35th Chess Olympiad: Bled 2002

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Basic data

35th Chess Olympiad
(see all-time tournament summary)
Date: 25th October - 11th November 2002
City: Bled, Slovenia
Venue: Festivalna Dvorana
Chairman of Executive Committee: Mr. Milan Kneževic (SLO)
Tournament Director: Mr. Boris Kutin (SLO)
Chief Arbiter: IA Geurt Gijssen (NED)
Teams participating: 135 (incl. Slovenia "B" and "C"); Sudan didn't arrive.
Players participating: 802 (incl. 221 GMs, 159 IMs and 74 FMs)
Games played: 3748 (18 games were forfeited)
Competition format: Four board 14 round Swiss.
Final order decided by: 1. Game points; 2. Buchholz; 3. Match points
(there are some discrepancies in the final order of some lower placed teams in the official final standings table)
Time control: all moves in 90 minutes + 30 sec. increment per move
Official logo: BLED 2002
Website: http://www.35chessolympiad.com (cached)
Other websites: The African teams as the Olympiad (cached)
Irish teams diary
TWIC coverage of the Olympiad
Olympiad results from Slovenian CF
Canada at the Olympiads
German and Swiss info [in German]
Denmark at the Olympiad [in Danish]
Jamaica at the Olympiad (cached)
Barbadosi impressions from Bled
Downloadable game file: 02olm.zip

Tournament review

The 35th Olympiad was held at Bled, Slovenia, a small republic that was part of Yugoslavia until 1991 and Bled is a little town a 20-minute drive from Italy and Austria, has a beautiful lake with the small island and the old church inside with the icy Alps in the background. Despite relatively small playing hall (compared to a record number of participating nations) the venue presented a fine location and was welcomed by most participants who opined that it was the best Olympiad in recent times.

The castle at the islandAll of top nations appeared in Bled. Russia came with guns fully loaded since their team average ELO rating was 2734, with a vengeful GM Garry Kasparov on board #1 and two more 2700+ players in the squad (Grischuk, Morozevich). Hungary, seeds #2, with Polgár at top board, Lékó and Almási were another big challengers for medals. The Ukraine probably weren't aiming at gold but they possessed two great players at the top of their lineup, FIDE Champion Ponomariov and the man he defeated - Vasyl Ivanchuk. Moreover Ponomariov won a gold medal for his results in the last Olympiad. Israel and the Netherlands both had solid teams and were 4th and 5th seeds respectively. The home side Slovenia were 13th seeds and were no doubt hoping they could perform better than that. 24th seeds India had a tremendous Olympiad last time. They had young and improving team headed by up and coming players Harikrishna and Sasikiran, but what a shame – no Anand again. England had Michael Adams on top board supported by the experienced Short and Speelman. Azerbaijan sent amazing team of teens: Radjabov (15), Mamedyarov (17), Gashimov (16) and Guseinov (16). This is a good basis for a team for the next 15 years.

The opening ceremony of the 35th Chess Olympiad which took place in the sports hall, was officially opened by the President of the Republic of Slovenia and was attended by over 3000 competitors, members of their accompanying teams and chess lovers. Boris Kutin, the President of the European Chess Federation, who with a symbolical opening move started the Olympiad, marked the official opening of the first day of competition.

Opening ceremonyAs is custom, the Olympiad started out with the powerful nations versus not so powerful nations. While the stronger teams dominated round 1, the blood spilled on the board was not only from the vanquished. Russia watched Costa Rica's 14-year old IM Ramírez (2421) hold Morozevich (2707) to a hard-fought draw. Morozevich was later seen explaining to Kasparov what happened. With Polgár on board 1, second-ranked Hungary blitzed Venezuela 4-0, and were only one of two top-ten nations to avoid a blemish. Hungary were joined by the USA, a team attempting to redeem themselves for their abysmal 2000 performance. There was one huge upset in round 1 when Brazil was crushed by Luxembourg 3-1 making it one of biggest upsets ever seen. China had a tough time against Turkey and barely escaped with a 2½-1½ triumph. In all other matches, the favourites won by a large score.

