Selection Report for the 2006 Turin Olympiad
A Selection Committee meeting took place on Tuesday 7th February at the Vale of Glamorgan Hotel.
At this meeting, the teams to represent Wales at the 2006 Olympiad in Turin were selected. What follows is a summary of the teams and reserves that were selected.
Leighton Williams WCU – 2374 FIDE – 2348
Leighton was unanimously selected as an obvious choice, and without any real objections. The only concerns that were raised were by Leighton himself, who felt he should not have been such an automatic choice given his poor performance at the last Olympiad, an absence of 4NCL activity, and his awful current form.
Richard Jones WCU – 2297 FIDE – 2294
Richard J was also unanimously selected as an obvious choice. Richard has probably been Wales’s most active player in recent years, and he achieved his first IM norm at the last Olympiad. No one voiced any objections to his selection.
Richard Dineley BCF – 193 FIDE – 2264
Richard D was the last person to get selected, mainly because he is not available for the whole duration of the Olympiad. If he were available for the whole duration, then his selection would have been unanimous. In the end it came down to whether the team would benefit more from Richard D’s ѕ participation, or from another players full participation. The decision went in Richard’s favour, as it was decided that his pure playing strength, and positive effect on team morale, would out-weigh his absence in the opening few rounds.
Tim Kett WCU – 2213 FIDE – 2195
There were very few concerns regarding Tim’s selection. To most he was an obvious choice, and it was only Tim himself (who left the room during his selection) who thought his selection would be very close between himself and several other candidates.
Alan Spice WCU – 2202 FIDE – 2216
Alan’s selection was less obvious, but was named by all the selectors in their six man teams. Alan has played in many big team events in the past, and has always put in solid, yet slightly unspectacular performances. Alan’s major turning point was his recent October 2005 performances in the European Team Championships and European Club Cup, where he was on course for an IM norm in each event, and managed a 2313 performance from 15 games over both competitions. No slight achievement by any means. This was a performance that the selection committee really took notice of, and it was mainly due to this performance that Alan was selected this time around, with the hope that he can reproduce that kind of form in Turin.
Jac Thomas WCU – 1933 FIDE – 1988
Jac’s selection came down to the argument between selecting a team to score maximum points, and selecting a team to develop younger players for the future of Welsh chess. The deciding factor for the committee was that Jac is already a strong player, and giving him the opportunity to learn from the top players in Wales, in an Olympiad environment, can only help Jac’s development as a player, and will hopefully take his game to a higher level. This will then have great benefits for both senior and junior teams in years to come. Kevin Thomas left the room for the entire duration of the discussion regarding Jac’s selection.
Abigail Cast BCF – 163 FIDE – 2116
Abigail was an obvious choice and she was unanimously selected without any objections being raised. She had a great Olympiad in Calvia 2004, where she just missed out on the WIM title, but picked up a WFM title instead as consolation.
Julie Wilson BCF – 132 FIDE – 1945
Another obvious choice. Julie was also selected unanimously and without any objections being raised. She also did well at the last Olympiad, and everyone felt that she would also do well in Turin.
Suzie Blackburn BCF – 155 FIDE – 1779
Not such an obvious choice. Suzie hasn’t been as active as usual due to her university commitments, and she lost out to Julie Wilson in the selection of the Calvia 2004.team. Everyone agreed that Suzie is a good player, and that she should have no problems doing well in Turin.
Megan Owens BCF – 79 FIDE – n/a
Megan was the last to be selected, and it came down to a straight choice between her and Julie van Kemenade. The committee unanimously agreed that Megan’s selection offered the team, and Wales as a whole, far more short term, and long term benefits than Julie van Kemenade’s selection would. Everyone agreed that Megan is a fantastic talent, and that everything possible should be done to help and encourage her development into a world-class junior and beyond.
Chairman of Selectors thoughts….
What follows are my own personal thoughts and opinions on the forthcoming Olympiad, and the players that were selected for the squad.
Long before the selection meeting took place, I had a lot of concerns regarding the who’s, why’s, if’s, and how’s, of the two teams we would be sending to Turin. The biggest problem was always going to be the date of the Olympiad, May 20th – June 5th. This could not have been worse for us, since it clashes with almost all school and university exams, which basically ruled out several of our best players. So amongst the players we quickly lost were Ioan Rees and Olivia Smith, who both made great Olympiad debuts in Calvia 2004, and would certainly have been selected again for Turin 2006 had they been available.
Yet despite the problems, I personally feel we have managed to select two very good, very exciting teams that are more than capable of producing a high quality performance in Turin. Lets take a closer look.
For me, the team is looking pretty good. There are one or two players missing from a `full strength` team. They will be missed, but I think we have selected good replacements for them. As to the players themselves.
