32nd Chess Olympiad: Yerevan 1996

<< [ Information || The final group || Statistics || Women's Olympiad ] >>


[ Basic data | Tournament review | Individual medals | Best game prizes | Interesting games | Trivia | Books | Missing data ]

Basic data

32nd Chess Olympiad
(see all-time tournament summary)
Date: 15th September - 2nd October 1996
City: Yerevan, Armenia
Venue: Sports and Concert Complex
Chairman of Organizing Committee: Mr. Vanik Zakarian (ARM)
Chief Arbiter: IA Alesha Khachatrian (ARM)
Teams participating: 114 (incl. Armenia "B" and "C". Mali did not arrive)
Players participating: 665 (incl. 171 GMs, 162 IMs and 57 FMs)
Games played: 3160 (7 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: YEREVAN 1996
Website: Official Olympiad Website (cached)
Other Websites: Olympic notes at chessmate.com (cached)
Norwegians in Yerevan (in Norwegian)
John Donaldson on Olympic issues (cached)
Germans at the Olympiad (in German)
Heather Lang's report
Downloadable game file: 96olm.zip

Tournament review

Mount Ararat: symbol of ArmeniaThe 32nd Olympiad was controversially scheduled in the Caucasian melting pot. Apart from security problems many had doubts about Armenia's ability to hold the event considering poor economic conditions of the country. The organizers however did everything possible to accommodate participants and no accidents took place. The Olympiad was very much an attempt to show that Armenia was re-building after its past difficulties. The Yerevan event has been said by many to be one of the better organized in recent memory. Certainly the nightmare conditions of Moscow two years ago were not repeated here. Inlaid chess tables, distinguishable pieces, digital clocks, a well lit venue with plenty of space, and high quality printed bulletins were some of the luxuries available in Yerevan but not in Moscow.

Sports and Concert Complex - front viewThe Olympiad took place in the Yerevan Sports and Concerts Complex, a huge building at the top of a hill on the outskirts of the city. The site had a great view overlooking Yerevan and was surrounded by one million trees planted to remember Armenians killed in 1917 during conflict with the Turks. Buses were provided to ferry the chess players back and forth from the hotels to the playing hall. The organisers were extremely security-conscious and the players had to go through an airport-style metal detector before being allowed to enter the building. Woe betide anyone who forgot their 'player badge', a pass which allowed access to otherwise forbidden territories!

Sports and Concert Complex - interior viewA few teams were looking for medals far behind the shoulders of the iron favourites from Russia, who were lead by Kasparov and Kramnik. England had slight ELO edge over Hungary (a mixture of youth - Polgár and Lékó - and experience - Portisch) and Ukraine. Germany and Bulgaria, with Topalov and Georgiev, were seeded 5th and 6th. Team USA had no WCh contender Gata Kamsky in the squad thus lying in modest 9th, a fraction ahead of the home team Armenia. Bosnia, silver medal winners from Moscow, were seeded 12th with virtually same team as in 1994.

Opening ceremonyThe Olympiad was officially opened on Sunday, 15th September. Usually, some teams experience difficulties travelling to the Olympiad due to visa problems or lack of cash. This was indeed the case in Armenia and the first round was delayed by an hour while the organisers tried to find out which teams had arrived and which hadn't (just to look ahead, team Afghanistan turned up halfway through the tournament and were allowed to play, they still didn't finish last!). Remarkable results of round 1 include Gulko's loss vs Valiente of Paraguay (still USA won 3-1), Holland's draw vs Tajikistan and El Salvador's unexpected win over Kyrgyzstan. A group of 25 led the pack with a 4-0 record. Hungary, with a 4-0 win over Moldova, moved into a tie for first position with China at the end of Round 2. Armenia "C" late-joined the competition on that day in order to keep the number of teams even. Several more countries, including Syria and Egypt, entered at the second round. Among the top teams, Armenia "A" disappointingly for the home crowd lost their match against Slovenia with a score of 1-3. The Netherlands recovered some ground with a 3½-½ against Kyrgyzstan. Australia held the strong Georgian team to a valuable 2-2. Armenia "B" also held the Bosnian team to a draw. Bangladesh managed to eek one draw from dominant Russia. Yugoslavia and the USA drew 2-2, as did Estonia and Israel. In other results, Vietnam scored 2-2 against the Czech Republic, leaving them with a plus score after two rounds at 4½. Paraguay also had a strong match against Iran, winning 3-1 to move back to a 50% score.

