he has been the FIDE President for 19 years.”

    Interview Jean-Claude Essoh


    Dr. Essoh got a deluge of interview requests.

    While Essoh was not able to get the answers he sought from FIDE, his point was very clear. African chess has always been the region destitute of resources, yet it is the region where FIDE candidates come in to offer federations resources and promises of chess development. Thirty-four African nations (not including six proxies) were registered and they remain a voting force, yet chess languishes on the continent.


    Kasparov2014

    Both candidates were allowed 15 minutes to make speeches affirming their candidacy. Kasparov chose to spend time extolling the virtues of the Kasparov Chess Foundation and his programs on five continents. He stated that this election is not about personalities, but the “future of chess”. He also clarified his views on certain issues including the notion that he supported a change in the voting parity of federations.

    This may have been the result of his support of Anatoly Karpov who was in support of such pronouncements. He reinforced his support for “one nation, one vote”. Kasparov asserted that all debts are forgiven… all fees are reduced 50% tomorrow… August 12th. He also mentioned a language commission Rex Sinquefield’s pledge of $10 million for supporting FIDE programs.

    FIDE First

    Kirsan Ilyumzhinov’s seven-minute speech did not mention any specific programs or accomplishments, but he pledged to inject $20 million TODAY! This got a raucous cheer. He also mentioned creating an Africa Foundation and wanted to appoint long-time rival GM Nigel Short as Chair. Surprisingly, advocated donating $100,000 to the Kasparov Chess Foundation. Another raucous cheer. He ended on the note of federations working together and invoking the motto, “GENS UNA SUMUS”.


    Kirsan Ilyumzhinov looking very relaxed while…


    … while Garry Kasparov looks a bit worried.


    Githinji Hinga (Kenya) and Sonja Johnson (Trinidad & Tobago)
    discuss issues of the campaign.

    There was a second call of nations and subsequently ballots were given. After the break the voting was conducted and one by one, delegates voted. As federations were coming forth to vote, both candidates milled about the facility making conversation with other delegates. Kasparov stood nervously and also made rounds. He could be seen in the vicinity of African federations along with other members of his ticket. Ilymuzhinov was seen outside speaking with a number of different delegates and seemed to be at ease and confident.

    It was instructive that out of all the countries registered, only Gabon did not vote out of 34 African nations present and six valid proxies. Uganda was allowed to vote despite the delegate missing roll call. There apparently was an extenuating circumstance. The Electoral Judge Carol Jarecki read the tally: Ilyumzhinov 110 Kasparov 61 with four spoiled ballots. There was immediately a cheer after 110 was read and congratulatory hugs were exchanged.

    A range of emotions in this photo.

    Ilyumzhinov accepts the result with a speech.

    Garry Kasparov being interviewed after defeat.

    Kirsan Ilyumzhinov giving a statement.

    In his victory speech, Ilyumzhinov thanked everyone and stated that he wanted to “spend all my life for FIDE”. Does this mean that Ilyumzhinov intends to be “President for Life”? In the meantime, Kasparov sat dejectedly and was soon deluged with a number of reporters and journalists on his views of the election. His words were very strong. “It’s a very sad day for chess,” he said resignedly. A member of the Kasparov ticket Afrika Msimang also weighed in…

    I find it mindboggling that people could allow one to become an institution instead of just a leader. Maybe I am spoiled because my leadership in my own country where my leader Nelson Mandela said, “Good leaders groom successors.”

    Her words were very strong in expressing issues that continue to plague the continent. However, Msimang said that the problem was not FIDE or “Mr. Kirsan”, but the onus was on the African delegates who seem to be easily swayed by “fairy tales”. “We are the authors of our own misery,” she stated.

    South Africa’s Afrika Msimang
    All photos by Daaim Shabazz.

    The assembly’s focus on Africa was a mixed blessing. On one hand it is good that Africa wields such influence, but on the other, it gives the perception that Africans are swayed by promises despite stagnation on the continent. There only seems to be visits and investments on the continent every four years. There have been negligible advancements in Africa in the past four years, but perhaps Essoh’s impassioned plea will give the entire assembly food for thought moving forward.

  13. 2014 Chess Olympiad: Round #10

    Tuesday, 12 August 2014

    Top Boards (Open)

    France 1½-2½ China
    Ukraine 2-2 Azerbaijan
    Croatia 3½-½ Norway 1
    Hungary 3½-½ Romania
    Bulgaria 1½-2½ Poland

    Full Results

    China got a key win over the French maintaining the lead.

    In the penultimate round of the 2014 Chess Olympiad, there are still a number of possibilities for medals. China, Hungary and no less than eight teams are in a dead heat for the medal stand. Yu Yangyi carried China to victory maintaining the lead over Hungary who got a 3-1 verdict over Romania. The cluster of the medal aspirants includes France, Russia, the Ukraine and the USA.

    Hikaru Nakamura told The Chess Drum, “SHOWTIME… for all the marbles.” While top-seed Russia cannot win a gold medal, they would like to get into position for a bronze, but even that is a remote possibility. With such a gaudy team average rating, it is certainly a disaster to not compete for the gold. It appears that one era is over and one has begun.

    Round #11: Poland-China, Hungary-Ukraine, Russia-France, Azerbaijan-USA, and India-Uzbekistan.

    Top Boards (Women)

    Ukraine 2½-1½ Russia
    Norway 1-3 Azerbaijan
    China 2-2 Romania
    Germany 2½-1½ Poland
    Georgia 3-1 Poland

    Full Results


    10-year old Yubin Kim of South Korea.

    A similar story brews in the women’s competition. Russia was coasting with 9/9 until they suffered their first loss to the Ukraine this round. However, they hold the lead with one round remaining. The story of Russia possibly winning a third straight gold medal is a great storyline given that they were initially disqualified. In addition, they have been able to accomplish what their male counterparts have not been able to do in the last 12 years.

