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


A trader at the chessboard

Dresden, 21/11/2008

Canada has come to the olympiad with a men’s and women’s team. The North Americans are usually having their meals together. They agreed to some talking before during lunchtime before the seventh round started.

My initial question was about the number of originally French speaking players in the team. There are only two of them but of course they are proficient in English as well. Most of the team members are from Toronto, one is from Montreal and one is living in New York. I asked them how popular chess has become in Canada and if it is taught in schools. „Yes, chess is indeed becoming more and more popular. A lot is going on in schools. There is a program called Grass Root which offers chess lessons at schools. It’s rather addressing beginners than advanced level players. „Who is financing this? The government?“. The Canadians look startled and assure that the government wouldn’t even think of such thing. The offering is based on private initiatives and parents have to pay for the lessons their kids are taking.

The answer to my question why there is rising popularity of chess amongst parents as well is: „The parents want to keep their kids away from the computers, video games, the street. You have to keep the kids busy!“

While the others were leaving for the seventh round grandmaster Pascal Charbonneau stayed for some more questions. It’s the fifth olympiad for the 25-year old and a chance to come to Europe again: „I work as a trader for a hedge fund in New York. Unfortunately I can’t travel a lot there, my last trip to Europe was two years ago for the olympiad in Torino “. Apparently he informed himself about the restauration of the old city of Dresden.: „In America we don’t have these kind of old cities, even though in this case the buildings around Frauenkirche are not really old because they are reconstructed“.



Charbonneau studied finance and economics, he never wanted to be a chess professional. „Alexander Onischuk attended the same university as I did but our background is completely different. He has gone through this old Russian chess school though he is Ukrainian. I would rather say I started my career as a coffee house player. I played a lot besides my study but from a financial point of view I am much better as a trader than I could ever have been as a chess professional. And I have just been working for two years now. Maybe I can even retire in a few years time.“ If the financial crisis has some impact on him I was asking next. „Yesterday (Wednesday) was another terrible day, the Dow Jones lost more than five percent. But it’s some advantage to be here: New York markets open at 3:30 pm our time here and I am playing then. I can’t really concentrate on the financial markets while I am in Europe.“ And how is his team doing so far? „We were doing fine but yesterday it was pretty horrible: We lost to Iraq 1,5:2,5 including myself. I blundered, this happens when you are not playing a lot. I played a lot of very strong players on previous olympiads and didn’t loose, like Aronian and Radjabov. My personal highlight was my win against Anand at the last olympiad in Torino. His rating was above 2800 at that time.“

Peter Dengler

The author is working as a volunteer in the press centre of this year’s chess olympiad. As an amateur chessplayer he is taking the chance to meet with the chess world.