Chess Olympiad 2014 - Tromso, Norway
After a 24-year absence from Chess Olympiad play, The Bahamas put on its best performance ever at the 41st edition, held in Tromso, Norway between August 1 and 15.
Starting out ranked 158th out of 174 countries, Team Bahamas was able to leapfrog over 40 nations to finish in 118th place overall, ahead of the perennial Caribbean chess power houses of Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and Suriname. In the region, only Jamaica scored more match points by the end of the 11-round competition.
The amazing feat was accomplished by the five-member team of Valentine Cox, Elton Joseph, Kendrick Knowles, Cecil Moncur, and Chappell Whyms, all of whom set out to prove that chess in the Bahamas is alive and well. Of the five, only Cox had extensive international tournament experience, having represented The Bahamas at two Chess Olympiads -- 1986 in Thessaloniki, Greece and 1988 in Dubai.
The remaining players had gained their knowledge of the game primarily through local play, which alerted Bahamas Chess Federation (BCF) officials to the need for intensive training to prepare the team for this important team event that brought together more than 1,500 of the best players in the world. The BCF set out to hire a top chess coach for this purpose and contracted Serbian grandmaster Predrag Trajkovic to devote two months of his time to training the players online prior to the tournament and to serve as team captain during the two-week event, developing strategies against opponents and providing post-analysis of the players' games.
The planning paid off handsomely. The team finished the tournament with four wins-- double its previous high achieved in 1986, 1988, and 1990--and a scoring percentage of 44%--the highest Olympiad result ever for the country.
Andre White, president of the Bahamas Chess Federation, applauded the performance. “The players really bought into the training,” he explained. “It took a few rounds for them to settle in and believe in themselves, but once they realized that the stage was not too big for them, the results began to come.”
The squad’s breakthrough came in round four with a draw against Fiji, which was followed two rounds later with a win against Palau. With their confidence high, the team then went on a three-game winning streak starting in round eight against the much higher rated teams of Tanzania, San Marino, and Mauritania. A draw in the final round against an extremely talented Nicaragua team proved that The Bahamas had indeed arrived.
White explained, “We played against proven chess masters and were able to hold our own. The guys are incredibly motivated now to continue their training and to represent the country at upcoming international tournaments. They saw the results of preparation, and the efforts that we put into participating in this Olympiad were well worth it.”
Mr. White thanked Atlantis Paradise Island, NUA Insurance Brokers and Agents, and the MedNet Group of Companies for their financial assistance to the team. “Without our sponsors, this incredible journey would not have been possible,” he said.
To cap off the team’s success, three individual performances are expected to be recognized by the World Chess Federation (FIDE). Elton Joseph, Kendrick Knowles, and Cecil Moncur all fulfilled the requirements to be awarded the prestigious Candidate Master (CM) title, signifying their rapidly-developing talent. Once approved, the title is for life.
The 42nd Chess Olympiad is scheduled to be held in 2016 in Baku, Azerbaijan, and the BCF is already making preparations for a team to attend. Scheduled training will continue, local playing opportunities will be expanded, and an international tournament hosted by The Bahamas is being discussed for 2015.
Elton Joseph's inspiring video perspective on the Olympiad:
The Tribune - August 23, 2014:
Olympiad Team Interviews with Love97 and ZNS TV - August 27, 2014:
Scenes from Tromso, Norway: