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With apologies to Johnny Cash. From the Oct. 27 Chess Today:

"What attracts attention here, is Vasilyev's interview with Boris Postovsky. This chess coach has won everything with Russia in the past, but now he lives in the United States and is working with the US team. According to Postovsky, the US chess officials intended to break [their own] very strict rules for the team's lineup - in order to include on the team the young star, Hikaru Nakamura, who performed impressively in Tripoli earlier this year. But Boris Gulko threatened that the officials would be forced to defend such a decision legally in court. So the idea was rejected."

[Quoted from the original interview published in Sport Express on Oct. 27.]

The problem isn't Gulko; he deserves to have his federation obey its own rules. The problem is that the rules emphasize USCF ratings for international competition, and qualification is based on ratings so old that upcoming players are punished and recent form isn't considered. It's not fair to single out Gulko. But rules that allow any player who has barely played in the past year are ridiculous.

Depending on USCF games or rating is silly because a strong American player must pursue opportunities in Europe. They should be encouraged to play in US events, so counting USCF games for the activity minimum seems reasonable. But FIDE rating should trump when it comes to qualifying for an international event.

Anyone want to bet against Nakamura playing board one for the USA in Turin, 2006? When was the last time someone played their first Olympiad on board one, for any country? I think Kamsky did this for the US at Manila, 1992, his only Olympiad. That adds to the trivia quest: only Olympiad appearance on board one?


How about Vishy Anand ?

I *almost* wrote Paul Keres, USSR, 1950. But then I remembered that he was first board for Estonia long before that...


Anand played in various Olympiads at a very young age. His first was in 1984 and he wasn't on first board; he was on fourth. I believe Thipsay played board one. With just a 2420 rating Anand was board one for India in 1986, although he probably wouldn't have been if Thipsay had played.

The problem is that the USCF is probably the only national federation to trump its own rating above FIDE's. This is the reason for the dearth of FIDE ratings in the USA, and the relative difficulty in obtaining one.

USCF has its own scandals like FIDE. I just dont understand their policies. I think, USCF does not actively promote Chess here in US like other national Federations such as Turkish, and Indian.

Here are the specific USCF requirements for various international events:


It is to be noted that for the Olympiad the invitations are based on the average of 3 ratings: peak USCF rating for the last 24 months, FIDE rating at time of invitation, USCF rating at time of invitation.

Since USCF ratings tend at present to be somewhat higher than FIDE ratings for those above 2200, this has the net effect of rewarding those who've played USCF ratings.


As for the rising junior issue, invitations are usually issued around 6 months before the event. That doesn't seem an unreasonble lead time for players above 2500.

Nakamura's FIDE rating went from 2580 at the time of invitation to 2620 on the October list. Meanwhile his USCF rating went from 2632 to 2676.

Gulko's FIDE rating is 2600 and his USCF rating is over 2700, so you can see why the issue occurred.


And Gulko was NOT inactive for the year prior to the Olympiad.

In November 2003, he played in Curacao, finishing tied with Shabalov and Hubner with 6.5 and winning the event on tie-breaks.


In April 2004, he played in Aeroflot A, finishing with 5, the same score as Kaidanov and Ehlvest.


And Gulko was invited to the World Championship in Libya, but declined as did most US players, Nakamura being the only exception.


Quickly rising juniors are always going to be a problem. The only real way to allow for last minute adjustments is to allow for a wild-card spot to be filled at the very last minute. And yet will pro players at this level accept a last minute invitation?

There was one amazing moment in time when Benko gave up his Candidates Matches invitation to allow Bobby Fischer top lay in the world championship sequence.

But few people would rank a missed Olympiad chance with a missed candidates cycle.

Perhaps more significantly, since this problem almost always arises with juniors, I think the usual assumption is that they'll have plenty of other Olympiad opportunities in the future.

So it all comes down to whether it is important enough for the prestige of the host country to be able to make a last minute switch? If so, then a wildcard provision probably needs to be instituted--but then you run the risk of otp players being too busy, and hurting the team instead of helping it.


By the way, when we look at other juniors from other countries, we see that most of them don't need a wildcard spot,

Radjabov has been #1 in his country for awhile, and his rating actually wennt down slightly from April until October.

Magnus Carlsen is #2 in his country, but I believe he also qualified on a regular basis when invitations were given.

Bacrot is #1 in France, and has been for awhile.

Luke McShane has also been established at #3 for England for awhile.

Naiditsch, #4 in Germany, didn't play in Calvia, but I believe he would have qualified under standard procedures.

