Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Serbia Top Olympiad Open Section After 4 Rounds | Update: VIDEO

Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Serbia Top Olympiad Open Section After 4 Rounds | Update: VIDEO

| 33 | Chess Event Coverage

Azerbaijan, Bulgaria and Serbia are the only teams who won in all four rounds in the open section of the 41st Chess Olympiad in Tromsø, Norway.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov decided the Azerbaijan-France match on top boards by beating Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. In the women's section, five teams still have a perfect score: China, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran and Russia.

After two nice days, the weather has become worse in Tromsø, with heavy rain on Monday and a cloudy sky on Tuesday that was threatening the same. With the arctic sun the nights are not dark, and with some fog, last night the city was both beautiful and surreal!

In the playing hall, things are heating up as we're now seeing top GM clashes in every round. Today, some important matches between pre-tournament favorites were on the program, such as France-Azerbaijan and Russia-China.

Let's start at the top boards, where it was world number 18 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov who decided the France-Azerbaijan match in his game with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave on board one.

Update: here's our video of this match, and especially the game on board one:

Mamedyarov used the Gallagher System of the King's Indian, named after the Swiss grandmaster who used to be active as an author of opening books. Black was much better out of the opening, but after that Mamedyarov wasn't too happy with his play, as he told

“I think it was a close to winning position, but in my opponent's zeitnot [time pressure] I played very bad. I missed his Qg4 and Nc2 idea.”

Unlike the day before, the Frenchman's ingenious defense wasn't enough to save the game.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov brings Azerbaijan on top.

Right beside, the match Serbia-Czech Republic was played and it ended in what can be called an upset: 2.5-1.5 in favor of Serbia, who were lower rated on three boards.

Board one (Ivanisevic-Navara) was drawn, and Viktor Laznicka, who was reading a book at the board before the game, defeated Milos Perunovic convincingly, but Serbia's Robert Markus and Nikola Sedlak won against Zbynek Hracek and Martin Petr respectively. The latter missed a tactic in what looked like a drawn ending.

Norway is back to where it belongs in the standings after a victory over Poland, with three draws and Magnus Carlsen taking all the credit with a surprisingly smooth win over Radek Wojtaszek.

The Polish GM's strong point is the opening, and therefore Carlsen decided to go for something less common: the Closed Sicilian. In a setup that Boris Spassky liked to play, it was remarkable how easily White's attack got off the ground, and how little Black could do about it.

An easy day at the office for Magnus Carlsen.

After the game, Carlsen remarked on the Norwegian TV that his former coach Garry Kasparov was looking at his position when he played 26.g4, and that the ex-world champion then smiled and walked away. (Meanwhile, Kasparov has also provided some annotations to an earlier Carlsen game which you can find here in PDF.)

Two hard-fought matches ended in 2-2: Russia-China (four draws) and Netherlands-Israel (two draws and two decisive games). Vladimir Kramnik and Wang Yue played a very interesting game that included a classic Nxf7 sacrifice, where the computer says that 19.b5 is even stronger.

Fireworks in Kramnik-Wang Yue. | Photo © Paul Truong.

In the Netherlands-Israel match, Van Wely-Sutovsky and Postny-Van Kampen were drawn, but Sergei Tiviakov lost to Maxim Rodshtein, who kept a slight edge out of the opening and nicely built up the pressure. His knight on the rim was far from dim!

But on top board, Anish Giri brought down his 26-years-older opponent Boris Gelfand in a 3.f3 Grünfeld. The two not only followed a game between the world's number one and two in the live ratings, but also a game between two players who were sitting right beside them! 15.h4 was a novelty over Rodshtein-Sutovsky (!) played last year in Israel.

No doubt Giri had prepared this, and at the board he demonstrated that White has perhaps more than an edge in this line:

An excellent game by Anish Giri.

Besides Azerbaijan and Serbia, only one other team won all four matches: Bulgaria. It defeated Romania, who have to do without Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu, now playing for Germany.

After his brilliant game against Paco Vallejo yesterday (with 1.d4), Topalov went 1.e4 and patiently beat Constantin Lupulescu in a French:

Bulgaria is shared first after round 4.

Uzbekistan and Germany also played 2-2, where White won all four games. Turkey crushed Italy 3.5-0.5, with a draw for Fabiano Caruana against Dragan Solak on board one. England beat Latvia 3-1, where only Nigel Short lost his game, but Matthew Sadler scored his fourth win today (just like Hatim Al-Hadarani of Jemen, Marat Dzhumaev of Uzbekistan, Valentin Iotov of Bulgaria, Mircea-Emilian Parligras of Romania and Jure Borisek of Slovenia).

Board one went as follows:

Adams-Shirov: 1-0.

Ukraine's 3-1 victory over Bangladesh was again not convincing, with draws for Ruslan Ponomariov and Vassily Ivanchuk. Especially the latter doesn't seem to be overly inspired in Tromsø so far:

An uninspired Vassily Ivanchuk. | Photo © David Llada -- find more of his great portraits here.

USA-South Africa is a match that should normally end in 4-0, but Gata Kamsky had an off-day and lost to a player rated 300 points lower than him.

Well, it wasn't just someone; Mr. Steel had done it once before: he also beat Luke McShane four years ago at the Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk, another a Sicilian as Black. It must be said that Kamsky was completely winning (28.g3, for example).

Top pairings, Round 5

No. Team Pts. MP - MP Pts. Team
1 Azerbaijan 12½ 8 - 8 13 Serbia
2 Russia 13½ 7 - 8 12½ Bulgaria
3 Armenia 12½ 6 - 7 10 Norway
4 China 12 7 - 7 12½ Netherlands
5 Ukraine 12 7 - 7 11½ Uzbekistan
6 Israel 12 7 - 7 12½ Cuba
7 Kazakhstan 12 7 - 7 12½ Turkey
8 Georgia 12½ 7 - 7 12 Belgium
9 Vietnam 13½ 7 - 7 12 England

In the women's section, China, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, and Russia are tied for first place after four rounds. Especially Iran has started impressively, with 15.5 board points out of 16!

Indonesia surprised today with a crushing 3.5-0.5 victory over Armenia. Here's the board one game:

Indonesia-Armenia. | Photo © Paul Truong.

In China-Germany, which also ended 3.5-0.5, World Champion Hou Yifan beat one of Mamedyarov's sisters. In the diagram position many moves win for White, but the world champion found the prettiest.

This report ends with arguably one of the shortest games of all Olympiads. Yes, this game does seem to have been played like this, today, in round four, in the match Togo-Zimbabwe...

Top Pairings Women, Round 5

No. Team Pts. MP - MP Pts. Team
1 Indonesia 14 8 - 8 14½ China
2 Barbados 8 4 - 4 9 Norway
3 Hungary 14 8 - 8 15½ Iran
4 Russia 13 8 - 7 12½ Georgia
5 Spain 12 7 - 7 11 Netherlands
6 Serbia 11 7 - 7 12 Ukraine
7 Poland 10½ 7 - 7 11½ Kazakhstan

Again, don't miss the Chess in Tweets blog!

The official website is here, and the Olympiad is also on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram. is transmitting a number of top games every round in Live Chess, and we're hosting a daily show on reporter Peter Doggers is present in Tromsø for on-the-spot (video) reports and calls in live from Tromsø during the show, so stay tuned!

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