26th Chess Olympiad: Thessaloniki 1984

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Basic data

26th Chess Olympiad
(see all-time tournament summary)
Date: 18th November - 5th December 1984
City: Thessaloniki, Greece
Venue: The Thessaloniki International Fair
Head of Organizing Committee: Mr. Kostas Laliotis (GRE)
Head of Executive Committee: Mr. Kimonas Koulouris (GRE)
Tournament Director: Mr. Giannis Maris (GRE)
Chief Arbiter: IA Božidar Kažić (YUG)
Teams participating: 88 (incl. Greece "B")
Players participating: 521 (incl. 65 GMs, 97 IMs and 65 FMs)
Games played: 2464 (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 30 minutes, then 1 hour for each next 16 moves
Downloadable game file: 84olm.zip
Special thanks to Chrysafis Stamoudis for the bulletins.

Tournament review

For the first time in the history the Olympiad was held in the country that is a temple of the Olympic idea. At the FIDE congress held concurrently with the Olympiad the hosts offered to organize the Chess Olympiad in Greece every 4 years. This was enthusiastically accepted, given that the Greeks offered government financial guarantees. Looking ahead the plan worked for only one period, since the Olympiad came back to Thessaloniki in 1988, but never more. This Olympiad was a generation turning point and the young generation dominated the pool, although many top players were missing.

The memorable World Championship marathon between Karpov and Kasparov was not finished yet, so USSR had to play without two strongest players in the World - probably still not a problem for them (BTW Karpov asked to keep a place for him in case the match had finished earlier; their 2nd reserve Sokolov was to be withdrawn from the team in that case. It is not clear whether this obviously illegal action [7 players!] would come true; however the Moscow show lasted much longer than the Olympiad). Their young and rebuild squad (Polugaevsky was the only veteran) was lead by Alexander Beliavsky. Hungary, second best seeds diminished the ELO difference to the Soviet team down to 15 points, making their dreams about yet another gold justified. As usual Portisch played at board 1 followed by Ribli and Adorján. Those two teams seemed way stronger than the followers: rejuvenated Yugoslavia (without Gligorić, who was the chief arbiter of the WCh match at the time), England (same people again, still young and ebullient but more experienced!), unpredictable Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands and USA, again hunting for bronze (this time it was Seirawan who said board 1 or nothing, the USCF chose nothing). The rest seemed reasonably weaker, including West Germany (no Schmid who was not selected), Iceland or Sweden. Switzerland were lacking Kortschnoj this time to make them a drab team. Ivanov and Spraggett were missing from Canadian team as their financial demands exceeded (by far!) the financial capabilities of FCE. The only Italian GM Mariotti devoted himself to business commitments and left professional chess forever.

The gong of the first round sounded on the 19th November, the day when Capablanca was born. The USSR team had to fight hard against the inexperienced youths of Malaysia. The Czechs, defending silver medals won in Lucerne, will never forget their encounter with Sri Lanka, since the 16-year-old Aturupane beat GM Smejkal. The first round was full of extraordinary games. The Dutch GM Van der Wiel couldn't have anticipated a woman as his opponent, but yes, he met FM Rani Hamid from Bangladesh, the sole woman among +500 male players. A large number of spectators gathered around a table of France-Faroe Islands match since the French board #1 was the ex-World Champion GM Boris Spassky. That day he barely drew against obscure Faroese player Rødgaard! Both Greek teams scored 100% on that day, what a start from the hosts. Iceland barely halved with Tunisia, to almost anyone's surprise. On the next day Czechoslovakia suffered another humiliating loss. Their top player Hort lost to Agdestein, Norway's greatest chess hope. As far as the strongest teams were concerned nobody thought that USSR would find such difficult opponent as Colombia proved to be - as well as Switzerland for Hungary. Austria have been too weak for the Netherlands while West Germany created the greatest surprise of the round when they lost to relatively weaker team of Indonesia. An unexpectedly hard battle was fought between Albania and Romania while Yugoslavia's win was expected, USA and China fought very close and Sweden had many problems with the strong Brazilian team. The next round saw one of most memorable Olympic sensations as USSR wiped out Hungary by 4-0, the first and only Hungarian loss of that kind in the history. The spectators maliciously noted that had only Karpov and Kasparov played, the Soviets would win by no bigger margin than 3-1, referring to excessive number of draws conceded in the WCh match. The Soviet machine proved they were still capable of functioning smoothly with their young and vigorous members. Yugoslavia drew Romania with three easy draws and Ljubojević pushing Subă hard, but unsuccessfully. The English swept Italians with 4-0 while with the same score the Argentinians were defeated by the Icelanders and the Mexicans by the Germans. USSR were in the lead, of course, with a perfect 12/12 record ahead of Holland, England and Iceland. Hungary were lying down in 30th (!), behind Zimbabwe and Puerto Rico. The next round proved that the chances of the USSR being chucked out of their premises on table one are remote. The Dutch who were thought to be dangerous opponents for the favourites, succumbed naturally to the aggression of the world champions. Brilliant Beliavsky won yet another game, this time vs Timman, enough for narrow 2½-1½ victory. The Czechs recovered beating poor Zimbabwe 4-0 to push them up to 5th place tied with France and Iceland, and that because of very close results on other top tables. Round 5 offered drama and excitement for the kibitzers who tightly crowded the big playing hall. Beliavsky hammered Miles in another prestigious East-West clash sealing Soviet's modest win over England. Romania beat Holland with a narrow margin and Iceland, a land of 230,000 people drew Czechoslovakia inhabited by 15 million. Hungary recovered partially thanks to minimal win over Sweden. Yugoslavia vs Bulgaria was a tough local derby in which the Bulgarians seemed to hold the upper hand, but they finally lost. Day 6 started from hot news from Moscow, where Karpov extended his lead to 5-0. The Soviets earned another 2½-1½, this time over Romania. England beat USA and Hungary beat France (Portisch drew Spassky, the only ex-World Champion present at the Olympiad). The playing hall heard big applause as young Greek player Gavrilakis beat GM Marjanović in a very nice game; Greece lost to Yugoslavia 1-3 though. On the next day USSR beat Yugoslavia convincingly and the rest of the top matches did not swing outside 2-2 / 2½-1½ range with exception of Sweden, who took over tied 2nd place because of 3½-½ win over Chile. USSR were in the lead at the halfway with huge advantage over England, Sweden and Czechoslovakia.

