24th Chess Olympiad: La Valletta 1980

<< [ Information || The final group || Statistics || Women's Olympiad ] >>


[ Basic data | Tournament review | Individual medals | Best game prizes | Interesting games | Trivia | Books | Missing data ]

Basic data

24th Chess Olympiad
(see all-time tournament summary)
Date: 20th November - 6th December 1980
City: La Valletta, Malta
Venue: Mediterranean Conference Centre
Heads of Organizing Committee: Mr. Pisani Rossi & Mr. Mario Serracino-Inglott (MLT)
Chief Arbiter: IA Lothar Schmid (GER)
Teams participating: 82 (incl. Malta "B")
Players participating: 483 (incl. 58 GMs and 75 IMs)
Games played: 2296 (8 games weren't played and 5 games were forfeited)
Competition format: Four board fourteen round robin.
Final order decided by: 1. Game points; 2. Buchholz; 3. Match points
Time control: 40 moves in 2 hours 30 minutes, then 1 hour for each next 16 moves
Official logo: MALTA 1980
Downloadable game file: 80olm.zip
Special thanks to Geoffrey D. Borg and late †Mario Serracino-Inglott
for all kinds of help on the topic.



Tournament review

"This opportunity is once again being offered by the smallest of FIDE member-nations - MALTA! Innumerable difficulties faced this small developing country, to organise such a mammoth event, finance being the major and most important factor. Through Festa Ltd., who offered to sponsor the free accommodation and board for all players, the Chess Federation required other finances for FIDE officials.

In order to succeed, the National Tourist Organisation and the main local Banks came to the rescue. But it had to be the guarantees given by the Malta Government, as well as the site of play, that really convinced FIDE that Malta could do it! The 1980 Malta Chess Olympiads will be put down in history as the greatest and most varied reunion on the smallest and most hospitable Island, in the Centre of a blue Mediterranean aptly called the cradle of civilisation.

Perhaps never before could FIDE truly and honestly say that we are all members of one large family. This ideal could be strengthened in Malta if the stronger and richer nations extend a sincere helping hand to the poorer and weaker brothers of developing Federations. Only then can FIDE truly boast that it has fulfilled its creed - GENS UNA SUMUS."


Malta was rewarded to host the 24th Chess Olympiad for its efforts to maintain unity and peace within the FIDE, following the successive Haifa events and the shuttle peace talks by Malta’s representative between the late Harry Golombek (UK) and Libya where the Counter Olympiad had taken place. This was the first time ever that the greatest chess-team manifestation, the 1980 Olympiad, was held in such a small state with a limited budget but nonetheless a great history. A small island in the middle of the Mediterranean with a language of its own, Malta has been participating in International Chess since the 1930’s. It welcomed Alexander Alekhine in 1935 and before World War II had already fielded two Maltese Nationals in Foreign International Events. The playing conditions at the Mediterranean Conference Centre were excellent. The players were all comfortably playing in one huge hall whereas the Congress was held in the large theatre under the same roof surrounded by the other smaller halls where the other Committees took place. Accommodation and transport were fairly efficient. 83 nations were represented with for the first time under the same roof Israel and Libya, USSR and China!

The Russians fielded Karpov, Polugaievski, Tal, Geller, Balashov and Kasparov; Petrosjan was conspicuously absent. The reigning champions Hungary were represented by Portisch, Ribli, Sax, Csom, Farago and Pinter. But the two great historical absences were Korchnoi and Hübner who were preparing for their match which was to take place in Merano. The Magyars strongly whereas the Soviets seemed hardly to take off especially since Karpov could not play after the second round as he fell ill. It must be stated that as soon as he was fit again he took his place and the team started to pull up. Even though the Hungarians did not budge, Karpov always looked calm and exhibiting a smile during his games. Both Tal and Geller, although more experienced, found solace in him and rested their faith in his genius. Eventually just before the last round the Soviets caught up with the Magyars but could not hope in a favourable technical play-off.

