Tromso Olympiad

August 1 to August 15, 2014

report and photos by Jonathan Grant

Official website

Results analysis


Play over Scot games - Open - Women

Round by Round match scores Round by Round match scores (women)

Tue Aug 12 – Round 10

20:20 hindsight

Scotland (52) 0-4 Bosnia (41)
K. Grant (2394) (w) 0-1 Dimitrijevic, A (2293)
E. Bamber (2077) 0-1 Boric, E (WIM 2196)
A. Roy (1913) 0-1 Dengler, D (2070)
C. Groves (2027) 0-1 Jacimovic, S (2032)

At the end of round nine we are sitting, exactly as seeded, in 52nd place and another country with “chess culture” awaits us in the crucial run-in. Bosnia has a mix of improving young players and experienced titled players. The match starts well with some familiar positions from preparation. Ali obtains play against the centre and backward e-pawn in a French against an experienced WFM. However too many pieces become sidelined on the a-file and Black uses the extra time to infiltrate on the c- and e-files with her rooks. Capturing on b5 with the queen before Be3 was possible but doing so later on allows a crushing exchange sacrifice on f3. Carey is looking comfortable with her pieces sitting on the first three ranks ready to expand against White's Maroczy set-up. Black has to work out which of ...b5 , ...f5 or...d5 is the correct break. When ...d5 does come, White is well placed to meet it and secures and advanced passed d-pawn. Carey strikes out on the queenside but the newly qualified WFM finds mate on the kingside with a clever bishop sacrifice.

Keti's opponent plays multiple off-beat lines to avoid getting caught in the opening and today tries 3...Nc6 in the French. Keti embarks on a king hunt and crashed through. Perhaps simplest was 28.Qxe6 restoring material parity but with Black's king hopelessly exposed. Instead Keti played for mate and in desperation her opponent tried one last trick in time trouble. With the computer showing that Black can resign after 35.Rf2, Keti instead checks with her queen and the win disappears to a draw. Shocked by this turn of events and with the clock ticking towards zero Keti is unable to work out how to save the game.

A Norse saga could be written about Elaine's game today, the decisions made before and the tragic outcome. Noticing that her opponent repeatedly pays the Worrall Attack, I suggest consulting Andrew “Play The Ruy Lopez” Greet who wrote the key book on this line. He suggests a good line for Black and Elaine is well prepared when 5.Qe2 appears on the board. Mixing lines she strikes out with an early ...d5 “a la Marshall” but it is ill founded and with 11.Bb3 White could trap Elaine's queen! Instead she settles for the pawn advantage. Apparently nerveless Elaine fights on with great dynamism although each time she is about to get well on top she hands a chance to her opponent e.g. leaving a rook en prise or taking a pawn that allows White's rook to get active. Approaching the time control she sacrifices a second exchange and this time it appears there is no escape. Our hopes are raised when the prospect of a fortress appears in the B v R ending. Sadly it is not to be and the team loses 0-4.

Elaine would have made a WIM norm today with a draw and would have retained an outside WGM norm chance in the last round with a win (but also a team win) so this is a difficult result to bear. The full impact is only known at dinner when we discover we are paired against much lower rated Sri Lanka. Their highest rated player is under 1800 (lower than the 1950 she needs to beat) and it sinks in that Elaine can no longer make the WIM norm she deserved. It is the low point of the Olympiad for the whole women's squad. If our bottom four players had faced Bosnia and Bosnia avoided dropping their board one, then Elaine would have achieved the WIM norm (which counts as a 20 game norm because of the Olympiad) even with a loss. I'm not a fan of annotating by result but, with hindsight, a different path could and perhaps should have been followed to ensure the norm.

Over in the open team Andrew Greet similarly suffers when he first can't achieve the GM norm (also a 20 game norm so would have been his last although with 2500 rating still to be achieved) in the Japan match when his opponent is too low rated and then his loss prevents any chance of a last round shot. A cruel, cruel day and the free day can't come quick enough.

