MAMALLAPURAM: In the run-up to the 44th Olympiad, there wasn’t much chatter on the open and women’s teams from England. However, at the conclusion of five rounds — English teams have managed to give a good account of themselves. The open team is placed 8th, while the women are 19th. What’s interesting is that England’s performances have been driven by two top-rated players — GM David Howell (open) duck Jovanka Houska (women) — who haven’t played regularly chess in recent times.
Days ahead of the Olympiad, both David and Jovanka were balancing preparations for the big-ticket event alongside their commentary commitments at the FTX Road to Miami, an online chess tournament which is part of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour. The lack of game time notwithstanding, both David and Jovanka have done well so far. From five rounds, David has 4.5 points — 4 wins and a draw. Jovanka has scored 3.5 from five outings which include two wins and three draws.
Clarity of thought: David feels being a commentator has given him a fresh perspective on the game. “You have had a good tournament so far. I want to play more as this tournament has inspired me to do that. When I sit on the board, I realize I am not as strong as I used to be. But commentary has made my decision-making clearer and that’s something I am applying in this tournament,” David said.
Jovanka, on the other hand, feels doing commentary on top players has made her become a better judge of positions. “Being a commentator has given me an insight into some of the ways the top players think. On a few occasions during a game, I would think of how a particular player would play here,” the 42-year-old pointed out.
Thinking like a commentator during a game: David revealed how during his third-round game against Lithuania’s Karolis Juksta, he paused in the middle of the game and talked to himself about the position. “It sounds a bit crazy. I got into a good position, and I sat there and told myself ‘David– how would you talk about your position if you were on commentary: My bishop is badly placed and I got to centralize my pieces.’ I quickly decided to stop thinking and just make a logical move. It worked and I managed to win,” he said.
David likes calling himself ‘semi-retired’, but his strong showing along with Jovanka in the Olympiad has shown that there is a lot of fuel left in the tank.