33rd Chess Olympiad: Elista 1998

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Basic data

33rd Chess Olympiad
(see all-time tournament summary)
Date: 26th September - 13th October 1998
City: Elista, Russia (autonomous Republic of Kalmykia)
Venue: The Chess Palace
Chairman of Executive Council: Mr. Igor Shalkhakov (RUS)
Chief Arbiter: IA Geurt Gijssen (NED)
Teams participating: 110 (incl. Russia "B", "C" and "D" where Russia "D" was actually Kalmykia)
Players participating: 634 (incl. 171 GMs, 135 IMs and 58 FMs)
Games played: 2860 (13 games were forfeited)
Competition format: Four board 13 round Swiss (due to late start problems the Olympiad was shortened by one round).
Final order decided by: 1. Game points; 2. Buchholz; 3. Match points
Time control: 40 moves in 100 minutes, then 20 moves in 50 minutes, then 10 minutes for the rest of the game. 30 second increment per move.
Official logo (left)
and official mascot (right):
Website: http://www.fide.com/elista98/olympiad.htm (cached)
Other websites: Ukraine at the Olympiad [partly in Russian]
Elista impressions by E. Omuku
Irish teams at the Elista Olympiad (cached)
Scottish concise report from the Olympiad
Geurt Gijssen's remarks on the Olympiad
Olympic blog by Carol Jarecki (cached)
Olympiad results at Ruschess.com
Statistical coverage by Heinz Herzog
New Zealand at the Olympiad (cached)
TWIC reports: 1st * 2nd * 3rd * 4th * results
Downloadable game file: 98olm.zip

Tournament review

The 1998 Olympiad was held in Elista, the capital of autonomous republic of Kalmykia, part of Russian Federation. It was granted to Kalmykia on a personal request of Kirsan Ilumzhinov, the president of both: FIDE and Kalmykia. He promised to build Chess City complex Elista, the capital of Kalmykia, to be the venue of the Olympiad. His critics argued that the palace had been completed with the foreign funds earmarked for industrial and agricultural development of poor Kalmykia.

The opening ceremonyAlthough the opening ceremony took place on time, the same couldn't be said for the event itself. It became apparent on the arrival of the participants that the Olympiad certainly couldn't take place in the Chess Palace from the start date of the 27th September and amazingly the contingency plans seemed only to be partially formed. The first decision was the reduction of the length of the Olympiad from 14 to 13 rounds. The first round was postponed until the 28th September, at first to take place in alternative venues. The competitors arrived to find the proposed venue surrounded by scaffolding and with many windows missing. The difficulties lasted for couple of days.

Russia had as much as four teams (which is not allowed by FIDE rules, but who cares?). Russia "C" were referred to as team Kalmykia and Russia "D" were youth team. Even without the service of the three K's (Karpov, Kasparov and Kramnik) they were still the favourites having young team headed by Peter Svidler. Theoretical runner-ups were England who sent a team with average rating of 2661 (all time best). They were followed by a pack of teams within 2630-2640 level: Ukraine, USA, Armenia and Bulgaria. Israel had no Gelfand to lie in 12th seed. Hungary were missing Polgár and Lékó. Weakened Chinese team were seeded in 35th and not expected to fight for medals.

The Chess Palace: outdoor viewMost of the favourites got off to good start in the first round of the Olympiad. England's 2½-1½ over Bangladesh (Hebden-Bin Sattar 0-1) was one of major upsets of the day as was the Netherland's 2-2 draw against Scotland. Top seeds Russia opened with a 3½-½ win over Austria.

On day two Russia ran over Chile by impressive 3½-½ margin while most major teams went on for a 3-1 win. China drew with the Ukraine 2-2 to show they would be a competitive team in the Olympiad and India also held Russia "B" team to a draw. The Netherlands lost 2½-1½ to surprise team Bangladesh. Argentina and USA shared the lead on 7½ points at this stage.

The Chess Palace: indoor viewThe USA beat Argentina 2½-1½ in the top clash of round 3 setting up a round four pairing with the Russians, who defeated Romania by 2½-1½. Yugoslavia moved into joint second after hard-fought 2½-1½ vs Sweden. Bangladesh continued their winning streak demolishing New Zealand with a clear 4-0. The Netherlands recovered from dreadful start winning all four games vs Iraq.

The Russian 1st and 2nd teams took the lead after round four as Russia "A" beat the USA by 2½-1½ while Russia "B" ran over FYR Macedonia by a clear cut. The Netherlands hammered Venezuela with 4-0 as well to move up into joint 3rd, a fraction behind the leading two. Other teams at 11½ point level were Ukraine, USA, China, Germany, France and Bulgaria.

