29th Chess Olympiad: Novi Sad 1990

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Basic data

29th Chess Olympiad
(see all-time tournament summary)
Date: 16th November - 4th December 1990
City: Novi Sad, Yugoslavia, today's Serbia
Venue: Vojvodina Sports and Convention Center
Head of Organizing Committee: Mr. Vlada Popović (YUG)
Tournament Director: Mr. Janoš Kubat (YUG)
Chief Arbiter: IA Georgios Beskos (GRE)
Teams participating: 108 (incl. Yugoslavia "B" and "C")
Players participating: 636 (incl. 103 GMs, 121 IMs and 67 FMs)
Games played: 3020 (21 games were forfeited)
Competition format: Four board 14 round Swiss.
Final order decided by: 1. Game points; 2. Buchholz; 3. Match points
Time control: 40 moves in 2 hours, then 1 hour for each next 20 moves
Official logo: NOVI SAD 1990
Downloadable game file: 90olm.zip
Special thanks to Mark Orr for help.

Tournament review

The 29th Chess Olympiad arrived to Novi Sad, Yugoslavia. Many expected it would not happen. In July it was even stated in the Scandinavian Press that the event was likely to be cancelled. The economy was in state of collapse and the directors and various other pre-Olympiad organizers had been replaced five months prior to the event. The organizers, however, went out of their way to make the arrivals most welcome. Overall organization and that in the press room in particular was excellent.

Prior to the opening ceremony Campomanes and Vlada Popović, president of the Organizing Committee, issued a joint statement rightly but regretfully rejecting the entries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania following the arrival of their respective teams. Despite a petition signed by many of the leading players including Ivanchuk, Gelfand, Beliavsky, Timman and Seirawan the three Baltic states were not allowed to play. Ehlvest, Tal, Oll, and Shirov's talent were not to be put on display.

All of top teams came to Novi Sad. For the last time we saw teams of old Eastern Block: the Soviet Union, East Germany and federal Yugoslavia. Even though Kasparov and Karpov were missing from Soviet team they were commonly recognized as big favourites for gold, led by Ivanchuk and Gelfand. England's trio: Short, Speelman and Nunn guaranteed them second position in the seeding table. The USA had refused Kamsky's demands for board one and an extra $10,000 fee. They thought that the extra 70 odd ELO points are less important than team spirit. Then came Yugoslavia (who had extremely strong "B" and "C" teams, seeded 10th and 17th respectively) and the Netherlands. Hungary were missing Portisch, Pintér and Sax, who only wanted to play at top board and Ribli was chosen instead. Iceland sent top 6 and were seeded in 7th. Other potential contenders for medals were Sweden, West Germany and Israel.

Round one usually sees the minnows playing the giants. This time it was giant vs giant, minnow vs minnow. The pairing committee were heavily criticized by players, officials and press for the pairing system of round 1. The teams were divided into groups of 30 according to ELO table. Then, all the teams were paired within respective groups according to standard Swiss rules. Thus seed no. 1 matched seed 16, 2nd seeds played 17th while seed no. 31 faced no. 46. The inevitable naturally happened and the joint leaders after day one were the mighty chess powers Albania, Barbados, Ecuador, Indonesia, Trinidad&Tobago and Yemen. Third world countries such as the Soviet Union were lying in 7th, USA 15th (Seirawan vs Kortschnoj was a juicy first round pairing), England 29th and lucky to be that high, Holland 61st after losing to Spain.

The crazy pairing system in round 1 meant some odd looking matches on day 2. The one that most caught the eye was Vietnam vs USA, three American and one ex-Soviet GMs combined together to take on four defenceless unrateds seemed unfair. Much to everybody's amazement Vietnam easily scored a point and might have scored more as Benjamin came close to defeat. The top clash of the day was a central table hero fight where Albania narrowly beat Indonesia. Argentina playing on table 12 easily overcame Haiti 4-0 to move into the lead with 7½/8. Of the pretenders starting the round with maximum points only Ecuador managed to score 3-1 vs Trinidad&Tobago. Scotland vs Soviet Union was nearly, but not quite a major upset. Of the Soviets playing white neither Gelfand nor Yudasin could make any progress. Motwani, but for an error just before the time control, might at least have drawn if not won.

