AMERICANS GO FOR THE GOLD – PLEASE HELP!
by Bill Goichberg, USCF President
The 37th World Chess Olympiad will be held May 20-June 4 in Turin, Italy, and the United States may field its strongest team ever! At the previous Olympiad (Calvia 2004), our team narrowly missed a medal, finishing fourth, and we could be much better this year. In 2004 we had only one player with a FIDE rating over 2620; this year three Americans with FIDE ratings of at least 2650 have qualified. Among those eligible are the following top GMs:
Hikaru Nakamura: The world’s highest rated player age 18 or below as of 4/1/06, winner of the 2005 US Championship and many other strong tournaments, probably America’s most serious threat to win the World Championship since Fischer. Not on the team in 2004; would be a spectacular addition!
Gata Kamsky: Once rated 2790 by USCF, and strong enough to qualify to play a match against Karpov for the FIDE World Championship in 1996. He was then inactive for eight years, and upon his return in 2004 did not seem the same player, as his rating dropped to a low of 2684 in January 2005. Since then, however, his old strength has returned; he has gained rating points in almost every tournament, and is now up to 2737 USCF after tying for first in Group B at the US Championship. Not on the team in 2004; could be another sensational pickup!
Alex Onischuk: Recently won the 2006 US Championship, undefeated, with a USCF performance rating over 2800! In 2004 he played first board for our Olympiad team and had a FIDE 2700 performance, against super tough opposition.
Ildar Ibragimov: One good result after another, and he has gained 125 USCF rating points in the past two years to move his USCF rating solidly over 2700, and his FIDE up to 2637. Silver medal winner with 4.5 out of 6 at the 2005 World Team, recently tied for first in the Western States Open and National Chess Congress, tied for second behind Nakamura in the North American Open, tied for second behind Onischuk in Group A, US Championship. Not on the team in 2004 and another great addition!
Gregory Kaidanov: Long one of the top rated players in the US, he won the silver medal for Board 4 at the 2004 Olympiad with a score of 8-2, a FIDE performance rating of 2760!
USCF is also sending a team to the Women’s Olympiad, where we won the silver medal in 2004. Unfortunately, Susan Polgar, who had a great result on first board last time, is not playing, but our other top players are young and improving and we still expect to do well. Those eligible include US Women’s Champion Anna Zatonskih, Irina Krush, and Rusudan Goletiani.
Unfortunately, it is expensive to send ten players and two captains overseas- about $60,000 to $70,000, depending on how much the players are paid. We appreciate the help of our official sponsor, the Kasparov Chess Foundation ($30,000) and our supporting sponsor, the Internet Chess Club ($5000), but without more donations, USCF will be over budget and the players cannot be paid what they deserve. It would be a shame to send less than our best team, or to provide our brightest stars with inadequate support, so I appeal to all members to please contribute whatever you can afford. Donations are tax deductible if made payable to the US Chess Trust; write “Olympiad” on your check and send to Olympiad Appeal.
It was not my decision not to play. It was the decision of the USCF. I have never even received an official invitation for the 2006 team and the Olympiad is just a little more than a month away. I have no idea who are the team members and who will be the captain. Will the players vote for the captain as in the past or will the sponsor / USCF pick the captain? A great captain can help the team win as demonstrated in the last Olympiad for the US Women’s Team.
I told the USCF at a meeting during the 2005 US Open that I am not going to participate in any Olympiad Team that is not serious about winning. We should take pride in representing our country. It should not be treated as a free and fun vacation to Italy. The only reason why we came home with a whole bunch of medals (1 team Silver, 1 individual Silver and 2 individual Gold – First ever medals for the US Women’s Team) last time is because of the serious Women’s Olympiad Training Program that I created. The program was there to prepare the team 18 months in advance.
The Susan Polgar Foundation made an official offer to the USCF in the beginning of 2005 for an amount between $40,000 – $60,000 to sponsor the 2006 US Women’s Olympiad Training Program and Team. That means that the USCF would not have to spend a single penny for the 2006 US Women’s Team. The offer was immediately rejected by the former USCF President Beatriz Marinello in favor of the $30,000 sponsorship package by the KCF (for both Men’s and Women’s Team and not just for the Women) with absolutely no training program! No explanation was given for this incredible decision.
In addition, the USCF also signed an illegal contract with the sponsor under the direction of the previous Executive Board without informing members of the 2004 team. We were lied to by a few members of the last Executive Board and by the Sponsor when the matter was confronted.
I asked the USCF to reconsider their decisions because I will not be involved in any illegal matter. I was basically told that if I don’t like it then go ahead and sue the federation and the sponsor. Unfortunately, there is not much the current board can do to reverse what was done. That means that I will not be able to play for the US until 2012 at the earliest. No, I will not sue the federation or the sponsor. It will only hurt US Chess further. Once again, this is dirty politics at its worst.