Mon Aug 11 – Round 9

King walks and equal endings

Scotland (52) 2½-1½ Ecuador (48)
K. Grant (2394) (b) 1-0 H Serrano, C (WGM 2168)
E. Bamber (2077) 1-0 Bosch Garcia, J (2173)
A. Roy (1913) ½-½ R Echeverria, A (2098)
J. Durno (1862) 0-1 M Romero, E (WIM 2119)

Two match losses in a row and we meet another team seeded above us. It is a reflection of how well the team is doing and is providing the strength of opposition which isn't possible for round after round back in Scotland. Joy's experienced WIM uses a Budapest Gambit (no previous games on the database) to nullify White preparation and goes straight for the jugular on the kingside. Having missed a tactic, Joy pragmatically decides to shed pawns and run with her king to the queenside. The cover there isn't sufficient and a piece is lost in the crossfire. For a long time Ali looks as if she will win. The idea ...g5 to weaken White's pawn formation is excellent and Ali's pressure gains her a pawn. In time trouble Ali returns the pawn and there is nothing to play for in the bishop ending. At 0.5-1.5 down it is ominous: Keti and Elaine have both given back all or part of their advantage. Could it be Italy all over again?

Elaine's Bishop opening generates another tactical melee with destroyed pawn formations. Pushing her g-pawn to g7 is a good plan especially when her king joins the action and wanders all the way up to e8 in the middlegame. Black sacrifices the exchange to head for a drawn B + a-pawn v R + a-pawn. The key point for Black is to ensure that the king can run back to c8 in time when the rook is returned to win the a5-pawn...and with ...Kf7 she blunders into a position where she can't.

It is a familiar story with Keti deciding the team's fate. Black is wearing her (lucky?) pork pie hat with an Ecuador badge and is clearly an excellent blitz player. Time and again she lets her clock run down to the last few seconds before making her move. However Keti tortures White for 6 hours: first in a better Q+R+B v Q+R+N middlegame then a better Q+R v Q+R ending. However White went for a drawn R+3 v R+2 (all on the same side) then a drawn R+2 v R+1 before spontaneously combusting on move 134 in a R+2 v R ending which the tablebases demonstrate is a draw.

Last in the hall once more I check the scoresheet carefully and sign for our match win. One of the team's best characteristics is fighting spirit and that really showed today. I'm amused later by Jon Speelman's tale from one of the lower matches. The match arbiter is clearing up after the game is finished, counts the pieces and notices that the side that has lost is a piece up. He can't believe his eyes or the signed scoresheets so he unilaterally changes the game result! A little while later he realises/is shown the error of his ways and has to frantically trot round to the technical panel to save his bacon...

Sun Aug 10 – Round 8

We wuz robbed

Scotland (52) 1½-2½ Italy (31)
K. Grant (2394) (b) ½-½ Zimina, O (IM 2327)
A. Roy (1913) 0-1 Sedina, E (IM 2291)
C. Groves (2027) 0-1 Gueci, T (2074)
J. Durno (1862) 1-0 Messina, R (2042)

It is a surprise to find our reward for a loss to Slovenia is to be paired against our highest seeded opponents so far, Italy. In principle pairings are on a top v bottom half basis for each score group with teams ranked by match points then game points becomes a little complicated. More details at ... egulations

A late change of board order is necessary after Elaine has a difficult night's sleep but the team isn't fazed. Carey decides on a switch from the Modern to the Scandinavian, not out of respect to our hosts, just to set her young opponent fresh problems at the board. The game becomes a struggle for light squares and space but the Italian manages to seize control.

After patiently supporting the team from the sidelines, Joy comes off the bench with maximum impact. Her Semi-Slav preparation produces a nice attacking position with bishops, queen and knight all pointing towards the Black king. Joy takes a knight on d7 which can't be captured because of a beautiful Bxh7+ tactic and the crowd think it is all over. Jo threatens mate with Qxd3 and after ...f5 could win in great style by Nxf8 sacrificing the queen but gaining two rooks and knight. The moment passes but Joy continues to press before winning a rook ending slowly but surely. So everyone will return home with at least one win.

Keti switches sides in the Accelerated Dragon and quickly reaches an advantage with Black as well. White decides to sacrifice the exchange to change the character of the duel which is a wise choice. Still Keti can return the material in different ways but should aim to get a bishop rather than the knight. The position simplifies and, with a minute left on her clock, Keti is offered a draw. She decides to check with her captain – “Decide for yourself” – and then takes the draw. 1.5-1.5 all and an upset is on the cards.

