Olympiad R9: France Joins China, Russian Women Still Lead
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France joined China in the lead in round 9 of the 41st Chess Olympiad in Tromsø. It was again Etienne Bacrot who clinched the two match points for the French team, and on the top boards China drew four games with Ukraine. The Russian women's team is still two match points ahead after beating Armenia 2.5-1.5.
While all delegates and most of the journalists were a few miles away in the Tromsø University, waiting for the results of the FIDE Presidential elections, the 9th round of the Olympiad started in the former Mack Brewery. “Chess Olympiads are all about performing well in the last three rounds,” is a well-known saying, and so on this day it was going to be clear which teams would be playing for the medals.
It looks like China and Ukraine decided to take no risks. Their match on the top boards saw four rather uneventful draws, where one would almost suspect that a chat between the two team captains took place after a few hours of play. The way the draw was reached on board 4 was rather spectacular:
For the second day in a row, Etienne Bacrot was the match winner for France. With draws on the other boards, the 31-year-old grandmaster beat Viktor Laznicka in a Chebanenko Slav. A game between two players who are in form often leads to something very nice. This time it was a crystal-clear positional game finished with a tactical sequence, like Anatoly Karpov liked to play them:
After losing to China, Azerbaijan dropped another match point against Romania, who are have a great tournament as the 32nd seeded team! Unlike China-Ukraine, this was a hard-fought match, especially on board 3:
Israel and Cuba seem to have lost the chance for a medal as they lost their matches on Monday. It Israeli GMs went down against Hungary, where Csaba Balogh beat Maxim Rodshtein, and Richard Rapport won against Emil Sutovsky. The latter game saw a bit of a strange opening (perhaps it's an Exchange Caro-Kann, via a transposition of moves?):
The Cubans lost to Bulgaria, whose board one player Veselin Topalov is having an excellent tournaent. He only lost to Vladimir Kramnik, and on Monday he moved to +3 again (a 2864 performance) against Leinier Dominguez:
Norway isn't going to win a medal either, but that wasn't the goal anyway. A place in the top 10 is still in reach after playing 2-2 with Turkey. That could have been a loss, though, as Simen Agdestein went down against Emre Can and Magnus Carlsen escaped from a lost position against Dragan Solak and even won:
Lost of other top matches saw 2-2 scores: Belarus-Netherlands, Argentina-India, USA-Germany and Armenia-Serbia.
The situation at the top is as follows: China & France leading with 15 points, and so with the best chances for gold. Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania are on 14 points, followed by USA, Russia, India, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Armenia, Poland, Uzbekistan, Serbia, Vietnam, Germany, Belarus and Argentina.
The mighty Russian team can be considered lucky to be in this group. They were paired against Norway 2 in round 9, and their 2.5-1.5 win wasn't convincing at all: three 2700-GMs (Peter Svidler, Sergey Karjakin, Ian Nepomniachtchi) drew with three IMs (Frode Elsness, Torbjorn Ringdal Hansen and Aryan Tari) on boards 2-4. Only Alexander Grischuk played a “normal” game:
The USA team is having a strange tournament where one player is performing amazingly well, and another doing badly. Sam Shankland's winning streak ended as he drew with Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu but of course his tournament is still fantastic. Gata Kamsky, however, is on 3.0/8, with a 2464 performance. He missed a tactical shot against Georg Meier:
Top Pairings Open Section, Round 10
|6||United States of America||24||13||-||13||23½||Argentina|
Russia kept excellent chances for gold in the women section after another win. Nerves start to play a role though! Kateryna Lagno lost her first game of the event. She was under pressure almost from the start and then took a poisoned pawn:
Valentina Gunina was also in trouble but had a narrow escape:
Top Pairings Women Section, Round 10
In the 10th and penultimate round the matches France-China and Ukraine-Azerbaijan will be crucial for this Olympiad. No mistake can be allowed at this stage! The women section has the fight between Russia and Ukraine, especially interesting if Ms. Lagno plays. Update: she does play, on board one, against Anna Muzychuk, who switched back to the Ukrainian federation recently, while Ms. Lagno switched from Ukraine to Russia!
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