Welcome to the first Olympiad report from your Rampant Chess team. Rampant Chess, the book, is now out and available for sale! - buy it from here and all the proceeds go to Chess Scotland...
The Greatest Ever Collection of Scottish Games
Advert done, back to business...
As you may recall, a few weeks ago we asked you all for questions to put to our Olympiad stars. Below we have selected the best 5 questions and reported all our player's responses. To aid my weary typing fingers I'll use initials to indicate the players. So we have
JR: Jonathan Rowson
JA: Jacob Aagaard
JS: John Shaw
CM: Colin McNab
JD: John Dempsey (Open team captain)
HL: Heather Lang
RG: Rosie Giulian
CW: Carey Wilman
SM: Stephen Mannion (Women's team captain)
We start with a rather sneaky question...
Q1) Do you think there is any difference between playing in a team tournament and playing in an individual tournament? After all, in the Olympiad they just add up the individual scores donít they?
As John immediately points out, this is...
JS: "...a trick question to see if we have read the regulations: 10.1 Each team's place in the order of classification shall be decided by the number of Match Points it has scored."
HL: "There's a bit of a Scottish tradition of gathering after dinner and looking through the games we've played. That's one of my favourite things about an Olympiad - a mixture of hearing strong players' thoughts about a game, learning, watching good chess, and occasionally making a good suggestion! In terms of actually playing, this year they ARE counting match points, so it'll be a bit more like a normal team event, where we have to keep an eye on the match score as well as your own individual game. The new "no draws before move 30" rule is interesting too, from a team point of view, as is adding an extra board to the women's matches."
CM: "One of the innovations being introduced for this Olympiad is that standings are based on match points (rather than game points as in previous years). This will make it more important to be aware of how the rest of the team's games are going."
Ah yes, dear reader, you have to get up pretty early in the morning to catch these guys out (you'd have to stay up all night!)
JR: "If you are playing well, you tend to play even better for a team, and if you are playing badly....well let's hope that doesn't happen... Team atmosphere is quite important for energy and enthusiasm levels, which to my mind matter a lot in chess- some are more sensitive to these things than others though..."
RG: "I probably don't play any differently but I definitely feel worse if I make a bad blunder when playing for a team rather than as an individual. It is also very enjoyable to be part of a team (especially if it is doing well!)"
CW:"There is a big difference playing in a team tournament especially if you are not playing well. A team can keep you going and support you when things are not going well while you can feel very isolated at an individual tournament. You also have to have a different attitude to the game as the result is important for the whole team and not just yourself."
JD: "I think that there is a big difference. When you play in a team, and for a team, you are more conscious of what you need to achieve at any moment in time for the team result. If that means taking a draw in a superior position to secure the match, then so be it! Being in a team is also a 'big deal' for the individual. They can then identify with something 'bigger' than themselves. The desire to achieve becomes keener."
JA "Yes, there is a huge difference. I am affected by my team mates results and they are affected by mine, not rating wise, of course, but in our position, our opponents and so on. To get a great match as with China last time (round 2) can only happen after a good performance before this."
SM: "Playing individually carries less responsibility as you can only let yourself down. Playing in a team you are trying to help win the match and depending on how the team is doing may involve taking risks or playing more safe to secure the result. As a team member you are not always playing so it is also important to give the rest of the players the correct support and even help to prepare them for their games."
Our second question is more standard fare...
Q2) What is your goal at the Olympiad (personal or team) ?
CM: "As a team, achieving results against higher seeded teams. On a personal level it would be nice to reach 150 games in Olympiads (I have played 143 so far)."
Wow, time to wake up the Chess Scotland historian. Is this some kind of record? Stay tuned dear reader, we will uncover the facts for you and report back during the Olympiad.
JA: "I would like to beat someone great, play Russia would be nice too. I hope Keti makes her final GM-norm. This would be a great debut for her."
JD: "To see Scotland excel."
HL: "I'll be on board 1. A lot of the countries Scotland face have one strong player, often an ex-Eastern European, who is much higher rated, then the rest of the team have similar ratings to the Scottish team. So board 1 has been a bit of a graveyard in past Olympiads, though I did OK when I played there in 1998.I guess my objectives will be to prepare well, play well, and enjoy the experience of playing a range of strong and experienced opponents who pose much more difficult problems for me than my local league opponents. And ultimately to improve long-term through what I learn from these games."
JR: "To play well, and enjoy myself. It is a challenge to be happy at olympiads because the scale of the event is so vast, the food doesn't tend to be good, and you are surounded by so many chess players for so long, but it can also be a hugely exciting event when you get into the groove. The team is as strong if not stronger than it has ever been, so I would like to see us hold our own against good teams, rather than have a yo-yo tournament where we get hammered by the elite teams and then beat the relative duffers etc..."
