Cancel Your Saturday Plans: Double USA-Russia Match On Tap

Cancel Your Saturday Plans: Double USA-Russia Match On Tap

| 36 | Chess Event Coverage

USA beat India 3.5-0.5 today and took over the sole lead from their opponents at the Baku Olympiad. The eighth round will see Russia and USA clashing in both the open and women's sections.

With three top-10 players on the team, the USA is a true powerhouse at the Olympiad. Grabbing the sole lead today, the team made its intentions clear: It's gold that they're after.

The Americans crushed India, the leaders, 3.5-0.5. However, the match wasn't as one-sided as the score suggests. GM Sam Shankland played a rollercoaster of a game that he could easily have lost against GM S.P. Sethuraman.

FM Mike Klein: "Let me be the first to tell you that you were -9.5."
Shankland: "That sounds about right. I am just getting absolutely checkmated. I wanted to resign, but I didn't."

Shankland said he had saved positions that bad before, but not against someone of S.P.'s strength. "At some point, I stopped calculating. I just tried to play a move that didn't lose each time."

Does he have nine lives at the Olympiad? "This is the first time in any of the Olympiad games that I was just dead."
"We're leading at the Olympiad, but there's a long way to go. This is the first time I can ever remember leading an Olympiad."

Sam Shankland had another angel on his shoulder. | Photo Maria Emelianova for Baku Chess.

GM Hikaru Nakamura slowly but surely outplayed GM Baskaran Adhiban, the match-winner yesterday against the Netherlands. At the end of the game, Nakamura stood up and put on his jacket, waiting for his opponent to resign. The moment was reminiscent of GM Garry Kasparov putting on his watch in the old days.

GM Wesley So defeated GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi, and after a long and tough game, GM Fabiano Caruana held the draw against GM Pentala Harikrishna. He then had to perform a drug test, a standard procedure at Olympiads. (Although Vassily Ivanchuk once refused to perform one!).

Jana Bellin takes Fabiano Caruana for a drug test.

Board two featured an upset: the Netherlands were favorites against Latvia, but they didn't play well and lost 1-3. 

Hardly an hour into the round, the game on board one was already over. GM Alexei Shirov and GM Anish Giri played a thrilling draw in a 6.Be3 Najdorf ... except that the whole game had been played before! The two were following the game GM Surya Ganguly vs GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, from the Spanish Team Championship in Linares 2013, from start to finish.

GM Arturs Neiksans and GM Robin van Kampen also drew their game, but both GMs Loek van Wely and Benjamin Bok lost to the lower rated GM Igor Kovalenko and IM Nikita Meskovs

After the round-four loss to Ukraine, Russia won three matches in a row and is fully in contention again. Today they won, like the USA, with a big score: 3.5-0.5.

GM Sergey Karjakin was surprised by how easily he won against GM David Navara. The Czech really had an offday today, playing two weak moves before move 20. He didn't even survive the opening.

In an interview afterward, Karjakin stated that he feels "honored" to play board one "in such a great team." He also mentioned that during the rest day the Russian players went to a nearby beach where they played beach volleyball and jumped into the sea. Sounds like a good rest day to us!

In a good mood before the game: Karjakin, with coach GM Vladimir Potkin (l.) and Ian Nepomniachtchi.

GM Ian Nepomniachtchi is likely to score individual gold at this Olympiad. He won his seventh game in seven rounds! It was an instructive and typical middlegame with opposite-color bishops. White's was just much better.


Nepomniachtchi, the only participant in the Olympiad that has scored 7.0/7.

There was yet another 3.5-0.5 on the top boards today. Azerbaijan kept hopes for a medal alive with a good win over Croatia. The quickest win came from GM Eltaj Safarli, who beat GM Ante Brkic using both sides of the board.

Georgia continues to do well, as does their top board. GM Baadur Jobava has scored 5.0/6, with a 2933 performance! Another extravagant opening didn't quite work this time, but still found a nice way to win the game.

The reigning champions were expected to beat England, but China suffered a major setback. The match ended 3-1, with the exponents of the older generation scoring full points. First to win was GM Michael Adams who somehow managed to outplay GM Wang Yue in a QR versus QR position that seemed totally drawn.

Adams squeezed water from a stone today.

GM Nigel Short's win over GM Li Chao was a truly spectacular affair that had quite a story playing out in the background. First the game itself; the complications began at move 33, where both players started to get short on time. A great knight sac by Li wasn't followed up by the winning move, and Short played almost all the right moves in a jungle of variations. Almost.

