Chess Olympiad: Azerbaijan, Poland Still Perfect
Poland beat Ukraine thanks to Jan-Krzysztof Duda's win vs Vassily Ivanchuk. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Chess Olympiad: Azerbaijan, Poland Still Perfect

| 57 | Chess Event Coverage

While things are heating up on the political front, the Olympiad's playing hall hosted another day of great chess. Azerbaijan and Poland will meet tomorrow as the co-leaders, with six wins. USA, Georgia and Armenia (who beat Russia!) are leading the women's section.

With only a single individual loss over 24 games so far and a board one who leads the team with an unbeaten 4/5 score, Azerbaijan is looking strong this year. World number three Shakhriyar Mamedyarov won his third straight game today against David Navara in their match with the Czech Republic, and another win (Naiditsch-Hracek 1-0) sealed a 3-1 score.

Azerbaijan-Czech Republic BatumiCzech Republic's Navara, usually in a good mood before the game, facing an already focused Mamedyarov. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

There's only one other team that started with six wins. Poland has been the revelation of the Olympiad so far; a team with an average age of only 25 that can afford to put the experienced Wojtaszek on board two. Well, Jan-Krzysztof Duda happens to have a higher rating and it also helps that he won the Polish championship ahead of Wojtaszek this year!

The Polish rising star, who eliminated both Sergey Karjakin and Alexander Grischuk from the Speed Chess Championship this summer, defeated veteran GM Vassily Ivanchuk in a match with Ukraine that saw draws on the other boards.'s video interview with Duda.

Israel and Germany played 2-2, the same score in England-France and also Russia-India. The latter two matches had four draws.

Israel's Emil Sutovsky has played the Grünfeld for most of his career, but today he showed to be a fine King's Indian player as well.

Emil Sutovsky Batumi Olympiad

Emil Sutovsky knows how to play the KID too. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

From Russia-India, the game on top board was very interesting. A Mikenas English started looking like an Advance Caro-Kann, and it seemed White was better out of the opening. Vishy Anand clearly wasn't too comfortable, having to play his king to f7 and his beautiful knight on d4 back to c6, but after that Ian Nepomniachtchi missed a good chance.

India team Batumi

Team India. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Having dropped their first match point on Friday, the USA got a pleasant pairing today vs Bosnia & Herzegovina. Its only 2600 player, GM Borki Predojevic, doesn't play but is team captain for Austria instead.

With an average rating of 2449, B&H as a team didn't have a chance against super GMs Fabiano Caruana, Wesley So and Hikaru Nakamura, who played with Ray Robson today on board four. The USA won 3.5-0.5, with a draw for Nakamura.

Caruana outplayed his opponent Denis Kadric from a Sicilian where he castled queenside as Black. 

A notable side story here is that Caruana is now just 7.5 points behind Magnus Carlsen in the live ratings, and could overtake the world champion this week. Carlsen, however, would still have a chance to "correct" that before the world title match, as he'll play in the European Club Cup whereas the Olympiad is Caruana's last event before November.


The live ratings, last updated September 30, 2018, 16:11 GMT. | Source:

So's win vs Dalibor Stojanovic was impressive as well. White didn't seem to have much, but in reality he was always better due to Black's weaknesses on both flanks. Also, So's finish of the game was quite nice.

The young Iranian team put up a good fight against China, with three draws, including Parham Maghsoodloo vs Ding Liren. The decision came on board three:

Bu Xiangzhi, Batumi Olympiad

Bu Xiangzhi, the matchwinner for China. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Like other teams before, the Netherlands didn't have an easy day against Georgia 3. Much higher rated on all boards, the Dutch only scored 2.5-1.5 against these talented Georgians, with a loss for Jorden van Foreest. The 19-year-old GM could use some KID lessons from board three Loek van Wely (or Sutovsky!).

On a final note, Paco Vallejo suddenly entered the press room today. The Spanish number one isn't playing the Olympiad because his tax issues are still taking too much of his energy, but he is in Batumi anyway as the trainer of the Swiss team.

Today, Vallejo had to prepare his men for his compatriots. Spain won 2.5-1.5 thanks to this excellent win by David Anton.

