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Batumi Chess Olympiad 2018

The participants


I was a member of the Soviet team in Thessaloniky Olympiad in 1988. At that time there were much fewer teams and most importantly there were only handful of teams competing for the medals. In Batumi I was surprised to see how many good players and teams we have today. Russia and China may have a lot of different line ups and each may win the Olympiad. Other teams still have some top grandmasters at least on the first board. I was captain and coach of Estonian team. We had 55th place according to our ratings among 185 teams. Estonia had great successes in chess Olympiads back in 1939 in Argentina when we finished third. Later when we got back our independence our best result was in Moscow Olympiad in 1994 where I was a player. To beat the Moscow’s 16th place looked too optimistic, but with some luck I still was hoping to finish top 25. However our team did not have enough fully devoted professionals. The Chess Olympiad supposed to be more like a chess festivities and not the competition for hard working professionals. Now it seems that everything is changed. The winning is most important part of the Olympiad. The chess politics also put some shadow on the Olympiad. In my opinion it was putting the chess officials ahead of players. The new FIDE president elections took place in Batumi and this time the outcome was not clear till very end. Which made the officials and representatives of different countries – the delegates most sought persons. This time a lot of chess players were among chess politicians. Notably Granda Zuniga from Peru. I won against him an important game back in 1987 in Zagreb where I qualified to candidates.

Batumi and Georgia


I was in Batumi in 2002 and I could not find anything familiar any more. The city has a lot of new hotels like Hilton, Sheraton and others. Back then there was only one hotel the usual Inturist hotel which was the trademarks of Soviet Union where the Inturist supposed to be the best hotel. The seaside city made very nice expression. Even more shocking was the price standard. I cannot remember when last time I saw this kind of prices. The weather was also excellent allowing us to swim in the Black sea despite the fact that the tourist season was over. It was pity that we supposed to focus on chess instead. The scenery was excellent, but there were some mishaps in local organization. The logistic was horrible in the beginning, but it improved later. The president of European Chess Union is Georgian Zurab Azmaiparashvili, but he seemed to put all his energy to help  Georgios Makropoulos to win the FIDE elections against Russian Arkady Dvorkovich. He did not hide his hate against Russia because of the Russian Georgian war in 2008. Somehow local people understand Russian and less the English. In forums which I read before my trip it was recommended to speak Russian instead of English to avoid the usual tourist rip off. Usually the taxi drivers are the best friends and enemies of the lost tourist, but in Batumi they were really friendly and in few occasions when we need to take a taxi we did not have any problems. I felt even sorry for their taxi fare. The Batumi has two faces. Luxurious hotels with casinos and rich guests from Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia.  In other hand there is nothing else, the economy relies heavily on buying selling which is visible in local markets. There is no yet any proper tax system and some goods which are heavily taxed in Europe are over there on sale. Difficult to compare Georgia with some of the European countries. Estonia was in this kind of state some 30 years ago.

The tournament


The Chinese took both titles. This is not a sensation. Chinese are smart and they outnumber everybody else in the planet. I was a coach of Estonian team and therefore I was only concentrating on the middle of the field. In some moment we had hopes to make it to top 30, but these hopes were vanished because of terrible pairings we had in last rounds. It was my second time being a captain and coach in the chess Olympiad. First time I was coach of Latvian ladies in Istanbul in 2014. I cannot say that this job is killing me, in other hand I like to work with professionals. Seeing happy faces is fine, but fighting for places in the middle of the pack is little bit boring. It was actually much more interesting to help girls not the boys. They follow your instructions blindly and without any doubt. Boys still have their own opinion and are much more difficult to prepare for the game. I do not want to analyze other teams here, because as I mentioned I did not follow and actually did not have time to follow the whole Olympiad. One thing I am still certain. The Russian team failed again and this is nothing to do with chess. They still have the soviet mentality how to run sport and I think this attitude is not good any more. I am for strict discipline and order, but somehow it did not work for Russians. Chinese have the same system more or less, but they were successful. Russian chess leaders need to rethink their attitude. Probably the new FIDE president is doing the job. Next time I try to pick up some interesting chess moments form the Olympiad.


Jaan Ehlvest

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Seniors at large

Chess has some benefits and among others it is believed that people who play chess have less risk to Alzheimer’s disease. We cannot prevent aging however and the eternal life is not yet discovered. Older people still continue to play chess. I had the opportunity to represent the US senior team in Dresden in July where the World Senior team Championship took place. Our team which took part on the 50 plus senior group consisted mostly from grandmasters from former Soviet Union.