    China only drew with Spain, but edged closer to Russia to whom they lost. They will play the Ukraine in the last round while Russia will get Bulgaria. The Ukraine needs a win to medal and Germany is also vying for the bronze. They play perennial women’s power Georgia. Tense moments ahead.

    Round #11: Ukraine-China, Russia-Bulgaria and Georgia-Germany.


    Natasha Morales is the blind player for Puerto Rico playing top board.
    Photos by Daaim Shabazz.

  14. 2014 Chess Olympiad: Round #11

    Thursday, 14 August 2014

    Top Boards (Open)

    Poland 1-3 China
    Hungary 3-1 Ukraine
    Norway 1 4-0 Malaysia
    Russia 2½-1½ France
    Azerbaijan 2½-1½ USA

    Full Results

    Medal Standings (Open)

    GOLD-China

    SILVER-Hungary

    BRONZE-India


    Kurt Meier of the Seychelles shown here in action
    during round seven Meier collapsed at the board during his round eleven game against Rwanda.
    Photo by David Llada

    There are times when we realize that there are more important things that our personal hobbies. The attendees of the Olympiad were reminded of this when Kurt Meier of the Seychelles collapsed while playing in the final round against Rwanda’s Alain Niyibizi. Word spread quickly as the Chief Arbiter stopped the games while the paramedics attended to Meier. After several rounds of CPR, the ambulance came and whisked him away to a local hospital. A heart attack was suspected. More details are forthcoming.

    (Update: It has been confirmed by several sources that Kurt Meier of the Seychelles succumbed to a heart attack. Attempts were made to revive him at the scene but they were unsuccessful. Meier’s son was playing next to him on board #1. I was told that he died on the scene but confirmation was needed.)


    China was dominant throughout!
    Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    This round was the culmination of 11 days of competition where 175 teams competed for honor of their flag. It appeared that China was on a mission. The women were upset at being edged by Russia last year and it was apparent in their demeanor when receiving the medals. However, it was the men who seem to have the focus and drive to bag the gold. The Chinese men only lost one game the entire tournament and simply demolished the opposition not losing a single match!

    The Chinese were jubilant and could be seen celebrating in tears. Ni Hua, the elder statesmen at 31, was perhaps the most emotional. He felt redemption for not being able to hold his game for the gold medal in the 2005 World Team Championships. Ni Hua was in tears, but for a different reason. During this Olympiad, China left home Wang Hao, Bu Xiangzhi and Li Chao all 2700-level players. Yet they were undefeated and only lost one game.

    Hungary got the silver and India leapfrogged several teams to snatch the bronze in a historic result for the motherland of chess. Krishnan Sasikiran won the silver medal on board #3. More details to follow.


    GM Krishnan Sasikiran led India to a team bronze while picking up a silver medal on board three.
    Photo by David Llada.

    Press Conference with Nu Hua & Yu Yangyi (China)

    Video by chess24.com.

    Top Boards (Women)

    Russia 3½-½ Hungary
    Turkey 1½-2½ Norway 1
    China 3-1 Poland
    France 2½-1½ USA
    Ukraine 2-2 Georgia

    Full Results

    Medal Standings (Women)

    GOLD-Russia

    SILVER-China

    BRONZE-Ukraine


    China was unable to overtake Russia.
    They drew on all four boards against the Ukraine, who took the bronze.
    Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    For the second Olympiad in a row, the order of the medals was Russia, China and the Ukraine. Despite losing to Ukraine in the penultimate round, Russia rebounded by clinching the gold against Bulgaria. After this result, China-Ukraine had a bit of an uncomfortable situation when China’s team captain noted that Russia had already clinched the gold and appeared to be suggesting that the women “draw out”. The other players were focusing on Ushenina-Zhao game which still had some play. Ultimately, all boards drew and China got bronze while the Ukraine got bronze.

    Valentina Guinina and Alexandra Kosteniuk took gold medals for boards 2 and 3 to lead Russia. Hou Yifan and Guo Qi took silver on boards 1 and 5 for China while Ju Wenjun took the bronze on board 2. Natalia Zhukova took the gold on board 4 for the Ukraine. Veteran Pia Cramling had 10/11 for Sweden!

    Press Conference with winners, Russia (women)


    Video by chess24.com.


    Russia… 2014 Chess Olympiad gold medalists!
    Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

  15. 2014 Chess Olympiad: Closing Ceremonies

    Thursday, 14 August 2014


    Ni Hua jumps in jubilation after China wins gold.
    Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    The 41st Chess Olympiad was eventful for a number of reasons. The contentious campaign leading up to the Presidential election held the entire event in suspense. The presence of campaign slogans were everywhere including the omnipresent posters of Garry Kasparov around the Olympiad village. However, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov certainly had his footprint stamped throughout the Olympiad environment.

    Tromso, Norway was a place that had high hopes to hold an Olympiad in the home of the World Champion, Magnus Carlsen. Of course, for many there was many forgettable moments at the Olympiad including each time one had to go shopping in Norway. Prices for everything were exorbitant. Minor items like a candy bar and bottles of water could cost US$5.00. A sandwich could run $8.00-$12.00 easily. While this was a utter forgettable experience, this would be a most memorable Olympiad for Asia.

    In the open section, both China (gold) and India (bronze) had memorable results as both would win their first Olympiad team medals. Both federations had scored creditable results in previous Olympiad (China as high as 2nd in 2006 and India as high as 6th in 2004). The remarkable fact of these feats was the fact that both China and India were missing top players.

    The Chinese were very jubilant when receiving medals, especially Ni Hua who got redemption from 2005 World Team when he blundered away a chance for Chinese gold to Russia. Ni Hua was inconsolably sad after that event, so it is fitting that he was inconsolably happy in this event. He announced at the press conference that this would be his last Olympiad.


    Chinese players took turns letting out primal screams to the amusement of the audience.


    “Threepeat” for the Russian women!

