How to get ready (or not) for the chess Olympiad

JULY 7 ― With less than two months to go, the focus is on the World Chess Olympiad to be held in Baku, Azerbaijan from September 1-15, 2016 and the likely removal of the World Chess Federation (FIDE) president at the FIDE Congress which will be held concurrently.

In recent weeks there has been a slew of announcements by the Baku organisers on the FIDE website with reminders to participants be it players, delegates, officials or arbiters.

There is the long-awaited announcement of a travel subsidy for eligible countries and the fact that the registration deadline has been extended by an additional two weeks to July 15, 2016.

I would like to believe this is not due to a lack of entries. 

My column of June 16 was perhaps the first to openly note the possible change of FIDE president and that seems all but confirmed and out in the open with the publication in Chess-News on July 2 of an article titled “Impeachment for Ilyumzhinov?”.

The silence of course from both FIDE and Ilyumzhinov has been deafening but the latter has already reacted on his personal website in the usual fashion.

Playing in the World Chess Olympiad is the dream of every chess player notwithstanding that there are clearly different categories of participating teams; those there for the medals, those who want to improve, and those who want to add to the statistics, but largely to holiday.

Whatever it is, although not the equivalent of the Olympics as getting there means minimum qualifying standards must be achieved, the players should be training seriously and looking to do themselves and their countries justice.

I remember that when I was a member of the team to the Khanty-Mansiysk Olympiad in 2010, I took every opportunity to try and get in some games despite a busy work schedule; I even played a few rounds in an International Open in Manila during a business trip.

When I was asked to be the captain-coach of the Malaysian team to the Istanbul Olympiad in 2012, I insisted on two weeks' training before the event and then imposed a daily work routine with a fixed schedule for the players.

I had no plans for Baku (especially since the Malaysian Chess Festival is from September 8-18) but then I was asked to serve as captain-coach of the New Zealand women's team, and while we will not be meeting before the Olympiad, the training has already begun!

New Zealand is not only sending a very young women's team (although it is led by one of their most experienced and active players) but they are are also making their debut.

I am very impressed with how the New Zealand Chess Federation is assisting; aside from all playing and training regularly, most will be participants in the George Trundle Masters in Auckland from July 9-17 with one opting for the Asian Schools Championship in Tehran, Iran from July 9-18.

One member is even going for a month's training in China and will play in both tournaments and training games there before going from Beijing to Baku!

Between the Bangkok Open in April and the Asean Age-Group Championships in June, there was some discussion of how to develop the team of girls selected to represent Thailand at the Olympiad and the ambitious plan involved at least one month of training.

That's how serious it is even with our lower ranked neighbours and in the end for various practical reasons I understand local Thai trainers will probably be roped in to do this.

Of course the Malaysian women's team in comparison to the Thais (and even more so the young group from New Zealand) are very experienced and completely battle hardened, and the core of the team which was in Istanbul 2012 promised great things. I had immediately after Istanbul provided the Malaysian Chess Federation with a report and recommendations that I eventually summarised in my blog.

Naturally, while everyone was very happy with what was done then, there has been nothing to build on and be more successful in 2014. It is now four years later and no doubt it will be same two years from now.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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