First Ever Gold for China at Olympiad, Russia Wins Women's Section

First Ever Gold for China at Olympiad, Russia Wins Women's Section

PeterDoggers
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China won the 41st Chess Olympiad in Tromsø, Norway on Thursday after beating Poland 3-1 in the final round.

The team finished on 19 out of a possible 22 match points.

Russia clinched the gold medal for the third time in a row in the women's section, scoring 2.5-1.5 against Bulgaria in the final round.

After an excellent “Caribbean party” on Tuesday night (which once again proved that spontaneous parties are often the best!) and a very rainy rest day, the final round of the Chess Olympiad started three hours earlier than normal, at 11 a.m. on Thursday.

China faced Poland while defending a one-point lead over Hungary, which was playing Ukraine. In the women section's, Russia played Bulgaria, while also defending a one-point lead over China and Ukraine. And it was all over surprisingly quickly.

The first winners were the Russian women, who thus secured their third consecutive Olympiad gold medal!

Shortly before the time control, two games finished at the same time: Adriana Nikolova resigned her game with Alexandra Kosteniuk, and then Iva Videnova also had to throw in the towel against Valentina Gunina.

Kosteniuk's game was quite a convincing win:

Because Natalija Pogonina drew her game with Margarita Voiska, the desired 2.5 match points were in the pocket, and it didn't matter that top board Kateryna Lagno lost her game to Antoaneta Stefanova.

Later, at a press conference, Alexandra Kosteniuk stated that the turmoil before the tournament, when for a moment it was unclear whether they could play, “didn't affect the preparation process.” 

Coach Sergei Rublevsky said "what really contributed was the girls' drive to win. They understood how many people cheered for them.”

As these ladies were sitting next to each other and answering questions with the most charming smiles, the reason behind their success in 2010, 2012, and 2014 wasn't hard to guess: a fantastic atmosphere in the team.

Andrei Filatov, president of the Russian Chess Federation and newly elected vice president of FIDE, rightly described them as “golden girls”!

Let's return to the men's section, where China was doing very well. The team, which left out 15-year-old Wei Yi for this crucial match, made a somewhat nervous impression when arriving at the chess boards, but eventually scored a very convincing 3-1 win against Poland.

First Ni Hua, at 31 the oldest player in the team, drew his game with Mateusz Bartel on board four. Then Ding Liren, who is 10 years younger, opened the score against Grzegorz Gajewski.

In a Bogo-Indian/Catalan hybrid, he was better out of the opening:


Wang Yue (age 27) then drew Radek Wojtaszek and thus decided the match, since Yu Yangyi (21) had a completely winning position. And he finished it off without any problems:

And so China won its first gold medal at an Olympiad, eight years after earning a silver medal in Turin 2006.

After the collapse of the Soviet-Union, only Russia, Ukraine and Armenia had won gold thus far.

The team only lost just one game out of 44 games (Wang Yue, against Peter Leko in round three). And, remarkably, the winning team played without three players from the current top five in China.

“Li Chao didn't have time to play the qualifier tournament, Bu Xiangzhi did play but failed to qualify, and Wang Hao couldn't come to an agreement about the conditions with the federation,” delegation leader Tian Hong Wei told Chess.com.

At the press conference after the match, the players emphasized the good team spirit. Ni Hua said something interesting about their playing styles:

“In the past. we played very sharp openings, but we realized that they might not be so suitable to our style. We made changes. Nowadays we've found more solutions; we combine different styles and we can also adopt styles of American and European styles and play solid openings.”

The players realized that they might have become role models back home. 

Wang Yue: “I think this result is very good for the promotion of chess in China. It will encourage many players to do well.” 

Yu Yangyi: “It was very hard for us. I hope this is good promotion for China. We hope we can continue like this, and have a solid foundation for chess in the future.” 

Ding Liren: “I'm sure more kids will start to like this game. We hope we can be a star team, like a football club in Europe!”

Wei Yi, the youngest GM in the world and also the youngest ever gold medal winner: “I didn't expect that I would qualify for the team. It wasn't easy, but I am very happy we won. It was team work. It's great to have magical team members!”

There was more success for the Chinese players because the women's team clinched the silver medals thanks to a 2-2 with Ukraine (four draws). That way they ended on 18 points and remained in shared second place, with China having the better tiebreak. Germany could have ended on 18 points as well, but lost 4-0 to Georgia.

Back to the open section, where there was an identical situation as far as the silver medals were concerned: Hungary ended second after playing 2-2, also with four draws, against Ukraine.