    While the top European teams were at full strength, China was missing Wang Hao, Bu Xiangzhi and Li Chao while India was missing Viswanathan Anand and Pentala Harikrishna and Surya Ganguly. The “Rise of Asia” has been brewing for decades with the dominance of Chinese women and the emergence of Humpy Koneru. For the men, Anand has set off a wave of interest in the country and also inspired throughout the developing world. During the medal ceremonies, China were enthusiastically congratulated by India as if they were teammates!

    The closing ceremonies will be letting down the Olympiad career on a number of luminaries such as Judit Polgar who announced her retirement from professional play and others such as Vladimir Kramnik and Gata Kamsky may have seen their last Olympiad. It is interesting that Eugenio Torre is still going strong and completed his 22nd Olympiad. Unfortunately, there was no mention of this, but this is a remarkable feat.


    This tournament marks the end of a wonderful career by Judit Polgar (front right),
    the strongest women ever to play chess.

    Despite the breakthrough of Asia and to a less extent Latin America, Europe still made an impact. The traditional powers were represented in the top 20 teams. Teams like Russia (who seemed embarrassed to win Category A), Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Armenia are amongst the teams accounting for much of the success in team championships in the past 20 years. However, new candidates such as Cuba (7th), Egypt (23rd), Argentina (18th) and Peru (19th) broke the top 20. Egypt won category prizes in both open and women. It is apparent that the balance of power is slightly shifting. On the women’s side, not much has changed. The top five are the usual suspects to win the gold medal… Russia, China, Ukraine, Georgia and Armenia.


    Players from Kyrgyzstan got a roar of applause. They clearly had the best head wear of any of the men.


    The woolen hat is known as “kalpak” and is worn as a symbol of Kyrgyz pride.


    Egypt was glad to have the services of GM Ahmed Adly (center),
    who has three more months of military service.


    The Egyptian women also did very well by winning Category C.
    Team Prizes

    Category A
    (Men: Russia; Women: Georgia)

    Category B
    (Men: Egypt; Women: Mongolia)

    Category C
    (Men: Kyrgyzstan; Women: Egypt)

    Category D
    (Men: Sri Lanka; Women: Tajikistan)

    Category E
    (Men: Pakistan; Women: Thailand)

    There were also great individual performances with American GM Samuel Shankland’s 9/10 being near the top. For someone who considered quitting chess a couple years back, a great result in his Olympiad debut. Yu Yangyi had 9.5/11 and an stratospheric 2912 performance. He and Ding Liren represent the future of Chinese chess. Sweden’s Pia Cramling had the highest win percentage of the tournament with 10/11. However this was only good for a bronze medal.


    A recent economics graduate, GM Sam Shankland (center) had a career result.


    WGM Padmini Rout, the Indian star with her trademark wealth of hair,
    had a wonderful performance with 7.5/8.


    GM Alexandra Kosteniuk keeps winning medals.

    While these accomplishments bring happiness to nations, the Olympiad had experienced some sad moments as two players died at the end of the event. Kurt Meier was playing against Rwanda’s Alain Niyibizi when he apparently suffered a seizure and fell unconscious. All attempts to revive him were unsuccessful and he was later pronounced dead at the hospital.


    Final position in Meier-Niyibizi.
    (after 65…Kc5)

    It was recorded that he won his last game, but it is unclear whether his opponent had willingly conceded in a drawn position. The officials score for Meier was 6.5/11. Alisher Anarkulov from Uzbekistan was found dead in his hotel room from unknown causes. He played for the International Chess Committee of the Deaf and was on 5/10. A moment of silence was given prior to the beginning of the program.

    The 2016 Chess Olympiad will be held in Baku, Azerbaijan and the 2018 Chess Olympiad will be held in Batumi, Georgia. Both places have hosted premier international chess events, but there is now a question on whether other regions of the world are being neglected of a privilege to hold the biennial event. Only two Olympiads have been held outside of the European region (1986 Dubai, UAE and 1992 Manila, the Philippines). Turkey has a dual Europe/Mideast identity and while they have hosted in 2000 and 2012, they are looking to bid once again. Perhaps in the near future, an Olympiad will be held in Africa.

    All photos by Daaim Shabazz, The Chess Drum.

  16. Drum Interviews @ ’14 Olympiad

    The Olympiad is the biennial chess festival attracting players, delegates and enthusiasts far and wide. Its beauty lies in the fact that all of the chess federations have arrived at the venue in many different ways… and in some cases for the first time. The 2014 Olympiad broke a record for entrants with 174 federations represented and was hosted in Tromso, a city of 71,000 inhabitants. While the city appeared completely overwhelmed, the staging ground became an arena of hard-fought competition.

    Ian Wilkinson was on stage during this Olympiad… literally and figuratively! All photos by Daaim Shabazz.

    In addition, to the competition was the business of Fédération internationale des échecs (FIDE) or World Chess Federation. One thousand delegates assembled to elect a new FIDE President after what had been a contentious campaign. Nations were divided into two camps… the incumbent Kirsan Ilyumzhinov (FIDE First) and for Garry Kasparov (Kasparov2014).

    In previous Olympiad, The Chess Drum has conducted interviews of many participants and have made them available. These are personalities that perhaps the chess world would not normally encounter. In the Tromso Olympiad, we were able to secure interviews with a number of delegate, officials and players. These ten interviews represented nearly a dozen countries and as many viewpoints. A couple of prized interviews are a 17-year old girl from Palestine and a young Indian GM from the bronze medal-winning team. Please sit back and enjoy these interviews and feel free to give your feedback!

    The Chess Drum was able to conduct some very interesting interviews during the tournament. These interviews always capture the diverse backgrounds and reveal what makes people so passionate about the game. This year the interviews ranged from up-and-coming players to mid-level masters to retired legends to world-class Grandmasters! Please sit back and enjoy these interviews and feel free to give your feedback!

    Gabon’s Barthelemy Bongo speaking amicably with
    “FIDE First” supporter, Konate Ibrahima of Mali.