Russia 'A' - Russia 'B'The USA catapulted themselves into a one point lead over Russia after their sensational 4-0 win against the Netherlands on October 3rd. Georgia and Uzbekistan managed to score four game wins as well. Russia "A" fought hard to defeat Russia "B" in the intestine fight at table 1. Estonia surprisingly defeated Yugoslavia by 3-1 to move into tied 3rd.

The leading American pack beat Georgia 2½-1½ on day 6 whilst Russia's first team managed a 3-1 win vs Lithuania to move to within half a point behind the US. Ukraine defeated Uzbekistan 3-1 to move into third. Germany held surprise Estonia to a 2-all draw while China modestly ran over Russia "B". Standings after six rounds: USA 18; Russia 17½; Ukraine and Bulgaria 16½.

Olympic posterBulgaria's 3-1 win against Russia "A" was the surprise of day 7. The Bulgarians won both games with black pieces. The USA managed to hold their first place position with a 2-2 draw against Ukraine. On board 1 Seirawan and Ivanchuk drew a quick game, then settled back to watch their team-mates slug it out. England, seeded second, had a bit of rough going, but leapfrogged back to the top ranks with a 3½-½ result over Lithuania. Russia "B" also scored 3½-½ over Switzerland. The Americans retained the half point lead as the Bulgarians closed up. A group of eight were lying in joint third.

The next day was a rest day. In round 8 the Bulgarians shared points at table one vs USA. Russia closed the gap defeating Belarus 3-1. England ran over Ukraine by the smallest margin possible thanks to Hebden's win over Savchenko. The Czech Republic hammered Moldova 3½-½ to move into 7th. The USA led by half a point over Russia "A" and Bulgaria. France, England and Russia "B" were a further half point behind.

Yermolinsky (left) and SeirawanRound 9 saw the leaders defeating France by 2½-1½. The Russian duo beat England and Bulgaria respectively at tables 2 and 3. Ukraine ran over the Czech Republic 3-1 to strengthen their 4th position. Hungary destroyed Russia "C" with a clear 4-0 to finally move into top 10 after a couple of unsuccessful days. The USA led on 24½ points after 9 rounds by half a point from Russia's first and second teams. The Ukrainians were lying in 4th on 23½ while Bulgaria, France, England, Hungary, Romania, Armenia and Germany were a further half point behind.

Russia "A" took the lead after 10 rounds profiting from a 3-1 result vs Ukraine. USA were held by Russia "B" to a draw to fall down to second position. England took over 4th spot after good-looking 3-1 over France. The Netherlands had their third great round in a row: after beating Tajikistan 3-1 in round 8, Croatia 3½-½ in round 9 they defeated Israel 3-1 in round 10 to move back into the top 10. Poland were another team to rise from dead as they fired up into top 10 murdering Slovenia 4-0.

The Chess CityRound 11 brought another turnover at the top as team USA saw themselves back in the lead as they beat England 3-1 and took a half point lead again from Russia "A", who barely halved vs Armenia (Rublevsky lost to Vaganian with white pieces). Russia "B" were lying in 3rd a further half point behind. Ukraine made up for a lost ground demolishing Bosnia & Herzegovina with three wins and one draw to come back to 4th. Romania climbed up to 5th beating Poland. Hungary lost second consecutive match to bid farewell to their medal hopes.

The USA led Russia "A" by half a point going into the final round of the seesaw battle for Olympic Gold. Both teams won 3-1 in round 12. The USA scored a 3-1 victory over Romania while Russia "A" also scored 3-1 over Germany. Ukraine-Russia "B" went on for a four draw tie leaving the Russians in the medal zone. The Netherlands wiped out Bulgaria 3½-½ to jump into 4th spot. China beat Greece 3-1 and were lying 6th. Standings with last round to go: USA 32½; Russia "A" 32; Russia "B" 30½; The Netherlands 30½; Ukraine and China 29½.

Another view at the Chess PalaceThe final round saw the Russians destroy the Dutch 3½-½ and take Gold above the USA who had led much of the way. The Americans, not helped by an inferior tie-break, drew 2-2 with China. It was an exciting round where early on it was clear that Russia were favourites to take Gold by looking at the positions on the board. In a mighty struggle Svidler beat Timman. Timman was obviously doing his best to help the Americans but brilliant middlegame play in an inferior position by Svidler took the position towards a draw. Timman eventually cracked leaving his Bishop en-prise and he had to resign. Ukraine beat Armenia 3-1 and took bronze just above the Israelis on tie-break. Israel achieved a fantastic result in the final round destroying Russia "B" by 3½-½. Germany hammered Cuba 3½-½ while Georgia wiped out Azerbaijan 4-0 and both teams jumped into 6th and 7th position respectively. A nice achievement for teams who hardly hooked the top 10 in the course of the games.