On the last day again the Hungarians left out Judit Polgar, whose loss to Sam Shankland in round eight seems to be her last game as a chess professional.

In an article (behind a paywall) in The Times, her retirement was announced yesterday. In the mean time Ms. Polgar, who had a tremendous career spanning 25 years, has confirmed the news via her Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Three more teams that ended on 17 match points as well: Azerbaijan, Russia and India. It was the latter who clinched the bronze medals after an amazing swing of tiebreaks in the final round. 

After ten rounds, Russia was on 301.5 SB points and India on 291.5, but after the final round, India moved to 371.5 while Russia only had 352.0! The difference between India and Hungary was only half an SB point.

(SB stands for Sonneborn-Berger, which is the total of match points of each opponent, excluding the opponent who scored the lowest number of match points, multiplied by the number of game points achieved against this opponent.)

The Russian men ended its unsuccessful tournament with a 2.5-1.5 win against France, and it was decided on board four, where Ian Nepomniachtchi defeated Romain Edouard in a 6.h3 Najdorf, deploying a “rook fianchetto.”

Despite Sam Shankland's amazing tournament (a draw in his last game got him to 9.0/10 and a higher performance rating than Magnus Carlen!), team USA won't be too happy either. It's traveling back home with a last-round loss against Azerbaijan.

Hikaru Nakamura had to resign against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, as in the final position White will simply liquidate to a winning king and pawn ending:

The bronze medals were India's first ever prize at an Olympiad, and it's a tremendous result.  Like China, this-19th seeded team was playing without three players from its current top five: Vishy Anand, Pentala Harikrishna and Abhijeet Gupta.

Parimarjan Negi, who earlier this week announced that he won't be playing much chess in the future after getting admitted to Stanford University, defeated Uzbekistan's top player and ex-FIDE world champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov, who must have been tired at the end:

27th-seeded Belarus had an excellent Olympiad, finishing shared 6th and 11th on tiebreak. Another team that surprised positively was Austrialia. As the 60th-seeded team, it finished shared 24th (31st on tiebreak) thanks to an excellent 2-2 against Germany in the final round.

Below you'll find a few tables with statistics, including the board medals. Veselin Topalov won the prestigeous gold medal for board one in the open section with a 6.5/9 score and a 2872 performance. He won 11.9 rating points and climbed from 8th to 6th in the live ratings.

Mickey Adams took silver with the same score but a slightly worse average rating of his opponents. Anish Giri won the bronze medal and climbed to 11th place in the live rankings!

Final Standings | Open Section (Top 20)

Rk. SNo Team Team + = - TB1 TB2 TB3 TB4
1 7 China CHN 8 3 0 19 422,5 31,5 155
2 5 Hungary HUN 7 3 1 17 372 29 152
3 19 India IND 7 3 1 17 371,5 30,5 140
4 1 Russia RUS 7 3 1 17 352 28,5 146
5 8 Azerbaijan AZE 7 3 1 17 345 28 149
6 2 Ukraine UKR 6 4 1 16 377,5 29 145
7 13 Cuba CUB 7 2 2 16 361 29,5 145
8 4 Armenia ARM 6 4 1 16 350,5 28,5 146
9 9 Israel ISR 7 2 2 16 348 28 143
10 17 Spain ESP 7 2 2 16 334,5 28 142
11 27 Belarus BLR 7 2 2 16 304,5 27 136
12 11 Netherlands NED 6 3 2 15 367,5 29,5 148
13 3 France FRA 7 1 3 15 357,5 28,5 151
14 6 USA USA 6 3 2 15 348 28 143
15 15 Poland POL 7 1 3 15 335,5 28,5 140
16 29 Serbia SRB 6 3 2 15 324 27,5 147
17 33 Uzbekistan UZB 7 1 3 15 320,5 25,5 149
18 35 Argentina ARG 7 1 3 15 316 28 136
19 22 Peru PER 7 1 3 15 313 28 130
20 32 Romania ROU 6 3 2 15 310 27,5 137

(Full final standings here)

Final Standings | Women's Section (Top 20)

