Friday, December 4

Fpawn Featured By Agadmator

The legendary internet commentator Agadmator, whose YouTube channel attracts more than 875,000 subscribers, nominated your humble pawn for the Brilliancy Prize at the Online Olympiad for People with Disabilities. Watch the video above for the game against Adriano Albiani Barata of Brazil, complete with cogent analysis.

Other internet chess celebrities have likewise been tasked to determine the best game from the Olympiad. FIDE will announce the winner, who receives a special trophy sponsored by Gazprom, the largest natural gas company in Russia. 

Nominees: (click on the winner to view the games)

Looking Back at the Olympiad for Disabled

The first FIDE Online Olympiad for People with Disabilities proved a success with the participation of nearly 400 players on 60 teams representing 44 countries from 5 continents. No doubt many would have been unable to travel to an over the board Olympiad, even sans pandemic. The level playing field allowed unheralded outsiders to compete with veteran champions, and upsets naturally occurred. After seven rounds, squads from Russia, Ukraine, Poland, the Philippines, Germany, Croatia and Israel finished among the Top 10. Russia-1 took first, Ukraine-3 got second and Poland-1 recovered from an earlier upset to slip into third place.

Four leading teams were invited to battle for the medals in a knockout format. After an extensive fair play analysis resulted in one disqualification, the underrated Poland-3 selection moved up to claim the fourth spot in the semifinals, narrowly edging Philippines-1 on tiebreaks. Match play semifinals saw Russia-1 edge past Poland-3 while Poland-1 thumped Ukraine-3. In the two-day final match, Russia-1 claimed the early lead, but top seeded Poland-1 roared back to seize the gold medal. 

Final Standings:

  • GOLD = Poland-1
  • SILVER = Russia-1
  • BRONZE = Ukraine-3
  • FOURTH = Poland-3
  • 10 MP = Philippines-1, Poland-2, Germany, Russia-2, Croatia
  • 9 MP = Israel, Hungary, Venezuela, India-2, North Macedonia, Ukraine-2, United States of America, Chile, India-1
  • 8 MP = Cuba, Russia-3, Kyrgyzstan, Canada, Turkey-1, Brazil, Ukraine-1
  • Total of 58 teams completed all seven rounds

Team USA surprised the world and exceeded all expectations by sharing 10th place in the final standings. Seeded 39th out of 60 with an average FIDE rating of 1582, the Americans competed each day against the top half of the field, including three opponents seeded among the top 10 with lofty ratings over 2000. Nobody can forget the first round tie with the mighty Russians, the miraculous comeback versus Romania-2 or the stunning blowout of North Macedonia. The team shed the underdog label during the final round by confidently clinching a fifth upset on the strength of three crushing games, each decisive within 30 moves. 

  1. Tied 2-2 with #9 Russia-2
  2. Lost 0-4 to #3 Philippines-1
  3. Won 2.5-1.5 against #30 Romania-2
  4. Won 3.5-0.5 against #10 North Macedonia
  5. Lost 1-3 to #18 Chile
  6. Won 3-1 against #25 Argentina
  7. Won 3-1 against #24 Brazil 

The success arose from a full team effort. Playing board 4, Jessica Lauser was the most indispensable member since the regulations mandated the participation of one woman each round. Paired against underrated opponents in most rounds, she won twice and stayed true to her aggressive playing style.

Jessica Lauser vs Marija Arsova (1-0)
USA against North Macedonia

Pranav Shankar scored five wins on board 3, with his results mimicking the team outcomes. A fearless warrior, the 13 year old crossed swords daily, delivering a pair of checkmates in under 30 moves to conclude the tournament. Pranav also distinguished himself by defeating an opponent later forfeited for cheating.

Pranav Shankar vs Elias Moyses Sobrinho (1-0)
USA against Brazil

Board 2 Griffin McConnell persevered in spite of challenging foes and medical distress every day, finishing with four wins. The 16 year old became the team magician, twice winning hopeless positions many others would have resigned. Griffin showed his class against North Macedonia, calmly converting a complex middlegame.

Griffin McConnell vs Vladimir Trkaljanov (1-0)
USA against North Macedonia

Your reporter NM 
Michael Aigner manned the top board, scoring three wins and two draws versus the strongest disabled players around the world. While playing chess at six in the morning was brutal, the games proved enjoyable after all. Check out the positional squeeze from the last round against Brazil.

Michael Aigner vs Adriano Albiani Barata (1-0)
USA against Brazil

The critical role of captain NM Lior Lapid must not be understated. He served as chief strategist, openings coach and team psychologist. He directed daily meetings on Zoom to debrief the players and prepare for subsequent matches. Nightly emails confidently prognosticated the team's future triumphs against the odds.

USA Commentary Team
Captain Lior Lapid and alternate Oskar Zoffer 

Neither of the alternates Oskar Zoffer and Nguyen Tran saw action, but their youth (ages 11 and 8) guarantees playing time in the coming years. Oskar seized the unique opportunity to become team mascot, always projecting positive vibes to the combatants. Two words: enthusiasm wins!

Also check out the US Chess website: Team USA Shocks The World

Personal postscript: I was deeply honored by this opportunity to represent the United States and compete against the best disabled chess players in the world. The camaraderie, team spirit and infectious enthusiasm made the experience all the more memorable. Many thanks to US Chess, our captain and my teammates. 

The online format provided for a more inclusive tournament, eliminating concerns involving travel logistics. Frankly, the 36+ hour trip to Khanty-Mansiysk (Russia) would be impossible due to my power wheelchair and other serious daily medical limitations. I only hope FIDE sees fit to continue this online event even post pandemic, so people such as myself may participate.