by Sam Sloan

On Saturday, December 14, 1996, International Master and US Olympic Team Captain John Donaldson gave a talk and a simultaneous exhibition at the Mechanics Institute Chess Club in San Francisco. The event was organized by Jim Eade, the new general manager of the club.

Donaldson spoke primarily about the 1996 World Chess Olympiad in Yerevan, Armenia. Here are some of his remarks.
John Donaldson

The Olympiad took place at the time of political elections in Armenia. Many of the candidates had been in jail during the previous Soviet regime. They got out to run for president. There was not much difference between the candidates. They just wanted to get in power. The President of the country, Petrosian, was noteworthy in that he has the same name as former World Chess Champion Petrosian.

There were tanks and troops in the streets. However, the chess players were allowed to move about freely and did not have any problems. Mostly, the local people were embarrassed that the chess players were present at a time of such political turmoil. This was especially true of Armenian Grandmaster Vaganian.

There was no problem with basic necessities. There was a great abundance of fruit and fresh vegetables in the market place, in marked contrast to the Moscow Olympiad in 1994. Everything was better than it had been in Moscow. Unlike in Moscow, the players were not constantly harassed by armed robbers and prostitutes. There were no romances during the Olympiad. The local women remained aloof.

All of the dire predictions about there being no electricity or hotel space in Armenia proved to be unfounded. The electricity went off only one time and then only for 20 minutes. This did not cause any problems.

The level of play was much higher than at previous Olympiads. For example, in Dubai 1986, generally considered to be a strong Olympiad, there were only about 10 really strong teams. Most of the other teams had only one international master strength player. In Armenia, about 75% of the teams were really strong, consisting of players 2400 and above (which is 2500 USCF). Even Paraguay had a strong team of 2400 players.

In contrast, the bottom 25% of the teams were really bad. They had to play in a separate room. Some of the players were so weak that they probably had to be taught the en passant rule before playing in the Olympiad. Donaldson said that Steve Brandwein (a local denizen of the Mechanics Institute Chess Club who has not played a tournament game in 30 years) could give some of the entire teams the handicap of 30 seconds to five minutes and beat them.

A random group of players in the audience at the Mechanics Institute Chess Club could defeat several of the bottom teams at the Olympiad, according to Donaldson.

The problem is that in the early years when FIDE did not have many members, some non-countries were allowed to join. Both the British Virgin Islands and the American Virgin Islands had teams in Armenia. These teams were quite weak. The Island of Jersey and the Island of Guernsey had been forced some years previously to consolidate into one team. They earlier had played as two.

There were an exceptional number of 2600 and better players at the Olympiad. The US had a fantastic result by winning the Bronze Medal. (Donaldson, as team captain, showed off his medal.)

The US team had to face players like Kramnik, who has got all of his opening lines thoroughly analyzed. In comparison, our player, Nick DeFirmian, (the author of Modern Chess Openings) knows almost nothing about the openings. Nevertheless, DeFirmian managed somehow to get through the opening against his opponent. When these super-players with 2650+ ratings get into an even middle-game, they are not as strong, according to Donaldson. DeFirmian almost won, but eventually drew.

In the last round, the captain of the Republic of Georgia, Azmaiparashvili, notorious for getting a 2670 rating in a rigged tournament and for kicking Grandmaster Helgi Olafsson under the table and injuring his opponent during the World Open, offered the US a package deal of 2-2. This deal looked good, but the US needed to win by 2 1/2 - 1 1/2 to win the Bronze Medal. Donaldson decided that Azmaiparashvili must have something wrong with his position and so told his team to keep playing. Sure enough, Azmaiparashvili lost and the US team won the Bronze.

Regarding the FIDE election, Kirsan Iljumzhinov gave everybody presents to insure their vote. To his credit, Iljumzhinov was personable and campaigned hard. He fully deserved to win. The US was supposed to support the reform candidate, Sunye Neto. Steve Doyle, the US representative, spent four days in Armenia. The US team members told Steve: The reform candidate has no chance. Iljumzhinov is going to win. Do the right thing. Take the money. But, for the sake of the honor and glory of the United States of America, don't sell out too cheaply. Make sure that he pays you at least $10,000 before you vote for him.

Steve later accepted a minor position in the Iljumzhinov administration.

Campomanes was given a permanent vote in FIDE, because everybody felt sorry for him, on the recommendation of his arch-enemy, Karl Jungwirth of Austria. The real power in FIDE remains with the of the right hand man of Campomanes, Casto Abundo. Abundo will have a position in FIDE no matter who wins any election because Abundo knows everything about FIDE and nobody else knows it nearly as well.

Donaldson called for reform. It is ridiculous when the American Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands and the Islands of Jersey and Guernsey can out-vote the United States and Russia combined. Also, the President of the Seychelles Federation, Vidot, has a prestigious position in FIDE, even though his country has less than 50 registered chess players.

Donaldson feels that some formula should be created whereby a country has the right to vote in proportion with the number of registered chess players in that country, with a cap of 30,000 players per federation, to stop Russia and the Ukraine (with a million strong chess players) from taking over the entire World Chess Federation.

