It was long before I was born the last time that the United States won a gold medal victory at a Chess Olympiad. That kind of drought is long enough for many American chess enthusiasts to start each Olympiad off with little to no hope for a competitive finish. Countries like Russia and China have dominated the scene for years, but all of that changed in the final round of the 2016 Chess Olympiad in Baku when the United States defeated Canada to earn its first gold medal since 1976! This got me to thinking…what was the world like the last time that the United States won a gold medal in a Chess Olympiad?
- Height of the Fischer Chess Boom after the 1972 match against Boris Spassky.
- First flight of the Concorde airplane.
- Apple Computer Company was formed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.
- The Canada CN tower was completed.
- Howard Hughes dies at age 70.
- Viking I Lander arrives on Mars.
- Fidel Castro becomes President of Cuba.
My, how far we have come… The Fischer boom is long gone and most people under 25 probably do not remember the Concorde. But it is 2016 and chess in America is undergoing a renaissance. The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis has hosted some of the strongest tournaments in American history and the United States Chess Federation continues to transform itself into a powerhouse of chess promotion and advocacy. That strong advocacy led to the acquisition of Wesley So and Fabiano Caruana, who won the United States Chess Championship earlier this year. With a renewed vigor and youthful dynamic, the United States team steam rolled into the Baku Chess Olympiad to capture a series of early victories and never letting up on their competition.
Power Out of the Gates It was readily apparent at the outset of the tournament that the United States team was a force to be reckoned with. They earned four victories early before falling behind a point to Scotland in Round 2.
From that point on, the United States team held a solid momentum to compete for placement in the tournament’s top three positions. The drama lasted, however, until the very end.
It was readily apparent that the United States team outplayed their Canadian counterparts, but was not able to pull off a complete win in that final round. Once the American games were completed, attention focused to the Ukrainian team who was competing to break a virtual tie. Despite a strong performance by the Ukraine team, it was not enough to overcome their deficit and defeat the Americans. With the tiebreaker over, the United States left Baku with chess gold!
The United States Chess Team was:
- Captain: IM John Donaldson
- GM Fabiano Caruana
- GM Hikaru Nakamura
- GM Wesley So
- GM Samuel Shankland
- GM Ray Robson
National Pride I am incredibly proud and feel blessed everyday to be able to play chess and to know that my country is starting to embrace the game on a grander scale. Now we can turn our attention to New York as the United States prepares to host the greatest event in chess: the World Chess Championship!