by GM Mikhail Golubev
[Chess Today, available at http://www.chesstoday.net is the first Internet-based daily Chess newspaper. The interview was taken from issue no. 1845, November 26th, 2005]
Chess Today is continuing its well established tradition of conducting interviews with chess journalists. Today we are publishing an email interview with Wojciech Bartelski, the man behind an outstanding, but still not widely known online chess project, www.OlimpBase.org. At this site already available is a large and detailed Chess Olympiads and World Team Championships statistics database, as well as the news section.
- Please, tell us something about yourself.
- I'm 28 and I live in Warsaw. As a teenager I used to play club chess. I played for Polonia Warsaw but started too late (aged 13) and had no chance to fight my way through contemporaries who were players like Macieja and Socko, the strong GMs nowadays.
- How did you come up with the concept of OlimpBase?
- The way that lead me to build up OlimpBase was quite unusual. A friend of mine, who is member of the Polish-Icelandic Friendship Association and a big fan of Icelandic culture in general asked me to write a few words on Icelandic chess. Then I discovered that much of their amazing chess achievements were Olympic scores. Unfortunately there was no database of those results so I decided to prepare one on my own. The database has grown a bit since then but the paper still hasn't even been started! Seriously, I have always enjoyed international team events. As a young boy I read a lot on chess' history and I found that a lot of interesting events hadn't ever been paid necessary attention. So I decided to fill that gap, but I never dared to dream I would complete full data on all of 36 Olympiads.
- What kind of software are you using for creating the OlimpBase statistics databases?
- The software is self written exclusively for the purposes of the OlimpBase project. Unfortunately as OlimpBase is growing I must admit my amateur skill Borland Delphi based programme is becoming the bottleneck of the entire project. The files are generated automatically, but are static ones, so, say, a typo inside a player's name means I have to recompile all the events he took part in. As I have no time to learn more sophisticated programming techniques I must wait for help from a third party or simply leave it as it is.
- Are you aiming at making your site commercially profitable?
- No. OlimpBase costs me an awful lot of time plus some money but money is not a problem here. Every week people spend their time voluntarily contributing to the growth of OlimpBase, so "freely have you received, freely give".
- Are you working on OlimpBase alone, or maybe you have some assistants?
- Programming, compiling and design are 100% mine. The data is a team effort of course. According to my coarse estimation no less than 300 people have contributed to what is available today. Though I can't mention all the people, I will mention Mark Commiskey, Kevin Flaherty, Geoffrey Borg or Chrysafis Stamoudis. Thank you all for all.
- If you don't mind revealing this information, can you provide the approximate number of OlimpBase visitors (per day)?
- There are about 150-300 unique IPs logged every day. While the competitions are played the number of visitors grows to 400-500 (minor events) or even 1,000 (Olympiads).
- How do you see the future of the OlimpBase site? Are you planning to expand your coverage on some other types of competitions? European Clubs Cup maybe?
- The Continental Team Championships will be added in the nearest future (Asian and African data is mostly missing so any help is welcomed!) then we will take up the Women's Olympiads. Let me put out a small request here. Even though I did a lot of research, bulletins from 1969, 1972 and 1982 are still not available. Anyone who owns any of those volumes is cordially asked to get in touch with OlimpBase. ECC will be added next year. Please contact Mr. Claudiu Dobre from Romania for details on what had not yet been discovered. If I find time (please note I am not a phantom just a flesh and blood person having wife, child, job and joyful life) I will definitely attempt the task of reconstructing the entire history of Individual WCh cycles including full data on zonal tournaments. As a person fond of marking out virgin paths I often make plans of building a Database of Everything - something that ChessBase have done in an embryonic form. But this is the distant future since it would require decent funding and a team of professionals.
- How can you evaluate the coverage of the World Team Championship at the official event site?
- It is very good. I think the design of their page was very professional, also the site was amply informative. However I have seen more user friendly live coverage scripts in my life.
- Having so much experience in analysing the world team events, can you suggest any new ideas for their organisers (i.e. FIDE)? Some possible changes of format maybe?
- I am a fervent fan of the round robin system used at the Olympiads until 1974 and I'm well known for my reluctance towards the Swiss system (you will find extensive discussion at www.olimpbase.org). I believe the format for modern times would be round robin for top 16 (or 14 for those focused on cost cutting) with the bottom two teams relegated, along with 15 (13) round Swiss competitions open for everyone from which the top two teams would qualify to the championship final. I also don't like separate competition for women as if they were intellectually handicapped. I think they should play on equal terms with men or at most be members of mixed teams and play at a women's board.