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Olympiad 2012: Way to the Top

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Written by Administrator   
Tuesday, 18 September 2012
by Natalia Pogonina for her Tuesday column

World Chess Olympiad is one of the most exciting and classical tournaments. Its importance is overshadowed only by the individual World Chess Championship. It is both a fantastic festival and a place where serious confrontations take place, while each half-point can affect the final standings of the team. Nearly 160 federations, thousands of players this is an amazing event! In fact, there are two Olympiads Open and Womens. The winners in each of the sections are called Olympic champions and win medals and a cup. There is also a special trophy awarded to the strongest chess nation Gaprindashvili Cup (based on the sum of points of the countrys teams in the Open and Womens sections). Also, there are board prizes and category awards for teams within a certain average rating bracket that didnt win the main trophies. I will describe that in detail later.

For us the Chess Olympiad started in advance. From the 16th to the 27th of August we had a training session in Moscow Oblast at an Olympic base which is usually used by swimmers and gymnasts. Along with us some members of the Paralympics team were training there too. For me the main goal was to relax after the Russian Superfinal and polish some of the opening variations. As a fan of active sports, I had many ideas in mind, but they were unrealized. The reason was that I managed to injure my foot while playing soccer, and I am still suffering from it. I was taught to walk using crutches. Thanks to the doctors of the gymnastic team, I didnt miss the Olympiad, although I was walking like a lame duck in the playing hall. Anyway, the assistance of the medical workers has helped me more or less avoid unnecessary anxiety and psychological discomfort.

We arrived in Istanbul on August 27th. The hotel where we stayed was located near the airport. At first I was afraid that noise would be a problem, but the opportunity to watch the planes was more than a sufficient compensation Laughing


A somewhat minimalistic view from the window. The building with the tournament hall is close to the landing field

Other minuses of the hotel were lack of space for walking and problems with the Internet. It habitually disappeared, or lagged like a turtle.

This time our team, the reigning Olympic Champions, was seeded second, with the Chinese ladies being #1. Other potential competitors were Georgia, Ukraine, USA, etc.  Most experts predicted a tough race for gold between Russia and China, but there were a few more teams which could affect the standings and fight for the very top spot. Here is a preview of both sections and an Olympic forecast.

Let me introduce our team: Tatiana Kosintseva, Valentina Gunina, Nadezhda Kosintseva, Alexandra Kosteniuk, Natalia Pogonina. Our captain was Sergey Rublevsky, a super GM who has played many times for Russia. There were two more coaches assisting us Alexander Ryazantsev and Evgeny Najer. All three of them are respectable grandmasters who could have strengthened just about any team in the Open section.

The first rounds are usually a piece of cake for the rating favorites. Nonetheless, one cant really relax, because that can lead to unexpected losses of board points. Our first opponent was a team from Bolivia. They came to the boards just seconds before the beginning of the round and lost all their games rather quickly.


Team Russia before a match with Bolivia

Here is a nice tactical shot by Indias leader Harika Dronavalli (Koneru Humpy didnt take part):

The tournament hall was comfortable and spacious. Each player received a special green card a pass required to enter the playing hall. Guards wouldnt let anyone without a pass enter the hall. After the end of the game the pass was handed back, and the player was supposed to leave the building. Losing a card would lead to a 10 euro fine.


Tournament hall

In the evening we tried to find a place where we could go out for a walk. We discovered a more or less suitable path. Without daily promenades one gets tired much faster.

In the second round we faced Brazil and lost half a point. Everyone won, except for Valentina Gunina.



I and Sasha Kosteniuk were looking cheerful before round 2

Some teams had relatively tough opponents in the second round. Ukraine was challenged by a solid team from Iran, but the rating favorites won convincingly: 3.5-0.5.

Round 3. Russia vs. Mongolia. The match of the day in the womens section was Ukraine vs. China.


Ukraine and China just before the start of the round

The epic battle ended in a tie. Maria Muzychuk defeated Zhao Xue, but Hou Yifan struck back by beating Kateryna Lahno.

We won 3.5-0.5. Tatiana Kosintseva was the only one to draw.


Rublevsky, Pogonina, Kosintsevas. Ive got a sly facial expression and the green card with me

In the 4th round we had a serious opponent Czech Republic. Each round someone took a rest, so this time it was Alexandra Kosteniuk. I was the only one to play the first 4 games in a row. The match wasnt easy, but in the end we prevailed: 3-1. Nadezhda Kosintseva and I scored for Russia.


Tania has an unexpected opponent

On board 1 a dramatic clash between India and Serbia was taking place. The score was even, and Natasha Bojkovic was trying to convert an extra pawn against Harika Dronavalli. The endgame should have been drawn, but Harika stumbled. However, her opponent missed a chance to punish her for the oversight, and the match ended in a tie: 2-2.


Natasha Bojkovic vs. Harika Dronavalli

After 4 rounds our team had a 100% result (pros count only the match points at this stage of the tournament). France also had 8/8 match points, and we were to play them in round 5. Now I was offered a chance to take a double-rest. The next day was an official rest day for everyone, and then I'd sit out round 5.

Part II rest day, first real challenges, clash of the titans: Russia vs. China dont miss it next week!

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Comments (5)
1. Written by This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it on 09:02 18 2012 .
Thanks Natalia, was an epic Olympiad for Russian Team and for you. I appreciate a lot the article and I'm looking for the following one. My compliments for the victory and your personal score!  
Stefano :)
2. Written by This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it on 23:15 18 2012 .
I hope the chess fans get a chance to check out your webpage and this diary of the Olympiad's. Really gives me a chance to feel like I am the games when I am so far away. When I look at photographs of the chess players, I am always asking, who is that? Also, this is written in English! So, thanks a lot! Tell all your teams members hi from me a fan of the russian team and a fan of chess. :)
3. Written by This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it on 01:20 19 2012 .
thank natalia for the game you share, its amazing games.
4. Written by This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it on 11:06 02 2012 .
Hi, I love your website, it looks aewosme. I just wanted to share about my book called How To Play Chess Like An Animal which shows only chess openings that are named after animals. The openings aren't always the best, but they're fun sometimes for casual play and to learn about chess principles. Also the illustrations are bright and engaging for kids.
5. Written by This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it on 11:52 02 2012 .
There was a similar event at the Scarborough Chess Club back in the early 1990s, and it was great fun. With so much idiivndual competition in chess, it's nice to get that team feeling.Marcus

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