Chess: Singapore tops pool in Online Olympiad on National Day – The Straits Times

Grandmaster Chess

SINGAPORE - National chess players celebrated the Republic's 55th birthday in style on Sunday (Aug 9), by topping their pool in the Division 3 round of games in the International Chess Federation (Fide) Online Olympiad 2020.

They were undefeated in all nine matchups as they finished first in Pool A, ahead of Ireland, Albania, Malaysia, Monaco, Syria, New Zealand, Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea.

Singapore's top player Kevin Goh hailed the efforts of the young players - nine from the 12-strong squad are under the age of 20 - and said their performances bode well for the future.

"I was very glad to see our young players step up," said 36-year-old Goh, who in April became Singapore's first chess grandmaster in 21 years.

"They showed a lot of maturity, from preparations for the Olympiad to the tournament itself, and were up against some very experienced players, but kept their nerve and showed composure," added the chess player, who is ranked 738th in the world.

Singapore, who are ranked 68th in the world going by Fide's average rating of top 10 players, now move into Division 2, where they will rub shoulders with the likes of Hungary (8th), Germany (11th) the Netherlands (12th) and England (13th). The games will take place from Aug 14-16.

To progress to the Top Division - and subsequently into the play-off rounds between the top 12 nations - teams have to finish in the top three of their respective pools.

Team captain Nisban Jasmin, who is one of three vice-presidents at the Singapore Chess Federation, said: "Although we don't have a huge hope of advancing to the Top Division, we hope to give all the teams in our pool a good fight, and we will battle for every point.

"In rapid games (the format for the Olympiad), anything can happen competing against stronger players will be a good learning experience too for our young players."

Added Goh: "(To advance) is not impossible, but everybody will have to play the tournament of our lives. Still, we might be underdogs, but we won't be there just to make up the numbers."

The Fide Online Olympiad is a unique online tournament that features 163 nations and over 1,500 players, and is the largest chess tournament this year.

It was organised after the 2020 edition of the biennial traditional Chess Olympiad - which dates back to 1924 - was postponed to next year owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

Said Fide president Arkady Dvorkovich: "Such (a traditional) gathering is not physically possible under the current circumstances (but) the Online Olympiad will serve the purpose of reminding us of these important concepts: the celebration of diversity, the exchange of ideas, the sportsmanship, and the mutual respect between people and cultures."

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Chess: Singapore tops pool in Online Olympiad on National Day - The Straits Times

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