The annotations show that Li could have drawn with some incredible moves. You've got to see this.

Nigel Short won a crazy game versus Li Chao. | Photo Eteri Kublashvili for Baku Chess.

That was a fantastic victory for the English team of course, but the celebrating didn't start just yet. After the game, Short was taken to a special room for post-game anti-cheating checks. Together with team captain IM Malcolm Pein he was cheering in the corridor in celebration of the historic victory over the reigning Olympics champions. However, when leaving, the two were not smiling anymore—quite the contrary.

A historic victory for England!

As it turned out, earlier in the day Short had refused to undergo a check during the game. For this, Klaus Deventer, a member of the Anti-Cheating Committee, wanted to give Short a warning.

"Go ahead, forfeit me!" said a furious Short. Clearly of the opinion that checking a former world championship contender for cheating is plain humiliating, Short added: "I've played chess for thirty years. A World Championship, for God's sake!" He later told that he won't allow future checks during games either, risking a forfeit. 

The random checks during the round are in the rules mentioned on the official website, and in fact, the penalty for refusing is a forfeit.

(...) "there will be random checks for approximately 30 to 40 players. The checks will be done by Anti Cheating Arbiters with the use of the non-linear scanners and detectors, and will take 5 to 10 seconds for every check. In case of any indication, a thorough check will follow, according to Article 11.3.b of the Laws of Chess (in a private room, in the presence of Sector Arbiter and/or Chief Arbiter, etc. If a player refuses to cooperate under these obligations, the arbiter shall take measures in accordance with Article 12.9 and forfeit the player).

Pein told "They did find something. A credit card! I fully support Nigel here. You can quote me on that."

Asked whether he had given Short an official warning, Deventer said he "couldn't provide that information." The tournament director wasn't available for comment either.

Looking at the pairings for the eighth round, it may be concluded that England's 3-1 win wasn't reversed into a 2-2 tie.

It's becoming a tradition to finish the open section with the game of the world champion, who sported a Nike hoodie today with the text "Swag don't come cheap." Two years ago in Tromsø, Carlsen got in trouble but eventually defeated Turkey's Dragan Solak. This time, the victory was much smoother.

Before we leave leave the open section, a huge upset should be mentioned: Kosovo, with three FMs and an untitled player, managed to beat Egypt, playing with two GMs and two IMs. Here's the tricky rook ending that played out on board one. 

Mitrovice, Kosovo. The Mid-European state isn't recognized by many countries, including Azerbaijan.

Below are the standings with all teams that have scored 11 points or more.

Rk. SNo Team Team + = - TB1 TB2 TB3 TB4
1 2 USA 6 1 0 13 174 21,5 60
2 1 Russia 6 0 1 12 157 22 54
3 20 Georgia 5 2 0 12 154,5 20 57
4 5 Ukraine 6 0 1 12 146,5 19 61
5 9 India 6 0 1 12 144,5 19,5 60
6 6 England 6 0 1 12 140 18,5 58
7 21 Latvia 6 0 1 12 138,5 18,5 55
8 4 Azerbaijan 1 5 1 1 11 161,5 20,5 61
9 46 Iran 5 1 1 11 153 20 59
10 27 Greece 4 3 0 11 137,5 17,5 59
11 29 Slovenia 5 1 1 11 127 19,5 51
12 12 Norway 5 1 1 11 126,5 17 53
13 34 Peru 5 1 1 11 118 18,5 49
14 36 Italy 5 1 1 11 117 18,5 50

(Full standings here.)

The main match-ups for round eight are Russia vs USA, Georgia vs Ukraine, England vs India, and Azerbaijan-1 vs Latvia.

Women's section

For those that seek clarity in their lives, look away now.

In the women's tournament, round seven made the standings a mess. Neither leader took control of the tournament as a Russian tie and a Ukrainian loss meant that members of the chasing group caught up in the pawn race. When everything ended, five teams claimed a piece of the pie.

On the top board in match one, GM Alexandra Kosteniuk improbably faced her fourth GM in six games—Poland's best woman. There's only a few other grandmasters (not on her team) that she has yet to play.

GM Alexandra Kosteniuk (left) needed to hold a worse ending against GM Monika Socka just to earn a tie against the underdog Poland.

How would she fare coming off a loss yesterday? Not much better, as Polish GM Monika Socko tried to beat herself and her family! This needs an explanation.

The position after 8. b4 had been reach about 25 times in history, with "Team Socko" accounting for three of those instances. Monika has played it twice while GM Bartosz Socko, her husband, accounted for the third instance, all with White! Today Monika entered the position for a fourth time, but this time she played Black.

