NATO Chess Championships

by ChessBase
3/12/2019 – The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has organised chess tournaments for over four decades. LtCol Sławomir Kędzierski reports on the most recent championship from the perspective of the Polish Armed Forces (PAF) team to commerate the 20th anniversary of Poland’s presence in NATO. Pictured: IMCC Chairman Col Tomasz Malinowski who introduced Polish Armed Forces to NATO Chess, holding the trophy of King Canute | Photo: Wojciech Król

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Polish Armed Forces hold the title

by LtCol Sławomir Kędzierski

The royal game is relatively popular in the military environment among North Atlantic Treaty Organisation members. Within the alliance, the NATO Chess Championships (NCC) have been organised each year with the exception of 1993. Additionally, twelve so called NATO Tournaments were conducted from 1978 to 1988 as well as in 1993.

29th logoThe sporting rivalry is very intense, especially the team competition in the classical tournament. Players from local military clubs are sometimes invited to the blitz tournament. Individual NATO champions from the past have been Grandmasters such as Simen Agdestein (former coach of World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen) or Jan Gustafsson (Carlsen second and well-known commentator). We can also point to such strong players as WGM Elisabeth Paehtz (first board of German national women's team) or one of the World’s leading authorities on endgames Karsten Mueller (FM at the time) also participated in the NCC.

The opening ceremony consists of chess players but also dignitaries such as Ministers or Vice Ministers of Defence, Generals, Officers and representatives of national Chess Federations.

Each of the 29 NATO members has the right to have six players in the national team and two players in the NATO Team. The four highest results from the national team are counted to the team standing. Players sharing the same nationality do not play against each other (unless required by pairing rules).

The Polish Armed Forces (PAF) have participated at NCC each year since 2002 and have usually taken a place on the podium despite competing against very strong fields. Today, March 12th, marks 20 years since Poland joined NATO. Military Championships of PAF have been organised each year since 2003 (except for 2009 and 2018) and serve as qualifying tournaments to NCC. The top three eligible winners gain the right to represent Poland at NCC. The remaining team members are chosen according to their FIDE rating and other chess results — all must fulfil special psychophysical requirements linked with a deep resilience to stress. Several weeks before going to NCC players participate mostly at a sports training meeting to gain fresh competition experience before such an important event on an international stage.

Poland has coordinated the undertakings of International Military Chess Committee (IMCC) with Col Tomasz Malinowski as Chairman and myself as Secretary since 2012. So far 29 soldiers and civilian workers of PAF have represented Poland, some of them multiple times:

Bajgrowicz Andrzej
Bielawski Michał
Bieluszewski Piotr
Bobula Mateusz
Bręgoszewski Leon
Cichy Kamil
Graczyk Damian
Kaczorowski Piotr
Kapral Krzysztof
Karbowiak Adam
Kędzierski Sławomir
Kraiński Sławomir
Listowiecki Tadeusz

Michalski Daniel
Łokasto Anatol
Marek  Mariusz
Nurkiewicz Maciej
Pietruszewski Marcin
Pioch Zygmunt
Przedmojski Rafał
Sarnowski Witold
Skindzier Saturnin
Skwarczyński Marcin
Stańkowski Aleksander
Sycz Dariusz
Sypień Mateusz
Szcześniak Andrzej
Waruga Wojciech

team results

Photo: Side plates of the statue with Team winners | Photographer: Sławomir Kędzierski

Polish team results

2002 – Brest, France – 6th place
2003 – Hovelte, Denmark – 2nd place
2004 – Haga, the Netherlands– 2nd place
2005 – Kołobrzeg, Poland – 2nd place
2006 – Berkshire, the UK – 2nd place
2007 – Ankara, Turkey – 2nd place
2008 – Bruksela, Belgium – 3rd place
2009 – Hammelburg, Germany – 3rd place

2010 – Koge, Denmark – 2nd place
2011 – Kaunas, Lithuania – 4th place
2012 – Brest, France – 2. place
2013 – Warszawa, Poland – 3rd place
2014 – Quebec, Canada – 2nd place
2015 – Amsterdam, the Netherlands – 2nd place
2016 – Shrivenham, the UK – 1st place
2017 – Budapszet, Hungary – 3rd place
2018 – Lubbock, USA – 1st place

Apart from high team standings Polish representatives won several individual medals in the classical tournament:

King Canute

2003 – bronze Capt. Saturnin Skindzier
2004 – silver Rafał Przedmojski
2005 – bronze Rafał Przedmojski
2009 – silver Sgt OC Mateusz Sypień
2012 – bronze 2Lt Mateusz Sypień
2014 – silver Sgt OC Dariusz Sycz
2016 – bronze Rafał Przedmojski
2018 – silver 2Lt Damian Graczyk,

as well in blitz:

2005 – gold Adam Karbowiak
         – bronze Lt Piotr Bieluszewski
2010 – silver Lt Piotr Bieluszewski
2012 – silver Adam Karbowiak
2013 – silver MSgt Sławomir Kraiński
        – bronze Adam Karbowiak
2014 – bronze PFC Daniel Michalski
2015 – bronze Lt Piotr Bieluszewski
2016 – silver Sgt OC Damian Graczyk.

Additionally, a Team Blitz was organised at Budapest-2017 in which Poland 1 took first place and Poland 2 third place — individual medals took in the first squad: Lt. Mateusz Sypień silver on board 2, Sgt OC Damian Graczyk silver on board 3, Sgt OC Marcin Pietruszewski silver on board 4, oraz MCpl OC Kamil Cichy gold on board 4 in Team Poland 2.

The most awarded Polish player at NCC as well as PAF championships is Capt. Mateusz Sypień.

The participation at NCC is undoubtedly a good way to promote PAF on an allied stage. Poland itself hosted the best NATO chess players twice — at the 16th and 24th editions, respectively in Kołobrzeg (2005) and Warszawa (2013).

The Polish team in comparison to other opponents is rather young, and at the same time very ambitious and hard-working. The team’s success further motivates players for more intensive training. Special reasons for satisfaction are the winning for the second time in history (after Shrivenham-2016) of the Team Gold at Lubbock-2018 in the 100-year anniversary of Poland’s rebirth as an independent state. I would like to underline that the victory was much appreciated since our main team opponent, the German team, had very strong players.

The main challenge trophy — statue of King Canute (pictured above), sponsored by Denmark — found its home in Poland for the second time. I would like to remind the reader that Canute was king of England (1016–35), of Denmark (1019–35), and of Norway (1028–35). Canute was the grandson of the Polish ruler Mieszko I and most probably Dobrawa on his mother’s side (Sygryda Storrada).

30th logoMore details on NATO chess competitions can be found on The special thanks should go to Polish Military Association “Sport-Tourism-Defence” with LtCol (ret.) Jerzy Kufel as its deputy head that for several years took the organisational responsibilities in regard to PAF Championships, chess training meetings and participation at NCC on behalf of the Polish Ministry of Defence.

Being on the NCC Team winner list is for the representation of PAF not only a reason for being proud but also the obligation to keep a high level of game on 64 squares.

In September 2019 our representation will try to defend the title in Berlin — I invite already now the ChessBase readers to follow this unique and very special championship.


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