The game hallAn entertaining day 3 saw China, 30th seeds, wiping out up-to-date leaders Hungary with a dreadful 3-1 as both Polgár and Portisch lost their games. The US team suffered another upset loss when they lost to Uzbekistan, a team not even in the top 30 of those competing. The Netherlands had another productive round with a 3½-½ victory over Italy. Cuba, ranked 25th, scored 3½-½ against Scotland to rocket them into 2nd place behind China. Romania smashed Canada to move into tied 3rd. Other teams occupying bronze medal position were Russia, who ran over France and Germany, who narrowly beat Argentina. On the next day the leaders keeps a firm hold on first place with a 2½-1½ victory over Cuba. Russia slipped into 2nd place with a 3-1 over Germany (both Kasparov and Kramnik drew their games). Armenia "A" had their first really good day as they beat Indonesia with a clear 4-0. On the other hand Armenia "B" lost to Belarus 1-3. Sweden scored a perfect 4-0 against Australia and Kazakhstan did the same against Switzerland. The USA beat Norway but only by 2½-1½. Yugoslavia had the same margin vs Canada as well as Hungary vs Portugal, so that none of these teams gained any ground against the other medal favourites. Bosnia & Herzegovina even managed to slip back half a point, with a 2-2 tie against France. England earned small advantage beating Romania. Spain and Georgia produced both a 3-1 score to move into tied 3rd. Standings were: China 13; Russia 12; England, Spain, Cuba, Kazakhstan, Holland, Georgia and Sweden - 11½ all.

Judith Polgár after round 6 match vs GM LautierThe big event for round 5 was the match between 1st place China and runners-up Russia. Russia decided not to put Garry Kasparov into the squad so they came up with a line-up of Kramnik, Svidler, Bareev and Rublevsky. The Russians outscored China with a 2½-1½ to edge into first place. The only decisive game came on board 4 where Rublevsky defeated Peng. England defeated the Netherlands 2½-1½ thanks to Sadler's win while Armenia "A" scored 3 points against Kazakhstan and Spain defeated Sweden by the lowest possible margin. The USA defeated Greece 3-1 and Yugoslavia beat Finland by the same margin. Russia took over the lead with 15 points, half a point ahead of China and a clear point ahead of England, Spain and Armenia "A". Russia extended their lead after next round as they beat the host team by 2½-1½. China lost their second match in a row vs Spain and fell down the table. England fought hard vs Georgia and went on to a modest win despite Adams' loss. Portisch's win over Renet sealed Hungary's win over France. Czech Republic made a huge leap towards the nose with a thumping 4-0 over Peru.

Armenian teamRound 7 saw Russia wiping out the poor Czech team at top table with Babula grasping the only half of a point for them on that day. England were surprised to see themselves being down to Spain by 3-1. Most of top matches were held to a draw. Other results that boosted the winners' positions were Uzbekistan-Poland 3-1, Estonia-Bosnia 3-1 and Georgia-Argentina 3-1. Halfway standings: Russia 21; Spain 19½; China, Uzbekistan, Hungary, Estonia, Bulgaria and Georgia 18. The clash of the leaders gave Russia awaited 2½-1½ win over Spain. Armenia "A" and Bulgaria moved into tied 2nd as both teams beat 3-1 Belarus and Uzbekistan respectively. Georgia hold their chances after defeating twilight China. The Czechs did not manage to recover as they barely halved vs Indonesia. Russia maintained the lead with 23½ points ahead of Spain and Bulgaria - 21 both. Afghanistan came late but were allowed to enter - after full seven days of play!

Another view of the game hallRussia's round 9 steamrolling 3½-½ over Bulgaria virtually dispelled the problem of the gold. Bulgaria's debacle drove them back to 17th. Very bad given that they did not lose a single match before. Spain beat Georgia at table 2 to retain excellent runner-up position. China made up for a lost ground smashing Peru as well as England who ran over Vietnam 3-1 despite of Speelman's loss. We saw eight teams sharing 3rd place at the moment, including Sweden (3½-½ vs Belarus), Bosnia and Ukraine who were the only team apart from Russia to avoid match loss until then. In the top clash of round 10 Bosnia & Herzegovina managed a draw against the leaders. Although team leader Sokolov fell to Kasparov board 4 Dizdarević managed to defeat Bareev to secure Bosnia's 2-2, the best any team has done against Russia so far. Spain, suddenly in striking distance, were crushed by team Ukraine 3-1. None of the other top 10 teams managed better than an even score this round and several fell back so there was again quite a bit of movement in and out of the positions 2nd-16th Russia keeps a safe 3½ point lead on the rest. Surprising medal contenders China managed a 2½-1½ victory over the much higher rated Swedish team to stay in the group tied for 3rd place at 25 points. Hungary also defeated the USA 2½-1½ in this round. Meanwhile Israel continued their strong surge with a 3-1 victory over the Netherlands. England and Armenia "A" followed the "draw with the strong teams" strategy and tied at 2-2.