Round 2 saw some fighting chess as expected as the tournament progressed. Among the top ten teams, several limped to victory while others continued to pile up points. Cuba took a share of the lead with a trashing of Bangladesh while Bulgaria disposed of Albania and both lead the field with 7½ points. With Kasparov on top board Russia easily dismissed Belarus and lied in joint third with 7 points. Hungary also kept the pace with a 3-1 win over Vietnam. Many top teams were taking casualties. Ukraine edged Uzbekistan in a close match; fourth-ranked Israel drew with Switzerland with all games being decisive (Kotrschnoj beat Smirin), USA squeezed past the Philippines as Benjamin scored a decisive victory on board 3. Perhaps China have been the biggest disappointment thus far as the 5th seeds drew with seed 22 Spain. Canada scored an impressive win against host nation Slovenia winning both bottom boards. The youth movement carried the day for the Canadians as Pascal Charbonneau and Mark Bluvshtein snared points on boards 3 and 4.

Russia in actionCuba maintained a share of the lead after day 2 by beating a "Topalov-less" Bulgarian team by 2½-1½. Three other teams were in tied second with 10 points: Georgia (who beat Greece 3-1), Poland (who defeated Croatia 3-1), and Russia (who humbled upstart India 3-1). There were many top teams languishing at the middle of the cross table such as England and Israel (who lost to Denmark).

Round four was crucial. Many top teams had to make a strong showing to avoid falling too far behind and playing risky chess to catch up. One interesting match-up was Cuba-Poland with both teams trotting out a pair of "teenage titans." Bruzón and Domínguez held the first two boards for Cuba, while Poland countered with Macieja and Mitoń at the middle boards. Krasenow beat Bruzón's Rossolimo Sicilian in a fierce battle and led Poland to a 3-1 victory. In the Hungrary-Azerbaijan match, Judit Polgár rocked the hall with the brilliant 12.Nxf7!! and sent Mamedyarov's king scurrying out in the center of the board. Such a position is sure death against Polgár and she mercilessly punished her opponent. Her victory was the decisive game in the match as the others were drawn. Russia maintained a share of the lead with a convincing 3-1 win over Georgia. Armenia had a surprisingly easy time with Yugoslavia with a crushing 3½-½ victory. They have now joined Poland and Russia in tied first. The Ukraine put together a nice performance against Spain and moved into a good position to make a move for the lead.

Demonstration tableA highly-anticipated Armenia-Russia match ended in a tough 2-2 draw. This was a bit of a surprise considering the powerful squad the Russians sent to fight. The line-up of Kasparov, Grischuk, Khalifman and Morozevich was not enough to dispatch of the Armenians who were lead on board 1 by Akopian. There was only one "Alexander the Great" in this match and that turned out to be Morozevich who was apparently attempting to rebound from poor play in WCh 2002. Moro hit Sargissian with a vicious onslaught on the King. Armenia's GM Lputian won a nice textbook ending against Grischuk and Akopian prevented Kasparov's revenge for defeat in the Russia vs. Rest of World match, conceded a few weeks earlier, by drawing. Poland relinquished the tournament lead after being steamrolled by Bosnia & Herzegovina. The Bosnians took the lead with 15½ points. The Ukraine's quest to compete for the lead was derailed after the Czech Republic held them to a draw. Hungary stayed in striking distance of the lead after 2½-1½ vs Moldova (Polgár sealing the win once again for the Hungarians). USA lost unexpectedly vs Sweden and India were also fading fast losing 3-1 to Lithuania. England finally got in touch with the leaders thanks to a 4-0 win over Chile and moved up to equal fifth.

On the next day Russia rested Garry Kasparov but still crushed Bosnia 3½-½ to grab a 1½ point lead in the sixth round. Hungary experienced a setback when they dropped a 2½-1½ decision to the Czech Republic. The match of the round was projected to be England-Ukraine; however, all of the games ended draws (albeit exciting draws) including the Ponomariov-Adams match-up. China were looking to make progress in the progress table playing vs Georgia but the "Great Wall" was breached and the Chinese suffered a bitter loss when Zhang Pengxiang blundered horribly. The USA team rebounded nicely smashing Denmark and vaulting back into medal contention.