    Barthelemy Ndjila Akanga Bongo (Gabon) – This interview was a supplement to the case of Gabon which dominated the FIDE General Assembly proceedings. Back in July, Gabon’s Association pour le Developpement Des Echecs au Gabon (ADEG) was fighting for reinstatement as the nation’s sole delegate to FIDE.

    Bongo had alleged that ADEG was summarily replaced by Association Gabonaise des Echecs (AGE) because ADEG supported the candidacy of Kasparov. Despite furnishing all the documentation, the FIDE Electoral Commision upheld AGE as the sole delegate. Interestingly enough, Gabon did not have a voting delegate since AGE did not show up in Tromso to vote. 15:52 minutes

    Jean-Claude Essoh of Cote d’Ivoire makes case during General Assembly.

    Dr. Jean-Claude Essis Essoh (Cote d’Ivoire) – the Ivorian chess federation President certain made an impact at this Olympiad. A vocal force in the African Continental Assembly and the FIDE General Assembly he went head-to-head with Georgios Makropolous for the right to raise a question about FIDE’s record in Africa. In this short interview, he gives his ultimate reason for being so adamant. 3:40 minutes

    Afrika Msimang

    Afrika Msimang (South Africa) – Running on Kasparov’s ticket, this bold woman uses many parallels in explaining her fight for African chess including the legacy of Nelson Mandela. However, she also discusses the FIDE election, her reasoning for supporting Kasparov and lays full responsibility for Africa’s advancement on the shoulders of its leadership. In response to the rift that occurred at the Olympiad she stated, “We have become the authors of our own misery.” She wants to continue the passionate fight in order to give the gift of chess to future generations. 14:52 minutes

    Sonja Johnson (Trinidad & Tobago) – Another “Chess Mom” who has turned into an activist for chess advancement. Johnson is the mother of Joshua Johnson who made his debut on the national team. In this interview she talks about chess on the islands, its development, future initiatives and impressions of the city of Tromso and the Olympiad in general. This well-spoken and passionate woman may be tapped for leadership positions on FIDE Commissions. Very refreshing!9:41 minutes

    Githinji Hinga (Kenya) and Sonja Johnson (Trinidad & Tobago)
    discuss issues of the campaign.

    Ian Wilkinson along side Garry Kasparov after his defeat.

    Ian Wilkinson (Jamaica) – The charismatic ‘chess don’ of Jamaica speaks about the atmosphere of the Olympiad, the performance of the Jamaican team, the Kasparov campaign and chess in the African Disapora and other developing regions. Very enlightening! 12:00 minutes

    Lewis Ncube (Zambia) – The new Continental President for Africa speaks about a number of issues concerning African performance at Olympiad, the FIDE election and his vision for chess development in Africa. As FIDE Vice President, Ncube was part of Ilymzhinov’s inner circle and is now charged with healing the wounds suffered from a fractured continent after the election. Asked of how he would remedy this, he gave an interesting answer. 23:03 minutes

    Lewis Ncube of Zambia (center) is the new FIDE Continental President for Africa. This was amidst a contentious election in which there was tremendous damage done as a result of divided loyalties. Ncube discusses the impact of the election, his idea of an “African Grand Prix” and his vision for advancement in sponsorship.

    Eddie Thompson & Francis Adanquah of Ghana.

    Francis Adanquah & Eddie Thompson (Ghana) – Two players from Ghana express their views concerning Ghanaian chess and their difficult experience in Tromso, Norway. Both players gave very candid testimony to the difficulties of chess development in smaller federation like Ghana, but then impressed upon leadership of Africa to move forward and not rely on FIDE for leadership. 10:04 minutes

    Aseel Faheeq (Palestine) – During very tumultuous times for the Palestinian people in Israel, two teams were sent to Tromso, Norway to represent the honor of the entire Palestinian Diaspora. Faheeq, a soft-spoken 17-year old, was one of three sisters playing for Palestine and all were seen with beautiful traditional outfits. Faheeq talks about chess in Palestine, her family and urges peace for Palestine. 10:54 minutes

    Palestine made quite a strong statement in this Olympiad in appearance and in their words. Yara Faqih, Rahaf Jehad Mohamed with Aseel Faheeq pictured on the right. One Palestinian teammate Anwar Al-Bzoor (not pictured) scored 8.5/9 on board five.

    WIM Regina Riberio (right) shown here with other players from Kenya and Jamaica.

    WIM Regina Riberio (Brazil) – A legendary figure in Brazilian women’s chess who is making a comeback after eight years away from Olympiad play while teaching schoolchildren. Originally from Rio de Janeiro, she is eight-time women’s champion has played in ten Olympiad tournaments. She has a storied history and mentioned to me the scarcity of Black women on the chess scene in Brazil. 11:40 minutes

    GM Adibhan Baskiran (India) – This personable young star who enamored fans at the 2013 World Cup in Tromso, he was an integral part of the bronze medal winners in the 2014 Olympiad. Scoring 7/11, he represents a result of the “Anand Boom” with a number of Grandmasters produced from Chennai, Adibhan’s home along with Anand’s. He gives his impression on the Olympiad, his endeavors and Asian Chess. 4:51 minutes

    India at the closing ceremonies. Adibhan is at near right.
    All photos on this page by Daaim Shabazz.

  17. Relections on Tromso Olympiad

    Every two years, FIDE hosts the Olympiad with a chief organizing body. It is like no other tournament, so generally no expense is spared to make it successful. Most everyone was anticipating the Tromso Olympiad in the idyllic and quaint city. Besides it is the home country of World Champion Magnus Carlsen, so it was obvious that the tournament would receive worldwide attention.

    The movie “Divergent” was a good… diversion on the seven-hour plane ride from Newark to Oslo.