The tension could not be higher and the excitement in the big hall required some controlling. At the last round both teams were winning with the same score. The attention therefore shifted to the encounter between the teams of Greece and Scotland. Everybody was watching how it would end for Makropoulos and another Greek, on whose results depended the possible win through a technical play-off between Hungary and the USSR. The most exciting moment of a remarkable Olympiad where the players felt the responsibility they had towards the end result of the games: the changing of the guard at the top and the defeat however honourable of the holders – Hungary!

It was really impressive to see players like Tal and Geller hugging each other with tears in their eyes when it became evident that that the Greeks were winning and the play-off would therefore not be required for the USSR to take the title. It must be remembered that for some years the soviet hegemony had been lost in the field of chess and the Magyar reign since the previous Olympiad threw wide open the door for newcomers. In retrospect this was possibly the beginning of a by far wider circle of potentially competitive aspect in the field of chess by other rising nations. It must be admitted that the win by the Soviet Union in this Olympiad was strengthened by that of the female team in their 9th Ladies Olympiad, when out of 42 ladies’ teams the Soviet ladies managed to shine from the very beginning, opposed again only faintly by the Magyars. The Soviets won on all fronts!

It must be said here that the excitement caused by the Russian encounter with Hungary did not diminish for a moment the tension that could be felt in the large playing hall with the teams of China and Libya vis-a-vis those of the Russia and Libya. The organizers had to take special precautions which as can be expected added to the headaches of the local authorities. The whole event ran quite smoothly except for the usual petulant requests of the odd right demander. It was the first ever world tournament of such grand scale to be held in Malta.

The Mediterranean Conference Centre built in 1574 by the Knights of St.John (known also as Knight Hospitalers), one of the most efficient hospitals in Europe in its time and even today a very imposing building, housed also the 54th Fide Congress which was held from the 4th to the 7th December. The Sacra Infermeria, later Knights Hall, as it was known till then, was bombed heavily during the Second World War and partially repaired to be used as an opera house in the early days of peace, thus substituting the actual Opera House which was destroyed during the first air-raids and never rebuilt. In this same building between the 25th November and the 3rd. December were held all the meetings of the Central Committe as well as those of the various commissions.

The Central Committee met at the Sala Boffa whereas the Congress was held in the theatre hall with its magnificent stage curtain of the San Carlo of Naples. There were 71 delegates and among the decisions taken worthy of mention are the new affiliations to FIDE of Antigua, Brunei, Egypt, Kenya, Senegal and Zimbabwe thus increasing the number of affiliated nations to 114. It was at this meeting that the first ever International Arbiter was recognized for Malta in Mario Serracino-Inglott the actual organizer and one of the then leading players.

The Congress was held in a very friendly and tranquil atmosphere under the chairmanship of Fridrik Ólafsson. The warm welcome given by the Maltese, who are well known for their friendly attitude was reflected in their representatives, namely the President of the Federazzjoni Maltija taċ-Ċess and the untiring, enthusiastic and idealistic organizer of the event Mario Serracino-Inglott. The closing ceremony succeeded in being a splendid finale with folkloristic songs and dances from various nations. The Minister for Sport the Hon. Lorry Sant presented the trophies and medals after which the military orchestra played the FIDE Anthem.

/ Written by Mario Serracino-Inglott, the organizer of the 1980 Olympiad /

Individual medals

1st Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. Hook, William British Virgin Islands IVB 11½ 14 82.1
2. Kanani, Saifudin Kenya KEN 12 79.2
3. GM Torre, Eugenio The Philippines PHI 11 14 78.6

2nd Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. IM Rantanen, Yrjö Finland FIN 13 73.1
2. IM Seirawan, Yasser United States USA 8 11 72.7
3. Harris, Derek Bermuda BER 7 10 70.0

3rd Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. Villarreal, José Félix Mexico MEX 9 11 81.8
2. Kuligowski, Adam Poland POL 10 13 76.9
2. Khan, Mohamed Rafiq India IND 10 13 76.9

4th Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. GM Csom, István Hungary HUN 7 9 77.8
2. GM Geller, Efim Soviet Union URS 9 72.2
2. IM Schüssler, Harry Sweden SWE 9 72.2
2. IM Langeweg, Christian Netherlands NED 9 72.2
2. Goormachtigh, Johan Belgium BEL 9 72.2