In the Ukraine, a country with almost 50 grandmasters, Ponomariov is #1. Karjakin, who is #13 there, is the only one I know of who received a special invitation, so you could make the argument there, but as you'll note most of the juniors qualify on their own merits.

Nakamura is an exceptional player, and has had an exceptional year. He also played in the Libyan event when all other US players declined their invitations. He is currently #3 for the US in FIDE ranking. But he wasn't when the invitations went out. The question of how to best handle that situation is not an easy one to answer.


I do not understand your comment. 'It is not fair to single out Gulko' From whose side?
In Russian language, we call such situation 'a damaged telephone' (Johnny Cash hardly knew that).
Thanks for citing us, but in this case you could also have referred to the original Vasilyev interview with Postovsky, I guess (?)
BTW. I have no opinion on how the US team should be completed. But the fourth place does not look really bad, perhaps! It is useful to have "our" Sasha Onischuk on the team now. :-)

Com'on Mig, if the Azmai affair isnt dirt what is?? Lets have the low down on it with the Mig perspective..!

Best, D

I didn't know the original source of the interview; someone sent me the paragraph from Chess Today. If you let me know the source and date I'll be happy to add it.

Gulko is just following the rules. Why should he voluntarily remove himself from the team? (Benko, I believe, was at least paid for giving up his interzonal spot to Fischer. Not that it wasn't a nice gesture.) Gulko didn't write the rules; he just serves as an example of how bad they are.

When was the last time someone played their first Olympiad on board one, for any country?

I believe Magnus Carlsen played for board one when he arrived.

and I do believe Gulko is to blame, applying his own selfish reasons on above what is obviously best for his nation in an olympic.


Interview is in Russian. I referred in CT only to the small part of it.

Mig, the original Postovsky interview was published in Sport Express on Oct. 27


Interesting observation about Gulko and his FIDE activity. We certainly can not complain about his activity, where according to the FIDE site he played 18 games in April, 2004.

However, Gulko only played seven USCF games within the last 12 months (source: USCF MSA site). As we know, this is all that matters when it comes to Olympiad slots. Seven games is hardly enough feedback to significantly move a rating one way or the other (especially at 2700+).

When I interviewed Nakamura a few weeks ago (transcript coming out at ChessCafe in a few weeks), his father also pointed out the disadvantages of using the USCF rating instead of the FIDE rating. In Nakamura's case, he was winning games over in Europe, raising his FIDE rating, when instead, he could have stayed in the US, winning games over here, to raise his USCF rating. Nakamura was penalized in the US for playing strong opposition over seas.

When the interview comes out, you can see how Nakamura feels about this in his own words. He actually takes a very mature and philisophical approach.

The great thing about Nakamura is, I believe, that he doesn't get bogged down in these sorts of politics, and just wants to go out and focus on playing chess, winnign games, no matter where they are -- Spain, Foxwoods, wherever. I wouldn't be surprized if Nakamura really takes it to some of these "Olympiad" folks at the US Champs in a few weeks.



I agree that Gulko was just following the rules, and I think it IS important for professional chess players to be able to have some confidence in commitments made less than a year in advance.

But you suggest that the USCF selection rules are "bad" and you imply that they're worse than those of other countries.

Nakamura is a rapidly rising junior, and they're always difficult to account for. As I mentioned, a 6 month lead time for an Olympiad invitation seems perfectly valid to me--these folks do have to plan their playing schedules in advance.

As for the question of whether or not to count USCF ratings...that is NOT what caused Gulko to get the invitation. Even if only FIDE ratings were used, Gulko would still have been placed ahead of Nakamura when invitations went out.

Gulko's FIDE rating in April was 2600.


Nakamura's FIDE rating in April was 2580.


Nakamura did not go ahead of Gulko (2601 to 2600) until the July list, only 3 months before the Olympiad.

Are there really many countries that wait until July to invite 2550+ players until July for an October event?


In April 2004, using only FIDE ratings, Gulko was still 2600 to Nakamura's 2580.

In July 2004, Nakamura was 2601 and Gulko was 2600 (FIDE).

It's not until October that Nakamura jumps to 2620, largely because of the Libyan event, (an event that all other US players including Gulko chose not to play in once the Malta site was eliminated).

Both Gulko and Nakamura played most of their games internationally in the 12 months prior to the Olympiad. Nakamura was a rapidly rising junior whose results didn't show up until July (when he went ahead of Gulko by 1 point), when it was the April list that determined the invitations.

But whther it was USCF or FIDE results being used, 6 months before the event, Gulko was rated higher.

I can't think of anyone who would use the October list to choose players for the October Olympiad.

Are there many other countries that use the July list to invite 2550+ players for an October event?

