The Victory over the Soviet Union

by Sam Sloan

I attended the 1988 World Chess Olympiad in Salonika, Greece as an accredited journalist, with press credentials from the Gulf News in Dubai but, in fact, up until the time of the tournament, my articles had appeared regularly on Leisure Linc. I must explain that I had made a name for myself for my daily articles which had appeared in the Gulf News during the 1986 Olympiad in Dubai. My articles were popular. The newspaper discovered that circulation actually increased when my articles appeared. I was ultimately paid about $1,000 for my articles, which rescued me from a period of severe financial distress.

Thus, when I came to Salonika in 1988, I was hoping for a repeat of my previous success. Unfortunately, in stark contrast to Dubai, there was no English language media in Salonika and few English speakers living there at all. More than that, the local population had no interest in the Olympiad whatever, except for their gleeful prospect of gouging some of foolish the chess playing tourists out of their money.

I arrived just in time to witness one of the spectacular events of chess history, that being the defeat of the entire world champion Soviet Union chess team by just three sisters from Hungary. But that was only the beginning, because a few days later, the Soviet Union number two woman player defected, an event which was reported on the front pages of the world's newspapers.

I was in the middle of all this and had more inside information about what was really going on than probably any other accredited journalist there. Accordingly, I busied myself by writing articles about these events and sending them daily by modem to Dawn of Leisure Linc, who told me that she was posting them.

However, none of my articles appeared, a fact which I did not discover until more than a week after the Olympiad was over. I wrote several letters complaining about this, but never received a reply. I have always been bitter about this, because this was a once-in-a lifetime opportunity which was missed.

Since these articles are old and the information dated, last week I asked for a straw vote on whether I should post my articles now or not. I can report that the vote has been 19-1 in favor of my posting these articles. The one person opposed is from Denmark. He is not one of the usual flame-throwers and I have never heard from him previously. He is strongly opposed to my posting these articles and has sent several letters expressing this view but, since he is in a clear minority, I will post them anyway.

I will post these in chronological order over the next week or two. The first article came shortly after my arrival in Salonika. As I had brought my family with me to the tournament, I missed the first four rounds of the Olympiad. I arrived shortly before the start of round five, which turned out to be one of the most significant rounds, because that was the round in which the Polgar sisters defeated the Soviet Union in their individual match.

I have always felt guilty about this, because it was actually Ildikó Mádl who won the match, a fact never mentioned by anybody, including myself. THE POLGAR SISTERS WON THE MATCH. THE ENTIRE SOVIET UNION WENT DOWN IN FLAMES. What does it matter that it was actually Madl who won the match? We must not be confused with the facts.

Ildiko Madl was well named, as she was the best looking woman at the Dubai 1986 Olympiad. Perhaps, she could have been a model had fate not made her a chess player. However, at Salonika, 1988, she did not look good at all. Shortly after I arrived, I was standing right next to her and did not recognize her or realize who she was. It was later explained to me that her boyfriend had just been killed in a car accident a few days before, as he was on his way from Budapest to the Olympiad in Greece.

Sofia Polgár was on the bench for the big match against the Soviet Union. Sofia pointed me to a Chinese girl walking around the playing hall. I asked Sofia whether that girl could play chess. Sofia replied, "She was good enough to beat me yesterday!"

That Chinese girl was Peng Zhao Qin. This was her first international competition. She had no rating. Nobody had ever heard of her. Peng ZhaoQin has since established herself as one of the leading woman players in the world and has qualified for the Woman's World Championship Candidate's Tournament several times. Her current FIDE rating is 2355. (She has also turned Dutch.) However, when Sofia lost in round 4 to this unknown Chinese girl, she was benched by the Hungarian woman's team captain and not allowed to play in the next several matches. Instead, Madl, the reserve player, was brought in for the big match against the Soviet Union.

The game between Madl and Litinskaya was for me personally the most exciting game of the Olympiad. Please don't think that these little Hungarian girls ever play a single move in the opening which they have not worked out in advance. Madl knew exactly what she was doing. It was all home analysis. Nevertheless, some of her moves looked pretty weird. That kingside attack had to be unsound! Litinskaya kept playing solid moves and seemed headed for victory. Then, suddenly, Litinskaya fell into something. Her queen was trapped in the middle of the board.

At the time, it appeared that Madl had been lucky. But, that didn't matter. The main thing was that my team had won!

[Event "Olympiad"]
[Site "Salonika (Greece)"]
[Date "1988.11.17"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Litinskaya Marta I"]
[Black "Madl Ildiko"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A61"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 c5 4. d5 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. Nc3 g6 7. Bf4 a6 8. a4 Bg7 9. e4 Bg4 10. Be2 Bxf3 11. Bxf3 Qe7 12. O-O Nbd7 13. a5 O-O 14. Re1 Rac8 15. Na4 c4 16. Rc1 h5 17. h3 Nh7 18. Qd2 Qf6 19. Be2 g5 20. Bh2 Qg6 21. Rxc4 Rxc4 22. Bxc4 g4 23. hxg4 hxg4 24. Bf4 Ne5 25. Bxe5 Bxe5 26. Kf1 Ng5 27. Qe3 Kg7 28. Bd3 Qf6 29. Ke2 Re8 30. Nb6 Bf4 31. Nd7 Qxb2+ 0-1

[Event "Olympiad"]
[Site "Salonika (Greece)"]
[Date "1988.11.16"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Polgar Sofia"]
[Black "Peng Zhaoqin"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C07"]

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 c5 4. Ngf3 Nf6 5. exd5 Qxd5 6. Bc4 Qd6 7. O-O cxd4 8. Nb3 Nc6 9. Nbxd4 Nxd4 10. Nxd4 Bd7 11. b3 O-O-O 12. Bb2 Qc7 13. Qe2 h5 14. Nf3 Ng4 15. Be5 Nxe5 16. Nxe5 Be8 17. f4 Bd6 18. Rae1 Kb8 19. Kh1 f6 20. Nd3 Bg6 21. Qxe6 Rhe8 22. Qh3 Rxe1 23. Rxe1 Bxf4 24. Nxf4 Qxf4 25. Bd3 Bxd3 26. cxd3 Qf2 27. Rg1 h4 28. a4 f5 29. d4 Rxd4 30. Qc3 a6 31. Qc5 Rd2 32. Qe5+ Ka7 33. Qxg7 f4 34. Qc3 Rc2 35. Qd3 Re2 36. Qc3 h3 37. Qg7 f3 0-1

For a photo of Zsuzsa Polgar with Garry Kasparov, see: Garry Kasparov talks turkey with Zsuzsa Polgar

For a photo of Judit Polgar, see: Judit Polgar looking at newborn Jessica Sloan

For a photo of Sofia Polgar, see: Sofia Polgar playing chess with Shamema Sloan

For a photo of the three Polgar sisters plus Shamema, see: Three Polgar Sisters

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