    When planning for the Olympiad, I registered for my journalist credentials on chess24.com, a relatively new project. Months ago Macauley Peterson sent me an e-mail introducing the site and it appeared to have great potential. One of things I can say is that chess24.com coverage of Olympiad was superb. The website was well-done easy to navigate and apart from the few broadcast glitches the productions were professional. I actually got to see Macauley in the production room and it is a clear contrast from what we see online.

    I had just finished playing in the U.S. Open in Orlando when I made it back to Tallahassee and began immediately preparing for Tromso. I would have to drive two hours to Jacksonville to get my plane to Newark, New Jersey… then from Newark to Oslo, Norway and then on to Tromso. I actually missed my initial flight by a few minutes and had no option but to stay another night in Jacksonville since the 6:55pm flight was the last. This gave me a chance to catch up on coverage, an extremely difficult task.

    On the next day, I was able to get my flight to Norway without any issues. I watched “Divergent” on the plane and read a few more pages of “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. On the layover in Oslo, I tried to catchup with my reports on Olympiad. I had to pay to get on an Internet service called “homerun”.

    When I finally got to Tromso, I collected my bags and prepared to get a taxi, but there was someone holding a sign “Chess Olympiad”. They instructed me to get on the Olympiad van which then took me to the Radisson Blu. On the way, I took a few photos and was amused at a restaurant called, “Burger Man”. The mountains were certainly the most obvious characteristic.




    Finally made it… Norway! 🙂
    CLICK to see larger images. Hover to get descriptions.

    When I got to the Radisson, there was some initial confusion on my accomodation. Since there were no more rooms available, they had located an apartment for $900.00 for six days. Pricey. However, it turned out well since I was in a spacious apartment in a nicely-renovated basement… actually two apartments in one. The problem was that I had to walk 15-20 minutes to the venue. Twice I had to do so in a steady drizzle. I thought this was fun except I was wearing a suit on one of the rainy days.

    Once I got settled, the first event for me was the “Polar Bear” festival hosted by the Garry Kasparov ticket. I received an e-mail invitation from Ian Wilkinson that I was on the VIP list. I didn’t know exactly where the venue was, so I stopped at a hotel to ask around. There I saw Barthelemy Bongo of Gabon passing out literature about his case against FIDE. We chatted before I made my way to venue, but he was busy making his case with other federations. He pointed out a gentleman from the Sudan who was going.

    When I got to the festival venue, I recognized many faces… players from a variety of nations and a few journalists. Peter Doggers of chess.com said hello as well as players and delegates from a variety of federations. There was a magic show being performed where the magician did a Houdini-like escape at the end, but then Ian (who had performed earlier) came onstage with a viking helmet and entertained the crowd. For a man to be such a high-powered lawyer, he certainly knows how to have fun.




    Kasparov “Polar Bear Festival”
    CLICK to see larger images. Hover to get descriptions.

    After the event I walked home and got my first experience of the “midnight sun”. At 11:00pm, it appeared to be daylight and I took a photo. Then it began to get dark. After three hours of working on reports, the sun started peeking out again. I texted a picture to my sister both at 11:00pm and one at 2:00am. Of course, it is a hard concept to grasp.

    My apartment was great (fully furnished), but the bedroom was slightly cooler, so I used my black windbreaker to cover my head from the daylight and for warmth. In the morning I indulged on the snacks I brought. Hikaru Nakamura had already warned me about the prices for food, so I stocked up on dried fruit, nutritional bars, almonds, seeds. I also brought my NutriBullet portable blender, but just like in Ghana, the converter couldn’t handle the voltage. I stopped a second after I saw sparks flying. 🙁

    My morning route to the Olympiad Village… 15-20 minute walk.

    It was a pleasant walk as I caught a glimpse of the mountainous landscape at a distance. My first Olympiad activity was the African Continent Congress at the Radisson Blu. I took photos and got an idea of the discussion. There was a discussion of proxy votes on the floor. There was a coffee break, so I decided to head to the venue for the 8th round of play. I saw Ian Wilkinson and stopped to chat. He invited me to stop at the Kasparov hotel to have lunch. Kasparov was in an animated discussion with a few people and Ian was summoned to a meeting so I ended up having lunch with Ian’s ebullient wife, Shawn.




    Norway sites… African Continental Congress… trek to Olympiad venue
    CLICK to see larger images. Hover to get descriptions.

    Ian finished his meeting and took the scenic route to the venue. I finally settled into the press area. Little did I know that the African meeting would later descent into chaos. This would become important later on. As I surveyed the playing area, I noticed that is was “irregularly-shaped” with players in different sections. Thus, I took my first set of photos in haphazard fashion. Occasionally, I’d run into a familiar face. I did get many good shots including photo of Kurt Meier of the Seychelles died of a heart attack in the final round. It was good catching up with many of the journalists including Cathy Rogers. I would later find out that players were no longer welcome in the press room to avert cheating attempts.



    * * *



    Round #8 in action!
    CLICK to see larger images. Hover to get descriptions.

    The next day was the long General Assembly meeting. I had to stop by the Radisson Blu to find out the location and hopefully get a shuttle. Fortunately, the delegate from Aruba flagged me down and asked if I was going to the General Assembly! I was on my way. The assembly took place in a cavernous auditorium as the federations were seated by zone. The translators were busy at work. I saw Githinji Hinga (Kenya) and Vianney Lugguya (Uganda) talking in the back.

    Throughout the day there was a recurring theme around delegates and proxy votes, but the Gabon case was prominent in the discussion. I conducted several interviews including one with Dr. Jean-Claude Essoh who got into a shouting match with Georgios Makropolous over a point raised about attention to Africa. This represented a bad omen and there was more to come. Several FIDE officials had heated exchanges with African delegates… something I did not see with any other delegates.