Garry KasparovOn the next day Russia slowed down the pace a bit with a brisk 2-2 vs Ukraine, satisfactory for both teams. Israel managed 2½-1½ vs China and Hungary lost to Uzbekistan. Estonia served a copious dish to the Bulgarians to whom they lost three games and drew one. Other teams to grab 3½ points in this round were USA, who murdered Slovakia and Croatia, who enjoyed swingeing win over their former compatriots from Yugoslavia. Russia (31) maintained safe 3½ point advantage over the group of five: USA, Uzbekistan, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Israel. Russia's lead has been trimmed just slightly after round 12, to 3 points, but with only 2 rounds to play (maximum of 8 points possible) the Russian team would have to have two terrible rounds in order for anyone else to have a shot at the gold. On the other hand the race for silver and bronze medal remained very tight within top 16 teams, all within range of 2½ points. Ukraine, led by Vasyl Ivanchuk, went 3-1 over the strong Uzbekistan giving them sole possession of 2nd at 30½ points. The USA won their match with Bulgaria to take 3rd at 30 points. Five teams tied for 4-8 at 29 points. Armenia "A" defeated Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria had a bad round as they lost to the USA - even so they scored 5 of a possible 8 for the last two rounds and remained tied with the group for 4th-8th. England got the same end results in a less dramatic manner, with a 2-2 tie with the obviously underrated China team. Israel, who had scored an impressive 75% last three days, got their reward too: a chance to square off against Russia. The Russians won 2½-1½, dropping Israel back into the tie for 4th. Croatia had a nice 2-2 match against Spain to complete this group.

The press centreWith a 2½-1½ victory over the USA in round 13 Russia nicely made penultimate step to a final win. Kasparov defeated Yermolinsky on board 1. Both boards 3 and 4 for the USA had slight advantages but were unable to convert the points and had to settle for draws. Second place Ukraine kept their sole possession of that slot with a 2½-1½ victory over Bulgaria. Meanwhile the USA were now tied with a number of teams, including Armenia "A" who defeated Croatia by 2½-1½ as well. England beat Israel 2½-1½ to stay in 3rd-7th group while Georgia made it in with a 3-1 win over Uzbekistan. Iceland also scored 3 points against China, pushing that team down into a tie for 20th-25th position. The Chinese team had been the "Cinderella stars" of this event, being ranked 30th at the start and fighting their way as high as first at one point. After scoring only 7 points out of the last 4 rounds (a 43.7% barely) the Chinese looked like they would finish much closer to their rating. Still the race for the bronze wasn't anywhere near settled yet: there were another 7 teams at 30½ only one point behind Ukraine and another 4 teams only half a point behind that. So the last round had a number of important matches. With last round to go standings were: Russia 36; Ukraine 33; Armenia, USA, England, Georgia 31½; Spain et al. 30½.

Veselin TopalovIceland were hit with the last round's unlucky shot as they had to face unstoppable Russia and lost 1½-2½ despite of fierce resistance. Ukraine easily took silver drawing 2-2 with Armenia "A". Of other teams with medal chances USA beat Georgia 2½-1½ after extremely heavy struggle and England won 2½ point as well. Both teams finished with 34 points and the Buchholz roulette pointed at the American team who had tie-break superior to England by merely half of a point! Spain beat 3-1 Slovenia to move up into tied 5th together with Armenia and Bosnia who had extremely successfull final spurt as they destroyed Lithuania 3½-½. Teams to complete top 10 were Georgia, Bulgaria (2½-1½ vs Croatia) and Germany. Sweden's good finish was enough only for 11th and poor Iceland were dropped down to 12th. China's 3-1 over Belarus was enough only for 13th tied with disappointing Holland who did not manage to fully recover from halfway collapse. Israel lost last three matches to be pushed aside, Hungary managed only 5/12 in last 4 rounds to finish in 18th - an all time negative record.

