Open Olympiad 2022 Report

Wales Open team Olympiad Report, Chennai 27 July-10 August

Adam Hunt

The team for this event was 1. Grzegorz Toczek (2287) 2. Jonathan Blackburn (2176) 3.Tim Kett (2197) 4. Alex Bullen (2106) 5. Allan Pleasants (2024). We all travelled independently to India and the majority arrived on Wednesday 27th, the day before the opening ceremony. Our hotel for the event was the 4 star Regenta RS Central, which was an approximate (all travel timings in India are definitely approximations!) 45 minutes from the airport.

As soon as you arrived in Chennai it was clear that the organisers and state of Tamil Nadu had put a huge amount of work into organising and promoting the event. All competitors and accompanying persons we met at the airport by (FIDE rated!) volunteers who helped with visa issues and transportation to the various hotels and the roads were covered with posters, statues and balloons advertising the Olympiad. Myself and Allan, along with a number of the ladies team went to the Opening ceremony the following day which was a spectacular event. The prime minister of India Narendra Modi was the special invited guest!

The main logistical issue of the first few days was that Grzeg’s bags hadn’t travelled with him to Chennai and were stuck in Mumbai. This got sorted, but only much later in the event.

Round 1: Wales vs Spain

A great first round pairing. It put us in the top playing hall (Boards 1-27 in the Open section) and a chance to experience the Media interest around the Indian teams before the first round. India had three teams playing, of which India 1 were always fixed on board 1 (or so we thought) and there was a massive scrum of photographers before the first move was made. As for our game, I was genuinely disappointed with the final score, as for a long time it looked like we would get something from the match. Grzeg (sans laptop due to the missing bags) played into the actual ‘Shirov gambit’ in the Philidors defence. Crazy or genius?! Well, the game drew a significant amount of interest and a good chunk of Chess24 commentary from Leko and Svidler on it and at one point myself and England Open captain Malcolm Pein thought Shirov was in trouble…… (Malcolm wrote some nice words about our first rounds efforts in the Telegraph)










Position after 14…c5!?

The game continued 15.Nd5 c4 16.Nxc4 bxc4 17.Bxc4 Bxc4 18.Qxc4 and here Black needed to play 18..Bd6! with some advantage. Unfortunately Grzeg blundered at a critical moment and allowed Alexey a pretty final checkmate:









Grzeg has just played 26…Qd7??

White to play and win

Jon and Tim also had promising positions on boards 2 and 3, but both succumbed in the time ‘scrambles’ (time control was 40 moves in 1hr 30 + sec per move then extra 30 mins) to their higher rated opponents, leaving Alex battling on, ultimately unsuccessfully against Jaime Santos Latasa on board 4.

After the games had finished we got shuttled back to the hotel on the buses. The trip was approximately 30 minutes each way. After dinner (Captain was in general very happy with the food over the 2 weeks!) we reconvened to the rooftop lounge to look over the games.

Round 2: Wales vs Mozambique

Down to earth with a bump after the first round and our first visit to the ‘Scum hall’ as Michael Healey, Women’s captain christened it in his highly entertaining blogs on the event. The Olympiad was separated into two playing halls and this one was much bigger (and not all that bad really) although toilet and refreshment facilities were inferior. Unfortunately you weren’t allowed to travel between the halls so we missed out on seeing a lot of the top players in action but good motivation to pull ourselves back up!

 We expected a difficult match here, as in the previous round the bottom two players had drawn with 2400+ opponents. Grzeg had a tactical skirmish with CM Paiva in a Sicilian on Board 1, but in the end did well to hold a draw from a difficult looking Middlegame position. Tim didn’t really get any advantage out of the opening in a Dragon although generated good winning chances in the endgame as the last game to finish. Ultimately our Black games were the match winners as Allan found himself in trouble on Board 4 but found a brilliant save whilst Jon executed a cute tactic on Board 2 for the only decisive result…..


As you can see White has just played 53.a7 but here Allan found 53..Qxh3! 54.Qb8 hxg3 55.fxg3 Rxa7! 56.Qxa7 Qxg3+ with a perpetual check.










Here White’s kingside has been compromised and Jon played 31… Qe4! 32.Rde1 Rxh3+ 33.Kg1 Rh1+! 0-1 (Qh4-h2 mate will follow)

Round 3: Wales vs Paraguay





Board 28 so we just missed out on returning to the top hall. Our most disappointing performance of the Olympiad?! Probably in my view. Jon went for an overoptimistic sacrifice in the Slav and never really got any compensation. Alex got his knight trapped and Allan collapsed in a roughly equal knight and pawn endgame. Grzeg looked like the only realistic points scorer, but eventually got ground down by his strong opponent in a rook and pawn endgame where he had some holding chances.

Round 4: Wales vs Bahrain





In the end we came out with a good win from this match. The effects of still not having his bags, clothes and files were still affecting Grzeg but here, after completely outplaying his opponent, he missed a one move tactic towards the end which turned the game on its head. However, Alex and Tim got their first wins of the event and Allan completed things on Board 4 with what looked like a smooth game.

Round 5: Wales vs North Macedonia





A fine result despite being heavily outrated. In fact, if anything we were disappointed, mulling things over in the rooftop bar later that we didn’t win this match. Jon’s preparation here (as it was for much of the event) was excellent and his young opponent didn’t get anywhere in the French Tarrasch. Alex played an enterprising piece sacrifice in the Caro-Kann which sank his opponent into deep thought. In the end it wasn’t sufficient for more than a draw. Tim’s game was the first where ‘Bus Prep’ came into play. In general, the players prepared for their games in the morning and came to see me with any questions or for suggested lines before lunch. Here we used the half hour journey to the venue to analyse on my magnetic set some fairly critical line in the 6.Bc4 Najdorf that Tim was going to play. We got the position on the board after 14 moves and Tim found himself well ahead on the clock However his young opponent found a good reaction under time pressure and managed to force a drawn rook and pawn endgame.

