Chess Olympiad 2012: Spirit of Champions
In Part II I described a rather tough period for our team: we made three draws. This allowed China to take the lead by one match point. What could we hope for? Win all our matches, while China loses at least a point? This scenario was not very likely, because they had already played all the main competitors. Also, the tie-break system was rather unusual. Instead of considering board points, the Sonneborn-Berger system was used. It is calculated as the sum of products of the match scores against your opponents by their match points (excluding the team that scored worst of all). Obviously, the more your individual points you score against other teams and the better they perform, the higher your team’s SB score will be.
The final 2-3 rounds are usually decisive. This was also the case at the Chess Olympiad’12. As I have already mentioned, by this point most people thought it was over – China would win. We decided to try to do our best anyway and fight until the end.
Round 8: Russia vs. India and China vs. France. Koneru Humpy missed the third Olympiad in a row, so the Indian team was seriously weakened. France was also playing without Marie Sebag. I had a rest day, but couldn’t take advantage of it and relax due to my following of the live games and cheering for my friends.
Surprisingly, the match against India, a strong team, went really smoothly and well. The Kosintseva sisters quickly equalized with Black. Alexandra Kosteniuk uncorked an opening novelty and won. Valentina Gunina elegantly defeated Eshi Karavade in the endgame. We won the match 3-1 and managed to save a lot of energy.
Alexandra Kosteniuk wearing a beautiful patriotic dress
China also prevailed over France with a 3-1 score.
Hou Yifan is wearing a stylish outfit
The dark horse of the event was Kazakhstan. By round 9 they were among the leaders, and in round 10 their team got to play China on board 1! My impression was that China didn’t take the challenge seriously: they had a commanding rating advantage on every board, close to 300 points. A victory in this match and in R11 would have given them the gold medal, which they hadn't earned since 2004. Meanwhile, we were facing Armenia. I had to play Maria Kursova with White for the third time within a year. The conversion stage took much longer than everyone expected, but in the end I won. Valentina Gunina and Tatiana Kosintseva also scored. Alexandra Kosteniuk’s game was a draw. Final result: 3.5-0.5 in our favor.
The Armenian team before R10
Surprise-surprise: Kazakhstan put up a last stand against China, “thou shall not pass”-style. While skimming the boards in the playing hall, my glance fell upon this remarkable position:
Hou Yifan had to succumb to a draw. Zhao Xue managed to win, but Ju Wenjun only drew. The match sensationally ended in a tie, so we had caught up with China on match points again!
The team from Kazakhstan: many of the girls earned their WGM norms at the Olympiad
There was another rest day before the final round, so that all the teams could relax, prepare, and calculate their odds. R11 started at 11 a.m., which is stressful for most chess players, because the prevailing majority of us are night owls. Here’s what the pairings looked like:
- Russia – Kazakhstan
- Bulgaria – China
- Ukraine – Germany
- France – India
- Poland – Armenia
We decided to go all-in and prepared fighting and risky schemes as Black, which Valentina Gunina and Alexandra Kosteniuk had never played before! The idea was to deviate from home preparation and gradually outplay the less experienced opponents.
China had a slightly better SB score and good chances for gold. But, of course, they needed to win their match with a good result to ensure that.
By R11 I had already secured individual gold (6.5/8) and had a chance to follow the online games from the hotel room. Our games were going rather well, while Bulgaria-China was tenser.
China vs. Bulgaria
Voiska won; Stefanova drew. This meant that China wouldn't be able to crush Bulgaria. In our match only Alexandra Kosteniuk was at risk, but in the end our girls achieved a fantastic victory: 4-0!
The Russian girls are having a chat before the round
In the other matches that affected our SB score luck was also on our side. Ukraine won and got bronze. Armenia defeated Poland. We got the gold medals and China – silver.
The closing ceremony
Who forgot the words of the national anthem?
The Olympiad has proven once again that the competition is so high that being a rating favorite doesn’t guarantee gold. In the women’s section our team won, and in the men’s – Armenia. China had a very strong team, but something prevented them from capitalizing on their potential. Our team was more balanced though and had a strong “tail”: Nadezhda Kosintseva and I earned individual gold medals on boards 3 and 5, while Alexandra Kosteniuk got bronze on board 4. Nadia has also demonstrated the best overall performance at the Women’s Olympiad. At the start Valentina Gunina and Tatiana Kosintseva were struggling, but later they managed to overcome the trend and to start winning. Special congratulations go to our mighty team of coaches – world-class grandmasters Sergei Rublevsky, Alexander Riazantsev and Evgeny Najer.
Russia confirmed its status of the strongest chess nation by winning the Gaprindashvili Cup (awarded by sum of a federation’s match points in the Open and Women’s sections). Sadly, our men’s team earned only silver. They were very disappointed about it: Russia hasn’t won the Open Section since 2002.
You might want to check out the official website to take a look at pictures, final standings, category prizes and so on.
Olympiad’12 is now part of chess history. Coming up next is the European Club Cup (our team, AVS, is the defending champion) and the most important female chess event of the year – the Women’s World Chess Championship.
Photos from the official website and RussiaChess.org