Carlsen Succeeds With New 1st Move In Olympiad's 2nd Round

Carlsen Succeeds With New 1st Move In Olympiad's 2nd Round

At the 42nd Chess Olympiad, 38 teams have started with two victories in the open section. In the second round, the world's top four made their debut in Baku: Magnus Carlsen, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Fabiano Caruana and Vladimir Kramnik.

With a far smoother start than yesterday, the second round of the Olympiad took off. Without the president of the country making a visit — though his daughter dropped by — security was at a normal level. Besides, all journalists who are reporting on a daily basis got uninhibited access to the playing hall, so things are getting back to normal.

However, there are still 14 countries (all African) in the open section that are not paired for round three. Time will tell if these teams will still make it to Baku at some point. It does mean that, with 166 teams playing, Baku is not breaking records; Tromsø had 10 more.

Also at this Olympiad, the organizers and FIDE are struggling with one specific aspect of our sport: anti-cheating. For example, as mentioned in our preview, players are not allowed to bring mobile phones, smart watches or even pens inside the playing hall.

However, the enforcement of this quite reasonable regulation is a joke. We've seen phones going off inside the playing hall more than once, and people were even answering these calls with no security guards or arbiters noticing.

It's also rather easy to circumvent the security. When players bring their mobile devices, they are told to leave them at a special deposit desk. But they are not checked at that desk, so if they only leave a watch and pen, nobody may find the device that might still be inside the pocket....

In today's second round, the world's top four players joined their teams — but not all took a place at their teams' first board. Although higher rated than GM Sergey Karjakin, GM Vladimir Kramnik played second board, behind the world championship candidate. This means that Kramnik can only play on board one when Karjakin takes the day off.

Russia faced Turkmenistan, and Kramnik played as Black against IM Yusup Atabayev. The 14th World Champion keeps faithful to his Berlin, even in games that need to be won.

Kramnik told Chess.com that a treatment in Moscow for his back problems was successful.

The day after his family saw the premiere of the documentary "Magnus" in Oslo, Carlsen himself played his first game in Baku. His opening move was a huge surprise: 1.e3. Transmission error? Nope!

Played for the first time ever by Carlsen, the opening is named after a 19th-century Dutch Champion named Maarten van 't Kruijs. It quickly turned into a Nimzo/Queen's Indian, and the remainder was a walk in the park.

Magnus Carlsen joined Norway today.

Let's also look at the other two players in the top four. The second highest-rated player, GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, actually dropped some rating points today, as he was held to a draw by GM Alexander Baburin. Ireland's top board used a system against the Grünfeld, which he also used to draw against GM Bogdan Lalic in 1995 — apparently not everything changes in theory! Right after deviating from that game, a forced series of moves led to an equal endgame. "There was not much I could do today," MVL told Chess.com.

GM Fabiano Caruana took GM Wesley So's place in the U.S. team. The American champion faced an opening he had never seen before: the Four Knights with 4.Be2. A truly interesting game ensued, and in the end Caruana, proved to be the better player.

However there were so many ideas that the players decided to look at it in the analysis room. An actual post-mortem! Caruana admitted that he hadn't done that in years.

Caruana, who happened to score his 7th win at the Sinquefield Cup on September 4th two years ago, is pictured here.

Below is the game and Chess.com's interview with the winner.

The world's number five, GM Levon Aronian, is sadly missing out on the Olympiad, as Armenia decided not to play in Azerbaijan. Earlier this year, the tension between the two countries led to the worst clashes in more than two decades.

Moving on to the world's number six, GM Hikaru Nakamura had an easy day at the office. GM John Shaw, a theoretician who works for Quality Chess, didn't impress with the 3...Qd8 Scandinavian.

Hikaru Nakamura had a very smooth win.

The Americans didn't win 4-0 though. Though GM Sam Shankland played the Move of the Week yesterday, today he was almost a candidate for Blunder of the Week. But somehow he survived and drew, and so Shankland is still undefeated at Olympiads.

A few more strong players were held to a draw today, such as GMs Wei Yi (China), Yuriy Kryvoruchko (Ukraine) and Michael Adams (England). Adams played no fewer than 166 moves before he had to concede a draw. There was a study-like win at move 137 that included a minor promotion:

After 166 moves, Michael Adams could only draw.

England only defeated Indonesia 2.5-1.5, because there was an even bigger upset. IM Irwanto Sadikin played the game of his life against GM Luke McShane.