Ali's opponent Sedina is an experienced IM brought up in the Soviet (Ukraine) school of chess. Ali's prep against the French goes well and Black consumes an hour searching for a good plan. Black seeks refuge in rook and knight ending though White isn't troubled. It all comes down to playing on the increments with reduced material all on one side. Ali plays Rg6 and suddenly the door is shut by ...Ng4. Loss of material is unavoidable. It is a frustrating end to one of our best fights of the Olympiad.

Sat Aug 9 – Round 7


Scotland (52) 1-3 Slovenia (37)
K. Grant (2394) (w) 1-0 Srebrnic, A (WGM 2251)
E. Bamber (2077) 0-1 Krivec, J (WGM 2259)
A. Roy (1913) 0-1 Kolaric, S (2043)
C. Groves (2027) 0-1 Unuk, L (2221)

I'm continuing to discover changes to FIDE's regulations from 1 July 2014. (Is there a useful summary of changes published anywhere?) As well as draw by 5-fold repetition without requiring to claim and requirements for trainers to be licensed, I notice that there is a 75 move rule. It is the same as the 50 move but without either side needing to claim. I wonder how many times that one will be invoked?
Slovenia's 15 year old board 4 gained an enormous 84 points over the month of July. Immediate concerns that she is the next Polgar subside when her results are checked. Some games are on K factor of 15 but others use 40! To explain the new Ks:

K is the development coefficient.
K = 40 for a player new to the rating list until he has completed events with at least 30 games
K = 20 as long as a player's rating remains under 2400.
K = 10 once a player's published rating has reached 2400 and remains at that level subsequently, even if the rating drops below 2400.
K = 40 for all players until their 18th birthday, as long as their rating remains under 2300

The new regulations will mean greater movement in ratings especially for newly rated players and improving juniors.

Ali goes for it early in a Sicilian Kan with f4. Our silicon friends shake their heads disapprovingly but it creates a tactical mess with Black's king is stuck on e8. Difficult for humans to work out what is going on but perhaps Ali needed to sacrifice a further pawn with e6 to keep Black's king in the centre. It escaped to the queenside and Ali's king came under heavy fire.

Elaine's WGM opponent has a reputation for liking theoretical lines so Sicilian with 3...Qd8 seemed a reasonable choice. If another recommendation was needed then Magnus had tried it the previous round. However playing ...Bg7 and ...Bxh6 on successive moves lost time and made it difficult for the king to find a safe haven. Elaine wasn't allowed to get going today.

Carey's Benko gave her typical dark squared counterplay for the pawn. Recovering the pawn with ...Bxc3 and ...Rxa4 was a double edged decision that needed a dynamic follow-up. Carey missed White's c4 idea and the weak dark squares and backward d-pawn became significant factors. She fought on an exchange down until White found a zugzwang idea that forced the loss of a pawn and resignation.

Once again Keti was last to finish. Perhaps this was to be expected after the huge amount of time consumed by both sides around moves 3 to 5 in a Bishop's opening. The Slovenian fell asleep on move 3 and awoke after at least 30 minutes. Keti needs no encouragement to think and caught the same bug. The problem with this approach is that once the time is gone you have to rely on 30 second increments. I'm relieved I'm not watching with a computer running in the background as the evaluation shoots up and down in time trouble. Not good for the health of any Scottish fans watching but Keti eventually secured the point when her monster d-pawn won a knight.


Fri Aug 8:

Round 6 – Nobody loses, everybody's happy

Scotland (52) 2½-1½ Moldova (44)
K. Grant (2394) (b) ½-½ Baciu, D (WIM 2294)
E. Bamber (2077) ½-½ Petrenko, S (IM 2205)
A. Roy (1913) ½-½ Partac, E (WGM 2127)
C. Groves (2027) 1-0 Hincu, O (2027)

Moldova looks a tough draw especially with an IM and WGM whose ratings are well of their highs. Ali adopts the Black side of a Closed Sicilian. I'm familiar with the colours reversed set-up (Botvinnik system in the English) and tempo down positions are fine as well. White's attack down the f-file is going nowhere and Ali's space advantage grows. White falls further and further behind in time but exchanges minor pieces and queens to bring some relief. 3-fold repetition in the double rook ending is a fair enough end. A great start for the team and for Ali against the WGM. Over to board 4 and Carey has “got her Mojo back”. A classic minority attack in the QGD exchange – weaken the pawn structure; exchange the right pieces and then win the under defended c6 and d5 pawns. Carey is delighted and rightly so: it is a tremendous feeling to win when you create a plan and follow through on it.

