The US Men’s Olympic Team wins Gold at the Baku Chess Olympiad

After 40 years the Men’s US Team finally wins the Olympiad

They went, they played, said check and it was mate!

Part of the winning team. Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So
Part of the winning team. Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So.            CREDIT Chris Bauer

They have done it. History was made on Tuesday, September 13, 2016 as the US Men’s Olympic team defeated Canada in the last round to seal a memorable first place and take the Gold medal at the forty-second chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan. As Grandmaster Maurice Ashley suggested in a social media post before before the final round, by winning the Olympiad Open, the US Men’s team now has the bragging rights of best chess country in the world! The question that was on many people’s lips was, can the team pull off what has not happened in 4 decades? 40 years had gone by ever since the US Men’s Team won told at the Olympiad. Now the team is stronger than it’s ever been.

So who was in the men’s team? The team was made up of Current US Champion Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, Wesley So, Ray Robson, Sam Shankland. These players showed their mettle throughout the event especially Wesley So who scored a very impressive 8,5 points out of a possible 10 points on board 3.

The belief was already there before the Baku Olympiad that the US had a very good chance of getting gold but would the team deliver? Would the team be able to withstand the pressure finally bring home the gold? Expectation is one thing but performance when it really counts is another thing altogether. The self belief and confidence of not just the players but the fans must have become even stronger towards the end as the US was one of the top teams over the last few rounds. It went through the entire event undefeated. That was a remarkable feat.

US Chess is certainly on a high right now. It remains to be seen what’s going to be next. There is a great deal of momentum in chess. Will this see the US starting to dominate the chess scene. These are certainly exciting times for US Chess. Only time will tell!

The South African Junior Chess Championships (SAJCC), my take so far

My take on the South African African Junior Chess championships being held in Cape Town.

The South African Junior Chess Championships in Cape Town
The South African Junior Chess Championships in Cape Town

We have now had a few Rounds at The 2015 South African Junior Chess Championships (SAJCC). The championships are running from 3 to 10 January 2016 at the Sports Centre, University of Cape Town. Ladies and gentlemen, there are no easy games in this tournament. I have lived through the drama of wins, losses and hard-fought draws as a Team Manager and Part Coach.

I don’t know who it’s tougher for, the players or the team managers or parents. The players have to sit for hours and hours to try and out play each other. Meanwhile the team managers and parents have to live through all the drama. Sometimes you think it’s going to be a draw, then the position looks losing and then there is a win, or someone makes an illegal move and it completely changes everything. You add up the team score so far and work out what it will take to win the match. Then as the evaluation of the position starts to change, you wonder if you are still going to get that win or maybe it’s just best to settle for a draw.

The parents sit very patiently inside or outside the playing hall. Judging from expressions on their son or daughter, they can take a good guess whether everything is going well. A dejected look at the end of the game needs absolutely no explanation. An excited or relieved player could mean a win or draw, it all depends!

How can one forget the arbiters who have to criss-cross the hall endlessly as they attend all kinds of queries. In the last hour of play it seems the number of blunders, illegal moves and the like. I for one do not envy the arbiters. This evening I saw a player who was completely winning, perhaps overcome with excitement, make an illegal move while in check. Unfortunately he had moved his queen and had to use the piece to block the check and the piece went for absolutely nothing. He resigned a move later. I felt for him. All those hours spent raking his brains and now it ends so suddenly and so painfully. How do you console such a player?

Spare a thought for those who capture the games so that we can get them in PGN. Portable Game Notation (PGN) is a plain text  format for recording chess games which makes it easy to replay the game. You can compare it to the words and notes to a song. When the game is played those involved record it using simple pen and paper and then those capturing the game on computer have to try and read the handwriting of players who under pressure can sometimes write like doctors, no offence to doctors.

There are many people running around behind the scenes to make sure that the shuttles arrive and drop off people, the rounds start on time and that things work as they should. It is hard to imagine that a venue can have as many as two thousand one hundred and fifty-eight people, all trying to checkmate each other.

The determination of the players just to get that point is just amazing. The time control means that players can be playing for at least 3 hours per round not even taking the increment into account. This means by the end of the day they can played for at least 6 hours a day. Getting rest before games is EXTREMELY important

All the best to our players and teams, some of whom are doing very well. There is still a great deal to play for in this tournament. The teams have 10 players and every single board makes a difference. May the best team and player win.

Past your best? Do your best right now!

Do your best and wait for the rest!

Some weeks ago I read a very interesting article which said certain mental activitites peaked  at the age of 22. (,50108.asp) I follow science articles with great interest and every now and then I read a number that contradict previous ones as new information and knowledge comes to light.  Nothing is cast in stone!Some years ago I observed that chess players seemed to reach their peak around this age as well particularly the tactical players. (The tactical style in chess generally requires a great deal of calculating ability, imagination and speed.)  However, my observation was not supported by any scientific or objective criteria. I focussed on accomplishments of former World Chess Champions and noticed that around the age of 22 they seemed to accomplish a great deal more than compared to other ages.

After reading the article I asked myself a few questions, seeing as I am way past 22. 

– What does this mean for anyone whose best is behind them?

– Is there hope if your best is behind you?

I am sure that as we decline in some areas we improve in some areas. So while our calculating ability might deteriorate on the other hand we might improve in our ability to make sense of lots of data and focus on the bigger picture. So our strategic ability might improve as our tactical ability wanes. As individual I focus on my strengths and will try to target those areas or situation that bring them out or make the most of them.

If you are on the decline create new peaks in your life!  Do your best in your current situation.

There is always hope  even if your best is behind you. You might not be able to summon the strength and energy of yesterday but today you are equipped with the experience that only comes with the years. Today you can do things that you could not have dreamed of yesterday. We see this from sportsmen, artists, singers…they reinvent themselves, they find another niche, another area they excel in. If one thing, one area, one style, one genre does not work for them, they find another and adapt using all their experience.

At any stage of your life, you need to do the best that you can! Then wait for the rest!

Much ado about nothing

So instead of just waiting for better days, make the better day yourself.

I am now on a 2 week break and trying to figure out what I am going to do with this time. Its been a very long time since I took leave.  Hopefully I will get to travel a bit, do some painting  and play some chess.

It’s also a great time to reflect about the year so far and the road ahead. We are certainly living in tough times but it’s always refreshing and encouraging to remember that pressure made diamonds. So why can’t you be that diamond if you are not one already? And if you one already make sure that your shine and brilliance show in their  totality.

These are not times to give in to the situation but times to rise above the situation. Before you know it THIS situation you are in will be THAT situation you were in. 

If you are going through hard times in any area of your life, just remember that everything passes. The sun will rise tomorrow morning and set in the evening. You are bigger than the situation. The situation will not determine how you live your life but you will determine how to live your life, given the situation!

If you have suffered some kind of setback, how are you going to bounce back? What have you got up your sleeve? If you don’t have something yet, give it a bit of time before you get the Ace!

If you really down, perhaps now you can get the clearest view of what lies above and what lies ahead. Maybe your glass is  not really empty but just not full!

So instead of just waiting for better days, make the better day yourself. Make it happen! Refuse to be distracted by the passing present and instead keep working away on that great vision you have. Lets not focus and on what we don’t have,  but instead lets make the most of what we have, what we got, what we can use.