Only true American in our team was Joel Benjamin. We were the big favorites and finally we won. There was one mishap when we lost in round four to the strong English team. I supposed to have a lot of experience in team championships. First I got a bonus in 1988 when I was a member of the Soviet team in the Thessaloniki Olympiad. I was the second reserve player together with Artur Yussupov and we did not influence our team’s success in any way. Our leaders Kasparov and Karpov showed excellent performance and there was never any doubt that the Soviet team is not winning the Olympiad.

In 1983 I was a member of students team of Soviet Union and we won the World under 26 team Championship in Chicago. I was again reserve player.

Question was, that back then the winning or losing was matter of life and death. Moscow was on your back and any failure was punished by the authorities. During the Chicago event our team won the competition without any big effort. Things however were not going so smoothly few years back. Like for the players who were involved during the World Student’s team Championship in Mexico city in 1978 where Soviet team got the second place. Several players got punished for different reasons. Most ironic was that one reserve player was accused of going to movies instead of staying in the playing hall during the crucial match. All this came to my mind when analyzing our match against England. Especially it was England who took the gold from SU in 1978.

It is true that the pairings might became light surprise as we did not expect to meet so early in the tournament. However all players expect me left to the city. Prior that in our team meeting it was decided that our reserve player Kudrin is going to play. At this moment we did not know that our opponent might be England. I did not go to the city because I was playing on the blitz tournament finishing third which was a big upset for me. Still nobody was worried about the match.

Next day our reserved player Kudrin barely played more than five minutes. Draw with black pieces is usually a good result, but it was not a good sign. Somehow Benjamin had some difficulties to put himself together and lost without a fight to Emms. Shabalov had his usual up and down game against Speelman which finally ended peacefully.  I knew that I need to keep the pressure as long as possible and I managed to do it, but failed to convert my advantage.

It was only round four and nobody in our team took this defeat from England as the end of the World. We managed defeat other teams convincingly and in the final round the strong German team came to our help and stopped the mighty English team. On the closing ceremony their representative promised to improve their team for next year at least with John Nunn, but yes Nigel Short may play as well. The winning US team may return next year as well. As it appeared the first place was important for us, because we did a big favor to people who helped our team to participate in Dresden. Seniors at large is not for everybody and it was important that our team was successful and may have a chance to find sponsors for next year as well. In case of second place our maximum sentence for failure would not be as harsh as it was back in 1978 for Soviet boys who were second behind England and some of them got serious disqualifications. Now we have a chance to defend our title next year, in case of second place we most likely could not have second chance for the title.

When I could not convert my advantage against Plasket I had my moments in the next game.


The tournament took place in nice hall and the German organization was excellent. Only thing which haunted me was the players. Children’s tournament or even Olympiad makes you feel optimistic about the future. Here where a lot of seniors gathered together it does not look very optimistic. During the opening ceremony Sveshnikov took a floor and we remembered Alexander Vasjukov who recently passed away. We all do, but definitely this was the tournament of age group where you do not want to belong. Still it was interesting to meet some old comrades like Yuri Balashov and others. All players seemed happy to enjoy chess and at least they do not have Alzheimer.

Final results


Jaan Ehlvest

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Tips for beginners by Jaan Ehlvest

1.     Tip number one.

Today everybody uses computer to study chess. Quickly browsing through databases to look a certain game and with help of a computer programs to evaluate the best move.  It is well known fact in psychology that to improve memorize certain subject it is best if you write it down by hand. This is why I always ask my students to use in online lessons the real chess board instead of GUI. Nobody can become an auto mechanic only looking the computer screen, they need to touch the real parts, clean them and feel them. Same in chess, kinetic memory works through your fingers.

2.     Tip number two.

We may look at chess as something which exists without our existence and is kind of lifeless form of nature. It however obeys all laws of nature. It becomes alive when we are concerned. People make chess alive. Computers do not.  Today we see a lot of promising youngsters who try to memorize the chess game.  It is impossible; there are too many different positions to remember for a human.  The main difference between mathematics and chess is actually the fact that in mathematics theoretically you may remember all the courses, but not in chess. To understand chess you need to have a human coach.  The trick is that the best team available is a human GM and a computer. This team can easily overpower the computer without human assistance.   Despite the fact that computer alone is stronger than human, human can still add some value to the game. In recent news it may look like that this is not a true statement, because both Nakamura and Naroditsky lost their matches. For me actually it shows that they are both playing like computers themselves and could not add human factor to their games. And their computer help was handicapped to compare the opponent.

