Armenians repeat their success
Little Knight meets big rook
The technical Olympiad spirit


Making War From the 'Land of the Morning Calm'

Dresden, 19/11/2008

In the 20th anniversary of the Seoul Summer Olympics, South Korea sends two squads to the Olympiad for the first time.

In more than half a century of Women's Olympiads, one the largest population centers in the world has failed to send a team. That changed last week when South Korea played a first-round match with Algeria. Though they lost 4-0, they came back in round two to win one game and then won their first match ever, 2.5-1.5, over fellow newcomer Pakistan in round four.

First board player Hakyung Kim won in that round to help propel her team into the chess history books. Though only ten years old, and slight at that, she gave a measured response by saying her win made her happy and that "it was very interesting to win in this big tournament," as though girls her age could not mix modesty and precocity any better. Her personal goal is 3.5 points.

Kim is from Seoul, the second-largest metropolitan area in the world. The decision to begin playing chess was hers to make. At the age of seven, she happened upon a chess game and obediently asked to learn. "I was very curious. I said, 'Can I play chess in the club?'" Kim recalled. She said she thinks western chess is more popular in her homeland than Korean chess, also known as janggi.

She has made friends with some of the Japanese players, and even the Algerians, graciously bypassing any contempt from the first round. Dresden, like all Olympiads, has that power. How many Korean girls have ever even met an Algerian?

When she returns home, Kim has her report ready for her friends. Improvising some English slang, she said she will tell them, "I got blah blah points and many countries participated in this," and then she paused, "– the biggest tournament in the world."

The South Korean men are playing in only their second Olympiad (their first was in Turin, 2006). They boast one grandmaster in their lineup and they have a win and tie to their credit thus far.

FM Mike Klein