However, Donaldson realizes that such a reform is politically impossible, because the small federations will never vote for it. Therefore, Donaldson said that it might be necessary to jettison FIDE completely and start a new organization which only real countries which are members of the United Nations will be allowed to join.

Donaldson also gave a simultaneous exhibition. My eight-year-old daughter, Jessica, played against him. Although I helped her with most of the moves, Jessica played the first few moves completely on her own, and got into an opening which I know nothing about. It is called the Ruy Lopez. I thought that Donaldson's exchange sacrifice was rather good, so I am presenting the game here:

[Event "Simultaneous"]
[Site "San Francisco Mechanics Institute"]
[Date "1996.12.14"]
[White "Donaldson, John W"]
[Black "Sloan, Jessica"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C77"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 {Although I did help my daughter, Jessica, with most of this game, I never would have defended the Ruy Lopez against International Master Donaldson. I would have played the more solid 2. ... f5. Therefore, Jessica deserves the full credit (and blame) for this move.} 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. d4 exd4 6. O-O Bc5 {Recommended was 6. ... Be7} 7. e5 Nd5 {7. ... Ng4 was played in Hearst - Bisguier, New York 1956} 8. c3 Nb6 9. Bb3 dxc3 10. Nxc3 d6? {It was necessary to play 10. ... O-O so as to leave the bishop a retreat square on e7.} 11. Bg5 Qd7 12. Ne4 O-O 13. Rc1 Bb4? {Black should have returned the pawn and not try to hang on to the extra material. This move, according to Donaldson, was Black's final error.} 14. a3 Ba5 15. exd6 cxd6 16. Nxd6 Qg4 17. Nxf7 Be6 18. h3 Qf5 19. Nd6 Qg6 20. Rxc6 {An impressive sacrifice which wins immediately} bxc6 21. Ne5 Qh5 (21... Qxg5 22. Bxe6+ Kh8 23. Nef7+ Rxf7 24. Nxf7+ Kg8 25. Nxg5+) 22. Bxe6+ Kh8 23. Qxh5 1-0

Here are two more games played with this line. These are the only two games with this line in my 400,000 game Chess Assistant database. (Somebody should send me the update).

[Event "?"]
[Site "New York (USA)"]
[Date "1956.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Hearst, Elliot"]
[Black "Bisguier, Arthur B"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "C77"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. d4 exd4 6. O-O Bc5 7. e5 Ng4 8. h3 Nh6 9. b4 Bxb4 10. c3 dxc3 11. a3 Be7 12. Bxh6 gxh6 13. Nxc3 d6 14. Nd4 O-O 15. Nxc6 bxc6 16. Qh5 dxe5 17. Rad1 Bd6 18. Bxc6 Ra7 19. Qxh6 f5 20. Qe3 Rb7 21. Bxb7 Bxb7 22. Nd5 Kh8 23. f4 Bxd5 24. Rxd5 exf4 25. Qd4+ Qf6 26. Qxf6+ Rxf6 27. a4 Kg7 28. Rc1 Kg6 29. Kf1 Rf8 30. Rc6 Rb8 31. Rxa6 Rb3 32. Kf2 Ra3 33. Raa5 Ra2+ 34. Kf1 Ra1+ 35. Kf2 Ra2+ 36. Kf1 Ra1+ 37. Kf2 Ra2+ 1/2-1/2

[Event "It (w)"]
[Site "Tallinn (Estonia)"]
[Date "1986.??.??"]
[Round "11"]
[White "Tsiganova, Monika"]
[Black "Kinsigo, Mari"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "C77"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. d4 exd4 6. O-O Bc5 7. e5 Ng8 8. Re1 Nge7 9. Ng5 d5 10. exd6 Qxd6 11. Qf3 Qg6 12. Qd5 Bb6 13. Bxc6+ bxc6 14. Qe5 Qf6 15. Qxf6 gxf6 16. Ne4 Be6 17. Nxf6+ Kd8 18. Bg5 h6 19. Bf4 Ng6 20. Bg3 Kc8 21. Nd2 Kb7 22. Nf3 c5 23. b3 a5 24. a4 c4 25. bxc4 Bxc4 26. Nd7 Rad8 27. Nxb6 cxb6 28. Rab1 Rd7 29. h4 h5 30. Ne5 Nxe5 31. Rxe5 f6 32. Rxa5 d3 33. cxd3 Bxd3 34. Rb2 Kc6 35. Rab5 Bxb5 36. Rxb5 Rd5 37. Rb4 Re8 38. Bf4 Re1+ 39. Kh2 Re6 40. Be3 Kc7 41. Kh3 f5 42. Bf4+ Kb7 43. Be3 Rg6 44. g3 Ka6 45. Kg2 Rc6 46. Kf3 Ka5 47. Rb2 Re6 48. Rb1 Rc6 49. Rb2 Rdd6 50. Kf4 Kxa4 51. Kxf5 b5 52. g4 hxg4 53. h5 b4 54. h6 Rd7 55. Kxg4 b3 56. Rb1 Ka3 57. Ra1+ Kb2 58. Rh1 Rc8 59. h7 Rh8 60. f4 Rhxh7 61. Rxh7 Rxh7 62. Bd4+ Kc2 63. f5 Kd3 1/2-1/2

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