Batumi Olympiad | Round 6 Standings (Top 20)
Rk. SNo Flag Team TB1 TB2 TB3 TB4
1 4 Azerbaijan 12 135,0 19,0 44
2 11 Poland 12 122,5 18,5 40
3 1 USA 11 120,5 17,5 45
4 3 China 10 114,0 16,5 43
5 13 Netherlands 10 111,0 19,0 40
6 10 Israel 10 111,0 18,0 41
7 8 Armenia 10 110,0 16,5 44
8 15 Czech Republic 10 106,0 16,0 44
9 6 Ukraine 10 106,0 15,0 44
10 16 Germany 10 105,0 16,5 43
11 18 Croatia 10 95,0 17,0 37
12 17 Belarus 10 89,5 15,0 39
13 40 Egypt 10 87,0 15,0 38
14 5 India 9 115,0 17,5 43
15 7 France 9 109,5 17,0 45
16 24 Spain 9 108,0 17,0 42
17 2 Russia 9 98,0 16,0 43
18 9 England 9 90,0 14,5 43
19 12 Hungary 9 86,5 15,0 37
20 45 Serbia 9 82,5 15,0 38
(Full standings here.)

Top pairings: Poland-Azerbaijan, Croatia-USA, Ukraine-China, Germany-Netherlands and Czech Republic-Israel.

After a four-win yet drawn battle on the top board, perfection is now unattainable in the women's section. The U.S. team began alone atop the standings with 10 points (5-0 match record), the first time in history they've had an unshared lead at the Olympiad according to team captain GM Melik Khachiyan.

USA India

USA-India, the "rematch" on the women's top match board. In the open section in Batumi, USA already beat India. | Photo: Mike Klein/

Today against fifth-seeded India, by far their toughest challenge yet, it seemed for much of the round that the U.S. might lose any slice of the lead entirely. Instead, Khachiyan's ladies recovered from a 2-0 hole to win two better endings and split the match. White won all four games.

First to finish was Indian top board GM Humpy Koneru, whose return to the Olympiad is going exceedingly well with 4.5/5.

Humpy Koneru

GM Humpy Koneru had not "danced" in the Olympiad in a dozen years, just like her countryman GM Viswanathan Anand. Both returned this year. | Photo: Mike Klein/

She dealt U.S. number one IM Anna Zatonskih her first loss of the event.

India then made it 2-0 when IM Tania Sachdev was better on the board and up on the clock for most of the game. Even though her time dwindled closer to WGM Tatev Abrahamyan at the end, Sachdev posed her opponent enough problems to make her resign.

Both GM Irina Krush and FM Jennifer Yu had better endings, but could they both convert? Indeed they could.


Left to right, USA went loss-win-loss-win. Their even-numbered boards are getting used to this. GM Irina Krush and FM Jennifer Yu are now a combined 10.5/11. | Photo: Mike Klein/

First was Krush, who only had an isolani to attack, but that was enough. Her job was made much easier after the trade of knights into a pure rook ending. Khachiyan thought Black's position was defensible until the final minor pieces left the board.

Here's USA's 5-0 woman unceremoniously taking out the recently married GM Harika Dronavalli:

Then Yu made the comeback a reality by finishing off a fine ending with an exchange sac that wasn't entirely necessary but perfectly sound nonetheless. USA Women's Coach GM Robert Hess called her effort "extremely high level."

Yu, still only a high school junior, now leads the team with 5.5/6 despite having to do homework on the rest day.


Could the Americans win two and eke out a tie? GM Robert Hess queries GM Alejandro Ramirez, WGM Tatev Abrahamyan, and open section winner GM Ray Robson. | Photo: Mike Klein/

"I didn't go into the Olympiad with any mindset," Hess said about playing his fourth board every game. "In [round two vs. Canada] in particular she showed she could keep the tension and keep pushing.

"That was a clear indication that she's ready. I think she's a very hard worker and she loves the game. She's really taking this opportunity to listen and learn." caught up with Yu and Khachiyan after the game.

