U16 Olympiad began in Gyor

by Mihail Marin
12/15/2014 – Judit Polgar promotes chess whenever she can. At the moment she supports the U16 Olympiad in Gyor, Hungary. 54 teams from more than 40 countries compete. In the past players such as Nigel Short, Wesley So or Kateryna Lahno showed their talent in U16 Olympiads. But future world class player or not, for all participants it will be a memorable chess event.

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When making the first steps into the wonderful World of chess, how many of us haven't daydreamed of taking part in the Chess Olympiads? But reaching the level needed to qualify for the national team takes many years, especially in those countries with a strong chess tradition and, implicitly, with a fierce competition. Quite sadly, but inevitably, many promising talents are lost on the way.

From this perspective, one can only welcome the initiative of organizing the World under 16 Olympiad on a yearly basis. A first attempt was made in 1979 (Viborg, Denmark), but it was not before 2001 (Batatis, Brazil) that the competition acquired the desired continuity. From that moment, the World under 16 Olympiad was played every year, with the exception of 2005, when the tournament scheduled in Chennai was cancelled.

For many strong players, this competition might have been one of the first important international events. Among the participants of the 1979 edition we find World title challenger Nigel Short and World title candidate Johann Hjartarson. From the later editions, a whole series of strong players emerged, from which I would mention China's top board in Tromso Wang Yue, number 12 in the current World rating list Wesley So and top woman player Kateryna Lahno.

Three members of the 2014 Olympic silver winner Hungarian team, Judit Polgar, Zoltan Almasi and Csaba Balogh, in "royal company"

But they all started as small pawns... Csaba Balogh, for instance, played on the top board of the winners of the 2003 under 16 Olympiad!

The absolute champion among organizers so far is Turkey, a country that hosted none less than seven  out of the 12 editions. And the record number of teams (72!) was reached in Chongging (China) 2013, but we should mention that more than half of the teams were representing Chinese cities.

This time, the Turkish team, captained by Mikhail Gurevich, will play "away"

The 2014 edition, which will be held in Gyor, Hungary, establishes a record with respect to the number of participating countries (over 40) and has a wide symbolical meaning, too.

Olympic spirit

Having recently won the Hungarian Cultural City Award, the city's traditional slogan is "The future is built in Gyor!", quite suitable for a competition dedicated to young talents. And the tournament's motto "The old game for a new generation" is perfectly adapted to the spirit of the city.

It must be more than a coincidence that the Mayor of Gyor is Zsolt Borkai, an Olympic gymnast champion and the President of the Hungarian Olympic Committee; surely a man who is familiar with a young talent's phases of development. Extending the meaning of Gens una Sumus, Zsolt Borkai's view is that "Chess is one of us, the Olympic sports".

The Mayor sharing a good moment with Olympic chess glories Judit Polgar, Zoltan Almasi and Csaba Balogh

Miklos Sesztak: "My father taught me not to have one and a half hour long speeches when there is fully decked table"

There is a new and slightly controversial rule for this year. Each team (consisting of four main players and a reserve) must have in its composition a girl. The paradox is that there is no obligation to have her  effectively playing. Since most of the girls are lower rated than their boy colleagues, many of them may risk following big part of the event as reserves.

Hopefully, this will not be the rule, but even if it is, there will most surely be exceptions to it - the Ukrainian Iulija Osmak and the Russian Aleksandra Goryachkina are the highest rated players in their teams!

Aleksandra Goryachkina

Iulija Osmak

Creativity is one of the most appreciated qualities in chess. Therefore, a daily best game prize has been instituted. Yours truly will be in charge of choosing the most beautiful among beautiful games... I am afraid this is the kind of quest which rarely has a 100% correct solution.

The opening ceremony, taking place at the National Theatre, was highly entertaining. After the usual speeches starting with that of dr. Miklos Sesztas, Minister of National Development and President of the Hungarian Chess Federation, the members of the ballet group Botafogo (specialized in Latin dances and quite famous in Hungary), all dressed in black or white to symbolize the chess pieces, performed the fascinating chess allegory Sakk accompanied by touching music, mostly of Hispanic provenience.

On the stage designed like a chess board one could see the expression of the strongest feelings from real life, such as love and hate, jealousy and revenge, ecstasy and harmony, but also war and desolation... At certain moments I had the feeling that I was witnessing the start of the war of Troy or el remate (the finishing stroke) of the traditional corrida de toros (or bullfight).

But the main message of the show was transmitted with the help of two comedians: fight and rivalry should stay within the limits of a chess board, starting and ending with a handshake. After all, this is one of the meanings of chess - emulating the heroic tales in such a way that the only victims are the lifeless wooden pieces...

It almost looked as if the stage was the demo board of the game played by the comedians...

The drawing of colors

The drawing of the colors on the top board also had an allegoric character. Judit Polgar (who was intensely acclaimed when going up on the stage), the Chief arbiter Werner Stubenvoll and the Dean of West-Hungary University Apaczai Czeres Janos Faculty (the host of this competition) randomly drew out of a magician's hat white and black pieces. Each time a piece was removed, a dancer dressed in the respective color would leave the stage, not without displaying the sincerest signs of desolation... And when there were only pieces of one color left in the hat (and on the stage) the first board colors were sealed.

Standings after three rounds

Rk. SNo   Team Team   +    =    -   TB1   TB2 
1 5
Hungary 1 HUN1 3 0 0 6 10.5
2 3
Russia RUS 3 0 0 6 10.0
3 1
India IND 3 0 0 6 9.0
4 8
Romania ROU 3 0 0 6 8.5
5 4
Ukraine UKR 2 1 0 5 9.0
6 21
Uzbekistan UZB 2 1 0 5 8.5
7 7
Canada 1 CAN1 2 1 0 5 8.5
8 16
Georgia GEO 2 1 0 5 7.5
9 6
Iran IRI 2 0 1 4 9.0
10 9
Greece GRE 2 0 1 4 9.0
11 13
Poland 1 POL1 2 0 1 4 8.5
12 2
Germany GER 2 0 1 4 8.0
13 18
China CHN 2 0 1 4 8.0
14 23
Hungary 3 HUN3 2 0 1 4 8.0
15 22
Israel ISR 2 0 1 4 7.5
16 20
Moldova MDA 2 0 1 4 7.5
17 15
Slovenia SLO 2 0 1 4 7.5
18 25
Denmark DEN 2 0 1 4 7.5
19 10
Hungary 2 HUN2 2 0 1 4 7.0
20 26
Poland 2 POL2 2 0 1 4 7.0
21 24
Czech Republic CZE 2 0 1 4 7.0
22 12
Serbia SRB 2 0 1 4 6.5
23 17
Slovakia 1 SVK1 2 0 1 4 6.5
24 28
Bulgaria BUL 2 0 1 4 6.0
25 14
Belarus BLR 1 1 1 3 7.0
26 19
Croatia CRO 1 1 1 3 6.5
27 30
Canada 2 CAN2 1 1 1 3 6.5
28 42
Kyrgyzstan KGZ 1 1 1 3 6.5
29 47
Scotland SCO 1 1 1 3 6.0
30 34
Transdanubium West HUN6 1 1 1 3 4.5

54 teams...

Source: chess-results.com

Photos: Renata Horvath and Anna Rudolf


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Topics: Gyor, U16 Olympiad

GM Mihail Marin, born in 1965, has several times been Romanian champion. He possesses a rare gift for a grandmaster – the ability to explain in readily comprehensible terms the ideas behind moves, variations and positions. This ability is there for all to admire in his contributions to ChessBase Magazine.
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