Women’s 2022 Olympiad Report by Mike Healey

Wales sent a last-minute fairly youthful and inexperienced team to Chennai. A target of 50% seemed reasonable given our seeding, but once it dawned that many teams were either ungraded or vastly undergraded, with FIDE-supplied GM coaches and pre-tournament training camps, as well as several teams very possibly doing strange things with their board orders, this presented more of a challenge. The only real disaster was Tunisia, when a possible 4-0 collapsed to 1-3; otherwise results went much as expected. Even in lost matches there were no real blowouts – India 2 in round one was indicative of the lack of luck from the first half of the tournament. Thanks to a strong finish, despite most of us losing a fair chunk of elo, 50% was achieved. More importantly, I think all the players gained experience in one way or another.

Olivia Smith on one was a rock, offering great opening preparation and determination. Even when she dropped points (two draws, two losses), she was frequently either ahead or no worse for vast majority of the game. She was also happy to help preparing the others for their games. Hopefully next tournament she will get more of a chance to test herself against the stronger players, because she can clearly dispatch those beneath her with relative ease.

Kim had a few personal worries off the board and a difficult start, but pulled herself together admirably and took her chances when they came. She also improved her time management massively as the tournament went on. She can take a lot of pride from this tournament.

Hiya showed great promise, especially against stronger players. Every game was an interesting fight, which much appealed to my own style of chess. Thanks to a late squad rotation, she had to play with more blacks than anyone. With more experience in handling positions with small advantages, she could easily have doubled her points total. Games against Malta and Iceland in particular showed great grit, while India 2 and Ethiopia were a delight to witness first hand.

Khushi was the revelation of the tournament: keen to learn, she readily took ideas and new opening lines into a sponge-like brain. She also has quite the poker face at the board, quietly working things out. Sadly she often had the pressure of a result heaped on her young shoulders, and her final tally perhaps reflects this. Her complete inexperience of this level and time limit was belied by her frequent honour of being last to finish. I also suspected at times she was facing the strongest player on board 4!

Sarah only played one game, but survived an incredible 2.15 hours. Unfortunately we told her under no circumstances to move her f-pawn, which sadly meant she missed a glorious chance for a dominating position against Malta! She also captained the side to victory against Namibia. 

The strong Welsh finish (WWLDW) and ability of the four players to return to the board without complaint, shuttling back and forth day after day for four hour+ games with little respite, is surely a good indicator to the team’s capability and determination.

Overall the team was a tremendous pleasure to captain, and made my life generally very easy. Should this be the core of future Welsh teams, I think the raw material to work with is quite promising!

Mike Healey