22nd Chess Olympiad: Haifa 1976

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Basic data

22nd Chess Olympiad
(see all-time tournament summary)
Date: 26th October - 10th November 1976
City: Haifa, Israel
Venue: Dan Carmel hotel
Chairman of the Organizing Committee: Mr. Israel Eshel (ISR)
Chief Arbiter: N/A
Teams participating: 48
Players participating: 286 (incl. 23 GMs and 29 IMs)
Games played: 1248
Competition format: Four board thirteen round Swiss.
Final order decided by: 1. Game points; 2. Match points; 3. Buchholz
Time control: 40 moves in 2 hours 30 minutes, then 1 hour for each next 16 moves
Official logo: HAIFA 1976
Downloadable game file: 76olm.zip

See the "Against Chess Olympiad" held in Tripoli.

Tournament review

Despite an enormous amount of opposition from many FIDE member countries, the Israeli Chess Federation was able to organize the 1976 Olympiad and the FIDE Congress. The Israeli authorities felt it their duty to guarantee the safety of everyone who participated in an international meeting held on Israeli soil. At Haifa the security was far stricter than ever before and at times it seemed as though the whole Israeli army was stationed in and around the "Nof" and "Dan Carmel" hotels. The Olympiad ran smoothly though there were some complaints about there being too much noise in the playing hall. Many excursions were arranged to entertain the players and their wives and friends on the free days. The computer contributed in the pairing procedure for the first time. This was achieved thanks to the group of young Israeli programmers directed by Almog Burstein.

Of the 90+ FIDE member countries only 48 sent teams to Haifa and the loss of the East Europeans was the more keenly felt since such countries as the USSR, Yugoslavia, Hungary and more would naturally have been high in contention for the important medals. The Yugoslav flag that appeared at the opening ceremony was greeted by outburst of applause although it only announced the presence of Yugoslav delegates at the FIDE congress, no way about the participation at the Olympiad. To compensate for the lack of the USSR team at Haifa there were ex-Russians who had carved out reputations for themselves in new homes. The exodus of Russian-Jewish chess players from the USSR has been one of the most interesting phenomenon in the chess world of recent years, and forms yet another facet of the politicisation of chess. Sosonko was at board 2 for Holland, where he won the prize for the best personal score. Israel had acquired the services of Liberzon and Dzindzihashvili for their team. One striking ex-Russian was Viktor Kortschnoj, but unfortunately his participation for Holland was impossible due to the FIDE residential requirements, which he has not yet fulfilled. Pre-tournament favourites were the USA, who had not won the gold since Stockholm 1937. Their Haifa team lacked Fischer (of course) and also Walter Browne, the US Champion, who disagreed with the method of selecting the board-order. For Browne it was board one, or nothing, and Byrne's results at the Biel Interzonal made certain that this spot would not be available to the ebullient Walter. Reshevsky was also missing, but his age must surely be telling now, and he cannot have been much of a loss to the side. In place of Browne Commons slipped in, and won the sixth board prize with a very high score indeed. Other top seeds were Holland lead by promising Jan Timman, England, Argentina and West Germany (not to forget about the home nation).

The first round, hardly significant of such a Swiss competition, brought England disappointing 2½-1½ vs poor New Zealand team. At one stage the USA seemed to be in even worse straits against Iran (1-3 seemed to be likely result) but eventually experience and big battalions told. Israel and Netherlands dropped just a small fraction vs Uruguay and Luxembourg, respectively. On the next day Scotland produced excellent defensive effort against the mighty Dutch GMs while England convincingly whitewashed France, thus atoning for the setback of the previous day. The USA continued to give evidence of shaky form, which they did not entirely succeed in overcoming until round 10. Italy and the Philippines were surprising leaders, 7 points both. Round three brought England a great success since they beat seed no. 2 Argentina thanks to Stean's victory at board 4. It could have been even more if only Hartston had won his crushing position - but, on the other hand, Keene was very lucky to draw after blundering away the exchange for nothing. The Dutch stumbled slightly, but the USA at last scored a win worthy of their fire-power. The previous leaders disposed of each other, as it were, by a 2-2 draw. The Italians bravely secured a 2-2 tie vs the American on the next day (Toth beat Kavalek) while Israel suffered a loss vs Switzerland. Germany retained the lead with 12 points after their hard fought four draw clash vs England. On the rest day, that followed after four days of continuous play a tour of the Galilee area was arranged for all the participants, and convoys of coaches set off by different routes for the same destination. The favourites fully enjoyed the rest since they steamrolled over their opposition on the next day. USA and Netherlands both earned comfortable win 4-0. Germany vanished without trace for the moment after a disastrous 1-3 vs the Philippines. The hosts began to show real signs of life crushing Denmark by 3½-½. USA took the lead with Holland and the Philippines missing them by a narrow gap. The oriental intrudes were disposed of by England in decisive fashion and for the first time in Olympic history England assumed the lead! Holland and USA were held back by each other, although the US were lucky not to lose by ½-3½ (still a loss is no good for them). Israel hit their high spot by emerging into a share of 3rd place, behind England and Holland. On November 1st, the day of round 7 the Netherlands profited by the same operation which had favoured England the day before. While England and USA played each other Holland beat Israel by 3-1 and moved into a small, yet clear lead. England's Miles brilliantly beat Kavalek, but the new wonder boy Commons succeeded in equalizing the affair. Nunn's aggressive play often went too far and only helped him smash himself. In round 9 England tied vs Netherlands (4 package deals) and USA beat Argentina by the narrowest of margins. The Netherlands were actually the first team to exhaust all the strong oppositions (except from Germany, who they avoided until round 11) and they were rewarded being paired with Chile which they fully took advantage of, wiping out the South American team by impressive 3½-½ and Holland sneaked into the top of the table with full 2 point advantage over England and USA, who both failed to win on that day. The 10th round saw an outburst of US finishing form, as the Americans beat Israel by 3½-½ but Holland kept the pace and retained the 2½ point lead over the contenders. Argentina was back in fourth place. Nemesis finally caught up with the Dutch and they had to play West Germany which reduced their lead to a half of a point after an incredible effort by the USA who stunningly ran over Switzerland by 4-0. For so long it had seemed a foregone conclusion, but now the medals were wide open again. Even England was in with a chance after a good victory against Sweden. In the penultimate round the Netherlands faltered once again dropping priceless 1½ points vs decent Canadian team. With the stage set for a nerve-wracking last round it became clear that guts and nerve were probably going to be more useful than playing skill - and guts and nerve were possessed in abundance by the USA! Holland and USA were in joint lead before the last round started with 33½ points both (Holland having superior tie-break though) with England just half of a point behind. Argentina was in secure fourth, yet with minor chances to reach the medal zone. England needed 4-0 vs Austria had they yet been chasing for gold but they never looked like making it and took the bronze medals. The Dutch were paired with team Finland, perhaps quite stronger than Wales who were to face the USA. Holland easily took the win on board 2 and Timman finally badgered Westerinen but Ligterink barely drew. Since USA won by 3½-½ Kuijpers needed a win vs Saren, but after 14 hours of play he gave up his trying and conceded the draw sealing US gold medals. His only chance would have been a sort of kami-kaze attack, perhaps worth a try given that their silver medals were secure. Some of the Dutch seemed to blame the Welsh Cooper for their failure in hunt for gold, and an article by Jules Welling appeared in the official Dutch magazine "Schakend Nederland" (Dec '76) where the author suggested Cooper had been bribed to give a draw in a winning position. Actually the final position of the game is slightly better for White yet without any simple winning methods and Cooper was also short of time.

/Based on R. Keene & D. Levy, "Haifa Chess Olympiad 1976"/

Individual medals

1st Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. GM Timman, Jan Netherlands NED 11 77.3
2. Hook, William British Virgin Islands IVB 10 13 76.9
3. GM Miles, Anthony John England ENG 9 12 75.0
3. IM Biyiasas, Peter Canada CAN 10 75.0

2nd Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. GM Sosonko, Gennadi Netherlands NED 6 8 75.0
2. IM Tóth, Bela Italy ITA 12 70.8
3. IM Keene, Raymond Dennis England ENG 7 10 70.0

3rd Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. Carrión, Marcelo Dominican Republic DOM 9 11 81.8
2. GM Quinteros, Miguel Ángel Argentina ARG 10½ 13 80.8
3. GM Evans, Larry Melvyn United States USA 7 9 77.8
3. Small, Vernon New Zealand NZL 7 9 77.8

4th Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. IM Stean, Michael Francis England ENG 8 68.8
2. Cooper, John Grantley Wales WLS 10 65.0
2. Huss, Andreas Switzerland SUI 10 65.0

1st Reserve Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. IM De Greiff, Boris Colombia COL 7 78.6
2. GM Lombardy, William James United States USA 7 9 77.8
3. Wahlbom, Magnus Sweden SWE 9 72.2
3. Ligterink, Gert Netherlands NED 9 72.2
3. Philippe, Georges Luxembourg LUX 9 72.2

2nd Reserve Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. Commons, Kim United States USA 9 83.3
2. Delaney, Paul Ireland IRL 9 72.2
3. IM Kuijpers, Franciscus Netherlands NED 5 7 71.4
3. Bronstein, Luis Marcos Argentina ARG 5 7 71.4

There were no medals for board prizes. Instead, there was a miscellany of prizes, only one per board. The medal table above was computed using standard pattern. The best board performances were included in the official medal table.