Doubtless she was preparing some novelty (she won her most recent encounter as White earlier this year), but instead Kosteniuk varied first. The move 11.Ne4 was the new move, but in the end, Kosteniuk could do nothing more than muddle through the worse side of a pawn-down ending.

That allowed GM Valentina Gunina to play hero again for her squad. Actually, her game finished long before Kosteniuk's.

Before the round, GM Valentina Gunina leaned on WGM Natalija Pogonina. During the round, team Russia leaned on Gunina.

Unlike yesterday's last-gasp drawing salvo, today Gunina was "only" -1 before roaring back with supremely active pieces. The win was the only one her quartet would muster, but it was needed to split the match.

WGM Natalija Pogonina couldn't win with her extra pawn in a murky position on board four, so everything came down to board three.

Poland's WGM Karina Szczopkowska-Horowska can leave your tongue twisted and your position in shambles. Her defeat of young WGM Alexandra Goryachkina leveled the match. It doesn't get much more sad than White's pieces in the final position:

WGM Karina Szczopkowska-Horowska is not one of our "fantastic juniors" stories. She's 28. Hard to believe, yes, but we checked multiple sources.

One board lower, Ukraine had a chance to leapfrog Russia and make amends for blowing their opportunity against them yesterday. Instead, the inverse happened—They lost to China thanks to merely a single game. Three draws that never strayed too far from equality were tilted by a win on board three by WGM Zhongyi Tan over GM Natalia Zhukova.

WGM Zhongyi Tan was already much better in a Benoni, but she really pushed the pedal to the floor when her d-pawn became unhinged.

The difference in title may suggest an upset, but their ratings are exactly identical at 2475. White's d-pawn was a constant thorn for Black, and after ridding herself of it and trying to return the favor, White held Black's d-pawn in check.

With Russia creeping to 12 match points and China jumping to the same number, who would also take advantage of the leaders' troubles? Three more teams did.

USA beat the surprising Romanian contingent on match table three. Again, three draws left only one game that mattered. This time it was board two, where U.S. Women's Champion IM Nazi Paikidze got her team the win it needed.

She defeated one of the pre-round individual leaders: IM Cristina Foisor, who had been on 5.5/6. If that last name sounds familiar, it should. Cristina's daughter WGM Sabina Foisor is the alternate on the American team, where she is 2-0.

IM Cristina Foisor of Romania. Until today, "Team Foisor" had been 7.5/8!

Sabina sat out this round, but according to team coach GM Robert Hess, this didn't have anything to do with having her mother on the other side of the table.

Paikidze said Sabina gave no advice on how to beat her mother.

"I think this is the best game I played so far," Paikidze said. "I think I played well, slowly. I realized I absolutely had to win that game. I'm happy she didn't play something super boring. "

IM Nazi Paikidze (standing) saw after she won that GM Irina Krush had allowed a king invasion in the endgame, but everything was under control.

Like GM Fabiano Caruana's win yesterday, her USA national team experience is so limited that she thinks this was her most important win to date for the team.

Now sick of the same hotel buffet, today's match win also meant a treat for the team. "We all agreed that if we won we would get pizza." For Paikidze, that means something with vegetarian toppings.

"Should I get pepperoni or mushrooms?"

Also like Caruana, Paikidze's celebration was delayed. While he got escorted to the doping control room for urine testing, Paikidze was escorted to the security room for a (quicker) check for electronic devices (she had none). Both searches were apparently done at random.

IM Anna Zatonskih is in unfamiliar territory on board three for USA, but she's taking advantage by leading the team in points.

Two other teams got to the magic number of 12 match points. Azerbaijan-A thrilled the home folks (their B and C teams won today too for a clean sweep) and gave India more bad news.

Azerbaijan-A was happy pre-round and post-round too. In fact, all 15 ladies on the three teams could celebrate Friday evening.

The hosts won 2.5-1.5 thanks to wins by WGMs Gunay Mammadzada and Gulnar Mammadova. In the latter game, IM Tania Sachdev slipped at the end.

The Netherlands women helped atone for their open team's debacle. They beat four-time champion Georgia 2.5-1.5. IM Tea Lanchava scored the lone win by beating GM Bela Khotenashvili.

Unlike Foisor, Georgian-born Lanchava did have to play the country of her birth. She used the Botvinnik English (c4-d3-e4) for the first time ever. She told that more than 20 years ago she emigrated to the Netherlands after meeting her now ex-husband and finding better opportunities to play chess.

