Since many of you have asked about the issue of the importance of a captain in the Olympiad, this post will be dedicated to this topic.

1. A good captain MUST know his / her players. This includes personalities, habits, strengths & weaknesses in and out of chess, opening repertoire, how players react after wins / losses / draws, mental toughness, ability to handle pressure, ability to be team players, physical / mental / emotional conditions, etc.
2. A good captain MUST also know similar stuff about the opponents.

3. A good captain MUST be able to make tough or even unpopular decisions.

4. A good captain MUST be a good motivator. This is especially important after tough losses or before important matches.

5. A good captain MUST be able to keep harmony among team members.

6. A good captain MUST be able to earn the players’ total trust. To have complete open and honest communication is critical to the team’s success.

7. A good captain MUST lead by examples. If a captain is serious about his / her job and how high level of seriousness and professionalism, it will rub off on the players.

These are just some of the critical qualities that a good captain must possess. The captain’s role is also utterly critical during the game.

During the match, the captain and the players may NOT consult or discuss with each other about the moves. The players can ask the captain if he / she should take a draw if an offer has been made. This is also very critical. The players should NOT make decisions during the game without consulting the captain. This is a team competition.

Having the best team does not equal to winning the Gold medal or any medal. Just look at the Russian men’s team and Armenia. Armenia is in first place while the Russians are falling far behind.

It would be unfair to criticize GM Shulman or IM Donaldson. I am sure they are trying their best to do a very difficult job.

Answers to some of the questions:

– The captain should be available to the players during the entire match. Our 2004 captain was on his feet the entire time. The players SHOULD consult the captain when it comes to offering or accepting draws. Some players do not do it but they should if they are team players. You do not have to agree or follow the captain’s instructions but you should because the captain knows the team situation much more than any individual player.

– I do not know about other captains but our 2004 captain did not make any deal with any team. His philosophy was to try win every match and hold nothing back. Most captains are not so decisive or confident.

– Our captain was on the same page with our players most of the time and he is a very good match strategist. We won 2 key matches against China and Vietnam because of his strategies. It worked out perfectly. The match against Vietnam was the key for us to walk away with the team Silver and 3 additional individual medals.

– Yes, only the captain get the medal with the players and not coaches. The captain makes the final decision, not coaches. Coaches are there to assist the captain and players. They have no say in the team situation. Unfortunately, some coaches do overstep their bounderies.

– The captain does not have to be a GM. Our captain in 2004 was an FM but he was one of the best captains I have ever played for. No American captain has ever come back with a team that won 4 medals (2 Gold and 2 Silver). The results are unprecedented. He was also my second during the 2004 Olympiad since he knows my game better than our coaches. People are mistaken that a captain should be a GM.

– Being a captain is a lot more difficult than being a player. They also have to work harder, get less recognition, more blame and more disrespect. Many people like to play Monday Morning Quarterback. They are entitled to do it but it does not mean that they are right or they even have any idea what they are talking about.
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Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar