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Olympiad for People with Disabilities: The link between chess, football and Royalty

It’s not every day that a world-famous footballer comes to follow a chess event, but that’s just what happened in Belgrade on the fourth round of the first Olympiad for People with Disabilities

The first move ceremony in chess is a peculiar affair. A lot of things need to come together: the honorary guests need to be there on time and in the right place; if they’re not chess players, they need to be told how to make the first move and what to do; and everything needs to happen right when the round is due to start or, otherwise – and this also happens sometimes – if the guest is late, the round starts late.

All of this somehow amplifies the already present tension ahead of the round, especially for those players on top boards where the first-move ceremony usually takes place. While many players will often brush this off and say they don’t mind, for some, it’s not pleasant.

In the Olympiad in Belgrade, the person with the most experience with this issue is Poland’s first board, Grandmaster Marcin Tazbir (pictured above). His team is the favourite to win the event, and they are proving that with good performance. Tazibir has a score of 2.5 out of four – it would therefore seem it’s not impacting him much as he always seems calm and focused.

The start of the fourth round of the first Olympiad for people with disabilities will be one of the highlights of the event as the famous Serbian and world footballer Nemanja Vidic came to make the first move.

The round started a bit late because of the number of people – including players and team members from participating countries – who wanted to shake the hand or take a photo with one of the greatest defenders in football history. Nemanja Vidic earnt the respect of the football world for being the captain of Manchester United. During his eight-year spell at Old Trafford, Vidic won five Premier League titles and the 2007-08 Champions League.

In an interview for FIDE, Vidic said that he doesn’t play much chess nowadays but acknowledged a strong link between football and chess:

“Tactics always exist. You have to think about your opponent and do your preparation well. You need to anticipate their quantities. Any sport is psychologically very important. In football, as in chess, concentration is very important”.

Vidic pointed out that in football and many other sports, “it’s the mind and the concentration that comes first and then the physical abilities”.

The Royal game at the Royal Palace

FIDE President Arkady Dvokovich, accompanied by the FIDE Managing board member Sava Stoisavljevic and Chief Arbiter of the Olympiad, Nebojsa Baralic, paid a visit to the Royal Palace in Belgrade today.

The Palace is the home of Serbia’s Royal Family. Although a Republic, Serbia/Yugoslavia was a monarchy before the Second World War. Following the fall of communism in the early 1990s, Crowne Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjevic and his family were allowed to come back to the country and to live on the property built by their forefathers.

FIDE officials were given exclusive access to the historic complex (including areas closed off to the public), which spreads on the area three times greater than Vatican City.

The Palace also includes an underground level which features wall paintings and decorations depicting details from Serbian medieval tales and stories from One Thousand and One Nights. In that area, where back in the day, young princes would come to play games, relax or share secrets in the ‘Room of whispers’, there is a small nook with a large chess table, with pieces carved out of oak. Someone who set the pieces obviously knows chess, as the position on the board resembled the first ten moves of the closed variation of the Sicilian! The Royal Game truly has admirers in the circles of Royalty!

The Games of Round Four: Poland alone on the top

Two rounds before the end, the Polish team stands where it was expected to be – alone on the top.

The brave Philippine players had a realistic chance to split the points with the main favourites, but Henry Lopez made a wrong decision to look for a draw in a pawn ending:

After 43…Nc4+? (43…Kf7 or 44…exf4 were much better options) 44.Bxc4 dxc4 Black’s position became hopeless. 

Now, the white king can calmly walk to the g-line and use the weakness of two pairs of double pawns. Marcin Molenda did it, for the fourth team win (2.5:1.5) and his perfect score of four consecutive wins.

As a small consolation, Darry Bernardo kept shining in the Philippine team (3.5 out of four), as illustrated by the dominance of black pieces in the final position of his game with Piotr Dukazcewski:

52…Rg2. White resigns.

The next obstacle for the leaders will be India which is alone in second place after sharing points 2:2 with the higher-rated team of Hungary.

Second-seed Israel recovered from the shocking loss against India and passed by the FIDE selection 3.5:0.5. Aleksandra Aleksandrova (Israel) showed her tactical skills in another swift attack: 

26…Qh5 27.hxg4 Bxg4 28.Qf1 Bf3 29.Qg2 Bxg2 30.Kxg2 Qf3 31.Kg1 Qxc3, and the huge material advantage brought her one more win.

After draws agreed on three boards, the first selection of Serbia was hoping for a match win 2.5:1.5 against Uzbekistan. It was quite realistic, given the attacking position Milos Tonic had with the black pieces:

However, the situation started to change during the next few moves: 33…Nd3 34.Qe2 Rh3 35.Qf1 Re3 36.Rxa7 Rf8.

Now, Sardorbek Mamarajabov launched a sharp counter-attack: 37.Nd5 exd5 38.Qxf8 Kxf8 39.Rxc6 Re1+ 40.Kc2, and the 2.5 points went to the team of Uzbekistan, whose results in Belgrade largely exceed the expected 20th place in the starting rating list. 

The hopes of hosts to celebrate a good result in the inaugural completion were significantly reduced in the fourth round since the second team of Serbia suffered also suffered another defeat. The IPCA won 3:1 thanks to the successes on the lower boards. Eugenio Campos contributed with another win for a convincing score of 3.5 points out of the four games. 

While there are only two rounds to go, nothing is over yet. At least seven teams may still hope for golden medals, India and Uzbekistan being the biggest surprises in the pack of followers.

Text: Milan Dinic (FIDE Press Officer) and Marjan Kovacevic (DIS reporter)
Photos: Mark Livshitz

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.

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