David Smerdon | June 21, 2012 14:44

Istanbul 2012 – Turkish Anklebiters

The host team of the chess Olympiad is traditionally allowed to field a couple of extra teams (originally this was aimed to prevent a bye in case of an odd number of teams, but these days it’s a more general right).  For instance, in 2010, hosts Russia fielded a phenomenal second team that was seeded fourth with an average rating of 2702 (!), and a third team with an average of 2616.  That’s right, the average of Russia’s third team was still higher than Australia’s strongest player.

But this year, Turkey’s taken a different track, and one that’s sure to raise a few eyebrows.  Their first team is, predictably, the strongest on paper (bar the usual disagreement with Grandmaster Atalik).  But their second, nicknamed “Turkey 2016″, consists of five talented boys with an average age under 16.  The concept is, of course, talent-development in anticipation of future success a few Olympiads from now.

But the biggest surprise is the third team, nicknamed “Turkey 2023″in honour of the upcoming national centenary, with an average age of… 8.2

Yes, eight-point-two.

(Pictures of the young whippersnappers and a full report from Lizzie Paehtz can be found here:http://chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=8260)

The same approach has been taken in the women’s division as welll, with average ages of 16 and 10 for the second and third teams, respectively.

No doubt this move will find some critics, with arguments of degreding the event, disrespecting countries who travel to the Olympiad and end up playing the kids, as well as taking away places from other Turkish players who could perhaps claim to have earned a spot.  And these are fair criticisms.

But overall, I don’t mind the plan.  Despite my previous post, in general I think the Turkish chess federation has done a fantastic job promoting national and particularly junior chess over the past decade.  They’ve done from a non-starter to a genuine chess country on the world map, with particular long-sighted focus.  They’ve previously made some brave moves, including offering large sums of money to “the next Turkish GM”, etc, but these moves have paid off.  I’m also impressed by how they’ve evenly shared their focus towards both men’s and women’s chess.  This latest move is similarly brave, but it’s the sign of a federation prepared to take a few risks to pursue its chess goals.  Not bad.

If we were hosting the Olympiad (not that I think I’ll see it in my lifetime), I’d hope we’d do the same.  Perhaps not with eight year olds, but a second “youth” team would be something to be proud of, and would provide our kiddies with some invaluable international experience that we Australians naturally lack.

I’d pick something like:

  • Bobby Cheng
  • Anton Smirnov
  • Yi Liu
  • Justin Tan
  • Emma Guo

Average age:  13.6.  Average rating:  Over 2200.

It’d be a team to be proud of, a team that wouldn’t embarrass itself, and a team that reflects well the future of Australian chess.

Good on you, Turkey!

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David Smerdon's picture
Author: David Smerdon

David Smerdon is a chess grandmaster from Brisbane, Australia. David attended Anglican Church Grammar School and Melbourne University. To qualify for the title of Grandmaster, a player must achieve three Grandmaster norm performances, and a FIDE Elo rating over 2500. Late in 2007, Smerdon achieved his third and final Grandmaster norm. In the July 2009 FIDE rating list his rating passed 2500, so he qualified for the title of Grandmaster. He is the fourth Australian to become a Grandmaster, after Ian Rogers, Darryl Johansen and Zhao Zong-Yuan. In 2009, Smerdon won the Queenstown Chess Classic tournament.

Source: Wikipedia

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Comments

Anonymous's picture

Just a tasteless joke. The children will get hurt rather than gain experience.

"No doubt this move will find some critics, with arguments of degreding the event, disrespecting countries who travel to the Olympiad and end up playing the kids, as well as taking away places from other Turkish players who could perhaps claim to have earned a spot. And these are fair criticisms." +1.

Peter Dengler's picture

I guess these kids have a considerable chess playing strength since all kids in Turkey are taught chess these days. They can hold up with the weaker teams and since the chess olympiad drawings are not following a real Swiss system nobody can complain. The kids themselves? I am sure they will be happy and gain some points!

Privilege and power's picture

Turkey 2016 is an indulgence but Turkey 2023 is deeply insulting to the rest of the chess world

cmling's picture

I doubt that the children will benefit from being crushed in every game. It will be traumatic.

Sedat ÇINAR's picture

Turkey loves chess and do this as a sport. Country doesnt have a super GM but organizes the biggest chess tournaments every year thanks to Ali Nihat Yazıcı tsf president.

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