Team Oz in Oslo
Goodbye Denmark, Hello Norway!
The Politiken Cup once again lived up to its billing as one of the most enjoyable tournaments on the European Summer calendar. This year was especially pleasant for the Aussies; as a team, we scored 4.5/5 in the final round to bump us up the order and flatter our final placings. I was the unfortunate "point-five", drawing with US (and former Costa Rican) grandmaster Alejandro Ramirez to finish on 7.5/10. Moulthun and Anton both beat strong grandmasters with the black pieces to join me on 7.5, with Anton picking up his final IM norm in the process. The 13 year old wonderkid seemed nonplussed by this achievement, apparently more annoyed that I'd made a 2500 performance and he hadn't (despite the 16 year age gap). He was heartened somewhat to discover he'd earned more prize money, though, thanks to winning his competitive under-2400 rating group!
Junta managed to swindle a win in what would prove to be one of the last games of the tournament. This was characteristic of his never-say-die attitude in the tournament, and although he messed up a potential (albeit long-shot) GM norm chance around the middle of the event, he still picked up valuable ELO points. Somewhat surprisingly, our captain, Manuel, was also in the norm-hunt mix after five rounds, thanks to a powerful victory over...Moulthun! Unfortunately, the Nordic Gods (or, more likely, an unfortunate dose of food poisoning) conspired against him and he was in survival mode for the last few rounds. Nevertheless, Manuel also joined the winners' group for the last game.
Honorary Australian Gawain Jones really impressed, and thanks to a big win against Tiger in the last round, picked up second place and a hefty payday. More importantly, his rating has shot upwards to close in on 2680, dramatically increasing my chances of winning our personal bet that he'll cross 2700 by the end of the year. The pocket change we got from winning the pair's blitz event barely made a dent on his overall tournament income, but significantly boosted mine! I also managed to go one better than last year in winning the Danish Problem-Solving Championships (seriously good fun!), but got knocked out in the lucrative individual blitz event by none other than Junta!
Overall, it was a seriously cool fortnight of good weather, great food, excellent company and a wide variety of relaxing activities to maximise our team's Olympiad preparations. Oh, and there was chess. Did I forget to mention chess? I'd almost forgotten.
My camera's being a bit temperamental as I write this from one of Oslo's many hipster-cafes, so I'll try and upload the Danish photos once I get to Tromsø. In the meantime, if you're one of this website's chess-interested visitors, check out the chess Olympiad Fantasy Team competition. It's free, but with real prizes, and adds a little bit of cheeky fun to watching the event. You've got to choose the best performers on each board for both the open and women's events, as well as the overall team winners - but you can't choose two members of the same country for the same event. I didn't explain that very well, but you'll get the idea - it's easy. For the record, here are my predictions. Next stop: Tromsø!
"David Smerdon, your team, The smurfs, has been entered successfully into the Fantasy Chess Olympiad 2014.
Your team selection is confirmed as:
Open 1: NOR - CARLSEN Magnus (2877)
Open 2: RUS - GRISCHUK Alexander (2795)
Open 3: UKR - IVANCHUK Vassily (2735)
Open 4: HUN - POLGAR Judit (2676)
Open 5: CUB - DOMINGUEZ PEREZ Leinier (2760)
Women 1: CHN - HOU Yifan (2629)
Women 2: IND - HARIKA Dronavalli (2513)
Women 3: HUN - HOANG Thanh Trang (2490)
Women 4: UKR - ZHUKOVA Natalia (2451)
Women 5: RUS - LAGNO Kateryna (2540)
Your end of competition predictions were:
Open section Gold: Russia
Open section Silver: China
Open section Bronze: Armenia
Women's section Gold: China
Women's section Silver: Russia
Women's section Bronze: United States of America
Open section individual Gold: CARLSEN Magnus
Women's section individual Gold: HOU Yifan
Your tie-breaker question answer was: 1301."