1st Reserve Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. GM Balashov, Yury Soviet Union URS 10 75.0
1. Tiller, Bjørn Norway NOR 6 8 75.0
3. Øst-Hansen, Jacob Denmark DEN 8 11 72.7

2nd Reserve Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. Nikolić, Predrag Yugoslavia YUG 8 81.3
2. Borg, Andrew Malta MLT2 8 10 80.0
3. IM Kasparov, Garry Soviet Union URS 12 79.2

The organising committee did not check the stats properly and missed one Andrew Borg's win. Kasparov was awarded the silver medal during the ceremony but afterwards it was discovered that the Malta B sixth board had scored better and there had been a mistake. The silver medal went back to Malta and a presentation was made afterwards by the Minister of Sport on national TV to make amends but it was not the same…

Best game prizes

Best game prize:
Mestel, Jonathan (ENG) - Renman, Nils Gustaf (SWE) 1 - 0

Interesting games

Unbelievably this dramatic game decided
about who is going to take an Olympic Gold!
Swanson, Stephen (SCO) - Makropoulos, Georgios (GRE) 0 - 1

This time Ulf serves us excellent, tasteful dish of tactics.
Andersson, Ulf (SWE) - Kouatly, Bachar (LIB) 1 - 0

This attack has been carried on with fantasy yet with much accuracy.
Nunn, John (ENG) - Gümrükçüoğlu, Ergun (TUR) 1 - 0

Unexpected piece sacrifice broke the pawn shield and kept the King in the center.
Hebert, Jean (CAN) - Ziska, Súni (FAI) 1 - 0

Sensational but well-deserved win of experienced master from Virgin Islands.
Westerinen, Heikki (FIN) - Hook, William (IVB) 0 - 1

Black overlooked hidden yet excellent tactical shot on White's 21st move.
Morovic Fernández, Iván (CHI) - Alburt, Lev (USA) 1 - 0

White pieces lost coordination and white Queen went out of play.
Chandler, Murray (NZL) - Andersson, Ulf (SWE) 0 - 1

Superb pressure at h7 and outstanding ride of white Knight.
Christiansen, Larry (USA) - Campos Moreno, Javier (CHI) 1 - 0

Very hard-fought game with lots of far-sighted manoeuvres in the endgame.
Andersson, Ulf (SWE) - Portisch, Lajos (HUN) ½ - ½

Very sharp fight with deadly yet highly unexpected final strike.
Hort, Vlastimil (CSR) - Torre, Eugenio (PHI) 0 - 1

Absolute control over open "d" line was worth a queen.
Ljubojević, Ljubomir (YUG) - Ermenkov, Evgeny (BUL) 1 - 0

No one would dare to claim Sokolsky is bad opening, but this one was awful.
Johnston, Gerald (WLS) - Lobron, Eric (GER) 0 - 1

White did not hesitate to move their Queen to the dark end
and then did not pull it back as they should...
Árnason, Jón (ISL) - Béllon López, Juan Manuel (ESP) 1 - 0

White pulled main Black defender away using highly surprising method.
Przewoźnik, Jan (POL) - Hammer, Peter (SUI) 1 - 0

A glamorous thunderstrike destroyed Black's defence plans.
Birnboim, Nathan (ISR) - Sax, Gyula (HUN) 1 - 0

White seemed vigorous but Black's position proved explosive.
Pokojowczyk, Jerzy (POL) - Mestel, Jonathan (ENG) 0 - 1

Risky opening line caused Black's quick debacle.
Speelman, Jonathan (ENG) - Bielczyk, Jacek (POL) 1 - 0

Excellent pawn-based attack on the Kingside.
Hort, Vlastimil (CSR) - Hug, Werner (SUI) 1 - 0

Black traded couple of pieces and suddenly found pair of White, passed pawns.
Rantanen, Yrjö (FIN) - Quinteros, Miguel Ángel (ARG) 1 - 0

Glamorous, tactical attack, one of most memorable games of Malta Olympiad.
Ermenkov, Evgeny (BUL) - Ólafsson, Friðrik (ISL) 1 - 0