RG: "Personally I hope to play as well as I possibly can and avoid blunders of the type which I am rather prone to making. Realistically I would like the team to come well above our seeding. Whilst winning the competition would be nice I can't see it happening."
CW: "On a personal basis, having not played Internationally for six years, I am just hoping that I can achieve a reasonable score. If things are going well then I have my eye on the WFM title which needs 6/9 but it will be a lot more difficult now there are only 11 rounds and not 14. I think the ladies team is very good this year with a mix of experience and a good standard across the whole team so I would hope that we will finish above our seeding."
SM: "As team captain of the Womans team I have many goals for the team. We want to score as many points as possible and play a few of the very good teams. I would like our players to achieve what they set out to do e.g play better players and cause a few upsets, achieve titles. Avoiding any whitewashes would be good too as if you are scoring points then the team is continually making progress. My personal goal is to have another memorable Olympiad, I have enjoyed playing in eight Olympiads and hopefully will enjoy my second as captain and coach."
John's reply is a combination of a straightforward goal and an impossible one. We leave it to the reader to determine which is which...
JS: "To reach the board on time and thus avoid being defaulted. I'll just take it one game at a time and give it 110%"
To what is he referring? I hear you ask. Good question, my observant reader, for this Olympiad has introduced a number of new rules. In addition to the 'match points' rule and no short draw rule - both discussed in Q1 above - there is also the following absurdity...
"7.2 The beginning of the playing session shall be announced by the arbiter or by a single acoustic signal. At this instant, any player who is not seated at his/her match shall be defaulted immediately."
While I understand and sympathise with the intent of this rule, its rigid inforcement is bound to cause all sorts of bother. Imagine if we had this rule at Scottish weekend congresses - Sunday morning round starts at 10am, all games finished by 10.01am. So now I'm thinking...new rule 7.2...Monday 24th November rest day...Tuesday 25th November final round starts at 11am...and its given me an idea for the great...
RAMPANT CHESS SWEEPSTAKES!!!
Yes, excited reader, you read it correctly, the RAMPANT CHESS team are running a competition with extra special prizes. To be eligible for one of these unique gifts, simply send us an e-mail with your guess as to the following...
Sweepstake question: Over the course of the Olympiads 11 rounds, how many players will be defaulted under rule 7.2
Please send your guesses to firstname.lastname@example.org and good luck!
A certain mischievous reader sent us the following controversial question for the teams
Q3) The Olympiad teams are funded by Chess Scotland, i.e. your average club players. Do you think this is a good use of their money?
JD: "I think that this is excellent value for money! The average player takes a keen interest in how individuals do in tournaments and competitions, and for a Scotland team....This is what they pay for and want. This is the 'why' behind CS."
JA: "Membership of CS is voluntary, so people can of course vote with their feet. Also, membership fees do not come close to cover the costs of running CS without government subsidity. So, I actually disagree with your question. However, I would like us to have sponsorship. I should also say that if you include the fact that I cannot win a prize, I get less for playing this event than any other event I play. So I am sharing in the cost as well."
HL: "As a junior, I was always very interested in the Olympiad and inspired by the reports of how Scotland's best players were getting on. I remember reading about Paul Motwani's GM norms and Alison Coull's bronze medal in Scottish Chess magazine and wondering if I'd play in an Olympiad one day. Now, there's so much more scope for coverage and discussion via the internet. I think that there are even more possibilities for inspiring the current and next generation of Scottish chess players, which should be one of Chess Scotland's main objectives. The coverage from the Rampant Chess team looks like it'll contribute significantly as well."
:-) With her final sentence Heather wins the rampant chess team's 'Favourite Olympiad Player' award! (The infamous 'FOP' award)
JR: "Not all of chess scotland's money comes from membership, but in general I think it's important to support the top players at least to this minimal extent. To put things in perspective, we are not receiving much relative to most other countries with grandmasters. The challenge is that over the last decade, we have gone from having a team of predominantly amatuer (albeit good!) players, to a team of professional or semi-professional players, so there has been a bit of a culture shift at the top level. In many other countries, especially where chess has better access to funds, there has always been regular financial support for the best players for lots of different events(European Championship, World Championship qualifiers etc), while in Scotland we receive this small payment only once every two years to represent our country in the most prestigious team event. If this money were not given, we would be represented not by our best players, but by those able to pay, which I have always found a bit sad. Being able to compete at an international level reflects well on chess in Scotland, and although we could do better at publicising our exploits and sharing our experience, I would like to think that success at a Grandmaster level is at least somewhat entertaining for other players, and potentially motivating for promising players. "
RG: "Yes. Even people who have no chance of representing their country themselves enjoy seeing Scotland do well."