    Dr. Jean-Claude Essoh of Cote d’Ivoire was a thorn in the side of FIDE officials as he repeatedly brought up uncomfortable points on Gabon and on FIDE’s record in Africa. He was also heard in a shouting match with Georgios Makropolous during a coffee break of the FIDE Congress. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    With one day of shooting photos under my belt I was able to get most of the top players and matches. I was also in time to see Nakamura’s 1.b3 against Fernando Peralta of Argentina… and win! As you span the room full of chess players, there are so many stories. There are the world-class players, but there are the local heroes defending their nation’s honor. The dotting of the hall with national colors, head adornments and uniforms is one that makes the Olympiad a unique experience. These expressions show national pride, but also an essence of unity in effort. It’s wonderful to see.

    The Palestinian women drew a lot of admiration for their traditional outfits, national pride and words of peace. There were three sisters playing on the women’s team. They gave numerous interviews including one for The Chess Drum. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    Meeting others who are so passionate about chess gives one joy in knowing that they are part of a larger community. I remember meeting Sheryas Smith of Jamaica on the street. He was practically overwhelmed by the experience! For most, they will never attend an Olympiad, but for the chosen few, it is one of the indelible memories, lifetime friendships and associations. It is unfortunate when chess is boiled down to political associations and proceeds to drive a wedge between countries and even within federations. That much was evident in the African Assembly and the bidding for the 2018 Olympiad.



    * * *



    Delegation from Jamaica.

    “GENS UNA SUMUS”
    CLICK to see larger images. Hover to get descriptions.

    I had an opportunity to make many new acquaintances and renew old ones. I was pleased to have interviewed a number of delegates and players and to understand their passion for chess. I also saw the tremendous effort being made by the Norway Olympiad Committee (NOC). There was highs (China and India) and lows (two deaths at the end of the tournaments). Of course there were glitches and logistical challenges, but the effort expended was appreciated in most cases. Certainly there will be improvements made in Baku, Azerbaijan and there will be no election (thank goodness). Below I leave with you memories from the Tromso Olympiad. Enjoy!

    Best Memories of the Olympiad were…

    • …witnessing the “midnight sun”… daylight at 2:00am. I sent a photo to my sister. Here is Tromso at 2:00am!
    • …meeting and chatting briefly with Aisha Al-Khelaifi of Qatar… an absolute sweetheart!
    • …my short conversation with GM Nguyen Ngoc Truongson of Vietnam while leaving Tromso. I talked about my trip there and he was telling me about chess in Vietnam and the fact that he is focusing solely on chess. Very pleasant young man.
    • …having an interview with Aseel Faheeq of Palestine. It’s hard for me to get an idea of what she may have experienced in her 17 years. She was so strong and resolute.

    Palestine made quite a strong statement in this Olympiad in appearance and in their words. Yara Faqih, Rahaf Jehad Mohamed with Aseel Faheeq pictured on the right. One Palestinian teammate Anwar Al-Bzoor (not pictured) scored 8.5/9 on board five. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    • …the outfits of Afrika Msimang of South Africa.
    • riding the public bus in Tromso.
    • stable Internet access in my apartment.
    • spending time with Ian Wilkinson and experiencing his exuberance for chess… quite contagious.
    • …the sing-along of Bob Marley songs on the bus leaving the Closing Ceremonies. Classic!
    • …an innocent moment of sharing The Chess Drum site with players from Malawi.
    • … interview with Sonja Johnson of Trinidad & Tobago.9:41 minutes
    • …walking in the steady drizzle of rain on two occassions. Makes Norway more memorable. 🙂
    • …seeing the head coverings of the various Muslim women teams… something regal and gallant about the tradition.
    • …watching the visually-impaired player from Puerto Rico, Natasha Morales Santos.

    Natasha Morales Santos (Puerto Rico)
    Photo by David Llada.

    • …witnessing Jean-Claude Essoh’s on adamant stance in the FIDE General Assembly. Whether one agrees with his style or not, it helped to show that African cannot be taken for granted. 3:40 minutes
    • …the chess adornments throughout the city of Tromso.
    • …as a professor, being able to visit UIT.
    • …the passion and professional of the African federations. Thirty-four nations present!
    • …brief chats with Cathy Rogers in the press room.
    • …the endless snacks and drinks in the press room. Given the prices for food in Norway, this was a nice convenience.
    • Yubin Kim (10) of South Korea and her smile! Enchanting!


    Yubin Kim (South Korea)
    Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    • Afrika Msimang, her colorful African outfits and her strong convictions about children’s chess.

      Afrika Msimang (South Africa)
      Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    • …the outfit and the wreath of flowers on the head of Iva Videnova of Bulgaria. If you Google her, you will find she has a history of wearing flowers in her hair. Nice!

      Iva Videnova (Bulgaria)
      Photo by David Llada.

    • …being able to have a lengthy chat with Regina Riberio of Brazil. I considered her a legend being an eight-time Brazilian champion, but she said this was her first interview! 11:40 minutes
    • …meeting Beatriz Marinello… wonderful person!
    • …being happy for GM Ahmed Adly for winning a team medal after missing the World Cup. He has three more months of military service.
    • …getting a scarf from Ethiopian delegate Ghidey Debessu.
    • …the group photo of several African officials.

    Officials from Burundi (2), Rwanda, Ethiopia, Algeria,
    Malawi, Sudan, Zimbabwe and Namibia.
    Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    • …several members of the Burundi team disappearing.
    • …giving t-shirts as gifts to Kenyan delegation 🙂
    • …the emotional celebration of the Chinese men after winning the gold and the emotion at the closing ceremony.
    • …being able to meet IM Rodwell Makoto of Zimbabwe.
    • …the fresh air of Tromso, Norway.
    • …having dinner with chess24.com Macauley Peterson at Radisson Blu.
    • …meeting Kenyan journalist Jacinta Wangalwa.
    • …my interview with GM Adibhan Baskiran of India. 4:51 minutes
    • …meeting GM Sam Shankland in the airport and getting a photo of him with his medal.
    • Enjoying a delightful conversation with GM Daniel King at the Oslo Airport.
    • …the “kalpak” hats of the Kyrgyzstan team.