Despite of some technical problems and gloomy politics hanging over the Olympiad the Elista event must be first of all remembered from warm hospitality of the host Kalmyk nation and plenty of excitement in the fierce run for Gold between Russia and USA. The Russians, led by Peter Svidler managed to grab the first place after impressive final run nevermind the round 7 slip-up vs Bulgaria. Morozevich's 8/10 was their best achievement. Team USA, based in fact on Soviet expatriates, showed excellent form and fighting spirit to hardly lose the edge short before the end. With only 4 game loses and one match loss they proved by far the best of the rest. Best performances: Seirawan and De Firmian. Ukraine took the Bronze and might feel lucky to overcome Russia "B" at the end. 17-year old Ponomariov scored excellent 7/9 at bottom board showing good prospects for future. Israel came 4th only by virtue of their three final rounds performance (10/12). With three days to go they were lying as low as in 30th! Avrukh won individual gold medal at 2nd reserve board. China, seeded 35th, came in excellent 5th while Germany finished in 6th with only three game loses (and two of them conceded in penultimate round). England, pre-tournament big-wigs were kicked out of top 10. Another disappointing teams were Armenia and Bulgaria. Russia "B" were holding sensational podium place all way through but last round's debacle vs Israel dispelled their hopes for 1994 déjà vu.

/Photos taken from www.markorr.net/

Individual medals

Please note: only number of games played was used as tie-break (but not rating performance).
Thanks to GM E. Grivas for explanations.

Best Rating Performance
no. name flag code ELOp
1. GM Azmaiparashvili, Zurab Georgia GEO 2804
2. GM Topalov, Veselin Bulgaria BUL 2797
3. GM Morozevich, Alexander Russia RUS 2776

1st Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. IM Al-Modiahki, Mohamad Qatar QAT 8 93.8
2. FM Müller, Leonhard Namibia NAM 9 83.3
3. GM Azmaiparashvili, Zurab Georgia GEO 8 10 80.0

2nd Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. FM Aikhoje, Odion Nigeria NGR 8 81.3
2. GM Lputian, Smbat Armenia ARM 8 11 72.7
3. GM Alexandrov, Alexei Belarus BLR 12 70.8
3. IM Dervishi, Erald Albania ALB 12 70.8

3rd Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. GM Vera González, Reynaldo Cuba CUB 7 9 77.8
2. GM Grivas, Efstratios Greece GRE 10 75.0
2. GM Sturua, Zurab Georgia GEO 10 75.0

4th Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. Gadhi, Hamaid Yemen YEM 8 81.3
2. GM Morozevich, Alexander Russia RUS 8 10 80.0
3. IM Adérito, Pedro Angola ANG 7 9 77.8

1st Reserve Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. IM Muir, Andrew Scotland SCO 6 7 85.7
2. Kostenko, Petr Kazakhstan KAZ 10 75.0
3. GM De Firmian, Nick United States USA 6 8 75.0
3. GM Kamiński, Marcin Poland POL 6 8 75.0
3. IM Giaccio, Alfredo Gustavo Argentina ARG 6 8 75.0

2nd Reserve Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. GM Avrukh, Boris Israel ISR 8 10 80.0
2. GM Ponomariov, Ruslan Ukraine UKR 7 9 77.8
3. IM Hillarp Persson, Tiger Sweden SWE 10 75.0

Nona Gaprindashvili Trophy
no. country Rank
1. Russia 1 2 1.5
2. China 5 1 3.0
3. Georgia 7 3 5.0
4. United States 2 10 6.0
5. Ukraine 3 12 7.5
6. Romania 10 6 8.0
Netherlands 12 4 8.0

This trophy is awarded to the team with the best combined performance for men and women. It was founded by Georgian Chess Federation in 1997 at FIDE congres in Chişinău (Moldova), and it was the very first time in Elista when the trophy was handed to the winners.

Interesting games

Obnoxious pin cost White the pawn but not the game.
Solomon, Stephen (AUS) - Short, Nigel (ENG) ½ - ½

Suddenly White found his King totally hemmed in.
Vásquez, Rodrigo (CHI) - Rozentalis, Eduardas (LTU) 0 - 1

He managed to deny mate threats but material cost was too high.
Corbin, Philip (BAR) - Guillen Ramirez, José Antonio (HON) 1 - 0

Dubious piece sacrifice caused immediate debacle.
Svidler, Peter (RUS) - Topalov, Veselin (BUL) 0 - 1

This famous ending blunder is excessively described here.
Moussa, Othman (UAE) - Kakageldiev, Amanmurad (TKM) 0 - 1

Inspiring final position of fierce two-edged battle.
Bareev, Evgeny (RUS) - Nisipeanu, Liviu-Dieter (ROM) ½ - ½

According to many this is most unusual game ever seen at the Olympiads!
Miles, Anthony (ENG) - Vaisser, Anatoly (FRA) ½ - ½