Round 8 was another tough fighting round. USSR barely halved vs gutsy Sweden and Hungary beat England, once again full responsibility was put into Pintér's hands. The Czechs were out of luck narrowly drawing won positions and they lost to Bulgaria. Holland took the Swiss elevator upwards beating Scotland 3½-½. Yugoslavia came back with 3-1 vs Brazil. Day 9 was a day of Soviet's mostly unexpected loss to USA. Beliavsky, stepping from win to win until today lost to ex-Soviet Dzindzichashvili and De Firmian beat Yusupov. The Yugoslavs and the Hungarians surprised all since Ljubo, Ribli and Sax were absent, allegedly from psychological reasons. It was a 2-2 draw, and again Pintér saved the day for Hungary. USA strengthened their runner-up position after 9th rounds since most of top matches were draws too. On the next day Soviets made up for a lost ground beating 3-1 Bulgaria. Yugoslavia passed Sweden and USA defeated Hungary (sorry, no Pintér's win this time). England beat Romania and moved up to 3rd place. In 11th round USSR met tough resistance from tiny Iceland. The brave Vikings had some winning chances but they agreed draws in better positions and Ólafsson lost a drawn game vs Beliavsky. All of a sudden it was a Soviet victory, still a narrow defeat and not bad result for Iceland, but... The USA team continued its energetic pursuit of the silver medals beating Sweden and De Firmian took the decisive point. Hungary made a strong comeback to the top wiping out Spain 3½-½. If you lay down the Dutch flag you get the French - and that's exactly what happened as France beat the Netherlands 3-1 (draw from Spassky)! Yugoslavia and England went on for a well deserved draw. Romania climbed up to tied 3rd because of their huge victory over Bulgaria. On the next day USSR polished off France by 3½-½ (only Spassky saved a draw) and USA beat Yugoslavia convincingly. Aggressive Subă found out that against Portisch one must also be accurate, the loss that sealed Hungary's 3-1 win over Romania. England wiped out Sweden with a great deal of blood-letting. With two rounds to go the scores were USSR 35, USA 31½, England and Hungary 30½. As soon as the penultimate round was over the Soviet team had already captured the gold medals as they beat Cuba. England climbed up to 2nd spot with 34 points fter they hammered Canada 3½-½ and USA were back in 3rd after having lost to West Germany. Hungary made four draws with the dynamic young Filipino team, but the Hungarians should count themselves lucky, since Yap had a winning chances against Sax. We had a rest day before the last round started, and England were comfortably lying in 2nd ahead of USA. Hungary, lying in 4th, were desperately hunting for medals. Romania and Germany were too far away to dream of top 3. USSR sealed their triumph smoothly beating West Germany, England did not miss a chance and grabbed the silver after they had beaten dangerous team of Philippines and USA took bronze (once again) as they halved vs Bulgaria, same as Hungary vs Cuba. Hungary had not delivered their line up and had to play with the four top boards while they had agreed Pintér must play instead of Sax. Romania finished in 5th ahead of West Germany and France (at last!). Yugoslavia were quite disappointed to lay down in 9th. China's 12th was a good sign for future. Czechoslovakia, silver medal winners from Lucerne, were terribly disappointed to see their team at 17th.