    Kyrgyzstan winning a category prize evoked a cheer!
    Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    Worst Memories of the Olympiad were…

    • …Tromso Airport upon departure. CRAZY!!!
    • … paying US$4.00-5.00 for snack bar. Fortunately, there was a “3 for 2” sale.
    • …the mistreatment of African federations repeatedly.
    • Israel Gelfer’s comments about Africans being “lazy” and unable to hold a meeting.

    Githinji Hinga of Kenya expressing himself after Israel Gelfer called African federations “lazy” because of the rift created in the African Assembly. Here’s part of the exchange.6:22 minutes

    • Nigel Freeman’s contention that Georgia was the superior Olympiad site before the body voted between South Africa and Georgia. The FIDE bias was very obvious and it turned into a partisan issue.
    • …leaving my glasses behind at UIT and having to spend 310NOK (US$50.00) on a taxi only not to find them. I found them the next day.
    • …the expression on Jacinta Wangalwa’s face when she told me about Kurt Meier’s (Seychelles) demise.
    • GM Eltaj Safarli of Azerbaijan accusing me of jumping ahead of the line at the Tromso Airport and being disrespectful in the presence of Azeri players and Alexander Khalifman. We had all struggled with the chaotic process and had been in line for an hour trying to check luggage. He said, “I don’t care. You go after all of us.” I asked if he was Azeri and he asked me where I was from. When I told him the country, his demeanor changed.
    • …lack of food choices in the evening. I got a spiced raisin bun one night and some expensive gourmet chips.
    • …being far away from the players’ hotels. Ghanaian players telling me they have to take 250NOK taxi ride to get to their residence.
    • …my NutriBullet blender almost blowing up.
    • …World Champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway leaving Tromso early to return home. This caught many by surprise and the social networks blew up. He had lost two games, but there was apparently a contractual agreement obligating him to play a specific number of matches. Still a shock.

    It’s all over! 🙁

  18. FIDE’s African Problem

    Last month, the world’s marquee team tournament known as the “Chess Olympiad” ended in Tromso, Norway with record attendance of 174 nations. This included a record 34 present from Africa (excluding eight proxies). While I am not certain when the first African federation joined the World Chess Federation (FIDE), nations from this continent have been participating in international competitions for decades. In fact, the Africans are usually conspicuous with their colorful uniforms, official jackets and infectious spirit. Certainly, the spirit of chess flows through Africa’s veins and hearts. It is ironic that chess still struggles to find support on the massive continent despite producing many top-level draughts players.


    The Chess Drum’s Daaim Shabazz with Charles Kuwaza of Zimbabwe.

    Officials from Burundi, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Algeria, Malawi, Sudan, Zimbabwe and Namibia. FIDE Continental President Lakhdar Mazouz of Algeria in the center. Various viewpoints are represented here. Despite the enchanting assembly of African officials here, the Tromso Olympiad was less enchanting for Africa.

    There are several reasons for Africa’s sluggish growth in chess and it may mirror many other problems existing within the socio-economic and geopolitical landscape of the continent. However, when looking at Africa’s standing in FIDE over the past decades, it is obvious that there needs to be more attention paid to the sustainable growth of 42 African federations.


    Zienab Mustafa Mansour of the Sudan is a player of one of many young chess nations in Africa seeking growth.
    Photo by chess24.com

    In my years of covering chess, there appears to be a myriad of problems pertaining to chess growth on the large continent. First, is the massive size of the continent which makes it very impractical to travel such long distances. This problem also appears in other regions with developing chess communities. Second, economics appear to be the major obstacle to chess development in Africa with federations struggling to draw sponsorship, host regular activities and run a functioning administrative location. Thirdly, Africa suffers due to the lack of connection between the chess community and larger constituencies.

    While these shortcomings are due to a number of reasons, FIDE’s treatment of Africa has not been progressive. In this past election campaign, there were many controversies surrounding the continent including, but not limited to the issue of delegates. Expectantly, there was an effort by both election campaigns to pool the voting delegates of Africa into a winning formula.


    Should Ghana have the same voting power as Russia or the USA? Both campaign parties believed so.

    The image that had been cast is that in Africa all you need is a suitcase full of incentives to sway votes. Of course, this is a gross exaggeration. In the past, there was even a notion that African nations were unworthy of a singular vote and that more powerful nations should wield heavier influence. However, this was disavowed by both campaigns. In the General Assembly, there is the one-nation, one vote system giving the smallest federation the same voting power as the largest. Thus stakes were very high.

    As the campaign drew nearer, there were controversies including several federations whose voting delegates had been removed altogether and changed. This essay is not to delve into these controversies, rehash the details and determine which campaign was justified in their attacks. These are now public records. However, there must NOT be a rerun of this episode in 2018 since the last election turned into a “Scramble for Africa“. This is the last thing the continent needs.


    “Kasparov2014” supporter Barthelemy Bongo of Gabon speaking amicably with “FIDE First” supporter, Konate Ibrahima of Mali. Bongo spoke to The Chess Drum about Gabon’s situation.15:22 minutes

    Calm before the storm… Ethiopian delegate Ghidey Debessu raises a question at 2014 African Congress. After the coffee break, the meeting descended into chaos.

    This election divided the continent… divided regions… and divided federations. To witness the chaos of the African Assembly was sad regardless of whose side one supported. It was an unmitigated disaster. I attended the morning half of the African Congress before going to the playing hall to cover the beginning of the eighth round. I then got a report that the Congress had descended into chaos with the presiding chair walking out of the room. The body appointed an interim chair and continued the meeting.

    Githinji Hinga of Kenya expressing himself after Israel Gelfer called African federations “lazy” because of the rift created in the African Assembly. Gelfer apologized repeatedly. Here’s part of the exchange.6:22 minutes

    On the next day, there was a chance to reconcile the issue. Unfortunately, when I arrived there were two meetings and two separate votes. There was FIDE officers buzzing about and I saw Garry Kasparov rushing down the hall. I was later told that when members of both parties arrived, a dispute ensued and the meeting split into two separate groups. When I tried to enter the meeting led by Mazouz, he informed me “no journalists” were allowed. I immediately left the room.