Elaine is having a themed tournament with the b-pawn. Sometimes she sacrifices it , today she pushed to b3 early (and later b4) to fianchetto the bishop in a Sicilian Moscow variation.. Perhaps Petrenko thought, from Elaine's earlier games, that she had to exchange queens asap when she went for the unusual Qg4-h5. However Elaine identified that taking off queens would leave d6 weak and she built strong positional pressure. Black's king started off on a suicidal walk. Breaking open the centre with f4 would show up this folly but after multiple exchanges the game petered out into an equal rook ending. Keti allowed White an early initiative in a 2...e6 3.b3 Sicilian through over ambition. She fought her way back into contention with some accurate calculation and the help of an advancing d-pawn. In time trouble it was a better idea to play ...g5 at some point rather than ...h5 but securing the draw was enough for an overall match win by 2.5-1.5 against the higher rated Moldovans.


Thu Aug 7 - First free day

The break in the middle of the Olympiad will make it seem like a new tournament when we start again in round 6. As a comparison, it is well known that second week form in the British Championship (held over 11 rounds with a break after the first 6) determines success. Players respond in different ways to the break but all need to find the best way of recharging their batteries. Will those on fire stumble? Will those who have struggled regain their strength?

In the Scottish camp, Elaine decides on a 50 km bike ride whizzing around the island and beyond. Andrew Greet manfully tries to keeps pace. The rest of the women's team follow a well-worn path of Olympiad participants up the cable car for the spectacular view over Tromso and to the mountains beyond. It is a re-invigorating sight. The Grant family walks up to the first cairn although there are tales from other camps of more adventurous souls who hike until they can photograph themselves lying in the snow!

We agree tonight is pizza night and the women's team plus Andrew G head to Yonas' pizzeria. Best in town according to the friendly folk who run our hotel. The local speciality is a “Taco” which involves Chinese cabbage and salad cream which tempts the rest of my family. However I'm unconvinced this is a “Scottish” option and insist on a pepperoni based choice for at least half of our “Maxi” sharing pizza. Sage Andrew G identifies that a large seafood pizza is guaranteed to avoid anyone pilfering from his plate whilst he proves adept at scavenging in the politest possible manner. Full and satisfied we head home ready for the battles ahead.



Aug 7:

Round 5 – attack, attack!

Scotland (52) 2-2 Turkey (33)
K. Grant (2394) (b) 1-0 Yildiz, B (WGM 2296)
E. Bamber (2077) 1-0 Ozturk, K (WGM 2291)
A. Roy (1913) 0-1 Isgandarova, K (WIM 2190)
C. Groves (2027) 0-1 Topel, Z (WIM 2156)

The Olympiad is a colourful event in so many ways. Despite a small number of no-shows there are still 172 open and 134 women's teams from all over the world. FIDE requires participants to be suitably dressed which is interpreted widely and many countries have opted for a uniform approach. Tracksuits are popular amongst both established and developing countries: Bhutan's open team have an eye catching yellow and orange number. Somewhat more refined examples can be found: Kuwaiti women accessorise with checked scarfs whilst Magnus looks rather corporate in a restrained suit with the sponsor's name on the lapel of his crisp white shirt. Scotland, without a sponsor, wears whatever feels comfortable. Former Scottish team member Jacob Aagaard takes this a step further and is spotted playing in a top with Scotland emblazoned across the back provoking discussion back in Denmark. Today's opponents from Turkey are clearly well funded with famous trainer GM Adrian Mikhalchishin as their coach. Each player wears a top with details of event, date and their name stitched in.

