Chess Olympiad: China Ends Polish Run, Plays U.S. For Gold
China was the first team to beat Poland in Batumi. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Chess Olympiad: China Ends Polish Run, Plays U.S. For Gold

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
Oct 4, 2018, 2:20 PM |
61 | Chess Event Coverage

Poland's amazing run at the 43rd Olympiad was ended today by China, the opponent of the U.S. in a clash for gold in tomorrow's final round. In the women's section, China will defend its sole lead vs Russia.

The world of chess politics changed significantly yesterday, and continued to do so a bit more on the second day of the general assembly. Among the FIDE vice presidents that were appointed was none other than Nigel Short.

Short jokingly sat down at England's third board for a moment.

Lukasz Turlej, who was on Short's ticket as the intended deputy president, is a vice president now as well. That was a small Polish victory on a day when the Polish team suffered its first loss of the tournament.

Whereas so many other top teams had failed to do so, China won—and quite convincingly. Its board one Ding Liren was Jan-Krzysztof Duda's third 2800 opponent in the tournament, but the first he failed to hold the draw against.

Duda vs Ding Batumi

Duda facing his third 2800 opponent. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Early in the game there was a move repetition, but Ding decided to continue. Soon after, he found an amazing piece sacrifice and ended up winning a dazzling game.

Keep in mind that he needs to sit on a special, softer chair, and still walks on crutches. Although he is used to them by now (he needs them for another two months or so), Ding told Chess.com that he drinks less water to avoid having to go to the toilet! Below is his great game, and an interview.

Chess.com's interview with Ding Liren.

Kamil Dragun hadn't lost a game yet, but for him it also went wrong, against Li Chao. It wasn't easy to point out exactly where White went from equal to worse, but it's clear that the attack didn't get off the ground, and White's king's rook got terribly misplaced.

Kamil Dragun Batumi

Like his team, Dragun (here checking out the games of his female compatriots) suffered his first loss today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

That was a blow for Poland obviously, but the team will still be playing for medals tomorrow with a chance to make its Olympiad highly successful.

We're seeing very close battles in this final phase of the Olympiad. In the five matches below the top boards, there were 16 draws out of 20 games, with Vietnam-Germany seeing only draws.

Team USA, playing without Hikaru Nakamura for the first time, recovered from yesterday's loss with a narrow win vs Armenia. Sam Shankland did it for the Americans, with what was in fact a relatively easy win for him.

It looks like he out-prepared Hrant Melkumyan in a sharp and highly theoretical Botvinnik Semi-Slav, and bad judgment on move 26 by the Armenian player gave Shankland all the chances. Similar to his game with Sethuraman in the 2016 Olympiad, he walked up his king without fear.

USA-Armenia Batumi

Shankland's game didn't last very long, but still ended after a quick draw between Levon Aronian and Fabiano Caruana on board one. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com. 

Russia once again didn't have a very successful Olympiad, but it actually fought back, and can still finish in a tie for first place. Whereas he was responsible for a key loss earlier in the tournament, this time Vladimir Kramnik helped his team to gain two match points.

England's David Howell probably had something brilliant in mind when he sacked a piece, but there was a flaw in his reasoning, as Kramnik demonstrated.

Vladimir Kramnik 2018 Olympiad

Vladimir Kramnik was today's match winner for Russia. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Besides Poland and Russia there is one more team tied for third place. Just like in the FIFA World Cup final, France won against Croatia. Laurent Fressinet was the only winner here, and had an easy day:

Laurent Fressinet Batumi

Laurent Fressinet. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

For Azerbaijan the last few days have been pretty cruel. It started the Olympiad so strongly, but then lost 1.5-2.5 three times in a row—today vs Ukraine.

Norway, on the other hand, is still doing well. Today the young team beat Serbia 2.5-1.5. All five Norwegians are gaining Elo for a total of 46.6 points.

Notkevich Norway

Benjamin Norkevich won an absolutely wild game today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

And so we'll see the U.S. and China play on top boards tomorrow, with the easy conclusion that the winner will take the gold medal. More scenarios are given below.