Tigran Petrosian's monumentSince the Russian team was a heavy favourite going in their final result was not surprising. Garry Kasparov himself scored seven out of nine without a single loss. Kramnik conceded 9 draws without a sole decisive game. Ukraine won well-deserved silver. Of 5 loses two of them were conceded in a match vs Portugal which went to a sensational draw. Strongest points: Ivanchuk and Savchenko (2nd res.). The American team stumbled at first, but then overcame jet lag, demonstrated a good fighting spirit and finished strong. They even had a chance to finish higher but lost to Russia in round thirteen. Alex Yermolinsky's result on the second board was very impressive. He often played on the first board and lost only one game to Kasparov with black. Yermolinsky took silver medal on the second board. Gulko was clearly out of form scoring only two draws and losing three games. Other members all had plus scores. England were extremely unlucky to lose medal by the narrowest of margins. They lost only once - vs Spain. Sadler's excellent 10½/13 (individual gold) was bulldozed by both reserves who did not manage a single game win. None of the English players managed to avoid loss. Armenia finished 5th, certainly not bad yet a home team always dreams of a podium place. All of them finished in a decent 50%-70% range. Akopian, Vaganian and Lputian, their iron top trio played firmly but this proved too little for medal. Spain's 6th position cannot be considered bad, but they could have hoped for more perhaps given their halfway shape that put them in clear 2nd place. It was all about bad finish (10/20). Bosnia & Herzegovina decided to run a quartet of players who won silver in Moscow. Once again two reserves were virtually nonexistant (they played a total of 3 games and only in rounds 1-3). But only Dizdarević kept the Moscow pace leaving the rest of the crew far behind. Other notable appearances were Israel, Hungary and Uzbekistan in tied 16th - a nightmare for all of them, Yugoslavia down in 22nd - the broken empire did not manage to show the claws and Poland in 36th - lowest ever.

Despite of numerous doubts and fears about hospitality the Yerevan Olympiad was remembered as very well organized and interesting event.

/Based on reports by Heather Lang and Duif Calvin/

Individual medals

Best Rating Performance
no. name flag code ELOp
1. GM Kasparov, Garry Russia RUS 2873
2. GM Ivanchuk, Vasyl Ukraine UKR 2809
3. GM Yermolinsky, Alexander United States USA 2760

1st Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. IM Al-Modiahki, Mohamad Qatar QAT 8 10 80.0
2. GM Kasparov, Garry Russia RUS 7 9 77.8
3. GM Ivanchuk, Vasyl Ukraine UKR 11 77.3

2nd Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. Robinson, Richard Bermuda BER 8 10 80.0
2. GM Yermolinsky, Alexander United States USA 8 11 72.7
3. GM Giorgadze, Giorgi Georgia GEO 12 70.8

3rd Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. IM Iuldachev, Saidali Uzbekistan UZB 11 14 78.6
2. FM Chaivichit, Suchart Thailand THA 7 9 77.8
3. IM Magai, Vladimir Kyrgyzstan KGZ 10½ 14 75.0

4th Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. GM Sadler, Matthew England ENG 10½ 13 80.8
2. FM Sunthornpongsathorn, Veraphol Thailand THA 7 9 77.8
3. GM Svidler, Peter Russia RUS 11 77.3

1st Reserve Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. Asrian, Karen Armenia ARM2 10 12 83.3
2. GM Bareev, Evgeny Russia RUS 10 75.0
3. IM Nedev, Trajce FYR Macedonia MKD 8 11 72.7

2nd Reserve Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. Makumbi, Geoffrey Uganda UGA 8 93.8
2. Pčola, Pavol Slovakia SVK 7 8 87.5
3. FM Mallahi, Amir Iran IRI 8 81.3

Best game prizes

First best game prize.
Sturua, Zurab (GEO) - Kutirov, Rolando (MKD) 1 - 0

Second best game prize.
Marin, Mihail (ROM) - Alexandrov, Alexei (BLR) 1 - 0

Third best game prize.
Minasian, Ara (ARM2) - Từ Hoàng Thái (VIE) 0 - 1

Interesting games

Allegedly Kasparov's home preparation reached 20 moves.
Kasparov, Garry (RUS) - Hráček, Zbyněk (CZE) 1 - 0

Sweet revenge for 1994 loss.
Topalov, Veselin (BUL) - Kasparov, Garry (RUS) 0 - 1