Leighton, ie. me, needs a good Olympiad. My performance in Calvia 2004 was rubbish, and that’s putting it mildly. I had many personal problems before and after the event, which went some way to explaining my poor score, but that’s just a bad excuse at the end of the day. I know that my everyday preparation for the games was nowhere near what I want, or demand of myself, and I allowed my problems to distract me far too easily during the whole event. But I did learn a few important things from Calvia, mainly on the `what not to do` side of things, and I won’t be allowing things that happened in Calvia to happen to me again.
Richard J will once again be norm hunting. I have no doubts about that. I also have no doubts about the fact that he stands a great chance of getting another norm (or two) in Turin. Richard J plays more regular than any other top Welsh player, and has also now found a consistency in his game that was sometimes missing in previous years. If he gets off to his usual good start, then it will be hard to stop him doing well in Turin.
Richard D. Personally, it’s nice to have Richard D back in the team. He’s always done well in previous Olympiads, although he hasn’t yet come home from one with a performance that his play always seems to deserve. Luck certainly hasn’t been his friend at these events. His greatest asset I feel is the stability he brings to the team, and I’m confident that even with his bad luck, he’ll easily put in a 2250-2300 performance. I also know he greatly boosts my confidence while playing, since he has a solid aggressive style of play, and he is always more than capable of scoring well against anyone he plays. Regardless of grade or title. Just knowing that can give the team a huge lift when up against an all GM outfit.
Tim’s performance will be somewhere between 1900-2500! He never has been Mr.Consistant or Mr.Solid, but that isn’t a bad thing in anyway. It’s always important for a team to have someone who can beat anyone on their day, and in big events gone by, Tim’s had quite a few good days, and he is no stranger to having the better of IM’s and GM’s. Ok, it’d be great if he could do this every game, but that’s too big an ask, at least for the moment. The important thing is that he can do it, he has done it, and there is every chance that he’ll do it again. Tim has come close to IM norms in the past, and if things go his way in Turin, he might just go that extra bit further this time and finally get one.
Alan’s Olympiad will all depend on his form. If he’s playing well then a 2300+ performance is certainly within his sights. If he’s on bad form, then his performance probably won’t be anything special. He’ll have to show another level or two if he wants to get an IM norm, but he did show six months ago in the ETC and ECC, that he’s more than capable of doing it. My main hope is that Alan does show that he has permanently stepped up a level, like his ETC and ECC results suggest, and that it wasn’t all just a one off. For me it would be a great shame if Alan slipped back into the pack of 2100-2200 graded players that Wales has, after he emerged so impressively from it last October.
Jac’s selection was a tough one, and certainly the most controversial of the night. In the end it came down to whether or not we are just short-sighted, and only select a team to score as many points as possible, or whether we have the vision to be long-sighted, and try to develop a stronger team for the future. I’ll happily admit to the fact that I’m glad a team for the future won.
It can certainly be argued that any of the five reserves for the men’s team could score more points than Jac in Turin, but the key thing is that it’s unlikely that the same thing can be said in two years time. In my opinion Jac is a very talented, and promising young player, but his results are very erratic, and there are many faults and flaws in his game. The sooner these faults can be rectified the better, and hopefully the effect of spending two weeks with the senior Welsh team will go a long way to correcting these faults. The capacity for Jac to learn at his age is endless, so what makes more sense than to give him the opportunity to learn from the best players in Wales while he is still hungry to do so?
But despite Jac’s playing faults, his results are still impressive, and still improving, so I’m very confident that Jac’s performance in Turin will be one to surprise many, and that anyone who doubts his selection now will have no grounds for concern after Turin.
And now I’d like to mention the reserve players that were selected, and what in my opinion, these players can do to help their selection for future events.
John Trevelyan, first reserve. John only just missed out on selection for the main team, and can count himself slightly unfortunate. John has had a solid year, although also one lacking any eye-catching performances, and in my opinion, this is the main thing that counts against him. John can always be relied upon for a solid performance, but if you are looking for someone to put in a stellar performance then unfortunately, John is not top of that list. Although having said that, he has increased his WCU and FIDE grade by a good few points in the last eighteen months, and did have his best tournament for a long time in the 2005 Jersey International. The best thing John can do to increase his selection chances, is to rise above the pack of 2100-2200’s that exists in Wales, and show that he has more 2300+ performances in him like he managed in Jersey
Frank May, second reserve. The main thing that counted against Frank when it came to selection was his lack of consistency and noteworthy performances. But then this can be said about a lot of players in Wales. Over the years Frank has had some great individual results, and I’ve always found him a very tough opponent to play against. I’ve wondered many times how Frank’s grade never seems to match the standard of play he shows when he plays against me, but then when I check his results, I get my answer. For me personally, Frank draws far too many games against players in the 2050-2150 range. I know Frank is a better player than this, I’m sure Frank knows it to, and he should be beating these sorts of players far more often than he does. So Frank, like John, needs to show the selection committee that he is capable of breaking out of our pack of 2100-2200 players, and start beating the players he should be beating instead of settling for draws against them.