So, once again it was USSR, this time successfully lead by young Beliavsky. Armenian Vaganian was their another star. It was definitely Nunn who did most stunning performance among the British players. Not only had he lead England to overall 2nd, won gold individual medals for both best result at board #2 and best rating performance but he had also won the gold medal at the Olympic problem solving contest! Mestel won gold individual medal too. Only Miles was sort of disappointing. Team USA won bronze and De Firmian won individual gold. It was Browne who was exceptionally bad-shaped this time, though. Hungary were unable to reach medal zone (despite Pintér's excellent run) perhaps mainly because of destructive 0-4 crash vs USSR. Romania were fairly glad to reach 5th spot.

Many events were held concurrently with the Olympiad. GM Klarić of Yugoslavia won the "2300 years of Thessaloniki" open. Utut Adianto (Indonesia) won the open blitz tournament and Sinisa Joksić of Yugoslavia won journalists blitz tournament. The Olympic contest for graphic chess problems was also announced. The most interesting problems were The Olympic Torch, the number 26 (referring to the fact this was the 26th Olympiad), and the Greek letter Θ (the first letter of "Thessaloniki" in Greek).

Individual medals

Best Rating Performance
no. name flag code ELOp
1. GM Nunn, John Denis Martin ENG 2868
2. GM Vaganian, Rafael URS 2798
2. GM Beliavsky, Alexander URS 2798

1st Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. Van Tilbury, Craig ISV 11 86.4
2. FM Borg, Geoffrey MLT 9 11 81.8
3. GM Beliavsky, Alexander URS 8 10 80.0

2nd Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. GM Nunn, John Denis Martin ENG 10 11 90.9
2. Cooper, John Grantley WLS 9 11 81.8
3. Raphael, John TRI 12 79.2

3rd Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. GM Vaganian, Rafael URS 10 85.0
2. Delaney, John IRL 8 11 72.7
3. IM Morovic Fernández, Iván CHI 9 13 69.2

4th Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. Sinprayoon, Pricha THA 8 10 80.0
2. Powell, John JAM 7 9 77.8
3. Loheac-Ammoun, Frank LIB 11 77.3

1st Reserve Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. Gajadin, Dewperkash SUR 7 9 77.8
1. GM Pintér, József HUN 7 9 77.8
1. IM Ochoa de Echagüen, Javier ESP 7 9 77.8
1. GM Mestel, Andrew Jonathan ENG 7 9 77.8

2nd Reserve Board
no. name flag code pts gms %
1. Comben, Gorden GBG 10 75.0
1. Schinis, Marios CYP 10 75.0
3. IM De Firmian, Nick USA 10 74.0

*De Firmian won one game by forfeit and was given bronze medal.

GM John Nunn of England won gold medal in the Olympic solving competition with 25½ pts ahead of World Champion Valtonen of Finland (23½ points) and Miladenović of Yugoslavia (21 points).

Interesting games

White missed excellent chance for brilliant win on their 24th move. Find it!
Abdelnnabi, Imed (EGY) - Züger, Beat (SUI) 1 - 0

World's leading player knocked out by Norwegian prodigy, aged 17.
Hort, Vlastimil (CSR) - Agdestein, Simen (NOR) 0 - 1

Black entangled into opening difficulties and did not manage to recover.
Beliavsky, Alexander (URS) - Portisch, Lajos (HUN) 1 - 0

Black Queen chased all over the board.
Timman, Jan (NED) - Beliavsky, Alexander (URS) 0 - 1

Unexpected voyage of brave white Knight sealed White's quick win.
Danner, Georg (AUT) - Chan, K. (HKG) 1 - 0

Very typical but always instructive; black King left alone
Ernst, Thomas (SWE) - Kouatly, Bachar (FRA) 1 - 0

Original way of exposing black King's position.
Subă, Mihai (ROM) - Timman, Jan (NED) 1 - 0

Usually pair of passed pawns means more than a Rook.
Nunn, John (ENG) - Dzindzichashvili, Roman (USA) 1 - 0

Hey, can't that nosy white Bishop simply be taken?
García Martínez, Silvino (CUB) - Mokrý, Karel (CSR) 1 - 0

Watch the power of pair of Bishops controlling open diagonals.
Portisch, Lajos (HUN) - Ólafsson, Helgi (ISL) 1 - 0