Other upsets included Luxembourg's IM Fred Berend beating GM Axel Rombaldoni of Italy, and Iran holding Georgia to 2-2. South Sudan's unrated Michael Deng Khor Kuol (featured in yesterday's report) again was the only winner in a 3-1 loss to South Korea. He might be going for that medal after all!

Australia's number one player, GM David Smerdon, played a very interesting game with GM Ivan Saric of Croatia, and maybe he deserved more. However, in the end, the 2668 GM proved to be the better calculator:

It wasn't meant to be for David Smerdon today.

After nary a match upset yesterday, the women's section produced several today. Many more ended in close finishes.

The big one, as Michael Moore might say, was the 46th seed Philippines taking out the 4th seed Republic of Georgia 2.5-1.5. That contest is detailed at length in the "Team Spotlight" below.

The United States almost fell victim next, as three draws meant that only U.S. Women's Champion IM Nazi Paikidze's spirited attack saved the day.

WIM Nazi Paikidze is on fire, and her coaches know it, placing her on board two. Photo: David Llada for Baku Chess Olympiad.

She never played in the Olympiad for her native Georgia, and had she not won today, it might have felt like a double blow today.

Seven-time U.S. Women's Champion GM Irina Krush tried to nail down the match by winning on board one, but the top Norwegian woman, WIM Sheila Barth Sahl, found a Magnus-like save that even elicited the handshake and praise of GMs Yasser Seirawan and Maurice Ashley immediately after the game.

IM Anna Zatonskih couldn't convert her winning position, but the draw was just enough to get her team through without a serious setback. (That is, unless you count tomorrow's pairing with Ukraine as a penalty.)

Yesterday's shocking tie to Sudan in the open division for Bulgaria did not end the country's poor start in Baku. Today, the ladies could only muster the same score against Denmark, which is seeded 42 places lower.

GM Antoaneta Stefanova handled her business on board one, but from there two Danish WFMs took out an IM and WGM on the next two boards, before Bulgaria equalized on board four.

Spain suffered the same 2-2 sputter against Estonia.

The biggest individual upset was the defeat of another woman with the full GM title. GM Harika Dronavalli was the last to finish for India. Despite her team having already sealed the match with three wins, she could not escape the grasp of WIM Juliana Sayumi Terao of Brazil.

Intense concentration by GM Harika Dronavalli could not help her against...

... WIM Juliana Sayumi Terao. The game score ending is mysterious, but all sources point to a loss for the Indian.

The Azeri women had a relatively good day. Two of the three teams won 2.5-1.5. Their top team took out Mexico in a close match whose final game went beyond five hours. Their second team scored a mild upset, claiming a win over Mongolia thanks to three draws and a win in the battle of the "U"s  WIM Ulviyya Fataliyeva over WIM Uurtsaikh Uriituya.

Of the other big surprises, we note that Sri Lanka's ladies (who were very close to an upset in round one) won all four games against Costa Rica, despite being outrated up and down the line.

On the top three boards, Russia (3rd seed) and China (1st seed) both won 4-0, without any games going longer than three hours except GM Wenjun Ju's. Ukraine-Moldova played out much longer, but in the end, the 2nd seed prevailed 3.5-0.5, with only GM Anna Muzychuk ceding a half point to WIM Diana Baciu.

Country Spotlight: Philippines Women

The biggest upset of the Olympiad came on the ladies' side of the hall today. When IM Salome Melia resigned to WIM Catherine Secopito shortly into the sixth hour of play, the Pinoy women upended the Georgian women 2.5-1.5.

Secopito said she was shaking at the end. She wasn't the only one!

Secopito's teammates look on while the game dwindles down. Could she do it?

Yes! Coach GM Jayson Gonzalez congratulates his board four for clinching the match.

One of the muted celebrations that takes place at an Olympiad. Games were still in progress, of course.

According to Captain/Coach GM Jayson Gonzalez, this was the biggest win his country's women have ever had. Previously, it was their 2-2 tie against Poland at the last Olympiad.

The country's male players have a storied history as well, as Chess.com reported in 2013. In addition, Asia's very first grandmaster, GM Eugenio Torre, is here playing in his 24th Olympiad, the most among active players.

The legend GM Eugenio Torre's lifetime Olympiad stats: 155 total game points, three individual bronze medals and 24 consecutive Olympiads since 1970.

The other winner today for the ladies, WIM Jan Jodilyn Fronda, beat a grandmaster for the first time in her life. How did she take out GM Bela Khotenashvili? Fronda's secret was combining the mental and the physical.

