Friday, July 18, 2008

Australian Olympiad Team

Just as the Philippines finalised their Olympiad teams (and many others around the world including Cuba yesterday), the Australian Chess Federation a few days ago announced their "provisional" selection. Provisional because those who put their names in but failed may still have the opportunity to appeal. Well, let's hope the unsuccessful ones can behave themselves. Better luck next time I say. Time to get on with things - you know, like team bonding, sharpening up those openings, etc.

Anyway here are the lists, starting with the boys.

Board 1 GM Zong-Yuan Zhao
Board 2 IM David Smerdon
Board 3 IM Stephen Solomon
Board 4 GM Darryl Johansen
Board 5 IM George Xie

A solid and well-experienced team of Olympiad veterans that features only one newcomer, IM George Xie. George must be thanking the heavens for that one.

I think the lineup here would be exactly like most punters' picks except perhaps for that last spot. With Wohl's late entry, I thought he might just make it. I guess his recent patchy output was enough to dissuade most, if not all, selectors from giving him another berth. His current run in Leiden is a good example.

And so, for only the second time since 1982 1978, there is no Ian Rogers (he did not play in 1998 according to We might at first consider this to be a cause for worry, but we all know that this time when the Aussie young guns take the lead was an inevitability. In both GM Zhao and IM Smerdon, Australia holds very capable warriors. The latter himself took first-board duties on four occasions in Turin, while Zhao was given that honour once and drew against GM Adly of Egypt.

So I think we're good.

Rogers being Rogers, I'm sure that he won't be too distant from his former team-mates. I wonder if he'll apply for the captaincy. There is no better candidate. Still, the stress might be too much - so I doubt if the long-time Aussie number one will nominate. More than likely, Rogers will act as the team's eminence grise - furnishing advice here and there on tactics, strategies, on some diabolical opening discoveries and general words of wisdom. The fellow is as important now in this transition period, playing a part in the background, as when he was on active combat duties.

And now for the girls.

Board 1 IM Irina Berezina
Board 2 WIM Arianne Caoili
Board 3 Giang Nguyen
Board 4 WIM Laura Moylan
Board 5 WIM Biljana Dekic

All familiar names, though I was a tad surprised with Dekic's selection. I was seriously expecting Queenslander Alex Jule to earn a ticket. Here it is clear that the selectors opted for a low-risk policy by avoiding two newcomers, in Jule and Giang Nguyen. We agree with that. Certainly, Dekic is a seasoned international campaigner and herself a veteran of seven straight Olympiads, from 1990 to 2002. In fact, she held first board duties (in Novi Sad 1990 and Manila 1992) until Irina Berezina appeared on the scene.

And how could the selectors go past ex-dance starlet Arianne Caoili? She's always pretty darn hard to overlook. I can only hope that there is no repeat of you-know-what. Then again, with a super-GM now firmly in tow, other suitors better come with a big one. Like a 2700+ rating I mean.

Good luck to all teams.

Now I notice that the ACF's Olympiad Appeal seems to have slowed down a little. The amount received so far is way less than 50% of target.

Just a reminder to our readers that the teams will be providing exclusive "blogs" to all Appeal contributors. This is basically an email newsletter and, I tell you, it's a must-read. There are delightful tidbits about life in the Olympiad as well as fully annotated encounters. Here's a sample from 2006 by Laura Moylan. I've removed her initial in-game commentary and taking you straight to the funny bits. Ladies and gents, this is a true Australian classic.

2006 Torino Women's Olympiad
Round 9
White Moylan, Laura
Black Mazariegos, Silvia

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. f4 e5 7. Nf3 Bg4 8. Be3 8...b5 9. a3 Nbd7 10. Be2 exf4 11. Bxf4 Qb6 12. Nd5 Qb7 13. O-O Nxe4 I couldn't believe anyone would have the guts to take that pawn, it looks insane! 14. Ng5 Be6 14... Bxe2 15. Qxe2 Qxd5 16. Nxe4 Ne5 17. Rad1 still looks pretty tops for me! 14... Nxg5 15. Bxg5 Be6 (15... Bxe2 16. Qxe2+ Ne5 17. Qe4 Rb8 18. Rad1 Black's position looks pretty ewww. 16. Bf3 I repeat the ewww comment.) 15. Nxe4 Bxd5 16. Bf3 O-O-O 17. Nxd6+ Here I stupidly thought forever and left myself with very little time for the rest of the game. It's quite funny because I have a bit of a cough, but when I get into time trouble I start coughing heaps. I coughed so much today that the arbiter brought me a drink of water! 17. Ng5 would have been much better, but I feared my attack would fizzle into nothing and I would just be a pawn down. I couldn't bear the thought of losing a third game in a row ("castling long"). 17. Nc5 is also good. 17... Bxd6 18. Qxd5 Qxd5 In the game I thought that 18... Qb6+ 19. Kh1 Bxf4 20. Bg4 would allow me to win the piece back on d7, but Fritz seems to disagree with me very much! I think my opponent didn't even see it at all because she slammed out Qxd5 very fast. Ian said the polite way to describe when you notice something like this in your game is "oops" (he censored my word). 19. Bxd5 Bxf4 20. Rxf4 f6 21. Be6 Kc7 22. Bxd7 Rxd7 I don't normally like to accept a draw so early but when you have 1 minute against half an hour and your opponent offers it's quite hard to say no! Especially after 2 x 3-0 losses! 1/2-1/2

So, dear readers, let's dip into those pockets and give these guys a little more extra. On that note, here's a memo to the NSWCA: what happened to that $65?


Anonymous said...

Comparing the FIDE Rating order of the teams to the actual selection, both the men's and women's teams are in FIDE rating order, with the exception of Smerdon and Solomon.

I am guessing that David was selected over Stephen because the former had all 3 GM norms, whereas as far as I know, Stephen does not have any GM norms at the moment.

All in all, a very objective selection for both teams.

Garvin said...

I think it might also be that with David on board 2, he has much more opportunity to pick up the rating points he needs to break 2500.

Of course Australia has to be doing well overall to be players rated high enough to be of benefit.

Anonymous said...

Just one correction: on the olympiad site it says all donations $50 and over receive the email bulletin. If you have $50 to spare it's a very enjoyable read!

Anonymous said...

Another correction - I think Rogers played in the 1980 Olympiad as well.

The Closet Grandmaster said...

In fact, he also played in 1978!


Anonymous said...

Looks like there's a little politics involved in selection of the women's team. Why don't the selectors just pick the strongest players?

Anonymous said...

selections now official :)