The popularity of chess in Turkey is rising and the standard at junior and senior level is rising. Turkey is our highest seeded opponents so far. I tell the players one massive effort and they can have the next day off. It is my generous side coming through...The match starts well as a number of promising opening positions appear. Elaine's opponent has persisted in playing a passive line with ...c6 against the Bishop's Opening, certainly not something to avoid. Over its brief life the game bore some resemblance to a Philidor and then a Ruy Lopez. Elaine initiated a flank attack with Qf3 which should have been met by central action with ...d5. Black chose continued passivity and was blown away on the kingside. [As an aside, there must have been something in the air today. A number of the Scots decided to really go for it. Terrific attacking play from Andrew Greet in the open event as he blasted apart Dizdarevic's defences in just 25 moves against Bosnia]. Ali showed good understanding of which pieces to exchange to equalise easily in an Accelerated Dragon. Probably she should have expanded quickly on the queenside but she was still fighting until a miscalculation meant she left White's e6 pawn alive and this decided the game.

Keti had previously beaten Turkey's board 2 in a Vaganian Gambit so it was surprising when board 1 Yildiz allowed it and started to consume time in the opening. Although Black had free development and more space for a pawn the position required heavy calculation on each move to maintain the initiative. As so often happens when there is so much tension in the position, one slip proves fatal. For the second time today we crashed through to Black's king. Carey looked to be doing fine against her opponent's Leningrad Dutch set-up. Opposite side castling made it into a race which swung Black's way when Carey missed ...c5 forcing the jettisoning of her black squared bishop. Identifying her king as the worst placed pieced she quickly ran back to the kingside with it. Despite her pawn deficit she had reasonable central control and even had chances of taking over the initiative. In a mutually difficult position Black set up some tricks which Carey fell for. Still 2-2 is a tremendous result against a much higher rated team. Going into the free day there are so many positives to take from the team's play so far.

Bermuda Party and Seminar result
The Bermuda Party is where the chess world meets to dance, drink and chat. It's a time to make new relationships and catch up with old friends. No doubt any scandals will reveal themselves soon enough. Upstairs in “Driv” the dance floor was heaving to the sounds of pounding beats. Topalov appeared to have already forgotten his loss to Kramnik (no handshake today but then you knew that already). Magnus may be World Champion but he also has to party. Downstairs in the cafe was more sedate, a hubbub of exchanged tales, much more suited to the likes of Keti and myself. It was still light when we left in the wee small hours to make the one minute stroll home.

I checked my e-mails on return as Grivas indicated he would send the results from the first Training Seminar which had finished earlier in the day. Three of us, two strong Icelandic players and myself, were awarded the FIDE Trainer Title whilst others would get the FI, NI or DI titles. Designed for a spread of abilities the seminars contained thought provoking material even for GM Jon Arnason the strongest of the attendees. Definitely worth doing especially as FIDE becomes stricter about only licensed trainers being allowed free accommodation and access to the playing hall at its events. Although the new regulations were announced over 3 years ago many of the nations' trainers seem oblivious of the impact of the 1 July regulations. One for the IJD to be thinking about in advance of the World Youth et al.

Aug 6:

Round 4 – 101 and last in the hall
Scotland (52) 2-2 Uzbekistan (46)
K. Grant (2394) (w) 1-0 Kurbonboeva, S (2228)
E. Bamber (2077) 1-0 Gevorgyan, I (2141)
A. Roy (1913) 0-1 Baymuradova, S (2127)
J. Durno (1862) 0-1 Sabirova, O (2099)

As a former Soviet republic, Uzbekistan has a strong chess tradition with its men taking Silver on their first Olympiad appearance back in 1994. Its women haven't hit such heights but are consistent force with a low of 36th and a high placing of21st in 2012. Scotland's only previous encounter with Uzbekistan was a 3-0 loss at the Bled Olympiad. Giving away about 80 points per board on average this looked a tough match on paper.

Joy developed sensibly against an early g3 Anti-Sicilian and struck at the head of White's pawn chain with ...f6. She correctly prepared to attack the base with ...b5-b4 but restrained herself to manoeuvring on her first three ranks. Still her position was a tough nut to crack and White even allowed a ...Nxd4 possibility which would have turned the tables. However Sabirova is an experienced former Bronze medallist and took her chance when Joy allowed a kingside attack. Ali gained space pushing e5 in a 3.c3 Sicilian and launching her f and g pawns forward. Although missing her light squared bishop the attack was menacing with her f-pawn reaching g7. However she overlooked that d4 could be taken because of a nasty tactic pinning the queen. A fortress was still possible but Ne8 in time trouble allowed it to be broken.