"I didn't expect my preparation would come up in the game," she said about Gonzalez's pre-game planning. "I didn't expect that I would beat the grandmaster."

Khotenashvili is one of only about 30 females with the grandmaster title.

Khotenasvhvili is one of the players who went down in the second round.

There was also the Zumba training. That's right, according to top player WIM Janelle May Frayna, the dance fitness program was an integral part of the team's training at home.

"Physical exercise is really great," Gonzalez said.

After Frayna drew GM Nana Dzaganidze and Fronda won, it was all on the shoulders of Secopito. She was offered a draw as the final game, which would have netted the team a 2-2 tie.

Secopito went to ask her coach how a draw would impact the team, as the rules always allow at Olympiads. The move wasn't sincere she knew she was winning, but she wanted to adhere to team rules.

"It's a courtesy to ask the coach if there's a draw offer," she explained. As expected, Gonzalez said no.

"Just play," he said.

She did, converting her advantage for the match win.

Several members of the happy team said they learn from the videos on Chess.com, including a few from FM Mike Klein, who conducted the interview!

The Philippines thus beat the four-time Olympiad Champion Georgia, who actually won their first title in 1992 as a newly-independent nation. The location? Manila, the capital of the Philippines. Of course, only one member of their squad today was even alive then (the hero, Secopito).

Gonzalez said that chess fans are staying up late to watch his squad on the internet. When the final handshake took place, it was shortly after midnight in their homeland. He said he hoped today's result would shed more light on his team's talents.

"We lack exposure," Gonzalez said. "Our rating is not relative of our strength. I think our rating is plus 300 [from the published number].... Our ladies want to play in Europe. We've have shown we can compete."

Untitled Christy Lamiel Bernales lost her game today, but she's still enjoying the city. "I was amazed at the infrastructure of Baku," she said. "A little bit clean!" Frayna joked sarcastically — the streets here are almost completely devoid of trash.

They also have one big fan and supporter back home. Boxer, senator, and national hero Manny Pacquiao met with them prior to the trip and offered good luck. Pacquiao also sponsors a chess tournament in the Philippines. (Gonzales played in the latest edition). The team said he is very generous.

"Maybe if we keep on winning, he will give us a bonus!" the ladies said, while giggling.

The FIDE President's press conference

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov held a press conference today, where he talked at length about the greatness of this iteration of the Olympiad, despite it being less than two rounds old.

"We can already declare at this time this has been one of the best, if not the best, levels of organization in Olympiad history," he proclaimed.

He mentioned flights, catering, transportation and media organization, apparently unaware of the press fiasco that permeated the opening round — but which was mostly smoothed out today.

Not content to hedge his bets, he then became more declarative. "This is my best Olympiad ever, in my memory," he said through a translator.

FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, left, chatting with FIDE Vice-President and Russian Chess Federation President Andrey Filatov. Ilyumzhinov said Filatov's proposal to allow world championship matches to be organized ad-hoc would be discussed at the upcoming FIDE Congress.

He said the purpose of the Olympiad is twofold: to expose the world of chess to Azerbaijan and to show Azeri culture to the world.

After the floor was opened for brief questioning, veteran El Pais journalist Leontxo Garcia ended the glorification and went straight to the hot topic in FIDE. "Is FIDE bankrupt?" he asked succinctly, mimicking our news report of the same title, which showed financial shakiness within the organization.

What followed was the usual evasiveness for which Ilyumzhinov has been known during his 20+ year tenure. The president talked at length about how FIDE was going bankrupt when he took office in 1995, how he rescued it from an insolvent quagmire, and how he grew the game from 100 million worldwide players to 600 million. (These were his statistics.)

"I don't think it's too serious to talk about problems in FIDE today," he said, not only refusing to answer the question about the present finances, but also attempting to undermine the significance of the issue.

Ilyumzhinov's reply to the veteran journalist's question about the current financial situation of FIDE was essentially a listing of various accomplishments under his tenure. It amounted to a nonsensical filibuster.

There is a FIDE Congress beginning in a few days, and Chess.com will attend and attempt to bring to more light on this story.

Chess.com also wished to ask Ilyumzhinov about whether he'd attempt to travel to the United States for the world championship despite the sanctions against him. However, FIDE Press Officer Anastasiya Karlovich directed the press to only ask about the Olympiad.

This report was co-written by Peter Doggers.

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