A classical way of dealing with Queen's Gambit.
Ivanchuk, Vasyl (UKR) - Ehlvest, Jaan (EST) 1 - 0

White's 14th move is NOT a typing error!
Polgár, Judit (HUN) - Short, Nigel (ENG) 0 - 1

Incredible plan for breaking black wall: Qf6-f3-d3-a4!
Shirov, Alexei (ESP) - Short, Nigel (ENG) 1 - 0

Some call this one a model example how to fight off Caro-Kann.
Spangenberg, Hugo (ARG) - Spraggett, Kevin (CAN) 1 - 0

Sensational game where White took excessive risk.
Gulko, Boris (USA) - Valiente, Cristóbal (PAR) 0 - 1

Three games below are known as "The Yerevan Drillinge" (=triplets in German)
- three blunders were made by German players in those games.

Lobron resigned though he could easily save the game:
61. ... Kg2 62. Kc5 h1-Q 63. Rxh1 Kxh1 64. Kd5 Kg2 65. Ke5 Kf3 66. Kxf5 Ke3=
Svidler, Peter (RUS) - Lobron, Eric (GER) 1 - 0

Both players missed mate in 2 (move 35 and 36).
Tibenský, Róbert (SVK) - Hickl, Jörg (GER) ½ - ½

White missed simple 18. Bxf5 Bxf5 19. Nxf5 Rxf5 20. Qd5+ +-.
Lutz, Christopher (GER) - Salai, Ladislav (SVK) ½ - ½

Would you believe that White's Rook sac
was based on mate trap at such empty board?
Lalić, Bogdan (CRO) - Leitão, Rafael (BRA) 1 - 0

Black pieces were awfully passive what White took advantage of in a cool way.
Rublevsky, Sergei (RUS) - Peng Xiaomin (CHN) 1 - 0

Be careful. Stuck positions are vulnerable to unpleasant surprizes.
Bareev, Evgeny (RUS) - Izeta Txabarri, Félix (ESP) 1 - 0

OK, he took one of pinning pieces... So what?
Christiansen, Larry (USA) - Anastasian, Ashot (ARM) 1 - 0

Surprisingly passed pawn caused mortal threats.
Speelman, Jonathan (ENG) - Borge, Nikolaj (DEN) 1 - 0

Short has always been a well-known swashbuckler.
Short, Nigel (ENG) - Yudasin, Leonid (ISR) 1 - 0

No regret and no remorse. Brutal force in action.
Känel, Hansjürg (SUI) - Djurhuus, Rune (NOR) 0 - 1

Have you seen many games with white Rook being sacrificed at g6?!
Mortensen, Erling (DEN) - Zavoronkov, Vladimir (EST) 1 - 0

Shortest decisive game.
Tsang Hon Ki (HKG) - Lebrun, Piersont (HAI) 1 - 0

Usually it does not pay the rent to defend stolen pawn in this line.
Isaev, Jamshed (TJK) - Magai, Vladimir (KGZ) 0 - 1

White played very simple chess
and only took full advantage of Black's sole inaccuracy.
Sunthornpongsathorn, Veraphol (THA) - Al Sayed, Mohamad Naser (QAT) 1 - 0

Rarely does it happen that Rf1 does not reach f8 and stops at f7.
Lima, Darcy (BRA) - Quinn, Mark (IRL) 1 - 0


The full weight of the Government was behind the event to make it a success. Olympiad coincided with elections for the Armenian Government, and the elections were scheduled parallelly with the Olympiad on purpose. The games were planned to coincide with the elections so that the ruling team could make maximum political capital out of the event.


Armenia "C" were allowed to join due to odd number of participants. Nevertheless team Yemen arrived after second round to increase number of participating nations to 113 (another odd number!). Team Armenia "C" were not withdrawn however. As Afghanistan late-joined after 7th round (an all-time Olympic record of latecoming) the number of teams was stabilized at even figure of 114.


The incumbent FIDE president was Kirsan Ilumzhinov, President of the Russian Republic of Kalmykia and a skilled self publicist. He made a point of meeting every team at the Olympiad and presenting each member with several gifts - Kirsan Vodka, Kirsan caviar, Kirsan sunglasses, his comic book autobiography, a Kirsan book on the Karpov-Kamsky match, and a Kirsan watch. Ilumzhinov was re-elected after three days of political manoeuvres that made playing chess seem simplistic.