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Australia Routs Ecuador, Draws With Belgium: Olympiad Captain's Recap Round 4 & 5
Spirits are high across the Aus camp with both teams performing well. Photo: Leonid Sandler.

Australia Routs Ecuador, Draws With Belgium: Olympiad Captain's Recap Round 4 & 5

JackRodgers
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Today we have a double report from the Aussie camp after internet troubles prevented a blog from being uploaded yesterday! In round four Australia came up against our first South American opponent, Ecuador who we trounced 4-0. In the fifth round, we drew against the 50th seeds Belgium after clutching up several games with minutes left on the clock. The Women's team narrowly lost to the highly-rated USA team before bouncing back with a 3-1 win over Moldova.

4-0 against Ecuador.

Known for their fighting spirit, the Ecuadorian team played ambitiously against the Open's team though the Aussies were ready for the fight. On the white side of the advance Caro-Kann, GM Justin Tan was the first to draw blood after gaining a favorable position. His precision play after his opponent's move 26 mistake was enough to secure the full point and make a good case for the purchase of his book '1.e4! The Chess Bible - Volume 1 - A Complete Repertoire for White' (I will have a copy myself arriving on return from Chennai).

GMs Temur Kuybokarov and Bobby Cheng again showed tremendous form, keeping their unbeaten streaks rolling. Cheng found a "brilliant" move (according to Chess.com Game Review) connected to the principle that passed pawns must be pushed!

Meanwhile on board one, GM Anton Smirnov won his first game after a tough loss to Poland's board one, this time slowly outplaying GM Carlo S. Matamoros Francos to secure a 4-0 result for team Australia.

Round five against European superpower (perhaps not so much in chess right now) Belgium proved to be a difficult matchup for the Open's team and we were lucky to escape with a 2-2 score. Tan lost his game quickly after some clever opening preparation in the Petrov Defense. His opponent FM Sim Maerevoet barely put a foot wrong and despite being a FIDE Master, showed understanding well above this level.

Table tennis has become another way for the Australian team to keep fit during the tournament. Photo: Jack Rodgers.

The other three boards went down to the wire and as the second time control clicked into gear on all boards it looked as though Australia was about to go down. Smirnov had found himself in a tough spot against GM Daniel Dardha while Kuybokarov and GM Zong-Yuan Zhao's games looked to be heading for draws.

Dardha ended up misplaying in the late middlegame and Smirnov miraculously found a fortress to hold which totally changed the momentum of the game. Somehow, down the exchange, Smirnov's king position was adequate in forcing a repetition. In fact, had Dardha played on for a win, things could have gone horribly wrong.

The Australian number one and his Houdini-esque escape (playing Black)!

The draw seemed to boost the energy amongst the remaining players and an experienced Zhao saw a match draw within reach. He was able to put enough pressure on his opponent who perhaps thought the match was likely to end in Belgium's favor and a one-move blunder decided the game.

Finally, Kuybokarov was tasked with holding to determine a positive final match score against IM Stefan Docx. One of the key form players for team Australia, he once again showed his value and played almost 20 "best moves" in a row to secure a draw.

2-2 against a tricky Belgian team.

With this draw, Australia is sitting just above our seeding in the 28th spot and we have been paired against one of the more exciting opponents, Norway! Smirnov will take board one against the world champion and highest ever rated player GM Magnus Carlsen while our selected boards two, three, and four will play against GMs Aryan Tari, popular streamer Jon Ludvig Hammer and Johan-Sebastian Christiansen in a blockbuster showdown. 

Australia's lineup against #3 seeds Norway.

I was mildly surprised (sarcasm) to see Carlsen dare to face Australia given his draw against GM David Smerdon. As a unit, we believe Anton can repeat such a feat.

This picture demonstrates how close one can get to Carlsen. He is constantly being mobbed by fans, journalists, and even the odd player! Photo: Alana Chibnall (one of the worlds best chess arbiters)

Proceedings will kick off at 7.30 pm (AEST) tonight and can be viewed on Chess.com's Youtube channel with commentary.