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Maltese national teams return from Chess Olympiad in India

The women’s and men’s national teams participated in the bi-annual Chess Olympiad held in Chennai, India.

The Olympiad was originally planned to be held in Moscow and was moved to India just over four months ago.

India exceeded all expectations by managing to hold the biggest and one of the best ever organized Olympiads in such a short period of time.

Malta Chess Federation president Geoffrey Borg, who is considered an expert in organizing such large events, was involved as a consultant. He was also the FIDE Delegate at the Olympiads.  International Arbiter Noel Grima was also part of the contingent as an arbiter of the Women’s Olympiad.

The Maltese women’s team consisted of Filipina Thornton (board 1), Jamie Farrugia (board 2), Urna Psaila (board 3), Milena Stagno (board 4) and Hayley Thornton (reserve).

At 11 years, Haley Thornton was one of the youngest participants in this Olympiad and drew a lot of attention from the international media and public. Peter Sammut Briffa was the team captain.

The women’s team fared as expected.

Seeded in 107th place they ended in joint 110th place, achieving four wins and one draw from 11 matches.

Malta beat Bhutan (3½ – ½), Eritrea (3½ – ½), Eswatini (3-1), Mauritius (2½ – 1½) and drew against Wales (2-2). 

The team lost against Greece (0-4), Bangladesh (0-4), New Zealand (0-4), Iraq (½-3½), Nicaragua (0-4) and Syria (1-3).

On top board, Filipina Thornton managed to obtain 5.5 points from 9 games and improved her rating.

Jamie Farrugia collected 3 points, Urna Psaila 1½ points, Milena Stagno 3 points and Hayley Thornton 3 points.  

Hayley Thornton’s performance of 1,343 was the success story of the team.  

Notwithstanding her young age, she managed to win three games – two of which helped secure a win and a draw for Malta.

The women’s Olympiad was won by Ukraine with Georgia taking silver and India bronze.

The men’s team was composed of Jake Darmanin (board 1), David Cilia Vincenti (board 2), Colin Pace (board 3), Duncan Vella (board 4) and Jack Mizzi (reserve).  

At 16 years this was Jack Darmanin’s (current Junior U20 Champion) first experience in an Olympiad. Robert Novak was team captain.

The men team were seeded in 116th place and ended in a disappointing joint 144th place, achieving four wins from 11 matches.  

Malta beat Timor-Leste (3-1), Fiji (3-1), Palestine (2½ – 1½) and Saint Lucia (3-1). They lost to Serbia (0-4), Ecuador (1-3), Yemen (½ – 3½), Iraq (0-4), Sao Tome and Principe (1½-2½), Faroe Islands (½-3½) and Sudan (1-3).

Malta started well and was on course for a placing as expected, until the surprising round 8 defeat against Sao Tome and Principe.

Following this loss, Malta encountered further difficult matches and could only manage one win from the last 3 rounds.

On an individual level, good results were obtained by Colin Pace who beat Ecuador’s IM Bastidas (2351) and Duncan Vella who drew against Faroe Island’s IM Rodgaard (2324).

Jack Mizzi had a very good tournament and was on course for a Candidate Master Title if he won his last round game.

He managed to achieve a good position against his higher rated opponent and refused several draw opportunities to try to win. Unfortunately, after over 5 hours of play and one of the last games of the whole Olympiads to finish, Mizzi over-pressed and lost.

On top board, Jake Darmanin collected 3 points from 9 games, David Pace 3½ points from 8 games, Colin Pace 3 points, Duncan Vella 3 points and Jack Mizzi 3½ points.

The Open Olympiad was surprisingly won by Uzbekistan with Armenia and India 2 finishing second and third respectively.

At the International Chess Federation – FIDE, Dvorkovich was confirmed as FIDE president for the next 4 years while the next Olympiad in 2024 was confirmed for Budapest, Hungary.

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