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Article from the Chess Corner in the Times of Malta
Article by Conrad Thake, published on December 12th, 2020
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the 24th edition of the FIDE Chess Olympiads held in Malta between 20 November and 6 December 1980. The venue for the Olympiads was the Mediterranean Conference Centre in Valletta, which had been inaugurated a year before with the restoration and conversion of the Sacra Infermeria. The Order of St John’s hospital dating back to 1573 had suffered extensive damage during the Second World War.
The playing hall for both the Male and Female Olympiads was the Long Ward, which accommodated all players under one roof. A total of 83 nations took part in the Men’s Olympiads with the host nation benefitting from the bonus of the Malta ‘B’ Team. The Women’s Olympiad hosted a total of 42 teams.
The Soviet Union fielded a strong team with reigning champion Anatoly Karpov on board one, followed respectively by Polugayevsky, Geller, Tal on boards two to four and the two reserves being Balashov and Kasparov (the future champion was then aged 17 years). Karpov fell ill after the first few rounds and the Soviets fell behind the previous Olympiad champions Hungary. However, when he recovered the USSR team steadily made up for lost ground and in the 14th and final round managed to edge past Hungary with the most meagres of margins, a superior Bucholz tiebreak score that was just 1.5 more than that of the runners-up. In the Women’s Olympiad, the USSR did not face a major challenge and managed to retain their title with relative ease.
The Malta ‘A’ team was composed of Wilfred Attard, Harry Camilleri, Adriano Gouder and Claude Sollars, with the two reserves being Joe Gauci and Geoffrey Borg. Sadly, the four top boards have since all passed away. The Malta ‘B’ team was composed of Victor Cilia Vincenti, Walter Vella Gera, Mario Psaila and Conrad Thake. The reserves were Andrew Borg and Raymond Vassallo. The Malta ‘A’ team finished with 25 ½ points placing 61 out of 81 teams. The Malta ‘B’ team finished with the same number of points but did not receive an official final standing.
The main organiser of the tournament was the late Mario Serracino Inglott, who during the FIDE congress held concurrently was appointed as Malta’s first international FIDE arbiter.