"It's a mixed feeling," Lanchava said. "I'm happy for myself and the team, but I also feel their pain. They are professionals; they should be playing for medals."

Two years ago, the Netherlands held Georgia to a 2-2 tie. Back then, Lanchava spoiled a winning position. "That's been settled now," she said.

Leading the Dutch team is 13-time national women's champion GM Zhaoqin Peng (right). Next to her is WGM Anne Haast, who saved the day for Netherlands.

You could argue that the bigger hero was WGM Anne Haast, who didn't quite achieve a "full Shankland" as she only drew, but she was nonetheless down -3 with a severely compromised king.

You'll surely remember that earlier in the tournament Hou Yifan lost to the Minister of Finance of Latvia, Dana Reizniece-Ozola. Today a Lithuanian MP played (and won) her first game. This one you'll know for sure: GM Viktorija Cmilyte.

For those on upset patrol, just look across the Caspian Sea to Turkmenistan. Ranked 52, they beat 30th-ranked Greece 3-1.

For those on rivalry patrol, Australia beat New Zealand 3.5-0.5 in the Trans-Tasman battle. The Kiwis suffered by the same score last Olympiad and have never beaten their traditional rivals. They also lost in 1984, 2000, and 2010, winning only one individual game ever in the Olympic women's series.

Today no rule changes occurred after their match, unlike this very famous cricket incident from 1981:

For round eight, the traditional rivalry of USA-Russian is on in both sections. Both the open and the women's teams will face off tomorrow. Let's hope nothing is underhanded!

Below are the standings with all teams that scored 11 points or more.

Rk. SNo Team Team + = - TB1 TB2 TB3 TB4
1 3 Russia 5 2 0 12 173 21 62
2 1 China 5 2 0 12 149 20 57
3 16 Azerbaijan 1 5 2 0 12 143 18,5 59
4 6 USA 6 0 1 12 132 19 54
5 21 Netherlands 6 0 1 12 122,5 17,5 51
6 7 Poland 5 1 1 11 164 22 58
7 2 Ukraine 5 1 1 11 158,5 20 62
8 8 Hungary 5 1 1 11 135 19 54
9 18 Israel 5 1 1 11 123 18,5 52
10 52 Turkmenistan 5 1 1 11 113 19,5 47

(Full standings here.)

The main matchups for round eight are Russia vs USA, Poland vs Netherlands, Hungary vs Ukraine, and China vs Azerbaijan.

FIDE Congress, Part 1

Meanwhile, the 87th FIDE Congress has started in what is the best hotel of the city: the Fairmont Hotel a.k.a. Flame Towers. Many commissions have meetings during the first few days, before the General Assembly. Here are some examples of FIDE's commissions, to give you an idea.

  • Arbiters’ Commission (ARB)
  • World Championship & Olympiad (WCO)
  • Commission for the Disabled (DIS)
  • Ethics Commission (ETH)
  • Rules Commission (RTR)
  • Anti-Cheating Committee (ACC)
  • Chess in Schools Commission (CIS)

Today the Ethics Commission got together and came up with a final decision regarding the case of the European Chess Union and the Montenegro Chess Federation, who had complained about the organization of the 2013 European Youth Championship in Budva, Montenegro in 2013. 

The decision was that for organizing the European Youth in the manner they did, Silvio Danailov, Vladimir Sakotic, and Sava Stoisavljevic are all guilty of violating the FIDE Code of Ethics. According to the commission, Danailov and Stoisavljevic have "failed to perform their functions in an impartial and responsible manner" whereas Sakotic "no longer inspires the necessary confidence" or has in other ways "become unworthy of trust."

All three persons have been "suspended from holding any office or position within FIDE, as well as participating in any meeting of FIDE as delegate or in any other capacity." Danailov was suspended for 18 months, Sakotic for three years and Stoisavljevic for six months.

Baku's Flame Towers (two of the three are visible). | Photo Leah Tillett

The FIDE Congress will end with the General Assembly, which runs September 11-13. The delegates of all chess federations will gather to speak about—and vote upon—all important matters. 

Especially the first day will be very interesting, if only because Jamaica delegate Ian Wilkinson will move forward a motion to the General Assembly where he calls on Kirsan Ilyumzhinov to resign immediately as President of FIDE. This is directly related to the sanctions imposed upon Ilyumzhinov by the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) in late 2015.

In this week's ChessCenter, Wilkinson tells about his motion:

This report was co-written by FM Mike Klein.

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