3.     Tip number three.

What we mean when talking about chess understanding? Can we categorize it? I would recommend the following.  In finance there is a three level of understanding of underlying security or a stock. First level is when you know only the definition of the instrument.  Like for a bond for example. Second level is when you know how correctly to price it. Third level is when you know how to trade it. In chess similar categorization is possible. In some position you know when its winning and when its loosing. Second level is when you can show how to win this position and use it in practice. Third level is you can explain it to others. This is very important because in chess we do not demand that a coach must have higher rating than his student, but he must have the ability to explain certain positions to his students. It is not easy, once when I explained to group of young students how to win these endgame positions (rook and a pawn against a bishop)and after few days I asked them to show me how it works they could not do it. This the third level is difficult one for younger players, but is a must for the coaches. It is difficult for the student evaluate his coach. But it makes all the difference the good and the bad coach in chess. My advice is to try yourself to reach always the third level as well. You can lecture yourself if there is no friend available. This gives you good practice and may be you are not the next World Champion, but instead you may become a good coach. Do you know what is the difference of these positions.  In the position number one the pawn is on a2. In the position number two the pawn is on a4 and finally in the position number three the pawn is on a5.

First level, you have an idea which position is winning and which is not. Two first positions are winning for White, but the third one is a draw. Second level, you know why the third position is a draw and you know how the winning plan works in these positions. Third level, you can win the winning position and explain it to others. My categorization is just example how it might work.  Again the coach needs to know when and how to teach the levels. It does not make a sense to teach a toddler the grammar or to a chess novice how to get advantage in Petroff defense for example. He just needs to know the first level of opening principles.

4.     Tip number four.

To become good in chess you still need to study some opening lines, not only the lines you like, but some side lines which may look boring. How to enhance you memory and make the study more fun. Try to listen certain music during the studies. Different music in different openings keeps you focused. Using some memory technic is allowed while studying chess. In no circumstances listen the music during the game. Tip number four. Try to keep certain routine during the game and even during the competition. Do not use bad habits, some bad habits which are used during the game are difficult to quit.  Figure out what kind of drinks are good for you, your parents definitely know already if some ingredients are not good for you.  Some players drink coffee or energy drinks during the game, but this might not to be good for you.  Former World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik demanded his opponents to smoke during their training games, so during his match against Mikhail Tal who was heavy smoker he is ready for it. Today players are not allowed to smoke in playing hall. In case you start smoking yourself during the competitions then very soon you can not play chess without help of a cigarette.  Using any kind of listening device for music during the game is also out. You can use music  to enhance  your training process, but it is not good during the actual chess game. If you are looking for fun go somewhere else.

5.     Tip number five.

I mentioned already several times the importance of a good coach. Nowadays GM’s charge a lot for one hour lesson. Many talented students can not afford these rates. Instead they rely on heavy computer based training. Which can first bring good results as any time consuming training can do. However when the player is reaching higher rating category more understanding of the game is needed. The coach can not give you assistance every minute of the training, but what good coach can do, he can guide you in the right direction. You also need to go over you games with somebody who is stronger than you.  My advice or tip for training is to find  a coach who can lead you let say twice a month.  He goes over your games and then he gives you hourly training plan for the next 10 to 20 hours. After that or after your next tournament he goes again over your games and gives again a new training plan for the  next 10 to 20 hours. In this case the student can reduce the cost significantly. has a lot of videos about nearly any subject. To pick up the right one is not simple for the student.  Coach however can recommend which video is suitable and he also can figure out which video is good and which one is useless. Other way to reduce the cost is to team up with other students like you and hire online group lesson.

Bonus tip

To master chess you need long hours to study. Paradox however is that if you study is too easy, like you are looking tens of games on your computer screen in short period of time, you do not gain much. You are forgetting these games very soon. Psychologist are pointing out that more difficult the task is and  harder you have to work to get the right answer, the more the answer is sealed in memory. Precisely those things that seem to signal we’re learning well — easy performance on drills, fluency during a lesson, even the subjective feeling that we know something — are misleading when it comes to predicting whether we will remember it in the future. There is some important and not so important things to remember in chess. Some of them are very important like simple mating patterns which are retrieved from your memory automatically in the right moment.  Most of the material should be stored in our chess memory not automatically but with the meaning.  Question why? must be asked more frequently.  You need to be an explorer into chess world not memorization machine.

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Games from the Berlin World rapid and blitz Championship

To comment rapid games on chess media is not very common and I like to fulfill this cap. Years ago there was the “Informator” a regular edition published in former Yugoslavia. Game collections contributed almost all of the top players. The fee for a single commented game depended on your status or rating. Today we have computers and the editors are not eager to pay for a commented games any more. Still someone needs to learn from his mistakes, even better from other players mistakes. Computer analyzes however do not tell you why these mistakes were made. I always tell to my students look only the games which are well commented by the actual participants. Nowadays it is harder and harder to find these games. The reason – I already mentioned. Here I try to represent some of my games from Berlin and I hope that these games are good enough to teach not only me, but the reader as well.

In round one I lost from promising position against a strong player from Ukraine.

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Rapid Chess

Rapid events are common in Baltic states. The idea of rapid chess was introduced into practice years ago in Soviet Estonia. Later European and World Championships were held at the end of 1980-s.

