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Olympiad for People with Disabilities Round 1 recap

The chess part of the journey of the first Chess Olympiad for People with Disabilities started with the first round kicking off in Belgrade, Serbia

A milestone moment in chess history occurred on January 30, 2023, shortly after 3 PM CET, when the opening move of the first Olympiad for players with disabilities was played in the main hall of Belgrade’s Crowne Plaza hotel. “This is the beginning of a new era of inclusion in chess, as players with disabilities started their first ever paralympic event,” said Thomas Luther, head of the FIDE Commission for players with disabilities.

In chess, the ceremonial first move at the start of the tournament is a long-standing tradition, usually carried out by a high-ranking government official, FIDE President, key sponsor, or famous player. In the opening round, the spotlight was given to those who don’t often have it, as Grandmaster Thomas Luther, head of the FIDE Commission for players with disabilities, in the presence of FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich, made the first move in the match between Venezuela and Israel.

“This is really a touching moment for me. This is a dream of my life to have this Olympiad take place, and for so many years, many friends worked for this to happen, and now the tournament has started. I feel overjoyed”, Thomas Luther said immediately afterwards.

Luther also noted that statistically, 15% of all people have a disability and that chess is a perfect game and the perfect sport for them.

“For many of these players, chess is a way to enter a social life. By playing this game, these people really have a life”, said Luther.

Joining the ceremony, but on the first board in the match between Poland and Germany, the honour of making the first move was given to Nikola Selakovic, Minister of Labour, Employment, Veterans and Social Affairs of the Government of Serbia. A sign of how seriously the Serbian government took its commitment to supporting this event is signalled by the fact that it is planned that every day at least one high-ranking state official will visit the Olympiad or even take part in the first-move ceremony.

The President of FIDE, Arkady Dvorkovich, was optimistic about what this event means for inclusion in chess.

“FIDE has a long history of supporting players with disabilities. Some of them were able to take part in previous Olympiads. We thought they deserved better – to be the full-scale participants and have their own event. This is the first step to making high-level chess accessible for our family members… This is just the first step in a very long journey to have chess fully inclusive for all the players, regardless of their disabilities”, Arkady Dvorkovich said in an interview.

Dvorkovich plans to stay in Belgrade for the duration of the event, which is unusual when compared to other tournaments. “This time, it’s special, and I thought I should be here and make our partners and sponsors confident that for us, this is a real priority”, he explained.

The President of FIDE expressed hope that the next Olympiad for people with disabilities will have at least 50 countries taking part.

Games and results of the first round

After an intensive first day of the Olympiad, all the favourites scored victories save Croatia.

Poland, the rating favourites at this event, started confidently defeating Germany 3:1. The match wasn’t that easy, as the difference in average rating had initially suggested. On the third board, Matthias Dorner scored the only win for the German squad, using the right moment for a nice temporary piece sacrifice in the middlegame:

29…Nxc5! winning a pawn as 30.dxc5 is met with 30…Re2!

Woman FIDE Master Aleksandra Aleksandrova brought the first victorious point to second seed Israel, but Venezuela put a strong resistance. After the draw was agreed on the third board, with two long-lasting endgames on the top boards, Alexey Streltsov defeated Harlen Jose Otero Munelo, securing the key victorious point for Israel in the match.

A nice mating final was executed by Attila Paal-Szucz in the match Hungary – Turkey:

29.Rxe5! fxe5 30.Rf7 Re8 31.Qxe5! (31…Qxe5 32.Rh7#) 1-0

The 3rd seed players had to work hard for the 3:1 victory when Suleyman Saltik won against the opponent with over 400 points advantage in rating!

The first day of the Olympiad saw the first big surprise: the second team of the host country, Serbia, staged an upset as they defeated the seasoned team of Croatia, 2.5:1.5. Also, the team of Zimbabwe – which has an average ELO of 1363 – drew with the team of the International Chess Committee of the Deaf (ICCD), which has two players with an ELO of above 2000.

About the event

The Chess Olympiad for People with Disabilities, a six-round Swiss tournaemnt  is played at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Belgrade, Serbia.

The time control is 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game, with an addition of 30 seconds per move starting from move one. The default time is 15 minutes.

The second round starts on Tuesday, January 31, at 3 PM CET time.

Press officer: Milan Dinic
Photo: Mark Livshitz

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