Olympiad-2012: In the Middle

Olympiad-2012: In the Middle

Natalia_Pogonina
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Round 5 was the last one before the first rest day. We were paired with the co-leader, France (8 match points). I had a free day. When everyone left the hotel, the Internet finally started working fine. I managed to watch a movie online and then went to the playing hall myself to cheer up my teammates. At first we were under some pressure, but then important victories came on boards 3 and 4. Tatiana Kosintseva drew Elmira Skripchenko on board 1. The game between Sophie Milliet and Valentina Gunina was a real thriller. Valya messed up in the opening and had a lost position. Then her opponent failed to find the mating attack and even got a worse position. After the time control was reached the the position was objectively drawn, but Gunina started playing too ambitiously and lost. We won the match 2.5-1.5.

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In a good mood before the match

The Chinese team convincingly beat India 3.5-0.5. Another good time to remind you that Humpy Koneru wasn’t participating in the Olympiad.

Every day there was press conferences with players, coaches and other interesting people. This time all the three Polgar sisters reunited:

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At the Istanbul Olympiad there was a video broadcast from the playing hall with audio commentary. Additionally, many websites used to have their own online commentary. We also had a very detailed live report on both the Open and Women’s sections each day with pics and game updates. Check out Pogonina.com if you are interested in re-living those moments.

We decided to spend the rest day before a critical match vs. China by visiting the downtown of Istanbul – Sultanakhmet square. Valentina Gunina preferred to stay at the hotel, but we were joined by the captain of the men’s team Yuri Dokhoian. To become more familiar with the place, we didn’t take a taxi and traveled by subway and tram.

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On our way

We had a nice meal at a local restaurant and went sight-seeing:

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Can you guess the average rating of the people on the picture? :)

Then we took a walk on the wharf and returned home by about 5 p.m. Time to prepare for our match with the Chinese ladies!

The rest day flew by quickly and entertainingly. We had a one match point advantage over China, so we weren’t in a must-win situation. At the previous Olympiad we barely won the match, but at the World Championship’11 the powerful Chinese girls crushed our team 4-0. Naturally, we were rather motivated to do well this time.

The confrontation went tough for us. Tatiana Kosintseva quickly lost an opening duel against Hou Yifan. I messed up the moves and got an unclear position instead of a better one. The game ended in a draw. Sasha Kosteniuk had a slightly worse endgame, but managed to hold. Nadya won a piece, but it was not so easy to convert it. Kudos to her for winning the game. The match ended in a tie: 2-2.

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Sergey Rublevsky is cunningly looking at the Chinese players

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The Chinese ladies are having a friendly chat

Poland defeated Serbia and caught up with us on match points. An interesting endgame occurred on board 4:

Ukraine beat a solid team from Azerbaijan:

In round 6 we were playing Poland. Tatiana Kosintseva caught a cold and had a rest day.

Historically, matches against Poland have been a real challenge for us. I can't remember when the last time we won was. No one knows the reason behind this phenomenon. After the match with China it seemed like the road to gold was now pretty much open, but that was an illusion. Frankly speaking, judging by the positions we could have been destroyed by Poland. The only game where we had an advantage was Alexandra Kosteniuk vs. Ioland Zawadska. Ironically, Alexandra lost. Valentina Gunina and Nadezhda Kosintseva were on the ropes. I had an opposite-colored bishop endgame with rooks on board which should have been drawn. Then miracles started happening. Valya and Nadya escaped, while I succeeded in outplaying my opponent and scoring. The match was thus drawn. China attained an important victory over another rating favorite – Georgia and caught up with us.

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Before the round

The Chinese team lost just one game in that match, on board 4:

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Georgia-China: 1.5-2.5

After two such nerve-racking matches we were rather exhausted. Ukraine, another tough adversary…Alexandra Kosteniuk had a vacation after the painful loss.

My opponent caught me into her opening preparation and managed to trick me – I couldn’t work out some of the nuances over the board. This was my only loss at the Olympiad. Valya had a rather tense game that ended in a draw. Tania had a winning position against Kateryna Lahno, but was low on time. Nadya could have lost at some point, but then she managed to hold on and even outplay Natalia Zhukova in the endgame. She won! Meanwhile, Tania was having a marathon and kept missing one winning continuation after another. Her game was a pain to watch – it lasted 157 moves and ended in a draw.

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«Look me in the eyes»

Another tie. We were clearly struggling and could have even lost.

China left Poland no chances (3-1) and was in clear first. Here is the game from board 1:

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A honorary guest used to make the first move each day on board one of the leading teams

It was time to change the situation dramatically. The captain was really irritated by the way things were going, and so he gave us a verbal beating to try to get us back into our senses. Normally that’s not the way to treat girls, but it worked. We performed almost excellently in the final three rounds. Check out part III next week to find out how our race for gold ended! Laughing

Photos by Russiachess.org and ChessOlympiadIstanbul.com

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