Israel is on the map – the chess map this time. The Israeli chess team recorded a historic victory Tuesday night, winning the silver medal at the Chess Olympiad in Dresden, Germany.
Israel's first win came after a nerve-wracking game against the Netherlands.
The four Israeli team members played against the four Dutch players, with three of the games ending in a tie, and only 25-year-old Michael Roiz was triumphant over his Dutch rival 23-year-old Jan Smeets, leading his team to victory.
"This is a very respectable achievement," Israel Chess Federation President Aviv Bushinsky said on Tuesday. "Over 140 teams have participated in this Olympiad, that is held once every two years, and during the games we even beat Armenia, the team that won the gold.
"Tomorrow afternoon the team will return to Israel, but unfortunately, despite the incredible achievement, much fewer fans will be waiting for them there than for Pini Gershon (Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball coach)".
On its way to the top, the Israeli team overcame chess superpowers such as the United States, which one the bronze medal, Ukraine, Russia and China.
The MVP of the Israeli team was chess Grandmaster Boris Gelfand (40) who accumulated 7.5 points in 10 games, and remained undefeated throughout the tournament.
National chess champion 19-year-old Maxim Rodshtein also excelled and managed to rise from a disadvantage and score the vital tie with his Dutch opponent.
Despite the joy of the team's victory, some problems arose behind the scenes, as before the team left for the Olympiad the players were promised bonuses if they won a medal.
A medal was indeed won, but no bonus money was granted to the players. "We're not talking about large amounts like in other sports," said Bushinsky. "We're talking about a bonus of NIS 10,000 (US$ 2,500) per player, but the federation doesn't have the money to finance that."
The Israeli women's team was also successful in the tournament, coming in at a respectable ninth place.
Reuven Weiss contributed to this report