The hosts, Yugoslavia "A" defeated the leaders Argentina in the top clash of round 3. Nikolić King's walk in a Queen's ending helping them to their way. Chile became the latest, but surely not the last team to take the lead by easily overcoming their South American rivals Ecuador 3½-½. England were very fortunate to beat Greece by as wide margin as 3-1. Pia Cramling, having won her first two games for Sweden conceded her first half point - against Yusupov. Andersson kept Ivanchuk quiet so Sweden lost only 3-1 to the USSR. Standings: Chile 10½; USA and Yugoslavia "A" 10; Bulgaria, England, Portugal, USSR and West Germany 9½.

Chile, not surprisingly, lost the lead on the next day going down to USA 3-1. Morović had sacrificed first a pawn, then another pawn, then a Knight before drawing some 30 moves later. Ljubojević's Queen sac vs Gelfand was the star attraction of the round, but was only enough to a draw leaving the Yugoslav team on the field with a 2½-1½ loss. England, still struggling, could only manage four draws against Bulgaria - Speelman after being two pawns down in a Rook ending and Adams after his opponent's major pieces had infiltrated the seventh rank.

After five days the weaker teams were finally disappearing from the top boards although Portugal refused to lay down and die despite playing Hungary, holding the Hungarians to a sensational draw. USA at last playing a real chess power beat West Germany 2½-1½. Czechoslovakia by crushing 48th seeded Paraguay 4-0 moved into a share of the lead. England vs USSR as usual drew the crowds. Short missed his chances in a complex game against Ivanchuk and lost which put England into trouble. Chandler mishandled his clock and was forced to concede a draw to seal Soviet's 2½-1½ win. Sweden, as in the past, were up one day and down the next. Having struggled the day before 2½-1½ vs weak Ireland on day five they murdered Canada 3½-½.

The leading 15 matches of round six brought either narrow victories or drawn matches. The top three saw minimum victories for USA, USSR and Yugoslavia "A". The highlight was undoubtedly Hübner's win against Ivanchuk. However with both Gelfand and Bareev winning the Soviets still won. Match at table 16 saw Australia with not one of their strongest teams beat Ireland by the impressive margin of 4-0 to move into a share of sixth place, their highest ever placing.

Round seven was a highly interesting day both on and off the board. By now a leading official in the press room had been sacked following numerous justified complaints from various journalists regarding his attitude towards them. On the boards the Soviet Union at last moved into a share of the lead when they defeated their archrivals USA 2½-1½ in a highly interesting match. Historians today saw the last East vs West Germany match. The Czechs beat the hosts and England took full advantage of an advantageous pairing by hammering Australia 3½-½. Iceland also scored 3½ vs Mexico to move nearer the top - at last. Standings in the halfway: USSR, USA and Czechoslovakia 19½; England 19; West Germany and Bulgaria 18½.

The main event of the round 8 was USA's second successive defeat, this time at the hands of England where Chandler beat De Firmian. Chandler's score by then was an impressive 6/7. With the Soviets and Czechs drawing all four games against each other this meant again a three-way tie at the top. England, USSR and Yugoslavia "A" were all reduced to 5 players as both Nunn and Beliavsky were down with flu. Yugoslavia's sacking of Popović was confirmed also. A statistical sensation of the day was that only teams to avoid match loss so far were USSR and Portugal (sic!).

The Soviet team took the lead by themselves by defeating China 3-1. Gelfand, clearly losing for much of the game was at the end, like Beliavsky, pressing unsuccessfully for the win. Yugoslavia "A", as well as the Soviet Union and England in the previous two rounds, defeated the Americans without losing a single game. Three matches, three losses, no individual wins - a US record? West Germany, who inflicted the first defeat on Portugal and England who beat the very solid Czechs also had good days. Cuba joined the leading group by beating Yugoslavia "C". Standings: USSR 24½; England 24; West Germany 23½; Yugoslavia "A", Czechoslovakia and Cuba 23.