Interesting games

The game that proves Benkö gambit has to be accepted.
Kavalek, Lubomir (USA) - Miles, Anthony (ENG) 0 - 1

D5 is excellent outpost for Black Knight no matter if any piece attacks it.
Letzelter, Jean-Claude (FRA) - Nunn, John (ENG) 0 - 1

Historical day of Iranian chess. Well done!
Sharif, Mehrshad (IRI) - Andersson, Ulf (SWE) 1 - 0

Once facing wing attack you cannot let the center stay blocked.
Tarjan, James Edward (USA) - Mamouri, Mehde (IRI) 1 - 0

Shortest decisive game.
Garrido, Federico (GUA) - McDaniel, C. (BER) 1 - 0

Very instructive Sicilian with far-reaching pair of Black Bishops.
Nunn, John (ENG) - Commons, Kim (USA) 0 - 1

Tactics and strategy lined-up together smoothly.
Timman, Jan (NED) - Hug, Werner (SUI) 1 - 0

A good lesson on piece activity and collaboration.
Ree, Hans (NED) - Wirthensohn, Heinz (SUI) 1 - 0

Dubious opening idea brought down neatly.
Ornstein, Axel (SWE) - Quinteros, Miguel Ángel (ARG) 0 - 1

Vivid battle where Black looked safe for a long time.
Unzicker, Wolfgang (GER) - Westerinen, Heikki (FIN) 1 - 0

Black's initiative was seeming and White counter-attacked easily.
Keene, Raymond Dennis (ENG) - Jansson, Börje (SWE) 1 - 0

Going under Kingside attack was a price for stolen pieces. Classical Sicilian-buster.
Stean, Michael (ENG) - Schneider, Lars-Åke (SWE) 1 - 0

Spectacular game with 2B vs 2N endgame bullfight.
Botterill, George Steven (WLS) - Roose, Jan (BEL) ½ - ½

Very interesting fighting game where the powerful White Knight proved decisive.
Quinteros, Miguel Ángel (ARG) - Rodríguez, Ruben (PHI) 1 - 0

Interesting theoretical debate richly annotated by the winner.
Browning, Douglas (GCI) - Yerbury, Paul (BER) 1 - 0

The sensational loss conceded in round 1 cost England a lot.
Mestel, Jonathan (ENG) - Small, Vernon (NZL) 0 - 1

The Dutch hold a grudge against Cooper who agreed for a draw having extra pawn
in a Rook endgame. Were they right or not?
Cooper, John Grantley (WLS) - Commons, Kim (USA) ½ - ½

It is unbelievable that sharp and open game ended up in a draw.
Byrne, Robert (USA) - Najdorf, Miguel (ARG) ½ - ½

Caro Kann favours building rock-solid defensive positions for Black.
But this time it failed.
Bronstein, Luís Marcos (ARG) - Ostermeyer, Peter (GER) 1 - 0

That game was far from perfection to say the least, but very inspiring.
McDaniel, C. (BER) - Kanai, A. (JPN) 0 - 1

Longest decisive game.
Preissmann, Emmanuel (FRA) - Tatai, Stefano (ITA) 0 - 1


Who was the highest rated player at the Olympiad? The communist block were missing, of course, yet this is quite surprising to find GM Andersson of Sweden (2585 ELO) at the top, with a huge gap ahead of Timman and the rest.


GM Quinteros was the only player to have played all 13 games and avoid a loss.


Holland missed the Gold by narrow gap. I would have been even easier had they only managed to put Korchnoi in the squad, permanent Dutch resident at the time. Unfortunately it proved impossible due to FIDE residential requirements. Korchnoi moved to Switzerland soon and never represented Holland at the Olympiads.


Pairings were prepared concurrently by hand and by computer programme operated by the team under direction of Mr. Philip Haley. No discrepancies were found. However the way the teams were paired was a subject of discussion.


Teams to have avoided a match loss were The Netherlands and England, overall 2nd and 3rd respectively. USA, the Gold medal winners lost to Holland in round 6.


Guernsey played Venezuela in the eleventh round. The amusing story happened. Calso Sánchez of Venezuela, who played Eugene Lainé of Guernsey on board 3, had asked him where Guernsey was before their game, as he had never heard of it. Lainé's reply was: "we are famous for Victor Hugo". The Venezuelan replied: "and what board is he on"?