Peter Varley, third reserve. Peter was unlucky not to get selected. He is on good form at the moment, which is highlighted by his victory in the January 2006 Newport congress. The main thing that counted against Peter this time was that he has only recently returned to Wales after being away for several years. Both the committee and myself felt that it would be just too unfair on others if Peter walked straight into the team within a few months of his return to Welsh chess. Personally, I’m quite impressed with Peter’s current form, but I would like to see if this good form is permanent, meaning he has stepped up a level, or whether it is indeed just good form. All I suggest to Peter is to keep playing like he is.
Gareth Morris, forth reserve. Gareth didn’t really come into contention for selection this time around. Over the years Gareth has had some great individual results, and when he was a member of my Nidum Knights 4NCL team, I felt confident that I could rely on Gareth to always get me a result when I really needed it. But despite my confidence in Gareth’s playing ability, his actual results show that he has absolutely no consistency, and any result against any player seems possible. Gareth also didn’t help his cause this time by deciding to take a break form playing in Wales. If Gareth wants to be considered next time, he has to resume playing chess in Wales, and urgently needs to find some constancy in his results.
Chris Walsh, fifth reserve. Chris basically needs to impress. He should have been selected for the Olympiad teams in 1998 and 2000, but for various reasons he wasn’t. I, on behalf of the selection committee, apologise to Chris for this, but the fact is that this is now all in the past, and the current situation is that Chris does nothing what so ever to help his selection. The only chess he plays each year is a handful of games for Nidum Liberals. He no longer plays in the 4NCL, has not played in any weekend congress for several years, and hasn’t competed in the Welsh Championship for over 15 years. If Chris seriously wants to be chosen by the selection committee for future events, then he needs to start showing us that he is still a high quality player, and start getting results and performances that can’t be ignored.
I think we were both fortunate, and unfortunate with the women’s team. Unfortunate in that if the Olympiad had been in its usual slot towards the end of the year, we could possibly have selected the strongest women’s team ever. Yet we were also fortunate, as we have still managed to select a very good team despite the high number of players that were unavailable.
Moving onto the players, I’m confident that Abigail will have another good Olympiad. Abigail has a nice solid playing style, and never looks out of her depths on top board. Given some luck here and there, I reckon she has every chance of getting the WIM title that she came so close to in Calvia 2004.
Julie will also do well in Turin. She played some good chess in Calvia 2004, and picked up a FIDE rating as a result of it. She is showing good 4NCL form at the moment as well. She does have to step up a board or two for this Olympiad, but I’m not alone in noticing that a higher standard of opposition also brings out a higher standard of play from Julie. Given the luck that every player needs now and again, I’m sure Julie will perform admirably, and her results may even surprise herself.
Suzie…hhmmmmm…. For me, she is a slight unknown quantity this Olympiad. I know she has a lot of ability, but the unknown factor for me is how well she will be able to use it in Turin. Since she’s taken a break from regular playing the past year or so to concentrate on her university studies (which is easy to understand). My gut feeling is she has enough chess talent to do well, although the start may be a bit rough for her as she gets used to playing decent opponents again.
Megan. Megan is our ace. I’m very pleased Megan was selected, and I can see her achieving some great results in Turin. She’s one of the best junior talents we have had in many years, and I really hope the experience of playing in an Olympiad will help her development. It was no accident that she was the British Under 10’s girls champion in 2004, and the overall British Under 11’s champion in 2005.
I’ve been following Megan’s results for well over a year now, played through as many of her games as I can get my hands on, and for me, her so called `current` grade is nothing but a joke. Her playing standard at the moment is several hundred points higher than her published grade, in the January 4NCL meet, she was destroying two 1800+ players, and should have gone home with a well earned 2/2, but had to settle for just a half. And again in the recent March 4NCL, she certainly deserved 2/2, but was again robbed by her experienced opponents of half the points. But this lack of experience (which can’t be helped at her age) is only temporary, and her talent is permanent, so this scenario will certainly change in (a short space of) time. My feeling is that Megan will be Wales’s shinning star in Turin.
And finally, the first reserve for the women’s team, Julie van Kemenade. This is the first time that Julie has been eligible for selection, having just fulfilled the minimum residency requirements. The consensus of the selection committee, and also my opinion, is that if Julie wishes to be considered for future events, then she will have to increase her current level of activity. As she has only played a handful of 4NCL and congress games in recent years, and it’s impossible to judge her true playing strength on so few games.
I’ll end my comments by wishing everyone in the team the bestest of best luck for Turin, and to again point out that the opinions I’ve mentioned here are just my own opinions, and that the best thing to do for anyone who doesn’t agree with them, is to get out there and prove me wrong! That is always the perfect answer to any criticism.
Chairman of Selectors.