The Soviets virtually clinched the gold medals by taking apart Cuba 3½-½ despite leaving out Ivanchuk and Gelfand. The three Soviet wins were all one-sided affairs. For the second day in a row Beliavsky was forced to concede a draw in a Rook+pawn ending. England beat West Germany with Chandler winning a miniature against his former Hamburg team-mate Wahls. The day however belonged to the hosts who had by far their best day to date. Their "A" team beat East Germany, team "B" drew with Sweden while "C" team led France astray to win 3-1. The USA finally avoided defeat, but it was a close run thing, 2-2 vs Iceland. The next day was to be a rest day.

The early stages of round 11 were exciting with Adams vs Kožul and Chandler vs Damljanović likely to go either way in front of a partisan crowd. Both were to have astonishing climaxes. Adams blundered a Rook when he was clearly winning, and Chandler after defending a Queen and pawn ending for session after session fell into a time scramble on move 100. After four sessions and 112 moves a draw was agreed. Several days earlier, but in the same match Short had thrashed Ljubojević not for the first time, or indeed for the last time, out of sight. Gelfand vs Georgiev of Bulgaria was also many pawns to the good before winning in the third session to lead USSR to a 3-1 win. USA-Yugoslavia "C" 4-0 speaks for itself. Colombia leapfrogged into 5th (!) after steamrolling 4-0 over Canada. Standings: USSR 31; England and USA 28½; Yugoslavia 27½; Czechoslovakia, Sweden (3-1 vs Argentina) and Colombia 27.

Both the USSR and England cruised to 3-1 wins over Colombia and Sweden respectively in round 12. However it was one of the points that got away that almost stole the show - Gonzales' win over Bareev. Beliavsky played what many thought to be the best game of the Olympiad - sacrificing a few exchanges. USA came back from 2-0 down against Yugoslavia "B" to draw 2-2 but dropped back to third place. India made a mistake and beat Hungary 3-1. This error meant they played the USSR in the next round. Hungary were clearly missing Portisch, Sax and Pintér.

The top six results of penultimate round were 2½-1½, 2-2, 2-2, 2½-1½, 2½-1½ so they didn't change the order at the top of the table much. The Soviets increased their lead when they defeated India. The top three boards were drawn shortly after it became clear then England would draw at best against Iceland following one of Nunn's worst ever beatings. USA vs Cuba, four draws lasted less than 100 moves in total. Timman at the eleventh attempt finally won - vs Ljubojević. Standings: USSR 36½; England 33½; USA 32½; Czechoslovakia 32; Yugoslavia 31½; Bulgaria, Iceland, India and Cuba 31.

In the beginning of last round there seemed little chance of the Soviets failing to win the gold or of England failing to take the silver. England were, after all, a point ahead of the USA and had relatively easier pairing of Cuba. USA, on the other hand, had Bulgaria, a team which had not lost by as much as 3-1 to anybody except the USSR for more than a decade. Indeed, four years ago Bulgaria had stopped the USA in the last round from challenging for the gold. Nobody however told the Cubans the script! England's first mistake was team selection. Short, lacking both form and confidence wasted a white and drew in just 14 moves. Not what the team was looking for. Speelman drew even quicker. This attitude of English team was all the USA needed to get them going. Only Seirawan's dodgy position gave the American camp cause for concern - certainly the English performance was not the problem - Nunn had been losing for quite some time. Indeed despite the umpteenth win by Chandler the USA caught England up and it soon became clear that they would take second place on the tie-break. West Germany, like their Women's team were totally disinterested in playing chess. Both Hübner and Lobron had chances of winning individual gold medals but they both took quick draws. Their winning attempt on board three kicked off with the super sharp 1 e4 e5 2 a3, and a 17-move draw. An extra half of a point would have pushed them up the table by another three places. Czechoslovakia narrowly beat India to finish in 4th while China-Yugoslavia "A" 2½-1½ put both teams at 33 points and the hosts won 5th position by virtue of Buchholz points. Iceland's loss vs USSR pushed them down to 8th (still not bad). Portugal's 4-0 debacle vs Poland blew them away at 55th, way below the place they should be based on their excellent form.

