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Tromsô Olympiad Round 5: England v Vietnam

August 6, 2014

Chess fans like me look forward to various tournaments: the super tournaments, the London Chess Classic, World Championship matches and, in some ways greatest of all, the biennial Olympiads.

I haven't seen confirmed statistics yet, but understand that there are teams from around 180 countries present. One of the world's greatest sporting events, for sure.


I am on holiday in Turkey now, without PC, so my viewing is an iPad experience, and therefore somewhat limited, but now after four rounds, the tournament is in full flow.

Round 4, England 3-1 Latvia

Yesterday England had a great result, 3-1 vs Latvia, and all our three winners deserved full credit: Mickey Adams for a typical Mickey-style tour de force against Alexei Shirov ( in the early middle game, when the players avoided a Qd6/Qc5/Qd6 repetition, and when a few moves later Mickey got a stable passed a pawn and his type of position, I was willing him on to victory- the game was one where Alexei had no chance to put his fire on board); David Howell, who very quickly got a strong edge, and his conversion of the technical phase was excellent, and Matthew Sadler who I have the greatest admiration of, returning to top flight chess after a professional career, and showing great class in converting an advantageous position. And, alas, our sole loser, Nigel Short, put up magnificent resistance after a poor opening, but ultimately succumbing (he tweeted last night that he missed one sole drawing chance, late in the game).


Round 5, England v Vietnam

Today, we play the team seeded one above us, Vietnam, a difficult pairing, and one which brings back memories for me.


In 2004, my first year captaining the England men's team, we suffered a tough loss to Vietnam, a country whose strength I failed at the time to appreciate, but I remember from talking to Nigel at the time that our players respected them.

Today the board pairings are:


Detour: Adjacent boards: Norway, Magnus Carlsen

As captain, I always looked at who the adjacent boards were. I tended to stay with my players throughout the session, only strolling off to get the players coffee or refreshments, or for comfort or other short breaks. So I was always slightly interested in the adjacent boards. Today, the hosts, Norway, led by Magnus Carlsen, are next to us.

In 2004, he was known only to the cognoscenti, which at that time didn't include me. Only 13, he hadnt yer come to my attention. Though thanks to the fabulous website I can see that he was already top board for Norway, though had a brief and only decent result:


Sticking with my Magnus diversion, by Turin 2006, it was different. He was known as the rising star destined for greatness and, alas, it was Mickey Adams who was his first super-GM scalp, a game I can still feel, including picturing the decisive moment when Magnus's advantage became apparent. That was one of the games I will always remember.


Back to Vietnam


At the time of writing (early hours of the morning, UK, I am two hours ahead in Kas, Turkey) the board pairings aren't up. We are black on one, and I expect we will put our full strength team out. We shall see.

In 2004 we were white on one. I can remember the match, a tough defeat for us, certainly amongst my toughest as captain. It was particularly hard for Luke McShane whose Grunfeld led to nothing, a pawn down, and all Luke could do was create some 'tictacs', threats and some uncertainty with his N mainly, but white played well and Luke had a tough loss. Mark lost a tough, close game where probably he didn't get his type of position from the opening.

Nigel's game was an interesting Petroff, where he (scared me at the time) by an interesting and speculative exchange sacrifice on e6, but Black quickly defused everything by exchange sacrificing back, and then it became a simple draw.

Our only victory, but a pleasing one, was Jon Speelman's demonstration of how to beat the Stonewall: he took the right pieces off, including the black squared bishops, kept the other bishops on, got a large space advantage, and after the queens came off he advanced his king into Kf2-g3-f4-e5-d6 to finish with a pretty Bh5 mating threat.




I hope our players all play like Jon today. I shall be watching, rooting for them.


From → Chess

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