Rk. SNo Team Team TB1 TB2 TB3 TB4
1 2 Russia RUS 20 420,5 32 154
2 1 China CHN 18 406 32,5 149
3 3 Ukraine UKR 18 383 28,5 156
4 4 Georgia GEO 17 390 32 145
5 10 Armenia ARM 17 350,5 29 142
6 17 Kazakhstan KAZ 17 320 27 143
7 8 Poland POL 16 362 26,5 152
8 7 USA USA 16 339,5 29,5 139
9 12 Germany GER 16 304 26,5 143
10 5 India IND 15 380 30,5 143
11 6 Romania ROU 15 353,5 27,5 137
12 9 France FRA 15 351,5 27,5 157
13 11 Spain ESP 15 346,5 28 145
14 14 Bulgaria BUL 15 334,5 30 139
15 16 Netherlands NED 15 311 27 139
16 28 Mongolia MGL 15 307 29 131
17 18 Slovakia SVK 15 302,5 27,5 133
18 36 Lithuania LTU 15 291 27,5 126
19 20 Vietnam VIE 14 339,5 28 141
20 21 Iran IRI 14 328 30 129

(Full final standings here)

Board Prizes | Open Section

Bd 1 Name Rtg Team Perf # Pts % Avg
1 Topalov, Veselin 2772 Bulgaria 2872 9 6,5 72,2 2706
2 Adams, Michael 2740 England 2839 9 6,5 72,2 2673
3 Giri, Anish 2745 Netherlands 2836 11 8 72,7 2661
Bd 2
1 Nguyen, Ngoc Truong Son 2634 Vietnam 2843 10 8,5 85 2542
2 Balogh, Csaba 2637 Hungary 2839 9 7 77,8 2619
3 Ding, Liren 2742 China 2831 10 7,5 75 2638
Bd 3
1 Yu, Yangyi 2668 China 2912 11 9,5 86,4 2602
2 Sasikiran, Krishnan 2669 India 2753 10 7,5 75 2560
3 Eljanov, Pavel 2723 Ukraine 2745 9 7 77,8 2525
Bd 4
1 Sedlak, Nikola 2554 Serbia 2773 8 6,5 81,3 2515
2 Ortiz Suarez, Isan Reynaldo 2603 Cuba 2766 8 6 75 2573
3 Ni, Hua 2666 China 2723 9 6,5 72,2 2546
Bd 5
1 Shankland, Samuel L 2624 USA 2831 10 9 90 2457
2 Moiseenko, Alexander 2707 Ukraine 2714 9 7 77,8 2487
3 Nepomniachtchi, Ian 2714 Russia 2650 9 6,5 72,2 2469

(Full board standings here)

Board Prizes | Women's Section

Bd 1 Title Name Rtg Team Perf # Pts % Avg
1 GM Dzagnidze, Nana 2550 Georgia 2719 9 8 88,9 2353
2 GM Hou, Yifan 2661 China 2671 9 7 77,8 2447
3 GM Cramling, Pia 2500 Sweden 2659 11 10 90,9 2233
Bd 2
1 GM Gunina, Valentina 2524 Russia 2651 10 8 80 2411
2 GM Khotenashvili, Bela 2494 Georgia 2589 10 8 80 2325
3 WGM Ju, Wenjun 2559 China 2564 11 8 72,7 2389
Bd 3
1 GM Kosteniuk, Alexandra 2531 Russia 2639 9 7,5 83,3 2352
2 IM Matnadze, Ana 2385 Spain 2445 10 7,5 75 2252
3 WFM Frisk, Ellinor 2257 Sweden 2432 11 9,5 86,4 2110
Bd 4
1 GM Zhukova, Natalia 2468 Ukraine 2512 10 7,5 75 2294
2 WGM Bartel, Marta 2359 Poland 2439 9 6,5 72,2 2273
3 IM Bulmaga, Irina 2354 Romania 2433 10 8 80 2176
Bd 5
1 WGM Padmini, Rout 2318 India 2584 8 7,5 93,8 2124
2 WGM Guo, Qi 2453 China 2520 8 6,5 81,3 2243
3 WIM Dauletova, Gulmira 2252 Kazakhstan 2486 8 7 87,5 2024

(Full women board standings here)

The tournament ended on a very sad note. A player from the Seychelles collapsed during the round. The player received first aid, was brought to the University Hospital and died.

The closing ceremony started with one minute of silence.


Update: it's almost unbelievable but later in the evening another player, from Uzbekistan, was found dead in a hotel room. Both appeared to have died of natural causes.

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The official website is here, and the Olympiad is also on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

Chess.com is transmitting a number of top games every round in Live Chess, and we're hosting a daily show on Chess.com/TVOur reporter Peter Doggers is present in Tromsø for on-the-spot (video) reports and calls in live from Tromsø during the Chess.com/TV show, so stay tuned!


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