That was a simple but stunning final strike.
Hjartarson, Jóhann (ISL) - Van der Wiel, John (NED) 1 - 0

The final position is truly fabulous, as if taken from the chess problem.
Bărbulescu, Dan (ROM) - Browne, Walter Shawn (USA) 1 - 0

The ending was simply a chess problem to solve.
White's 83rd move was key to success.
Dzindzichashvili, Roman (USA) - Beliavsky, Alexander (URS) 1 - 0

White missed beautiful mate in 3 on their 36th move.
Huss, Andreas (SUI) - Pandavos, Panayotis (GRE2) 1 - 0

Pair of free Rooks is usually worth more than a Queen.
Marjanović, Slavoljub (YUG) - Grószpéter, Attila (HUN) 1 - 0

White's Knight fork-check must have been sort of shock for Black.
Pintér, József (HUN) - Ivanović, Božidar (YUG) 1 - 0

Miles' sense of humour made him offer draw after 24 moves...
Miles, Anthony (ENG) - Subă, Mihai (ROM) 0 - 1

That's the basic chess commandment:
once you double your Rooks do it at the open line!
Morovic Fernández, Iván (CHI) - Murey, Jacob (ISR) 1 - 0

Black recklessly yielded control over white squares.
Vaganian, Rafael (URS) - Hübner, Robert (GER) 1 - 0

White Rooks penetrating enemy's rear.
Skalkotas, Nikolaos (GRE) - Cordovil, João Maria (POR) 1 - 0

Another slip up of the Czechs, well played by Black.
Smejkal, Jan (CSR) - Aturupane, Hari (SRI) 0 - 1

The Queen jaunt proved waste of time.
Delaney, John (IRL) - Mortensen, Erling (DEN) 0 - 1

Horrible debacle for White and excellent game of Gunawan.
Lobron, Eric (GER) - Gunawan, Ronny (INA) 0 - 1

That was very far from what we call "a grandmaster draw"
Ljubojević, Ljubomir (YUG) - Subă, Mihai (ROM) ½ - ½

It is interesting how White survived a 4-Rook ending with a deficit of a pawn.
Gheorghiu, Florin (ROM) - Vaganian, Rafael (URS) ½ - ½

The Chinese are good but not perfect, at least not in the endings.
Liang Jinrong (CHN) - Plachetka, Ján (CSR) 0 - 1

At a cost of a piece White destroyed Black's pawn shield.
Dimitriadis, Konstantinos (GRE2) - Santacruz, Francisco (PAR) 1 - 0

Black extricated with a neat manoeuvre that lead them to perpetual check.
Gobet, Fernand (SUI) - Zichichi, Alvise (ITA) ½ - ½

White seemed to be winning but Black saved the game.
Skembris, Spyridon (GRE) - Afifi, Assem (EGY) ½ - ½

A classical example of leaky combination.
Hort, Vlastimil (CSR) - Nogueiras, Jesús (CUB) 0 - 1


Boris Spassky's debut for France was exceptionally peaceful. 12 of his 14 games were drawn exceeding by 3 anyone else's record. On the other hand Spassky was the only player to play all the games and to avoid a loss.


The best party was organized by the US Virgin Islands team: it started in the evening and was over in the Hotel Capsis the next morning. Following years the Bermuda Party earned the reputation of truly grand fiesta.


Ion Gudju of Romania, aged 87, was the head of appeals committee at Thessaloniki. He participated in Paris, 1924 at the first, unofficial chess Olympiad.


In a bus, on the way to the games, Boris Spassky was introduced by a friend to one of the anonymous Olympians. When they were about to part, Spassky's friend told the Olympian not to wash his right hand in order to keep some of Spassky's power for his game. As a result, the chessplayer won his next game in good style. He immediately came to Boris' friend to tell him that his advice was absolutely correct. Now he will not wash his right hand until the end of the Olympiad. This happened in the first rounds of the Olympiad. We believe from that moment Boris Spassky was busy shaking hands with other chessplayers!


The US Virgin Islands were probably the smallest of the federations that sent their teams to Thessaloniki. The ISV Chess Federation had no more than 20 members at that time.


Mexican Hilda Acevedo was again crowned "Miss Olympiad" (see her photo1 and photo2. Courtesy of Armando Acevedo - proud father).


As much as 13 Greeks participated. 6 of them for Greece "A", next 6 for Greece "B", but what about the last one? 19-year-old Savvas Kyriakidis represented Zimbabwe. His parents were refugees from Cyprus and left for Africa shortly after Turkish invasion on the North of Cyprus.