Grzeg’s game was a real shame. Again he outplayed his opponent, this time an experienced GM in the Yugoslav attack in the Sicilian Dragon, again a position we had studied a little bit that morning. With his opponent under time pressure Grzeg won a piece, and with it, as the last game to finish it looked like the match. However strong players don’t give up easily and his opponent created a devilish trick which saved the game.










Here Grzeg had intended the winning 47.Nf5! setting up unstoppable threats. Unfortunately, he played 47.c7? which allowed 47…Bb1+ 48.Ka1 e4+ 49 Rb2 Bd3+ 50 Ka2 Bb1+ with a perpetual.

Round 6: Wales vs Faroe Islands





The last round before a much-needed rest day and despite a much higher rated team on paper, we felt we had a good chance as they were underperforming. Alex had a tough game on Board 3, suffering a worse position out of the opening that he couldn’t hold. Allan had a very interesting fight on Board 4 where he had a good chance in the complications around the time control. However his opponent managed to stabilise the position and converted his extra pawns. Jon on board 1 got a very good position out of the opening in a Saamisch Kings Indian and at one point had a winning advantage. He missed the crucial idea and Ziska’s active pieces won the game. Tim on Board 2 was our only points scorer and did so with a fine attack….










Here Tim played 25..Bh3! and White cannot defend against the mating attack. The game continued 26 Qxe5 Bxg2 27 h4 Nh3+ 28 Kh2 Nf4! 29 Bb3+ Kh8 30 Be6 Nxe6 31 Bxd4 Nxd4 32 Rad1 Qh3+ 33 Kg1 Qh3# 0-1

After this Tim, along with his wife Sarah and Olivia went to the traditional ‘Bermuda Party’ before the rest day. On the rest day itself some of the players went to do some sightseeing whilst others (and me!) decided just to rest up at the hotel. The hotel itself had some nice features; a lovely rooftop swimming pool, small gym and complimentary yoga sessions. It was also attached to a large mall which a number of the team ventured out to on occasion.










Round7: Wales vs Mauritania





 A close game in the end, with Alex and Grzeg coming up with important wins. Grzeg played a Scandinavian, caught his opponent with a tactical trick winning an exchange and never looked like not winning. Alex found a pretty zugzwang in the endgame which did the job

 Cheikna- Bullen










Here Alex played 39…Ba7! and White will run out of moves. The game continued 40.h4 Bb6 41 b4 but this is rather desperate and after 41…axb3 42 Bb2 Bc7 Black went on to win.

Round 8: Wales vs South Africa





Despite being outrated on every board this was another close game that could have gone either way. There was a sharp fight on the top board in a Sicilian Najdorf where Grzeg chose 6.h4!? Black equalised and was pressing but White held firm. On board 2 Jon had the black side of another French tarrasch and gambled with a pawn grab which looked risky, but the engine thought was ok. Unfortunately a couple of inaccuracies led to trouble. Tim on board 3 again got in some ‘Bus prep’ and played an old line against the Najdorf. Probably a good choice against his young opponent who used a lot of time…












Here black has just played 12…b4 which allows 13.Nd5!? exd5 14.e5 with a strong attack











Final position after 31.Rd1+ 1-0. Here black cannot avoid 32.Rd8 winning a piece

Round 9: Wales vs Myanmar





A good result against a young team. Boards 2, 3 and 4 all won hard fought games. With Tim’s win he moved to 5.5/8, within range of an FM title for which, in the Olympiad you need 65%. At the debrief in the bar at the end of the day strategy was drawn up. Tim would need either one draw from one game or, if he lost against Estonia a win in the final round…..

Round 10: Wales vs Estonia





In the end we decided to rest Tim against a strong Estonian team. Alex outprepared his opponent and got a good game, which I thought for some time he was going to win. However his opponent fought strongly and a draw was finally achieved. Grzeg was disappointed with his final game of the event, when his experienced opponent outplayed him through a Benko gambit. Allan lost a Modern defence when the position opened and the tactics favoured White. Jon followed another Tarrasch from a previous round and was probably winning but again the opponent battled strongly and just achieved a draw.

Round 11: Wales vs Jersey





A favourable pairing in the last round, especially for Tim who needed a draw for the FM title. What we didn’t know is that his opponent needed a win for a norm/title himself, so despite getting our Bus Prep in again and finding himself in a good position the tactical 30 move draw offer (you couldn’t offer before this) was rejected. Jon and Alex were again Rocks with the Black pieces and I was delighted for Allan and what looked like a very smooth win on Board 4. Tim’s game was the last to finish but his opponent erred in the endgame and not only therefore did Tim achieve his FM title but the team finished with a good win.












In summing up thankyou very much to the team and the Welsh Chess Union for their support. The spirit in the team was excellent and everyone chipped in with important results throughout the event. We finished 96th, which funnily enough was our initial seeding. The attitude and organisations of the Indian Chess Federation was fantastic. Up at the top of the tournament congratulations to Uzbekhistan and Ukraine for winning the Open and Womens sections respectively and there were other great individual performances including Ireland’s Connor Murphy with a GM Norm and England’s David Howell who won the gold medal for his board 3 performance.