CW: "The funding is not the same for each member of the team. I do feel that everyone should get their travel costs covered which is not happening this year and that the Scottish Government should meet this cost rather than Chess Scotland. I am lucky that I have a good full time job and paid annual leave but I still welcome the small amount of funding I am receiving from Chess Scotland. I am not sure whether it is a good use of Chess Scotland's money as I do feel the Government should be paying."
SM: "Our top players are used to conditions and playing for their livelihood, they are giving up this in order to represent their country. As there is no other source of income to help support them we must do what we can to get them to play for us and promote our nation. This also gives other players back home the chance to get excited that our stars are playing against the worlds best."
This next question was asked, in one form or another, by a number of club players and is a perrenial favourite...
Q4) What advice would you give to aspiring players out there? What would they have to do to reach Olympiad standard?
JS: "Study endgames."
JD: "Put in the kind of work and dedication that our current Olympians have put in to get where they are today"
Endgames? Work? Dedication? Now hold on a minute you're scaring us...
JA: "Find a way of studying chess consistently. This could be by making it more fun. It could be by having a trainer, which works well for some."
HL: "Put a lot of time into chess outside of actually playing games. When I was 12, the decision to specialise in chess a bit more was kind-of made for me. I had dodgy knees and had to stop all the other sports that I loved doing - which freed up some more time for chess! In addition to this, I'd echo Jonathan Rowson's advice in "Chess for Zebras" about not reading along and nodding to chess books when you're putting time in to work on your chess. The best way to improve is to move the pieces around, explore the positions and make or reinforce discoveries for yourself. The exploration makes it stick and pushes your understanding onto a different level. With hindsight, I always did this with science subjects at school...."
Excuse me one second reader, KR here again. I know that she is far too modest to mention it herself, but my spies have been working overtime and have informed me that Heather (our newly crowned FOP) was not only good at doing this at school but she is also rather good at teaching how to do it now. So much so in fact, that she has written an excellent book on the subject - "Head First Physics" - check it out via this link
Heather's Clever Book
Ah yes, we are a clever lot us chess players, now back to Heather's answer...
"...but I never really did it with chess books, apart from when doing tactics puzzles. That means my play is fairly lop-sided, though I've redressed that a bit through having to think more roundly about chess while coaching juniors and hope to have enough time to do that a bit more in the future."
JR: "Starting young helps, and failing that, read Chess for Zebras, and follow up by trying to solve the positions in Jacob's numerous books."
RG: "If you want to be chosen for the open team then refer to the advice given by its players. If you're lucky enough to be female and are content to aim for the women's team then the advice is exactly the same. Since the playing strength required is at present several hundred points lower than that needed for the open team you have an excellent chance of achieving your goal. So go for it! Even if it means you usurp my own place in the team! "
CW: "When I was a junior (many years ago!) I was always pushed in to playing the tournament above my grading limit. This meant I played in mostly Open tournaments. While I always struggled to reach 50% I did learn a great deal more from playing much stronger players than playing with people around my own strength although this also meant I did not win any prize money!"
SM: "Play as much as possible and work hard. If you keep your head up and learn your rewards will come. Getting in the team is very hard but if you keep at it chances always come up. Olympiad standards vary from the very best to ordinary. There are many players in Scotland that could get in other teams easily but playing for Scotland you must aim for 2400+"
And finally, Colin McNab gives us the most practical and realistic advice for anyone wanting to make it to the Olympiad...
CM: "Follow the example of Graham Mooney from Castlehill Chess Club in Dundee, who moved to Jersey a couple of years ago and has made it into their Olympiad team."
...though depending upon your stength it may have to be the Faroe Islands...
Q5) What is the role of the captain at the Olympiad?
It looks like JS is going to rely heavily on Mr. Dempsey throughout the competition "I think a major role of the captains will be to ensure the players reach the board on time and thus avoid being defaulted".
JA: "To keep all the practical issues at an arms length of the players (Player opinion only)"
JD: "To take all the non-chess aggro away from the players, to motivate where needed, and to congratulate where possible"
SM: "My role as captain is to make sure our players don't get distracted by anything except playing their games. I have various responsibilities including getting our team list in on time, checking our players are fit to play, picking the right team for each match, passing onto our players teams we are playing and possible opponents and when we find out making sure they know who they have got. As rules continue to change make sure we know what we are meant to do and not meant to do.
As woman's captain I will be doing everything to get the very best out of our players. Making sure they are focussed when they are meant to be. I was recently involved in doing serious coaching with our players (see the report on the front page on the chess scotland website).
Women's training report
This will hopefully prove to be benefical and the help I will be giving will hopefully be good too. "
That's it for now, thanks for reading and we hope you will follow our daily reports when the Olympiad starts. (First round is Thursday 13th November.) Don't forget to enter the Rampant Chess Sweepstake!