Rupert Jones’ Diary
Rupert Jones will be representing Papua New Guinea in the upcoming Olympiad and has kindly agreed to write a running blog. Here is a taster of what’s to come…
Dave Shapland and Matty Webb recently asked me if I would consider doing a running blog about the forthcoming Olympiad.
Of course I said yes and as a warm up I thought I would try and scribble something down pre Olympiad.
I have always considered myself very fortunate to have played in one Olympiad. It is almost unbelievable to now find myself involved in a 12th Olympiad of which eight have been as a player. They are quite simply the most life affirming things I have ever been too and always create a real buzz and sense of anticipation.
My fascination started in 1975, one of the first chess books was about the 1974 Nice Olympiad. I marvelled at all those countries that participated and how they played in seeded preliminary groups and then final groups. There was the mighty Soviet Union at the top with its star studded team of Karpov, Korchnoi, Spassky, Petrosian, Tal and Kuzmin. They played 88 individual games and lost none.
England were also there with amazingly Wales (a team not a lot different to their 2011 European Champs team) also in the top section. But it wasn’t just the elite that transfixed me. I was drawn to the bottom section E and especially those at the very bottom such as the Bahamas and the British Virgin Islands. I noticed Bill Hook, his score of 10/17 when the whole team scored 11.5/68!. He became a hero of mine. He even beat GM Liberzon (& played one Robert James Fischer in Siegen 1970). Sadly though there was no Fischer, now well into his long retirement from the game. It was the last Olympiad to have preliminary rounds; you could play 22 matches and there were adjournments. Of course it couldn’t stay like that and by 1976 it was one giant 14 round swiss.
If you had then told me that in 10 years time I would play in an Olympiad then I would have laughed you out of the room. But sometimes dreams do come true… and fast forward 10 years… I was now in my first year of teaching in Botswana, at Marang Junior Secondary in Gaborone. I was running a school chess club and yes there were some other chess events to play in at weekends. I entered these events and did well. In fact I won a tournament and was regularly in the top three and by August 1986 was ranked first in the country.
There was an Olympiad coming up and it was in Dubai. There was also to be an election with Lincoln Lucerna challenging Campomanes and a very high profile election campaign. We even had Jan Timman visit Botswana in September where he did a simul at my school. However Botswana chess had no money, had paid no FIDE subs and had a somewhat interesting Secretary who kept things to himself. Though I was sounded out about my interest it seemed that I wasn’t going to go. Around 11th Nov the team left with just 4 players yet we were meant to be six. Our President then was a Filipino called Eddie Basa and Campomane’s mothers name was also Basa. He was convinced Eddie was a relative and so they were very friendly. A phone call was received to ask why he wasn’t there especially as Campomanes had persuaded the Dubai organisers to provide free airtickets (even then I wasn’t naïve I knew the free tickets were for those who were voting the correct way) for all developing countries which included Botswana. There were two tickets still waiting to be used. So Eddie asked me if I wanted to go; my headmaster was very helpful and gave me leave and I said YES.
So it was a week later that we set off on a KLM flight from Johannesburg to Nairobi where we transited 24 hours for a connecting Kenyan Airways flight to Dubai. My Olympiad adventures had begun.
I arrived on the first rest day after round 5 and was told that I would be playing round 6 against Fiji. Dubai was just the most wonderful, intoxicating experience. I played all the remaining 9 games, won my first game against Fiji (Barden later included that first game against Singh in his Evening Standard column and AJ Dunnington put it in the Yorkshire Post) on the same day that English chess reached its zenith with a very exciting 2-2 draw against the Soviet Union; with four results. (it was the Olympiad England should have taken gold; a bad result against Spain cost them it for they tied the USSR and lost on tie break). I scored 50% and went back to Botswana buzzing. The free tickets fiasco saw our ‘interesting secretary’ quietly vanish and in December I was elected the new Botswana Chess Federation Secretary. I have been involved in chess administration and Olympiads ever since.
Don’t forget to enter your Fantasy Chess Olympiad team!!