I'm just having a hard time seeing how this means Nakamura was "punished" for playing overseas events. Or am I overlooking something?


Duif, Nah, I don't think you're overlooking anything. The rules are rules. Gulko got on the team fair and square.

I'll correct myself from my previous post. I just re-read the USCF Olympiad qualifying requirements. In my last post I was under the impression that FIDE ratings don't count, but actually they count approximately 1/3 of the weighted average. FIDE ratings still mean something when determining who gets that last spot, so Nakamura's European romp still helped a little with his formula result.

If Nakamura won those game in the US however, the results would have helped both his peak rating AND his current USCF rating. But hey, regarding a time cutoff, one's got to draw the line somewhere. Nakamura just got unlucky.

Let me also correct myself again from my previous post: Those seven games Gulko played were quick-rated. Gulko played 0 regular rated games from July, 2003 to the present. I know he was active internationally in that time, but that's over a half year of inactivity on his USCF rating. Gulko still qualifies fair and square, but this inactivity raised one of my eyebrows.


One more comment, then I'll shut up. In this day of modern technology, wouldn't it be nice to get events rated in close to real time? If there wasn't so much lag time in rating these events, this alone would help juniors.



I think you're very right that more immediate ratings results would be better for everyone.!

I'm still a bit confused on the Nakamura issue, though, but maybe that's just me...since Gulko was higher rated counting FIDE ratings alone at the time the invitations went out, and since he (Gulko) had played in two international events in that time, I'm still not seeing how Nakamura was "unlucky."

As far as I can see, he just hadn't brought his rating up quite high enough to qualify by the cut-off date.

You can argue that 6 months is too far in advance to issue invitations, but I suspect that's just a practical aspect of dealing with pro players who have other commitments to schedule.

If Nakamura had been rated 20 points higher than Gulko on the April FIDE lists and was only lower on the USCF list, then there would be a different argument. But that doesn't seem to be the case. Gulko was higher rated on BOTH the FIDE and USCF lists at the time invitations went out.

I think the USCF formula might lead to some inequities in some cases, but here it looks to me like the result would have been the same regardless of the formula.

But as I say, I may be confused about something. Was there anyone on the US team whose FIDE rating was lower than Nakamura's in April?

I'm just labeling Nakamura as unlucky because his jump in rating(s) (both FIDE and USCF) occured after the cutoff date. It's too bad, because quicker turnaround time with the rating results might have gotten Nakamura's "official" ratings above Gulko's, and hence got Nakamura on the team.

As what happens with many juniors, their increase in rating lags behind their increase in strength. Unfortunately, Nakamura seems to have suffered because of this.

We can only blame the system. On one hand, online servers rate your games instantly. One the other hand, there can be a lag of 2-3 months in the USCF before a played game affects your "supplement" rating. Go figure.


Hi Mig,

Getting back to your original question, the last time someone played their 1st Olympiad on board one - this year. 14 year old WIM Anna Muzychuk played bd 1 for Slovenia.

What do you mean by quicker turnaround in ratings? They are published by FIDE every quarter and are up to date at the time of publishing. Given the 6 month cut-off date by USCF, I am not sure how more real time ratings would have helped.
Was there any inaccuracy or lag in the April FIDE rating?


On a related note, I do agree that FIDE should be publishing them monthly. I am curious what the current rating for the top players would be if that was the case. Kasparov didn't do well lately and may be below 2800 after a long time. Kramnik too would be down marginally after the "draw" with Leko (would he still be #3 as Moro too didn't do well in the Olympiad). Leko would be up. Anand would have gained from the Olympiad performance (would he be higher than Kaspy?)

I think the upcoming Russian supertornament will be critical for both Kramnik and Kasparov's Jan rating. It will also determine their bargaining ability.


I think Kramnik would still be higher than Moro, but Topalov would be higher than them both, unless he has played some games I don't know of. As for Kasparov, yes, he lost 13.8 points in Cesme and should be down to 2799.


Thanks. What about the ratings changes for Leko, Anand, and Adams (they have all done well lately).


Adams lost 4 points in European Club Cup but gained 5.1 in Calviā according to http://www.chess-olympiad.com/

Anand gained 5.2 according to the same source.

As for Leko, he should have gained the same number of points in Brissago as Kramnik lost, but I'm not sure how many they were. There was a new rating list published after 4 games of the match, so both players had new ratings. If we assume that the July ratings are used for rating changes calculation on the whole match, but I'm not sure how it works, then I think Kramnik lost 5.6 points and Leko gained the same.

How about Kamsky board 1 '06 ?? Could happen.

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