Each evening the team meets to show their games and discuss the day. In an earlier session, I had mentioned the old saying “He who eats the b-pawn sleeps on the streets”. There is of course the proviso “except when it works”. Elaine had spotted that her opponent allowed an active QGD Exchange variation involving Nc6 and achieved an active position. Confronted with a double attack on d5 and b7, Elaine decided to sacrifice her b7 pawn and use the open b-file for counterplay. Perhaps not entirely sound in this case but a good example of how a small material investment often leads to rapid mobilisation. This was a fine game: a ...Bh3 moment when it can be taken by the g2 pawn just one of many creative ideas that allowed Elaine to reduce the deficit.

Once again it was Keti who would decide the match result, this time draw or loss. Pressing all game in an Accelerated Dragon she eventually transposed into a winning rook and opposite bishop ending. Still her opponent didn't resign because by this stage both were playing using the 30 second increment that is added after each move. Black had to give up her bishop for the promoting d-pawn and shortly had to offer a handshake on move 101. Everyone could go home now. Another tremendous set of battles by all four players and a well earned 2-2 draw for Scotland against the higher rated Uzbeks.

Aug 5:

Round 3 - winning at the seventh attempt
Scotland (52) 2½-1½ Denmark (56)
K. Grant (2394) (b) 1-0 De Blecourt, S (2122)
E. Bamber (2077) 1-0 Guindy, E (2074)
C. Groves (2027) 0-1 Frank-Nielsen, M (1969)
J. Durno (1862) ½-½ Olsen, M (2019)

Meals at the Olympiad are all “koldtbord” (buffet style). A modest though tasty breakfast is served in the Viking Hotel whilst lunch and dinner require a five minute stroll across to The Edge Hotel, appropriately situated next to the harbour. Berthed nearby can be seen all sorts of vessels from the Norwegian Coastguard to cruise liners. I was surprised to see, flying under the flag of the Cayman Islands, a ship with a helicopter perched on the stern.

The Edge is catering for a large number of teams including the Russian elite. After initial chaos and long queues players have settled into their routines and mealtimes are sociable affairs exchanging the news of the day. John Shaw declared it the best food he'd known at an international team event. As a man who has returned from previous trips with salmonella and weighing only eight stone he might have set a low bar. However I can confirm the food is really fine and not just the “chess players menu” that has blighted previous competitions. The chef has a recipe book with 1001 ways to prepare salmon (fish is invariably the best main course) but there is normally enough choice for even fussy eaters.

After seven attempts Scotland at last defeated the Danes in a Women's Olympiad. Showing great resilience and determination the team bounced back to ease past a team just 4 places lower in the rankings. However the day did not start promisingly. Carey saw ghosts in a Pirc when her opponent played dxc5. Thinking the normal recapture with her knight would lead to the loss of a piece she took with the d-pawn and came under pressure as White seized space in the centre. Defending grittily she gradually nullified the pressure before disaster struck and she missed a Rxd7 trick. Joy spent 45 minutes early on in a Catalan. Black equalised as Joy danced around the first two ranks with her queen searching for the optimal square. Nifty footwork and the position opened up with her g2 bishop becoming a monster. One chance to win a pawn by hitting the d5 bishop with e4 passed by in a flash during time trouble and the game ended sedately with perpetual check.
Elaine's prepared 2.b3 against the French was a smart choice with her opponent looking immediately uncomfortable. Black attempted to play simple positional chess whilst Elaine infiltrated down the h-file.

Maximising activity at the expense of her pawn structure, Elaine's threats became overwhelming as Black's pieces sat on awkward squares. 1.5 all and it was left to Keti to decide the fate of the match. First it swung her way as her King's Indian took control of the dark squares then it swung back to White when Keti missed the beautiful idea ...Rxe6 f4 ...Nc6 with the idea of ...Nd4. Eventually White tried to win a Queen ending pawn up but allowed a stalemate which Keti missed. With a crowd circling the board Keti blundered mate in 2 and in return White checked on the wrong square allowing Keti to interpose with check and win the resulting pawn ending. Phew, all's well that ends well!

Aug 4:

Scotland (52) 0-4 Belarus (40)
K. Grant (2394) (w) 0-1 Ziaziulkina, N (IM 2407)
E. Bamber (2077) 0-1 Stetsko, L (2261)
A. Roy (1913) 0-1 Nevioselaya, M (2032)
J. Durno (1862) 0-1 Kaliadzich, M (2020)

I attended the first of four sessions for one of three training seminars running in Tromsø during the Olympiad. FIDE Senior Trainer/GM Grivas explained the new regulations from 1 July 2014. They are driven by Kirsan's desire for chess to, one day, feature in the Olympics. So, like all other sports, chess has to have doping controls and licenses for its trainers and arbiters. FIDE's training framework is a system of five levels with titles reflecting the type of training done and the level of the trainer.

The session also covered a whistlestop tour round the surprisingly deep resources on which include pdf training material surveys and recommended book lists. It is worth checking out by any Scot currently involved in any level of training from primary kids upwards. Other topics included “Physical and Psychological Factors”; “Nutritional Practices of Chess Grandmasters”; and “Differences Between Boys and Girls in Chess”. I was delighted to learn about the positive benefits of dark chocolate during the game and less than chuffed to hear that it should be taken in very small quantities.

Scotland's only previous encounter with Belarus was an excellent 1-1 draw, in a Euro Teams, many moons ago. Carey played in that match but sat out today so everyone is involved in the tournament early.
Joy is still shaking off signs of rust after her late call up into the squad. Playing solidly, if a little passively, allowed her opponent to develop an initiative in a Symmetrical type of Tarrasch. Castling was too ambitious and White won a key pawn. Joy fought hard but wasn't allowed to get going today. Keti's aggressive Anti Sicilian set-up demanded pushing f5 early to get the kingside attack rolling. Omitting it allowed timely action by Black in the centre to blunt the light squared bishop. Keti's last opportunity, in time trouble, was to exchange rooks and seek practical chances in the minor piece ending.

Avoiding Elaine's Marshall with h3 was a small concession and White followed up with a few others. The critical moment arrived. Black's pieces stood well and it was time to consider improving the queen. However the move chosen allowed Rxc5 sacrificing an exchange to bring White's bishops to life. At first sight it looks creative but White was effectively pushed to adopt desperate measures. Ali was also involved in a Ruy Lopez and quickly reached a position she had prepared in the Breyer. These are among some of the most complex positions in chess and offer multiple options to both players on almost every move. The key moment centred around the fight for the a-file and when Ali allowed a knight to remain there unchallenged she faced an uphill struggle.

A difficult day for the team but not one to be downhearted about: the games were rich for long periods. I was encouraged that they sensed critical moments even if the correct solution wasn't always found.

Aug 3:

Round 1 - not quite zero tolerance
Scotland (52) 3½-½ Mozambique (119)
K. Grant (2394) (w)
Vilhete, V (1832)
E. Bamber (2077) 1-0 Namaela, M (ung)
A. Roy (1913) 1-0 Malenda, A (ung)
C. Groves (2027) ½-½ Castro, N (1467)

The captain's meeting revealed a few quirks to watch out for. The clocks have no move counter so the 30 minutes are only added after all time has elapsed on the clock. No help for time trouble addicts. FIDE's preferred time control of 40 moves in 90 minutes then 30 minutes added with 30 second increments is more or less standard these days. Arbiters are to step in and declare a draw on five-fold repetition. Back at the hotel our team meeting discusses key points including deciding that players have a free choice on whether to accept or offer draws.

Arriving at the venue 25 minutes before the first round, it becomes clear that five airport-type security frames are insufficient to cope with hundreds of teams. Queues snake round the building on a bright clear day. Remarkably, despite the prospect of mass double defaults for lateness, the crowd is patient. Surely carnage would have broken out if this was, say, a cage fighting event. At 3pm hundreds of players are still nowhere near their board and start is delayed.