The FIDE rapid and blitz Championships were organized few times in recent years.  There is official rating for both formats. Rapid games  is used in tiebreaks to determine the World Champion.  Usually the players who are dominating the field with normal time control are favorites also in blitz and rapid formats. Still there is always some talented players who are good in rapid format.

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Handicap tournament in Pyhajarve

In Pyhajarve at the last weekend of November was held the strongest handicap tournament ever. It was 15th in the row thanks to former Estonian prime minister Mr. Tiit Vahi. The venue was Pyhajarv Spa and I was the lucky winner. I participated years ago and was not successfull. Now there were not real ELO favorite and the winner was decided in the last day. Total with 34 players it was not easy to maintain the same playing strenght throughout the tournament. First day seven rounds were played, but most difficult was the next day with 20 rounds. The handicap system was following. Total time control was 20 minutes and players were in five groups. First group all grandmasters had against weakest group players only two minutes without an increment. As one of the weakest players put it, we are here to spoil someones’s tournament. Among participants were all strong Estonian players, cultures figures and business men alike. Visiting players included minister of economy Dana Rieznice from Latvia and now banker in Lviv, former famous number one player from Iceland Margeir Petursson. The tournament atmosphere was friendly and despite some last second fight on board all games finished with mutual agreement. If you check the games on live I remind you again that there were not increment, this is why so many mistakes were made at the end of the game. All results you may find on Yours truly was the lucky winner. I had some luck already in the first round. In the diagram position my opponent could win with 1…Rh2 and next move is Nf3 winning. Instead he took his rook and captured my pawn on a2 and after d7 he resigned.

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Vitaly Ceshkovsky memorial in Sochi or how I checked the venue for Magnus Carlsen

Vitaly Ceshkovsky was many times USSR champion and also a chess coach. His students were Kramnik and Macieja among others. The tournament was held in Loo village, 15 miles from Sochi. Sochi as we know is the venue for upcoming Anand Carlsen match. We were accommodated on Aqualoo spa complex which had all modern facilities. The main attraction the Black sea just under our nose. The tournament playing conditions were not good. Too noisy and because the weather was constantly changing, one day too hot other day too cold. Still nobody was complaining. After all this was truly holiday tournament. Only one bright star was among participants Baadur Jobava. He took the first place with easy. Older generation including me were too peacefull. I just got angry when suddenly in round 6 I made terrible mistake in the opening against Russian IM Gorbatov and lost. After that I won my last three games and shared 2-6 place. Jobava had 7,5 out of 9 and second to six place finishers got 6,5 points. There was live transmission of the games, but it had not the usual GUI, but they just forwarded the moves in pgn format. The overall infrastructure looks good around Sochi after Olympic Games. Only the weather is not going to be nice in November, when the World Ch Match takes place. In our tournament over 100 players took part and more then 30 grandmasters. Good place for norms, but mainly former Soviet Union players took part. Information abut the tournament was missing before it started and also after. As usual the marketing is not the best in Russia. Finally I like to show how I play when I am angry after loosing a game. In this game only one move was not the first choise of Houdini.

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New trends in chess according to Dubai World rapid and blitz championship. First part.

Magnus Carlsen won both championships. He was lucky, but the strongest players have usually more luck anyway. This tournament was unique, because in short time of period it provided so many games between top players. In circumstances where players could not properly prepare against their opponents. They just needed to show their general pre-tournament preparation. This gives wonderful material to analyze. First I like to review the rapid tournament. The time control was 15 minutes for the game plus 10 second increment per move. Magnus told in his interview that it was important to play quickly and make less blunders. It is of course general advice and does not help the player much. He wants to know first what opening lines to play. I assume that many top grandmasters have different opening repertoire for different time control.  This is definitely true about Alexander Morozevich who showed some lines he never used before. Still I was surprised that many players were stick with their usual game.  Magnus did what he does best, classical approach nothing extraordinary. Opening choices classical symmetrical 1…e5 after 1.e4 only. I remember once he played in team competitinon 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Nf6 3.e5 Nh5, but these days are over. Still we saw this line once in Dubai in blitz tournament played by GM Vakhidov against Vallejo Pons without success. Magnus played more actively with white pieces.

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Ilmar Raud Memorial

The 48th edition of the Ilmar Raud Memorial was held from 30th June to 6th July 2014 at the Viljandi Sports Center in Viljandi, a town in southern Estonia.

The event was played in memorial of Ilmar Raud, member of the Estonian team that scored bronze at the Chess Olympiad in Buenos Aires.

GM Aleksei Aleksandrov from Belarus emerged a clear winner with 7,5/9 points, leaving the nearest contenders a full point behind. Yours truly shared second place. Final results here.

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