Even after USA-India had all four games finish, one match farther down was still contesting every board. Ukraine-China, the second seed versus the third seed, suddenly had the spotlight to themselves. 

The top-rated female players in the event, GM Anna Muzychuk (Ukraine) and GM Ju Wenjun (China) then split the point on board one while GM Maria Muzychuk beat IM Shen Yang to take the lead on behalf of her sister.


The Chinese squad, with board three WGM Qian Huang playing hero (second from right). | Photo: Mike Klein/

A draw on the bottom board meant GM Anna Ushenina just had to hold a relative normal R+2 vs. R+1 ending. The conversion to a win for WGM Qian Huang seemed so unlikely that commentator GM Ivan Sokolov said that nothing short of an "earthquake" was needed for China to win.

Apparently Batumi lies on a fault line that quakes every 144 moves:

On board lower down, Armenia had surprisingly little trouble giving top-seeded Russia its second loss. Its two wins and two draws came courtesy of the two games with white.

Here's IM Lilit Mkrtchian, who is short on vowels but long on bishops:

The win put Armenia on 11 points, the same as the U.S., so they necessarily will play on top board tomorrow.
On match board four, it seemed almost a certainly that over-performing Latvia would continue its success. As the second-lowest-ranked team on eight points, their "gift" was a date with Azerbaijan, but everything looked in control.

Although down 2-1, Latvia seemed certainly headed for a win on the final board and its third drawn match in Batumi.


Only a miraculous saved kept the Latvian ladies from remaining without a match loss. Instead, Azerbaijan won. | Photo: Mike Klein/

WFM Linda Krumina, the 2017 Latvian Women's Champion, who has come back to chess after about a decade away, just needed to notice one last salvo for her opponent. She didn't. The Azeri IM Gunnar Mammadova grabbed her chance to save the game and the match with a move that sparked arguably bigger reaction on the Richter scale.

And for all the geography buffs, if you are still thinking there's two entities named Georgia, well, you are right! Today Georgia played Georgia, although the greater Atlanta area was still not represented. No, this was Georgia 1 vs. Georgia 2, and Georgia won!

The host nation always get two teams, and sometimes three. Or rather, its top team won, but it will sure be interesting if both fight for medals in the second half of the tournament.


It's Georgia 1 (left) vs. Georgia 2, or as Kramer on "Seinfeld" might put it, the "nexus of the universe." | Photo: Mike Klein/

If you are thinking that would be unprecedented, you are half right. Obviously it can only happen to the host nation, and it has never happened in the Women's Olympiad. But in the open section in Moscow 1994, Kasparov and Kramnik led the top Russian team to gold while Morozevich, still only an IM, led the second team to bronze.

Batumi Olympiad (Women) | Round 6 Standings (Top 20)

Rk. SNo Flag Team TB1 TB2 TB3 TB4
1 10 USA 11 125,0 17,5 44
2 4 Georgia 1 11 119,5 17,0 42
3 12 Armenia 11 118,0 17,5 43
4 3 China 10 124,5 17,0 46
5 5 India 10 119,5 18,5 43
6 2 Ukraine 10 119,0 17,5 45
7 11 Azerbaijan 10 113,5 18,0 42
8 18 Italy 10 106,0 17,0 41
9 31 Uzbekistan 10 102,0 16,5 42
10 28 Iran 10 97,0 17,0 38
11 16 Netherlands 10 96,0 17,5 36
12 20 Romania 10 95,5 17,0 37
13 14 Georgia 2 9 101,5 17,0 40
14 8 Kazakhstan 9 101,0 16,5 39
15 37 Peru 9 93,5 17,5 36
16 34 Lithuania 9 91,5 16,0 37
17 23 Serbia 9 89,5 15,5 39
18 13 Hungary 9 88,5 16,0 38
19 43 Philippines 9 84,5 16,0 34
20 30 Argentina 9 78,0 15,5 38

(Full pairings here.)

Top pairings: Armenia-USA, China-Netherlands, Iran-Ukraine, Italy-Azerbaijan, Romania-Uzbekistan, India-Georgia 1.

Games via TWIC.

Mike Klein contributed to this report.


Earlier reports:

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