The Soviets won in comfortable way even without Kasparov and Karpov. Only the further splitting of the Soviet Union would make them necessary. When one considers Yusupov turned up late, Beliavsky was ill for the best part of a week, Kasparov, Karpov, Salov, Vaganian were all missing this overwhelming victory was not a bad performance by the Soviets. Although the USA had a bad patch and both England and Yugoslavia "A" struggled with an out of form to board this did not really matter. 3½ points and coasting in the last two matches is a pretty big margin. Czechoslovakia won 4th position winning last four matches equally by 2½-1½. All Yugoslav teams did pretty well. The "A" team was only nominally led by Ljubojević who managed only one win vs Wong of Singapore. His poor performance was balanced by Nikolić and Kožul's play. The reserve team finished in 13th while "C" squad were classified at 26th.

The next Olympiad was scheduled in Puerto Rico, with Dubai and Thessaloniki as second choice in case San Juan option failed. Actually none of them hosted the 1992 Olympiad...

/ Based on notes by Malcolm Pein and Yehuda Grünfeld /

Individual medals

Best Rating Performance
no. name flag code ELOp
1. GM Hübner, Robert Germany GER 2734
2. GM Chandler, Murray Graham England ENG 2726
3. GM Ivanchuk, Vasyl Soviet Union URS 2711

1st Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. IM Franco Ocampos, Zenón Paraguay PAR 9 12 75.0
1. García Paolicchi, Raül Andorra AND 10½ 14 75.0
3. IM Hamdouchi, Hichem Morocco MAR 8 11 72.7

2nd Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. IM Barua, Dibyendu India IND 11 77.3
2. Pineda, Boris El Salvador ESA 10 75.0
3. IM Hansen, Lars Bo Denmark DEN 8 11 72.7

3rd Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. IM Brestian, Egon Austria AUT 12 79.2
2. Almada, Enrique Uruguay URU 7 9 77.8
3. GM Kožul, Zdenko Yugoslavia YUG 9 12 75.0
3. IM Urday Cáceres, Henry Peru PER 10½ 14 75.0
3. GM Lobron, Eric Germany GER 9 12 75.0

4th Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. IM Martín del Campo, Roberto Mexico MEX 10 75.0
2. FM Soylu, Suat Turkey TUR 12 70.8
3. GM Kovačević, Vlatko Yugoslavia YUG2 7 10 70.0
3. GM Ermenkov, Evgeny Bulgaria BUL 7 10 70.0

1st Reserve Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. Husari, Satea Syria SYR 6 7 85.7
2. GM Chandler, Murray Graham England ENG 9 11 81.8
3. GM Yudasin, Leonid Soviet Union URS 7 9 77.8
3. FM Hergott, Deen Canada CAN 7 9 77.8

2nd Reserve Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. Jones, Iolo Wales WLS 6 7 85.7
2. FM Kosashvili, Yona Israel ISR 9 83.3
3. Manca, Federico Italy ITA 8 10 80.0

Interesting games

Black's position seemed very solid but it proved to be castle on sand.
Anand, Viswanathan (IND) - Milos, Gilberto (BRA) 1 - 0

Usually f5 is excellent outpost for white Knight.
Hübner, Robert (GER) - Ivanchuk, Vasyl (URS) 1 - 0

Black were taking piece by piece but apparently Vishy didn't care....
Anand, Viswanathan (IND) - Morovic Fernández, Iván (CHI) 1 - 0

This game was so inspiring that GM Soltis wrote a book
on 8.Bd3! line based on the analysis of this one.
Benjamin, Joel (USA) - Čabrilo, Goran (YUG3) 1 - 0

That was quite venomous play by Black in a vivid Ruy Lopez line.
Wang Zili (CHN) - Yusupov, Artur (URS) 0 - 1

A very neat trick to trap the white Queen.
Christiansen, Larry (USA) - Kovačević, Vlatko (YUG2) 0 - 1

Two exchange sacrifices in one game.
García, Gildardo (COL) - Beliavsky, Alexander (URS) 0 - 1