Bird's view at game hallIn round 7 Russia appeared to be padding their lead and duly ruined any chances that Poland had of challenging them for the lead. Kasparov beat Krasenkow in convincing fashion while Khalifman surgically dissected Mitoń's position. However, the destination of the Hamilton-Russell cup was still far from decided as Hungary leaped into second place with 3½-½ over Slovenia. Czech Republic drew Romania and Ponomariov took the rest in the Ukraine-Georgia match to see his teammates losing to the Georgians. England also crumbled 3-1 to the Netherlands. Sokolov of Holland gave a textbook example of a Boa Constrictor attack… squeeze the opponent until it cannot move and then land the knockout strike. France had a relatively easy time with Yugoslavia winning 3-1. USA-Lithuania resulted in a 2-2 deadlock. Russia were in lead in the halfway with 21½ ahead a group of five: Romania, Hungary, Bosnia, Slovakia (3½-½ vs FYR Macedonia) and Holland – 19 all.

On the next day, with Kasparov and Khalifman resting, Russia beat the Netherlands by a small margin but Hungary gained ground with a 3½-½ vs Romania. In addition China, the "Asian Dragons", came roaring back finding themselves in 3rd, after stumbling in the first couple of rounds. In other interesting matches, Georgia moved into tied 4th after defeating Belarus, Germany edged France 2½-1½, while the Azerbaijan-Ukraine featured an exciting Radjabov-Ponomariov 81-move draw. Young Indians crushed the USA 3-1 and repeated the success from Istanbul. India moved up into the 10th position.

Viktor KortschnojRound 9 produced a major shock after Russia were derailed by Hungary, who beat the defending champions and top seeds by 2½-1½ to close the gap down to a fraction of a point. Kasparov was held to a draw by Lékó on top board and very lucky to extricate as Lékó missed an easy win; Polgár drew Grischuk and so did Almási vs Khalifman. The hero of the day for the Hungarians was the relatively unknown GM Róbert Ruck, who defeated Svidler on bottom board. China retained bronze medal position after beating Slovakia 2½-1½ and Bosnia and Croatia shared fourth place after wins against Georgia and Lithuania respectively. England hammered Belarus 3-1 to move back into top 10.

The formidable Russian chess machine was back on course for gold after round 10 as they staved off China's march to first place with a convincing 3-1 victory. This helped them to recover from their previous round defeat to Hungary, who nevertheless stayed in the hunt for gold after defeating Bosnia & Herzegovina 2½-1½. England, who took off poorly, moved into contention for bronze after an emphatic 3-1 win over India, moving up into tied third with Germany, who smashed Czech Republic with a striking 3½-½. Ukraine fought hard to defeat Poland (Ponomariov beat Krasenkow) to move into tied 5th.

The Russians hungry for winRussia looked to be truly back on the road to gold as an eleventh round 3½-½ drubbing of Germany yet again stretched their lead over nearest rivals Hungary, who defeated England by modest 2½-1½. These two results virtually decided the gold and silver medals as Russia and Hungary pulled far away from the chasing pack. Georgia moved into third place by downing Sweden 3-1. Croatia moved into a tie for fourth place with England, with 2½-1½ over Bosnia & Herzegovina. Other interesting battles included a 2-2 France-Netherlands draw, Armenia flogging Cuba 3½-½, Yugoslavia, led by the legendary Ljubojević continued to impress with a 3-1 win over Azerbaijan and team USA continued to struggle losing to Turkmenistan as they appeared to be wasting all of their chances. Standings with three rounds to go were: Russia 32, Hungary 30, Georgia 28, England and Croatia 27½.

Russia had still a lot of hard work to secure gold despite a 2½-1½ victory over Croatia on day 12. Second seeds Hungary won by the same margin over Georgia thanks to a victory from Polgár and Russia's lead remained at two points. Armenia shocked the Ukraine 3-1 and perhaps put them out of medal contention. England lost narrowly to China after three draws and a loss for Speelman who was out of sorts throughout. Israel strengthened their position wiping out gutsy Slovaks. Canada continued their fine run by holding fierce Poland to a 2-2 draw. The prodigy Mark Bluvshtein scored another win. Armenia jumped to third but the next eight teams were only a point or half a point behind all of them with a decent chances for reaching bronze medal position.

The rest room full of lifeRound 13 might have raised a few eyebrows when the top two matches (Russia-Israel and Hungary-Armenia) agreed to draws on all boards in less than 30 minutes. In other contests, Georgia and Canada had a tough match and all games were hard fought. The 3½-½ score was not indicative of how close the match was. The Chinese team went all out against Croatia and were rewarded with a 3-1 win that pushed them up the table. The Netherlands also showed some determination and won 3½-½ against Greece with Van Wely grinding out a win in a queen and pawn endgame in ninety seven moves. England could not get going in their match against Germany and the match went on to a 2-all draw, same as Poland-Yugoslavia clash. Standing before the rest day and the last round: Russia 36½; Hungary 34½; Georgia 33; China 32½ Armenia 32; Israel 31½.

In the last round, needing a big result to catch Russia, the Hungarians scored a convincing 3-1 victory over China, but this was only enough to clinch the silver. After the first draw in Hungary-China, Russia clinched the gold by accepting quick draws on all boards (in less than 15 moves) against Yugoslavia. Armenia crushed Georgia 3-1 in a head-to-head contest for the bronze. Netherlands were very happy to see their men beat Israel and jump into 6th. Poland were unlucky to lose modestly to England to be pushed down to unfortunate 13th – a fraction that Mitoń missed would mean 8th position. FYR Macedonia defeated 3-1 France and surprised all to finish at joint 8th as well as Slovakia who hammered Sweden by the same margin. Ukraine's latecomer over Denmark proved a bit too modest ale did not let them climb up higher than 14th.

Russia took it again!Russia duly took the gold medals. They played without world champion Vladimir Kramnik and WCh candidate Bareev and won despite losing their individual match to the Hungarians. The nation which had lost to the Rest of the World soon before the start of the Olympiad and lost pstheir World Team Championship title to Ukraine last year showed the world that they are still powerful by winning the Hamilton Russell Cup for the sixth straight time. Kasparov had an excellent event scoring 7½/9 and the highest ELO performance of the event at 2933 extending his lead at the top of the FIDE rating list.

Hungary played very impressively throughout and lost only one game in the 56 played! It turns out that they compiled the best win-loss record with a sparkling 11 wins (including a win over Russia), 2 draws and only 1 loss (Czech Republic). However, they won sizable amount of matches by a 2½-1½ score while Russia piled up points. While Polgár did not have the sizzling tournament that she enjoyed in 2000 she was the key to Hungary's success. As the veteran on the team (at age 26), she provided fighting spirit and a strong alternative to Lékó at board one.

The Armenians won the bronze medals after another impressive 3-1 win over Georgia. Armenia had an unglamorous but strong team and they had been consistent high finishers in team events in recent years. Ninth-seeded Armenia scored three big victories in the last four rounds to take the third place. Akopian scored impressive 2827 at board one. Their neighbours from Georgia missed the medal by the narrow margin and their best player was second reserve Gagunashvili. China's excellent result was contributed mainly by Ye at board one (performed ELO of 2786). Netherlands finished in excellent sixth mainly because of impressive final spurt. Israel was one team which could have played better. Boris Gelfand joined the team in the eighth round directly after winning a tournament at Cap d'Age in France.

One of paintings by Slovenian childOf other teams Ukraine had two strong players in the squad (Ponomariov and Ivanchuk). Sadly, the duo never managed a meeting with the Russians or a visit to the top board and finished in disappointing 14th. Finally Zimbabwean top board Robert Gwaze made history - thanks mainly to the low place his team occupied throughout the competition - as he turned in a perfect score of 9/9!

