Non-playing captain/coach of the women’s team, Carl Strugnell, talks to Richard Stevenson about his hopes for the 41 st World Chess Olympiad.
Could you briefly introduce the members of the team for the ladies section of the Olympiad?
The first board is Jane Richmond. She has a rating of 2085, and she is the strongest member of the team. She is quite precise, and she distances the second, third and fourth boards, that are all very close to each other, by about 100 points. On the three next boards there are Suzy Blackburn, Lynda Roberts and Olivia Smith. I think Olivia is used to playing on board two, and I think everyone is fine with that.
On board 5 we have Alyssa Wang, playing in her second Olympiad. She’ll be playing the first two rounds, because Suzy will not be there. If we are up against a strong team, and we’re going to put the best team possible, I don’t think she can be in it. But I’ll give her some training, and it’s going to be a positive experience for her. As soon as it’s possible, or as soon as someone wants to take a day’s rest, she’s going to be in there. She is young, and we should give her the chance to get the experience.
Why have you volunteered to be the non-playing captain?
My mother is Welsh, I’m born in England, I grew up in Paris, and I’ve been back in Wales for almost a year. The idea was to get involved in Welsh chess. I’ve got the profile of a coach, so that wasn’t an issue. I’ve been quite active in the tournaments and no one can deny that I’ve not been participating in Welsh chess. I’m not just turning up and asking for a job: I want to help and contribute, because it’s satisfying for me, and I want to help Welsh chess.
In terms of ratings, you’re over 2300, so stronger than all your team. Does this mean that you’ll be providing plenty of support, in terms of game preparation?
Definitely. I’ll be spending a lot of time, depending on their attitude. I’ll try and motivate them as much as possible to take it seriously.
Aside from your playing strength, what other qualities will you bring to your role?
I think I communicate the passion of chess, and wanting to do as best as you can. I’m not only a chess player – I do lots of things with chess in the middle. When I was in LA, I was a friendly hustler – I wasn’t trying to break anyone financially. I was also a teacher in the rich neighbourhoods of Paris for about six years. I’m a chess boxer, and I’ve worked in the book store in the London Classic for Chess&Bridge. So basically, anything that’s got to do with chess, any angle, I’ve covered it. So being a coach was a new, fun thing that I’d never done. The quality I bring is that – wanting to experiment – and I communicate that.
I think that the girls will want to do their best under my supervision. I’ll give them attention - it's like a spiritual nutrient − and that will encourage them.
Do you have a target placing that would lead you to conclude that it had been a successful event?
We are starting with a ranking of 65. If we could do plus twenty or plus thirty, that would be amazing. We could also have good days, so, for example, we're up against a team where everyone is 2100 and we beat them. If we beat England and finish last, well, there's something in that, right?