Excellent game and sensational result.
González Rodríguez, Jorge (COL) - Bareev, Evgeny (URS) 1 - 0

Shortest game of the Olympiad.
Al Hadarani, Hatim (YEM) - Frick, Renato (LIE) 1 - 0

This one on the contrary was 115 moves long
and full of exciting and fickle battles.
Kožul, Zdenko (YUG) - Wahls, Matthias (GER) 0 - 1

The Elephant Gambit is quite sharp opening.
Figueroa, C. (HON) - Volpinari, Danilo (SMR) 1 - 0

Absolutely beautiful tactical manoeuvre.
Wojtkiewicz, Aleksander (POL) - Skembris, Spyridon (GRE) 1 - 0

Great tactical plot conducted by White.
Bareev, Evgeny (URS) - Damljanović, Branko (YUG) 1 - 0

A mortal arrow delivered by white Bishop.
Damljanović, Branko (YUG) - Kristiansen, Jens (DEN) 1 - 0

White sacrificed a Knight in order to put a pawn at right square!
Rantanen, Yrjö (FIN) - Valiente, Cristóbal (PAR) 1 - 0

Again a piece sac to pave the way for a pawn.
Almada, Enrique (URU) - Urday Cáceres, Henry (PER) 0 - 1

This time a pawn had to be removed to clear the Queen the way for attack.
Zapata, Alonso (COL) - Sheikh Harandi, Khosro (IRI) 0 - 1

Black Knight was hanging but Black hoped
to keep pace and grab an extra pawn...
Mokrý, Karel (CSR) - Urbaneja, Juan Carlos (VEN) 1 - 0

Totally unexpected pawn breakthrough in a Rook ending.
Muñoz Sotomayor, Hugo (ECU) - Salazar Jacob, Hernán (CHI) 0 - 1

Standard but good-looking plot.
Hellers, Ferdinand (SWE) - Wojtkiewicz, Aleksander (POL) 1 - 0

White King's walk in a Queen endgame proved decisive.
Nikolić, Predrag (YUG) - Soppe, Guillermo (ARG) 1 - 0

Short was lucky to escape after White's excellent Rook sac.
Kotronias, Vasilios (GRE) - Short, Nigel (ENG) ½ - ½

Amazing Queen sac was enough only for perpetual check.
Ljubojević, Ljubomir (YUG) - Gelfand, Boris (URS) ½ - ½

Both sides had plenty of chances in this complex game.
Ivanchuk, Vasyl (URS) - Short, Nigel (ENG) 1 - 0

White definitely coped better with the problem of space.
Christiansen, Larry (USA) - Smejkal, Jan (CSR) 1 - 0

Those who believe in positional chess
or are materially minded, give this game a miss!
Agdestein, Simen (NOR) - Miralles, Gilles (FRA) ½ - ½

Hasty center attack met accurate and far-sighted counter-blow.
Nunn, John (ENG) - Stohl, Igor (CSR) 1 - 0

Amazingly it was 18.Nd2!! that proved decisive.
Árnason, Jón (ISL) - Nunn, John (ENG) 1 - 0

This rare and underestimated opening is called The Keres System.
Lautier, Joël (FRA) - Motwani, Paul (SCO) 0 - 1


For the first time in the history the home nation had right to put on three teams, all of them successful.


The FIDE president Campomanes retained his presidency at FIDE congress in Novi Sad. Yet with weeks to the Olympic gong he barely escaped death as he had a car crash and the president of the Uganda Chess Federation sitting next to him was killed. Because of neck injury he was wearing a plaster cast during the Olympiad.


Players to have played all 14 games without a loss were Ftáčnik for Czechoslovakia and Nikolić for Yugoslavia.


Mr. Janoš Kubat, the Tournament Director was the man to organize the revenge match between Fischer and Spassky some two years after Novi Sad Olympiad. The match was held at Sveti Stefan island at Montenegrin coast


The Novi Sad Olympiad was last appearance of the Soviet Union and East Germany at the Olympiads. No regret and no remorse.