Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Handicapping U.S. Women's Olympiad Team
From Chess Life Magazine, November 2008 - print edition. An article by FM Mike Klein takes a look at the U.S. Men's and Women's Olympiad Teams headed to Dresden later this month. Here is FM Klein's take on the Women's Team, with some of my thoughts interpersed. I couldn't help myself. We're going to get creamed, people. May as well face it. The current installment of American women will be a blend of veteran talent and less familiar faces. Top player IM Irina Krush, 24, is the likely number-one board. Her tremendous history at four olympiads (including the last three) has yielded a 69.1 percentage over 47 games (the most by any American woman on this year's team). Although this would be the first year she has played top board since 2002, it was there in Bled, Slovenia that she went undefeated, remarkable since she played 13 out of 14 rounds. She will arrive in Dresden with her highest-ever olympiad rating - 2470. Current U.S. Women's Champion WGM Anna Zatonskih, 30, played board one for the women's squad in 2006 but is once again outrated by Krush and may cede her the top board. The two women have a lot in common - both were born in the Ukraine and both have played in four past olympiads (Zatonskih's first two trips were under the Ukrainian flag). Additionally, the duo were part of the 2004 silver medal team, the only top-three finish in American history. Led by GM Susan Polgar, that team's average FIDE rating was 2490, the highest-ever for the Americans, whereas this year's team is 2375, it's lowest since 2000. [In other words, darlings, the American women don't stand a chance]. Occupying board three will be fellow WGM Rusudan Goletiani, 28, three-time World Yough chess champion and a native of the republic of Georgia. This will be her second olympiad. Goletiani is rated 2359. In 2006 she scored six wins, five draws and a single loss, for a 70.8 percent score, the best of any American competing in Dresden. [Goletiani has not played in many events since 2006]. Olympiad newcomers WGM Katerina Rohonyan, 24, and WFM Tatev Abrahamyan, 20, will round out the team. Rohonyan is the third Ukrainian-American on the women's team and Abrahamyan, like [GM Varuahan] Akobian, got the selection based partly on the age bonus. She gets 30 bonus ratin points for being 20 years old, which narrowly eded her past both WGM Camila Baginskaite [a seasoned veteran in prior years in U.S. Women's Championships and on prior olympiad teams] and WIM Batchimeg Tuvshintugs. [Rohonyan is a relatively new immigrant to the U.S., she was going to college here on a chess scholarship, but I believe she recently graduated and is now working on a master's degree; Abrahamyan won the 2008 Goddesschess "Fighting Chess" Award at the 2008 U.S. Women's Chess Championships for wining 6 games and losing none, chosen by GM Susan Polgar]. The women's team will be an underdog to medal [you don't say] but will be aided by the experienced support staff of Captain Michael Khodarkovsky [oh my goddess, NOT HIM! - he's the guy who thinks a woman can't play chess decently if she is menstruating] and Coach GM Gregory Kaidanov. Gregory will not play after a string of six consecutive olympiads he competed in from 1996-2006 [is this USCF's way of giving Kaidanov a "pay-off"? - GM Kaidanov would be better off staying state-side and giving lessons!] (over which time he chalked up one team silver, two team bronzes, and one individual silver for going +6=4-0 on board four in Calvia, Spain in 2004).