Pursuits: Chess

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EVENTS IN the last couple of days have cast further doubt upon the 33rd Chess Olympiad, which is due to open in Elista, the capital of the Russian autonomous region of Kalmykia, tomorrow week.

The Olympiad was already under a cloud, following the brutal murder on 7 June of Larisa Yudina, a prominent opposition journalist and fierce critic of Kalmykia's president, Kirsan Ilymzhinov, who is also president of Fide (Federation Internationale des Echecs - the sport's governing body) and the force behind bringing the Olympiad and other important chess events to Elista. Together with other incidents this led to an appeal from the Glasnost Defence Foundation, a highly reputable Russian Human Rights organisation, for a boycott.

Since I've been one of those resisting this plea, I feel that I should briefly state my position. This is that Olympiads have been held in many extremely dubious places in the past, notably in Argentina in 1978 at the height of that country's brutal military dictatorship. We didn't boycott that event, and I believe that one needs a proven and quite exceptionally good reason to refuse to represent one's country now. However, I certainly respect those who don't wish to go.

A report from a Yugoslav source on Tuesday has suggested that, in any case, there may be little to boycott. It was always known that the schedule was tight, but it is now alleged that the projected venue, the Chess Palace, will be in no way ready for the event.

It was also stated that only 40-50 per cent of the accommodation will be ready for the competitors. A further blow was struck on Wednesday with a report from the news agency Agence France Presse that the Russian Central Bank decided on 8 September to suspend central bank operations and state subsidies to Kalmykia.

David Sedgwick, the international director of the British Chess Federation, said: "I was not surprised to hear about the alleged problems regarding the playing hall, but I had previously been led to believe that there would be no difficulties with the accommodation. In the light of these latest reports I am urgently seeking clarification from senior Fide officials and I shall also be seeking additional information from the Foreign Office."

We aren't due to leave until a week today, but it looks like it will be a fairly frantic week.

Which just leaves me room for one of Napoleon's (alleged) cavalry adventures, long before his retreat from Moscow:

The moves themselves are of only secondary interest. However, I should at least point out that 8...Bf5! instead of 8...Nh6 would have been winning for Black; and that 10...Kd6 was suicidal.

White: Napoleon Bonaparte

Black: Madame de Remusat

Malmaison Castle 1804

Philidor's Defence


1 Nc3 e5

2 Nf3 d6

3 e4 f5

4 h3 fxe4

5 Nxe4 Nc6

6 Nfg5? d5

7 Qh5+ g6

8 Qf3 Nh6?

9 Nf6+ Ke7

10 Nxd5+ Kd6

11 Ne4+ Kxd5

12 Bc4+! Kxc4

13 Qb3+ Kd4

14 Qd3 Mate