/ Based on reports by Arvind Aaron, Mark Crowther, Ian Wilkinson, Daaim Shabazz, Malcolm Pein and other /

Individual medals

Best Rating Performance
no. name flag code ELOp
1. GM Kasparov, Garry Russia RUS 2933
2. GM Akopian, Vladimir Armenia ARM 2827
3. GM Khalifman, Alexander Russia RUS 2797

1st Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. IM Gwaze, Robert Zimbabwe ZIM 9 9 100.0
2. GM David, Alberto Luxembourg LUX 11 13 84.6
3. GM Al-Modiahki, Mohamad Qatar QAT 10 12 83.3

2nd Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. Gentilleau, Jean-Philippe Monaco MNC 7 9 77.8
2. GM Seirawan, Yasser United States USA 9 72.2
3. GM Polgár, Judit Hungary HUN 12 70.8

3rd Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. IM Barus, Cerdas Indonesia INA 10 85.0
2. GM Khalifman, Alexander Russia RUS 7 9 77.8
3. GM Romero Holmes, Alfonso Spain ESP 10 75.0

4th Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. Ayyad, Maher Bahrain BRN 8 10 80.0
2. FM Soylu, Suat Turkey TUR 7 9 77.8
3. IM Sammalvuo, Tapani Finland FIN 9 72.2

1st Reserve Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. FM Saleh, Jassim United Arab Emirates UAE 7 92.9
2. Singh, Ravishen Trinidad & Tobago TRI 7 8 87.5
3. El-Arbi, Abobker Libya LBA 7 8 87.5

2nd Reserve Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. Collins, Sam Ireland IRL 8 93.8
2. Byambaa, Zulzaga Mongolia MGL 7 92.9
3. Hailu, Wossenyelew Ethiopia ETH 7 92.9

Nona Gaprindashvili Trophy
no. country Rank
1. Russia 1 2 1.5
2. China 5 1 3.0
3. Hungary 2 5 3.5
4. Georgia 4 4 4.0
5. Poland 13 3 8.0
6. Yugoslavia 10 7 8.5

This trophy is awarded to the country with the best combined performance for men and women.

Category Prizes
cat. country pts
A* Georgia 34
B Iceland 32
C Qatar 29½
D Ethiopia 26½

Those are prizes given in separate categories for best teams within selected seeding numbers. Estimated category range: category A: 1-33, category B: 34-66, category C: 67-100, category D: 101-134.
*Medal winners do not apply.

Interesting games

Ferocious attacks on both wings. Who will be faster?
Ponomariov, Ruslan (UKR) - Akopian, Vladimir (ARM) 0 - 1

White ingeniously disrupted shield of black pawns.
Kveinys, Aloyzas (LTU) - Speelman, Jonathan (ENG) 1 - 0

Extremely inventive and brave attack with series of sacrifices.
Grétarsson, Helgi Áss (ISL) - Sargissian, Gabriel (ARM) 1 - 0

Positional masterpiece by Kasparov and a few cute tactical tricks.
Sasikiran, Krishnan (IND) - Kasparov, Garry (RUS) 0 - 1

Theory says such endings are vitrually impossible to win.
FIDE World Champion proved they are not.
Ponomariov, Ruslan (UKR) - Vallejo Pons, Francisco (ESP) 1 - 0

I bet that Short never experienced such pinch as white Nd6 before.
Sokolov, Ivan (NED) - Short, Nigel (ENG) 1 - 0

Excellent positional play by Bacrot and far-sighted pawn sac.
Bacrot, Etienne (FRA) - Radjabov, Teimour (AZE) 1 - 0

Cascade of tactical shots turned to be better for Black.
Van Wely, Loek (NED) - Bacrot, Etienne (FRA) 0 - 1

Julio is well-known from creative treatment of openings.
This time he plays Bird.
Granda Zuñiga, Julio (PER) - Beliavsky, Alexander (SLO) 1 - 0

The King was dragged out of his lair very soon.
Babula, Vlastimil (CZE) - Braga, Fernando (ITA) 1 - 0

This game seems crazy from start to end.
Álvarez, Johan (VEN) - Kulashko, Aleksei (NZL) 1 - 0

No, no, no. Repeal that line above. THIS is really crazy one!
Bryson, Douglas (SCO) - Luther, Thomas (GER) ½ - ½

