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USA Wins Bronze Medal at 25th NATO Chess Championship Print E-mail
By Colonel David Hater, US Army   
September 22, 2014
The Opening Ceremony, Courtesy Public Affairs Office, 2nd
Division of Canada

USA’s Military Chess Team placed 3rd at the 25th NATO Chess Championship from 8 to 12 September 2014 in Quebec City, Canada, one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  This year’s 25th anniversary event was significant as the championship was held in North America for the first time.  Seventy Four players from eleven NATO countries were graciously hosted in the magnificent Citadelle de Quebec by the Canadian Royal 22nd Regiment which is celebrating its centennial anniversary in 2014.  In addition to the chess competition, participants were treated to a week of exciting festivities including an opening day parade ceremony and a closing awards banquet at the Parliament Building in Quebec City.

The NATO Championship is a 7 round individually paired Swiss open to each of the 28 NATO countries.  Teams consist of 6 players and the top 4 scores determine the team’s score.  Countries may send two additional players as team officials. These players play in the tournament forming a NATO team of “housemen” but do not count for their country’s score.

The 2014 USA delegation was comprised of:

FM Private Dharim Bacus-2311-82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, NC
NM Captain Arthur Macaspac-2102-3rd Battalion, 85th Infantry,  Fort Drum, NY
Colonel David Hater (pictured below) -2090-Army Cyber Command, Fort Meade, MD


Master Sergeant (MSgt) Robert Keough
-2061-Fort Meade, MD
Petty Officer Enrico Balmaceda-2050-Navy Consolidated Brig Miramar, Miramar, CA
Lieutenant Colonel Jon Middaugh-1791-Army National Guard
Staff Sergeant (retired) John Farrell-2048-HQs, Marine Corps, Pentagon, Washington, DC
Lieutenant Colonel Charles Musselman-1965-AFROTC Det 410, University of St. Thomas, MN
IM Lieutenant Lorenz Drabke, Courtesy Public Affairs Office, 2nd
Division of Canada

The first six players scores were designated as the USA team while the other two members of the delegation played under the American flag, but their scores could not be added to the team total.  
Chief Petty Officer Albertryan Hernandez, U.S. Navy was also due to play but his wife gave birth to their first child the day before the tournament started.  Congratulations to Chief Hernandez on the birth of his daughter!

As usual, and as predicted by rating, Germany won the tournament.  Germany has played in 24 of the 25 NATO Championships winning the event 21 times and was the runner up twice!  This year they scored 21.5 points to Poland’s 20 points based on the combined scores of the top four players from each team in the seven round event. Though it may have seemed like a foregone conclusion, this was a very hard fought event.  Germany and Poland switched places at the top of the podium throughout the week and head to head matchups in the final round allowed Germany to emerge victorious.  

The U.S. team entered the tournament with particularly high hopes this year after fielding a strong team with our top four players bringing an average rating of 2141.  This was second behind Germany’s average top 4 of 2289 and just ahead of Poland at 2127.  While USA brought an A-team this year, it was no easy feat for the team to secure a spot on the podium.  The bronze medal was not decided until the final round in which Team USA finished with a team score of 17.5, edging out Denmark and Hungary by a full point.  In the NATO Championship’s 25 year history, USA has achieved medals only three times (1989, 2002, 2014).  Hopefully, it won’t be another decade before we are again in the winner’s circle!
Wells vs Drabke, Courtesy Public Affairs Office, 2nd
Division of Canada

The individual winner was Germany’s  IM Lieutenant Lorenz Drabke (2467).  Again this may not have been a surprise since he outrated the field by 150 points and he has won this tournament 5 times including the last three years in a row.  Still, he tied for first with Poland’s Dariusz Sycz , both at 6-1.  Drabke beat Sycz in their individual game, but ceeded draws to Hungary’s Gusztav Oltean and Poland’s Sypien Mateusz.  Drabke counts as his best game his win over Denmark’s FM Private Finn Pedersen. (2277)


Captain Macaspac (2102), finished with 4.5 points as the best US scorer finishing in the 10th to 18th place tie.  Only a last round loss prevented Macaspac from achieving an individual medal. His 5th round game versus Denmark’s Private Jan Nielsen (2083) was a critical encounter allowing USA to edge out Denmark.
Private Dharim Bacus (2311), U.S. Army, coming into the tournament as the second seed at 2311, also finished in the tie for 10th place with three wins and three draws.  His 5th round loss to third seed, FM Mark Helbig (2289) from Germany was a tough result for USA, but the two FMs produced an excellent game.


The other top finisher for Team USA was Master Sergeant Keough (2072), who also scored a personal best 4.5 points this year.  Having also been a member of the 2002 USA team, he is the only USA player to have been awarded two NATO Championship medals.  His best game was against Polish Team Captain Major Slawomir Kednierski (2024).


Four other Team USA players were close behind the team’s top finishers with individual scores of 4.0 points. Petty Officer Balmaceda’s (2072) win over Netherlands’s Team Captain Ard Dekker (1922) was crucial in the USA final round score.


In the final round, USA’s extra players that competed as part of separate NATO teams won key matches against close rival team opponents to help secure the bronze medal for Team USA.  Lt Col Charles Musselman (1965), defeated Denmark’s Private Gert Aagaard (2053) while Staff Sergeant (retired), John Farrell (USA 2048), defeated Hungary’s team captain Lieutenant Colonel Csaba Csizmadia (1870).