Watch the mobility of seemingly passive white pieces.
Oral, Tomáš (CZE) - Borgo, Giulio (ITA) 1 - 0

Tricky offensive plot that White did not manage to refute.
Movsesian, Sergei (CZE) - Illescas Córdoba, Miguel (ESP) 0 - 1

Kasim thought he could well outwit Azmai but found himself trapped.
Azmaiparashvili, Zurab (GEO) - Kasimdzhanov, Rustam (UZB) 1 - 0

Simple blunders do happen even at sky high ELO levels...
Kasimdzhanov, Rustam (UZB) - Smirin, Ilia (ISR) 0 - 1

It is believed two minor pieces mean more than a Rook. Not this time.
Ye Jiangchuan (CHN) - Seirawan, Yasser (USA) 0 - 1

Marin reported he was close to resign but found excellent way to save the game.
Marin, Mihail (ROM) - Svidler, Peter (RUS) ½ - ½

Shortest decisive game.
Barrios, Ramón (NCA) - Santa Torres, Juan (PUR) 0 - 1

That would be really nice trick unless it cost Black a piece...
Lesiege, Alexandre (CAN) - Sokolov, Ivan (BIH) 1 - 0

Unusual final position: almost all of White pieces are hanging!
Al Hadarani, Hatim (YEM) - Mannion, Stephen (SCO) 1 - 0

White lost a few tempos which is mortal in Benkö Gambit.
Nikolić, Predrag (BIH) - Ivanchuk, Vasyl (UKR) 0 - 1

Unprotected Rook caused immediate loss.
Chatalbashev, Boris (BUL) - Piket, Jeroen (NED) 0 - 1

Unlike standard Marshall Attack lines it was White who sacrificed
material for attacking opportunities.
Svidler, Peter (RUS) - Adams, Michael (ENG) 1 - 0

Very useful ending lesson: defence is not a good medicine for positional weaknesses!
Martín del Campo, Roberto (MEX) - Rubery, Mark (RSA) 1 - 0

An innovative idea of taking control over the center.
Bareev, Evgeny (RUS) - Onischuk, Alexander (UKR) 1 - 0

Unusual material imbalance: pair of white Queens fighting five black pieces!
Meessen, Rudolf (BEL) - Adu, Oladapo (NGR) 0 - 1

White Queen trapped in the middle of the board.
Bagheri, Amir (IRI) - Yermolinsky, Alexander (USA) 0 - 1

The mating trap was really easy to overlook.
Giorgadze, Giorgi (GEO) - Shabalov, Alexander (USA) 0 - 1

Adams missed win on his 23rd move. Find it!
Adams, Michael (ENG) - Spraggett, Kevin (CAN) ½ - ½

One of biggest upsets of the Olympiad.
Kelly, Brian (IRL) - Krasenkow, Michał (POL) 1 - 0

As usual greediness cost time and black King failed to castle.
Shabalov, Alexander (USA) - Istrătescu, Andrei (ROM) 1 - 0

Black first missed win and then put his only piece at attacked square.
Svidler, Peter (RUS) - Timman, Jan (NED) 1 - 0


The Olympiad was widely touted as event with electronic live game coverage. Of course the chaos surrounding the readying of the venue for play did not allow this to happen in the first round and there were virtually no games available from the Olympiad apart from those in singles from journalist's reports, usually sourced from the teams themselves.


Team Bermuda didn't come to Elista. Judging on their chess skills one could well expect hardly anyone would notice that, but this was not the case. Because of their absence the famous Bermuda Party, by far the biggest social event of the Olympiad, was not organized. The blatant overnight party has been organized every two years starting from 1984. Many players keenly missed the Elista party.


The Elista Olympiad was held at the time when internet was no more a rarity. This is why it should be noted that its website was to our knowledge the first ever chess page attacked by the hackers. Anyone who logged onto the web site was greeted with a black screen and a message reading "hacked to Kasparov". There were no clues as to the origin of the hacker.


The British arbiter Harry Lamb returned home immediately after coming to Elista calling the living conditions disgusting. On the other hand others reported the living accommodation was decent.


In the beginning there was an announcement on the FIDE site that they would be charging for access to the games and further publication on the internet was "prohibited". Because of many protests this had finally been cancelled. You can now enjoy virtually all of Elista games free of charge at www.olimpbase.org!


Short before the start of the Olympiad the body of Ilumzhinov's critic, newspaper editor Larissa Yudina, was found with multiple stab wounds in a pond near Chess City. Russian federal police arrested two of Ilumzhinov's staff on suspicion of the murder. Ilumzhinov, however, denied any connection with the murder. There was a call for a boycott of the Chess Olympiad and couple of teams did not arrive (Denmark, Norway, Slovakia).