It seems so easy to shatter King's-Indian following Kotronias' play.
Kotronias, Vasilios (CYP) - Murshed, Niaz (BAN) 1 - 0

This one is a warning for all of you who believe
that pawn on g4 is ample protection of f5 in Caro-Kann.
Sutovsky, Emil (ISR) - Nielsen, Peter Heine (DEN) 0 - 1

Counterattack at Queenside was exceptionally sluggish.
Kupreichik, Viktor (BLR) - Speck, Nicholas (AUS) 1 - 0

19th century ideas refurbished in modern style.
Polgár, Judit (HUN) - Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar (AZE) 1 - 0

A must see game. Intuitive Queen sac for two minor pieces and initiative.
Þórhallsson, Þröstur (ISL) - Barus, Cerdas (INA) 0 - 1

This wonderful game is a nice example of White's
overwhelming control over open, central files.
Nielsen, Peter Heine (DEN) - Sadvakasov, Darmen (KAZ) 1 - 0

Unbelieveable mistake in a well-known theoretical position.
Krasenkow, Michał (POL) - Nikolić, Predrag (BIH) 0 - 1

What is most unusual about this game is that White exerted
constant pressure on black pieces from start untill the end.
Halkias, Stelios (GRE) - Ftáčnik, Ľubomír (SVK) 1 - 0

This is unusual case where doubled isolated pawn made it possible for Black
to win the pawn ending (38. ... b6 wins the decisive tempo).
Gattea, Ali (IRQ) - Istrătescu, Andrei (ROM) 0 - 1

Very nice tactical punch based on weakening of White's Kingside.
Alexandrov, Alexei (BLR) - Adams, Michael (ENG) 0 - 1

Too many pawn moves and too little piece development.
White's opening play is a classical no-no even for very beginners.
Johannessen, Leif Erlend (NOR) - Zelčić, Robert (CRO) 0 - 1

Shortest decisive game.
Al Dahbali, Mansoor (YEM) - Ghaem Maghami, Ehsan (IRI) 0 - 1

Two strong GMs, 14 moves and it was all over... Sturua's nightmare.
Sturua, Zurab (GEO) - Atalik, Suat (BIH) 0 - 1

Unusual bunch of White pieces in the very corner of the board lead to win.
Ivanchuk, Vasyl (UKR) - Radulsky, Yulian (BUL) 1 - 0

With the famous endgame blunder (53. Ne5 and not Nf8+)
Lékó missed historical win.
Lékó, Péter (HUN) - Kasparov, Garry (RUS) ½ - ½

Another endgame blunder by Péter (56. g3 missed the win).
Lékó, Péter (HUN) - Bologan, Viorel (MDA) ½ - ½

Krasenkow is well-known expert on Open Ruy Lopez
but after this game he must have despaired.
Kasparov, Garry (RUS) - Krasenkow, Michał (POL) 1 - 0

Oups! The Knight seemed to be untoucheable.
Ramírez Álvarez, Alejandro (CRC) - Chau Sau Ming (HKG) 1 - 0

Really awful blunder commited by Johny Emms.
Roca, Petronio (PHI) - Emms, John (ENG) 1 - 0

White fell into a simple though hidden trap. Beware of this!
Bùi Vinh (VIE) - Frey, Hugo (CHI) 0 - 1


The Bled Olympiad was the first where drug control took place. All of players passed.


Apart from fights at 64 squares politics reared its ugly head into chess world. At the FIDE congress held concurrently with the Olympiad the delegates officially ratified the "Prague Agreement" of earlier this year that intended two competing world crowns to be merged back into one following a reunification match in November 2003. The plan was scheduled to end a feud that began in 1993. As we all know the brave plans failed all along.


The Bled Olympiad hosted a record number of 132 participating countries (and two extra home teams, namely Slovenia "B" and Slovenia "C").


Robert Gwaze of Zimbabwe was the second man in history to score a perfect 100% out of 9 games at the Olympiad. The first player to do so was the World Champion Alekhine in 1930. We are still waiting for a player to score 10/10 or better.