Captain Melik & Coach Yury Reflect on Tromso
By GM Melikset Khachiyan & GM Yury Shulman   
August 26, 2014
The Olympiad was an unbelievable experience! It was a great honor to be selected as Captain of the US Women's Team.

Team USA got off to a good start in Tromso, easily winning the first two matches against Finland and Belgium. Our first important match came in round 3 when we faced the very strong Chinese squad. 

Near the end of first time control our team made a couple of decisive mistakes, and we lost the match by a score of 1:3. The most exciting game was between Irina Krush and current women world champion Hou Yifan. After getting a very promising position, Irina made a couple mistakes, and ended up losing after six long hours.

Despite the loss, the China match made us believe in our future.  

After defeating the Wales team in round 4, we played the very young and ambitious Azerbaijani team in round 5. The match was difficult, and we were very evenly matched.  We ended up losing on board 1, but winning the match with the overall score of 2.5:1.5. Katerina Nemcova won her game and the important match victory.

In round 6, we faced Estonia, and Anna Zatonskih played a very strong game giving us solid win 3:1.  


In round 7, we faced an experienced Armenian team. The match was a rollercoaster, but Sabina Foisor our reserve player, was able to squeeze a win out of a game where she had just a minimal advantage. Sabina understood the importance of this match, and she refused to make a draw in quite a drawn endgame.  Ultimately, she won by using small mistakes from her opponent and getting a very important victory.  After back and forth games, the match with Armenia was drawn 2:2.

After a disappointing loss to France in round 8, the team drew with Montenegro in round 9.  In round 10 we were paired with the very strong team from Vietnam, whom we had lost to in the previous Olympiad, and our team was ready to get their revenge.  After long battles, Anna Zatonskih and Tatev Abrahamyan won their games and the match for the team.  

Following the important victory over Vietnam, we were paired with Argentina in the last round.  We had to win against Argentina to be in the top 10 and also to be the top team from the American continent.   (In FIDE the Americas Continent includes North and South America and all in between.) 

Everyone played brilliantly on the last day, and we swept 4-0 but I want to mention our first board Irina Krush.  Irina played a very strong game.

We finished in 8th place.  Irina Krush was 5-5 on 1st board; Anna Zatonskih and Tatev Abrahamyan on boards 2 and 3 both scored 75% both turning in strong results for the team.   Katerina Nemcova on board 4 was 7-4 with a  64.3 % score and our reserve, Sabina Foisor scored 5-2 or 71.4 %. 

All of the players are amazing, and we became very close, like a family. We won together, and we lost together. No matter how difficult our matches were, whether we won or lost, our team spirit throughout the Olympiad remained high. We won rights to represent the Americas in Women's World Team Championship. We also won our confidence, and we believe in our bright future. 

I would like to thank everyone who helped us to perform at Olympiad.  Our coaching staff included GM Yury Shulman and GM Wesley So, who did an amazing job. I would also like to thank our sponsors, the Saint Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center, Kasparov Chess Foundation, and USCF.  

I want to thank in particular Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield from St Louis. Their attention to both teams was good for morale and team spirit.  We especially appreciated the nice dinners away from the hotel.  Tony Rich was also a huge help to the Women’s team, taking the whole team to dinner a couple of times and serving as the official photographer for the team. St. Louis also made everyone a custom jacket with the emblems of the three sponsors on it, which was much appreciated by everyone.  

2014 Olympiad:  Coaching Report - by GM Yuri Shulman
Yury in Tromso, Photo Irina Krush

The Chess Olympiad in Tromso was my 8th Olympiad. Tromso is really picturesque. The mountains, hills, lakes, ocean, subarctic plants and Midnight sun make this Olympiad stand out from most of other trips that the average chess player makes. 

Over the years, I have served in every role except that of Open team captain and women's team player.  I was women's team captain in 2006 Olympiad in Torino where we took 4th place. Before round one of that Olympiad, I said to the players, that regardless of our results, my goal is that after the last round all of us would smile. I think the goal was accomplished in Tromso also.  There were moments when we had a tough loss, and we almost forget how to smile, but the team showed resilience and we pulled together and stayed positive.  Toward the end we  "hit our stride" and were ready to play couple of more rounds.  
GM Irina Krush

Irina, being a team leader, learned a very important lesson for herself. She wants to work on her defensive skills against lower rated players. 

IM Anna Zatonskih, with Coach Melik in the background

Anna wants to have a little more experience before important events. In the second half of the tournament she was able to perform full strength and played really well. 
IM Tatev Abrahamyan

Tatev proved again that her recent successes are just a road on the way to her new goals. She just wants to work more on her time troubles and decision making over the board. 

WGM Katerina Nemcova

Katerina was a great addition to the team. I would just recommend her to believe in herself. She is a great player! 

WGM Sabina Foisor
Sabina's win against Armenia really impressed me. She just followed our home preparation for a while and although she mixed up at some point, she had a strong determination to play on and succeeded in the endgame which did not look dangerous for the Armenian team. Also Sabina probably was very close to win her game against French team.

I saw a nice positive shift this year. Although the Open and women's teams were always supportive of each other, this time we interacted and collaborated more than ever before, and we were truly one team. Hopefully this was not only because we kept on exchanging coaches.  In general, our team was a great one!   We were happy to work together, spend time together and to qualify for the World Team 2015. I wish our team success in all their upcoming events!