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Olympiad preview: Views from captain of the Open team, Tom Brown

Non-playing captain of the open team, Tom Brown, talks to Richard Stevenson about his expectations for the 41st  World Chess Olympiad.


Could you briefly introduce the members of the team for the Open section of the Olympiad?


It comprises of five players.  There is Richard Jones, Welsh champion on many occasions, who lives in Australia, having moved there about a year ago. He’s an international master, and I believe he’s the strongest Welsh player on the FIDE list. We’ve got Tim Kett, the current Welsh Champion, who has played in many Olympiads. He’s now quite famous as a full-time Welsh chess coach. We’ve also got David Sands, who will make his debut in the Olympiad, and has played in the Welsh Championships in the last three or four years. He is a very strong, solid player, who now lives in London. There is also Francis Raynor originally from Merthyr and is a seasoned Welsh international. And there is David Jameson, who will play for Wales for the second time, having played in the Europeans in Warsaw. 


What is the role of the non-playing captain?


You need someone to do the administration, for instance to enter the team, select the board and select who is playing each round, because only four of the five can play. You have to make those decisions, and ofcoursethere is a degree of responsibility that comes with that.


Could you briefly describe a typical day at an Olympiad?


You know the next round draw late in the evening for the following day. So you then discuss with the players and come up with the board order and a team. Then that team will be submitted around 9 a.m.  You will be told around 11 a.m. the team list, and you’ll let the players know who they’ll be playing. But hopefully they’ll have a good idea anyway, because it’s four from five, so you can be about 80 percent correct in your guess.


The players will tend to do preparation by themselves. Each player has different styles, and play to their strengths. You can’t deviate too much from what you already know, so ‘You should play this opening’ is not appropriate advice.


Will the team arrive much before the championship?


Most, if not all of the team, are arriving at 8:30 on the evening of Friday 1st, and then will be playing mid-afternoon on the 2nd. So it’s quite a hectic transition.


How will you try and ensure that the team does as well as it can?


You have to create an atmosphere that is conducive. The players want some stability. There are going to be good games and bad games, and you want to make sure that people get a fair crack of the whip. What will happen in the Olympiad is that you get this yo-yo effect, where you play a very strong side and then a weak side – we are about 90th out of 170. So we should be expected to score just under half. You’d like players to get a mix of some white and black against players where you have a realistic chance of scoring points. You also want everyone to play a proportionate amount of the time, because we are an amateur team after all.


Is a key part of your role being able to motivate your players? If they on a losing streak, will it get to them?


Well, it will do. From my personal experience, you feel quite low the evening after you’ve lost a game, but you get used to it and the next day you are more positive. By then you have dealt with it, you’ve compartmentalised it, and you are prepared to fight again as it’s a new day.


Everybody makes moves they regret. It’s very tough, and strong players are very resilient. There will be times when we get good positions against very strong players, but that’s still a long way away from winning a game. It takes an awful lot of concentration and skill to finish off the game.


Do you need to rotate players because the tournament is tiring?


That could be the case. It would be something to bear in mind, obviously, but generally people want to play, and there are two rest days built in.


Will you and the players see the local area. Or is it chess, chess, chess?


Its seems that the place, Tromsø, is quite small, so there should be an opportunity to see around. They’ll be some opportunities on two rest days, and in the mornings, perhaps. However, they’ll be a routine of preparing, playing, eating – there is only a finite amount of time, really.


Do you have a target placing that would lead you to conclude that it had been a successful event?


The lower rated teams will be relatively strong for their ratings; their players are not playing that many FIDE rated tournaments. So for us to achieve our ranking would be a success, and we haven’t done that for quite a few Olympiads.


A lot of it will depend on a little bit of luck here and there. If you win your last round game, you can move up twenty or so places. The key thing is that if we play good chess and play good games, the results will take care of themselves.

Olympiad preview: Views from captain/coach of the Women’s team, Carl Strugnell

Non-playing captain/coach of the women’s team, Carl Strugnell, talks to Richard Stevenson about his hopes for the 41 st World Chess Olympiad.


Could you briefly introduce the members of the team for the ladies section of the Olympiad?


The first board is Jane Richmond. She has a rating of 2085, and she is the strongest member of the team. She is quite precise, and she distances the second, third and fourth boards, that are all very close to each other, by about 100 points. On the three next boards there are Suzy Blackburn, Lynda Roberts and Olivia Smith. I think Olivia is used to playing on board two, and I think everyone is fine with that.


On board 5 we have Alyssa Wang, playing in her second Olympiad. She’ll be playing the first two rounds, because Suzy will not be there. If we are up against a strong team, and we’re going to put the best team possible, I don’t think she can be in it. But I’ll give her some training, and it’s going to be a positive experience for her. As soon as it’s possible, or as soon as someone wants to take a day’s rest, she’s going to be in there. She is young, and we should give her the chance to get the experience.


Why have you volunteered to be the non-playing captain?


My mother is Welsh, I’m born in England, I grew up in Paris, and I’ve been back in Wales for almost a year. The idea was to get involved in Welsh chess. I’ve got the profile of a coach, so that wasn’t an issue. I’ve been quite active in the tournaments and no one can deny that I’ve not been participating in Welsh chess. I’m not just turning up and asking for a job: I want to help and contribute, because it’s satisfying for me, and I want to help Welsh chess.


In terms of ratings, you’re over 2300, so stronger than all your team. Does this mean that you’ll be providing plenty of support, in terms of game preparation?


Definitely. I’ll be spending a lot of time, depending on their attitude. I’ll try and motivate them as much as possible to take it seriously.


Aside from your playing strength, what other qualities will you bring to your role?


I think I communicate the passion of chess, and wanting to do as best as you can. I’m not only a chess player – I do lots of things with chess in the middle. When I was in LA, I was a friendly hustler – I wasn’t trying to break anyone financially. I was also a teacher in the rich neighbourhoods of Paris for about six years. I’m a chess boxer, and I’ve worked in the book store in the London Classic for Chess&Bridge. So basically, anything that’s got to do with chess, any angle, I’ve covered it. So being a coach was a new, fun thing that I’d never done. The quality I bring is that – wanting to experiment – and I communicate that.


I think that the girls will want to do their best under my supervision. I’ll give them attention - it's like a spiritual nutrient − and that will encourage them.


Do you have a target placing that would lead you to conclude that it had been a successful event?


We are starting with a ranking of 65. If we could do plus twenty or plus thirty, that would be amazing. We could also have good days, so, for example, we're up against a team where everyone is 2100 and we beat them. If we bear England and finish last, well, there's something in that, right?


Following the Welsh Chess Union Management Board Meeting on the 22nd June 2014, the Management Board has instructed our FIDE Delegate to vote for the candidature of Garry Kasparov in the forthcoming FIDE Presidential Election.


Following the Welsh Chess Union Management Board meeting on the 15th July 2014, the Management Board has instructed our FIDE Delegate to vote for the candidature of Silvio Danailov in the forthcoming European Continental Presidential Election.

Tom Brown

International Director of Welsh Chess