Eventually a five minute countdown delivered through an ear splitting PA and we're off and running. The hall is a massive open plan space, in all 3D, roped into several sectors. Huge posters advertising the event, displaying the flags of the participating nations and an intense staring man, adorn the walls and are seen throughout the town. Tokens added to accreditation passes indicate who is in play and who is out to soak up the atmosphere. The majority of the women boards are in an annexe with a lower roof off to one side. Top half v bottom half pairings lead largely to mismatches with the odd moment of glory. Second seeds China are in the same area as Scotland and ruthlessly dispatch the IBCA.

Joy had a miserable afternoon. She followed progress on line and couldn't believe how badly the team was playing. It seemed only Keti would prevent the whitewash. Farcically although the moves were correct the organisers had inverted the order so board 1 was showing the board 4 players. Cue texts from family members to team telling them to develop their pieces tomorrow.

3...Bd6 against the Ruy Lopez has a poor reputation for good reason. By move 7 Ali's opponent jettisoned a knight without compensation. Ali stayed focused and crashed through on the kingside. Elaine has turned up in uncompromising mood. Her Scandinavian turned out to be a very good type of Caro-Kann. Normally ...h5 would be weakening but here it was the start of quick expansion on the kingside that allowed rapid transfer of the heavy artillery towards White's king.

Keti started patiently with a Grand-Prix/Closed Sicilian but quickly decided to push d4 turning it into a type of Open. Omitting f5 tempted her opponent into pushing f5 herself but it created holes. A careless recapture on e5 allowed Keti to win two pieces for a rook and the end was in sight. So 3-0, the match secured and a great start for the team.

For the less developed countries, ratings should be taken with a pinch of salt. On bottom board Carey faced a lowly rated girl who stayed solid against the Pirc and avoided any serious mistakes. Having secured more space, Carey over-extended with ...e4 and was fortunate that her knight, that sought adventures on d3, remained on the board. Having passed move 30 (no agreed draws allowed before then) White offered and Carey wisely said “play a move”. After some language confusion White produced a losing blunder! Under the cosh for some time a relieved Carey decided to accept the draw.

Players can ask the captain whether they can accept to which captains can reply “Yes”, “No” or “Decide for yourself”. So, hypothetically, if asked what should I do? Answering No would indicate that Black can play for a win. It would have been surprising for Carey but risks her failing to see the only move that is winning and potentially ending up worse! So 3.5-0.5 and job done. On to the much more challenging Belarus (seeded 40) in round 2.

Aug 2: Scotland's women (seeded 52) start their Olympiad campaign later today (Saturday) against Mozambique (119) in round 1. MOZ are relative newcomers to the Olympiad debuting in 2010 at 112th and finishing one better in Istanbul 2 years later. Full draw here ... =30&wi=821

Our team of Keti, Elaine, Ali, Carey and Joy have all arrived safely and are settled in Hotel Viking a mere hop, skip and a jump from the venue. There are much fancier hotels but none closer and we received a friendly welcome. So good to try the fresh waffles they make each early evening after our long journey North. There is a massive entry of 136 in the women's section alone so every spare room in Tromsø is occupied by chess players, captains and delegates. Our two teams are in different locations but will eat in the same places.

Tromsø may only have a population of ~70k but has the infrastructure more commonly associated with somewhere far larger. It is the capital for the region, situated partially on an island. Arriving at the airport is spectacular. Snow capped mountains rise from the fjords and the runway is adjacent to a sound covered by Sandnessund Bridge. Reminiscent although smaller and no less impressive, in context, than the connection between Denmark and Sweden so familiar to viewers of BBC4's scandinavian crime noir "The Bridge".

If the televised Opening Ceremony (photo above) is anything to go by this will be a fantastic Olympiad. Speeches and interviews were short, to the point and demonstrated a remarkable grasp of chess and what it means with an absence of tired cliches. Norway has embraced our sport in a huge way and Magnus is the catalyst. His "lone wolf" appearance on stage along with the Norwegian team displayed dark humour and steely determination along with his usual laid back joviality. Traditional singing from a Sami woman, a blockbuster number from "Chess the Musical" and local folk rock heroes Violet Road showed off the local culture. However the nice touch was to flash all nations's flags on the big screen and announce the countries in alphabetical order. As each appeared its nation's players would rise and make some noise - the Africans were just so much better than everyone else at celebrating their appearance on the world stage. And that's what this global event must be - a celebration.