World Chess Olympiad gets off to its Usual Slow Start

ISTANBUL, October 28: A record 126 men's teams and 84 women's teams are contesting the 34th World Chess Olympiad in Istanbul. First round pairings in the World Chess Olympiad are usually so one sided that one wonders why they even bother to play the games. For example, today's first round pairing of San Marino vs. Mongolia. Everyone knew what the result of that would be.

Less clear was Burma (Myanmar) vs. Liechtenstein. The Burmese players arrived with astronomical ratings and everyone questions their validity. Indeed, they did have trouble against lightly regarded Liechtenstein, but eventually the Burmese won all four games.

Noteworthy firsts: For the first time ever two women are playing on the top seven men's teams. For Judit Polgar it was a bit of a step down as this year she is playing on board two against Almasi. However, for 21-year-old Antoaneta Stefanova to play board four on the strong Bulgarian team was a great accomplishment.

Antoaneta Stefanova
Antoaneta Stefanova

Both Judit Polgar and Antoaneta Stefanova won their games quickly without much trouble, but a third female grandmaster, Pia Cramling, got into a locked pawn position and could only draw against Mbambara from Zambia.

A woman rumored to be Bobby Fischer's current girlfriend looked on the verge of pulling off a tremendous upset against a former Soviet player, a sure sign of sudden improvement, but she lost in the end, and oh how I wish I could remember how to spell her name. (I simply cannot send out a report with a spellling mistake.)

Naturally, I cannot leave out the result of the American team, but this proved to be the biggest upset. The USA could only win by 2 1/2 to 1 1/2 against Turkey A, as Yermolinsky on board three could only draw against Gurcan of Turkey and DeFirman lost on board four to Karadeniz of Turkey.

The one tremendously strong Turkish player, Suat Atalik, is not playing due to a dispute with his federation. He is trying change federations and play for Bosnia, due to long-standing problems with the Turkish Federation.

The opening ceremony featured two speeches in Turkish and one in Russian. Fortunately, we were spared a translation of these speeches. The audience was roused by a fantastic piano duet. I estimate that the two women performers must have practiced every day for at least six months just for this one performance. Later, I found out that they were twin sisters.

Throughout the games, rapt attention was being paid to game in the real world championship match which was currently going on in London.

This is going to prove to be a great Olympiad. The Turks are friendly and eager to help. Istanbul is incredibly cheap by European standards. Everything is being done almost to perfection.

The organizers have made it clear that they are bidding for the Sports Olympiad for the year 2006. This Chess Olympiad is essentially a trial run. No problem with that, considering that the chess players are the great beneficiaries.

Sam Sloan

I am now in Istanbul, where the World Chess Olympiad is taking place. I am issuing daily press reports on the developments in the Olympiad. Here are my daily press reports so far:
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