A few people questioned me a couple of days ago when I posted a headline about team USA’s disastrous results in round 1 of the Women’s World Team Championship. They said how bad can it be tying the 1stmatch as there are still 8 rounds to go?
From my personal experience of playing 56 games in 4 Chess Olympiads, all on board 1, while never sitting out or losing a single game (a chess Olympiad record), and winning at least 2 medals (individual and team) in every Olympiad, I understand what it takes to perform in team events as a player. I also understand what it takes to be a top level coach in team events, winning the last two consecutive Final Four and gunning for the 3rd straight one month from now.
The first round sometimes can be the most important round. This is why I do not like to sit out, even when some people say that it is a waste of time to put in the top player against weaker competition in the early rounds. I need to feel that I am in a groove. It is like a heavy train. It takes time to get into full speed.
Some coaches believe in resting star players early on to save them for “important” later rounds. I believe differently. I believe that if I represent my country, it is the highest honor and I will work my tail off (for a year or two) to be in a great physical and mental state of mind.
I want to be ready to fight for my country in all 14 games (the length of the chess Olympiad when I used to play), whether it is round 1 or round 14. My philosophy may be extreme for some but if you want to be a champion, you have to prepare like a champion as well.
When a team with medal aspiration ties the 9th ranked (of 10) team in the first round, it is a big mental let down. If you are struggling against a team with about 80 average rating points below you, how can you expect to beat teams which are 80-100 points higher?
Most successful teams need mentally tough coaches to challenge, motivate, and unite the players. In team events, every half point count. In team events, team chemistry and trust matters. If the players tune you out or not giving the coaches / captains 150% then changes are necessary.
While the X’s and O’s may be different for different sports, the main ingredients to be a successful coach remain the same. Success in high level coaching is hard work and it is also an art. This is not a knock on anyone or any team. This is simply my view having been on both sides, as a player and coach.
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– GM Susan Polgar