White's development didn't look much convincing but it proved very strong in fact.
Ribli, Zoltán (HUN) - Seirawan, Yasser (USA) 1 - 0

Kasparov's famous, sensational loss and excellent play by Bulgarian GM.
Georgiev, Krum (BUL) - Kasparov, Garry (URS) 1 - 0

White weakened their pawn structure and Black did not waste the chance.
Liberzon, Vladimir (ISR) - Miles, Anthony (ENG) 0 - 1

The c4 was crucial square of the game and Black subtly made use of its weakness.
Gheorghiu, Florin (ROM) - Timman, Jan (NED) 0 - 1

Shocking debacle of Kasparov's conqueror.
Schneider, Lars-Åke (SWE) - Georgiev, Krum (BUL) 1 - 0

Hefty Romanian GM thought he would be faster but his calculations failed.
Ciocâltea, Victor (ROM) - Hölzl, Franz (AUT) 0 - 1

Black exploded with their truculent attack without developing their pieces first.
Ivkov, Borislav (YUG) - Schneider, Lars-Åke (SWE) 1 - 0

Every chess player dreams about such vigorious pair of Knights like here.
Nikolić, Predrag (YUG) - Renman, Nils Gustaf (SWE) 1 - 0

The revenge for 1974 defeat failed and Hurme enjoyed another nice win.
Tringov, Georgi (BUL) - Hurme, Harri (FIN) 0 - 1

Ex-Soviet GM from Israel did not find a way to coordinate his pieces.
Liberzon, Vladimir (ISR) - Giffard, Nicolas (FRA) 0 - 1

Black bravely sacrificed a pawn to open files for attack but this idea failed.
Gheorghiu, Florin (ROM) - Zapata, Alonso (COL) 1 - 0

White carried out brisk attack of Black's King fortress
and it was successful despite limited material left on the board.
Karpov, Anatoly (URS) - Hort, Vlastimil (CSR) 1 - 0

White was very pushy but overlooked excellent counterstrike.
Ljubojević, Ljubomir (YUG) - Miles, Anthony (ENG) 0 - 1

An extra pawn *and* impeccable technical skills mean a win.
Sznapik, Aleksander (POL) - Gheorghiu, Florin (ROM) 0 - 1

Please always have in mind than pinned piece cannot capture elsewhere.
Murey, Jacob (ISR) - Rodríguez Céspedes, Amador (CUB) 1 - 0

There are many games with simple Knight-fork threat
but have you ever seen a double fork? Find it!
Torre, Eugenio (PHI) - Myagmarsuren, Lhamsuren (MGL) 1 - 0

A good lesson on a piece exchange dilemma.
After series of trades White had to resign.
Gheorghiu, Florin (ROM) - Liberzon, Vladimir (ISR) 0 - 1

GM Nogueiras played definitely much under his mean level.
Kuligowski, Adam (POL) - Nogueiras, Jesús (CUB) 1 - 0

White chose rare and exotic opening line but forgot to develop their pieces.
Navarro, Roberto (MEX) - Goldenberg, Richard (FRA) 0 - 1

Sax must have won this game but he made a mistake
that cost the Hungarians the Championship title.
Pétursson, Margeir (ISL) - Sax, Gyula (HUN) ½ - ½

Pair of Bishops is valuable tools especially under time pressure!
Ermenkov, Evgeny (BUL) - Sznapik, Aleksander (POL) 0 - 1

Even experienced GM overlook well-known, trivial motives sometimes.
Hecht, Hans Joachim (GER) - Herzog, Adolf (AUT) 0 - 1


Two points are missing from the overall sum of points scored by all the teams. In the last round, due to the absence of team Uganda, Angola - their last round's opponents were awarded only a two point-bye. Strange enough that Monaco left early as well and their opponents from Jordan were given a win by default at each of 4 boards.


Team Romania came late and were artificially paired with Malta "B" in the first round. This is the only case in the history of the Olympiads when two countries have been given a 2-2 default not being in the state of war at the time.


A rare accomplishment happened at the Malta Olympiad: all the way from the first round to the last, Hungarian men’s team was in the lead but finally they failed to get the Gold!