    There had been the suspicion that chess journalists were supporting Kasparov. Perhaps this suspicion goes back to the FIDE clashes with journalists in Istanbul and several endorsements given to Kasparov by influential chess websites. Later I was allowed in and talked with Lewis Ncube about the rift. He cited the interference of lawyers and the issue of the delegate count. Unfortunately, I did not record the conversation or take any photographs for fear of jeopardizing my access.

    FIDE’s Israel Gelfer with African players and delegates outside meeting room after two factions formed.


    The Kasparov team can be seen down the hall strategizing.

    There were hushed tones throughout the corridor,
    but inside the room the scenes were more tense.


    The pro-Kasparov faction continue the meeting and proceed to hold elections.

    I went to the other room and talked for 30 minutes with both Leykun Adeyemi (Nigeria) and Githinji Hinga (Kenya) who cited justification based on the statutes of the African Chess Confederation (ACC)… listen. As a member of the Pan-African Diaspora, I was extremely saddened. After learning what had transpired, it was a truly pitiful occurrence as African delegates were in the corridors speaking amongst themselves with distrust in their hearts. A wedge had been driven between them by outsiders.

    These tensions brewing prior to the Olympiad sessions led to contentious encounters. Georgios Makropolous came tete-a-tete with Dr. Jean-Claude Essoh in the General Assembly and refused to yield the floor to the Ivorian delegate. Makropolous charged Essoh with disrupting the disputed African Congress and accused him of repeating earlier points. This confrontation continued outside during a coffee break.

    A showdown occurred between Dr. Jean-Claude Essoh of Cote d’Ivoire and…

    Georgios Makropolous seen gesturing.

    On the next day, the conflict descended into a shouting match during a coffee break of the FIDE Congress. Here’s part of the exchange.4:13 minutes

    Of course, this is not the way to have a civil discussion even if two sides does not agree. It is the first time in recent years that Africa has been thrust in FIDE’s political spotlight so prominently. Perhaps this election will show that African nations will be resolute in their views even if it means voting for different candidates. However, it has to be done in a manner that maintains the integrity and dignity of Africa.

    Issues in the past such as expulsion due to arrears, repeated visa imbroglios, sponsorship shortages for travel and unfair adjudication of “zero tolerance” policies (which disproportionately affected African countries who lived as much as one hour away from the venue). The 2008 Olympiad in Dresden was a disastrous laboratory experiment for the zero tolerance rule. One nation was forfeited despite the tram breaking down. When this was confirmed the forfeit was still upheld.


    FIDE Treasurer/Executive Director Nigel Freeman created quite a stir on the 2018 Olympiad bidding.

    Finally, there was the misstep by Nigel Freeman when he possibly influenced the voting for the Olympiad bidding for 2018. After giving a report on the result of his inspection, he stated affirmatively that while both Georgia and South Africa were capable holding a successful Olympiad tournament, Georgia “was the superior choice.” This created a buzz of condemnation since the delegates had not voted yet and his comments may have swayed the vote.

    The South Africans objected and there was support by Ignatius Leong and Ian Wilkinson for South Africa and Geoffrey Borg for Georgia, but the issue became a partisan one. Those supporting Kirsan Ilymzhinov voted for Georgia and those voting for Kasparov voted for South Africa. It would have been best that no endorsements were given by people on either ticket to avoid this type of dynamic.

    Some African nations were encouraged to vote against having the Olympiad in South Africa because of their campaign allegiance. During the break, Freeman could be heard explaining to Jamaica’s Wilkinson that South Africa simply was not ready. Georgia won the vote and jubilant roars could be heard from outside the hall.



    * * *



    Images from the FIDE Congress… bidding of 2018 Olympiad.
    CLICK to see larger images. Hover to get descriptions.

    Every Olympiad since 1992 has been held in the European region and only six times in other regions (if you count Libya/Israel 1976). In fact, the next two Olympiad will be held in neighboring nations (Baku, Azerbaijan 2016 and Batumi, Georgia 2018). It would have been a wonderful opportunity for the growth of chess in Africa. It is difficult for chess to grow in Africa (or globally) with a decidedly Eurocentric outlook. It was shameful to see that an Olympiad bid would become politically-charged along election party lines.

    Zambia’s Lewis Ncube has an idea of an ‘African Grand Prix’ and advancement in sponsorship. Will this propel Africa forward? Here is his plan… 22:50 minutes

    In the final analysis, Africa is accountable for their own destiny. This is true as a continent and it is true in chess. There are ways to make use of resources due to the diffusion of technology. Most players have access to useful internet sites with free content and game servers. In actuality, the talent is bubbling within Africa, but seems to halt at critical points. Players like International Masters Stanley Chumfwa (Zambia) and Robert Gwaze (Zimbabwe) no doubt have possessed GM-level talent, but how does one harness this talent? Ilymumzhinov announced an African Commission (with GM Nigel Short as the Director) to further chess development in Africa. Now that he has won the election, we will have to see whether this will come into fruition.

    However, FIDE cannot wait until election time to pledge assistance along with Chess-in-Schools and other promises made. That is also true for those with alternative visions. Where is the accounting of African progress between 2010-2014? With a new continental President in Lewis Ncube, these will be questions going forth.

    Ncube has cited a inventive fundraising program, but until these plans come into fruition, the question raised about African neglect will persist and this conversation will resurface. Nevertheless, African cannot allow what occurred in Tromso, Norway to happen again. While the Tromso Olympiad may have been damaging for African unity, it did a great deal in helping FIDE to face the reality of its everpresent “African Problem”.

    All photos by Daaim Shabazz (The Chess Drum) unless otherwise stated.

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