Thinley Namgay   

Team Bhutan concluded their last game at the 44th Chess Olympiad in Chennai, India with a win yesterday.

The men’s team defeated Comoros 3-1 and the women’s team won against Cape Verde 3-1.

Despite the lack of training, a master or rated players, the team’s performances were commendable in this major international tournament.

Both the teams played with 10 countries each. The women’s team defeated four countries while the men won from three.

Captain Palden said that Bhutanese players ended the tournament with their heads held high.  “Every member of the team won at least a match, which is an impressive feat in itself.”

“At one point the men’s team was in the second position for the category E prize but after two consecutive losses, they lost  the opportunity.”

Palden said that Sonam Choden with eight wins and a draw achieved the Women’s Federation Master (WFM) norm but did not earn enough FIDE (International Chess Federation) rating to get the WFM title.

He also said Bhakta Monger from the men’s category won six matches and achieved the Candidate Master (CM) norm but again due to insufficient FIDE rating, he did not get the CM title.

“To have two members of the team almost achieve the Master level title in our first formal tournament is very impressive,” Palden said.

Team Bhutan made an impressive jump up in the ranking. The women’s team started at 149 and ended at 136 while the men’s team started at 183 and finished at 172.

The youngest players, Pema Yangsel and Lhundrup Namgyal Dorji also won a game each and became the youngest Bhutanese chess players to win at a Chess Olympiad.

A 13-year-old Lhundrup Namgyal Dorji said he had been seriously playing chess for the last eight months and was glad to be qualified for the Chess Olympiad.

He won the first Olympiad game against Comoros after 72 moves spending over 3.5 hours. “I got the win after my opponent resigned as he had no options left in the end game,” Lhundrup Namgyal Dorji said.

Lhundrup Namgyal Dorji said that he enjoyed the competition but it was also challenging to play against many Master level title holders who have decades of chess experience.

“I made them take many hours to beat me. I know that if I make a continuous effort from now, I will be able to defeat a few of them next time,” he said, adding that he would participate in the next Olympiad and win more games.

Lhundrup Namgyal Dorji said the matches were held in one room and it was an opportunity to meet many Grand Masters such as Magnus Carlsen.

The tournament ended yesterday and the closing ceremony was held at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

Uzbekistan is the winner in the men’s category followed by Armenia and host India in second and third place, respectively.  In the women’s group, Ukraine is the winner, while Georgia stood second and India bagged the third position.

The 44th Chess Olympiad was a formal international chess competition for Bhutanese players after eight years since the chess federation became dormant.

Captain Palden said the impressive results achieved in a short time clearly show that, with regular structured support and some financial assistance, a lot could be achieved in chess by Bhutan.

Players were selected two months before the tournament. This is the second time Bhutan sent its players to the Chess Olympiad.  The first one was in 2014 in Norway.

The team comprising 10 chess players (five men and women each) and two team captains from the Bhutan Chess Federation has been in Chennai since July 27. The team will land in the country tomorrow.

More than 2,000 players from 180 countries participated in the tournament.