The two countries have faced each other seven times before at Olympiads, and scored one victory each with five ties.

Tomorrow's line-ups have been published already. It's going to be Caruana-Ding, Yu-So, Nakamura-Bu and Li-Shankland on top boards.

Batumi Olympiad | Round 10 Standings (Top 20)
Rk. SNo Flag Team TB1 TB2 TB3 TB4
1 1 USA 17 324,5 27,0 122
2 3 China 17 320,5 26,5 124
3 11 Poland 16 325,0 26,0 130
4 7 France 16 309,0 27,0 125
5 2 Russia 16 301,0 26,5 119
6 5 India 15 325,5 27,0 128
7 8 Armenia 15 299,0 25,5 125
8 6 Ukraine 15 278,0 24,0 125
9 16 Germany 15 274,0 25,0 118
10 15 Czech Republic 15 272,5 25,5 116
11 9 England 15 271,5 24,0 119
12 37 Kazakhstan 15 256,0 25,5 109
13 27 Vietnam 14 312,5 27,5 117
14 18 Croatia 14 288,0 25,0 128
15 38 Norway 14 272,5 26,5 114
16 32 Sweden 14 269,5 26,0 112
17 30 Moldova 14 253,0 24,0 113
18 35 Austria 14 245,0 24,5 110
19 54 Philippines 14 243,5 25,5 97
20 4 Azerbaijan 13 318,5 25,5 134

(Full standings here.)

Top pairings: U.S.-China, France-Russia, India-Poland, Germany-Armenia, Ukraine-Czech Republic, England-Kazakhstan.

OPEN SECTION CALCULATIONS FOR GOLD

  • U.S. (17 points): Wins gold by beating China. Can also win gold by tying China and hoping to maintain its very small edge on tiebreaks. Cannot win gold with a loss.
  • China (17 points): Wins gold by beating the U.S.. Can also win gold by tying the U.S. and having France-Russia draw and Poland not win; or by tying and having its previous opponents do well enough to overcome the small tiebreak deficit with the U.S. and Poland.
  • France, Russia, Poland (all 16 points): Must each win and have U.S.-China be a draw. Must also hope for previous opponents to do well to overcome tiebreak deficit (note that Poland already has better tiebreaks than anyone, even the leaders).
  • None of the teams on 15 points is alive since one team must get to at least 18 on the top board.

Whereas the Chinese open team was attempting to take over the lead today, the Chinese women's team was simply trying to protect it.

Beginning with 16 points, one ahead of three other teams, it would face one of those teams in round 10. China was favored against the U.S. on all four boards, yet four draws ensued.

Chess.com's interview with China's board one, World Champion Ju Wenjun.

The other two most meaningful matches were also grudge matches: Ukraine-Russia and Azerbaijan-Armenia. Ukraine and Armenia both began the round with 15 points while their opponents were on 14.

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Ukraine-Russia had all of the usual importance but not much of the usual action. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com

But it was all draws here too!  Collectively there was no movement at the top, but there was still some action along the way, including another example of why you should never resign.

Let's take a look at a few interesting moments in the drawfest. After split points on the top and bottom boards in China-U.S., the two middle boards would decide things. GM Irina Krush had a hint of an advantage in her middlegame, but that disappeared, leaving everything up to the most imbalanced position anywhere at the women's top tables: GM Lei Tingjie against WGM Tatev Abrahamyan.

Tatev Abrahamyan

WGM Tatev Abrahamyan has recently been steadying the U.S. ship on board three. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com

Much had been made of team USA's pitiful 1.5/7 start on its third board, but Abrahamyan has since tried to personally erase those memories with two straight wins there. But could she make it three? Also, with the entire match and first place in the balance, how much would she "push" in an effort to win? With a well-timed pawn sac, it turns out she was indeed going for glory.


In the end, it wasn't even clear who was pushing for the win, but it seems it was that kind of day. No matter what was tried, draws seemed destined to find the players. That was never more evident than in board three of the Azerbaijan-Armenia match. 

WFM Anna Sargsyan was simply up a knight, seemingly without a complicated conversion. But if Armenia fails to win its first-ever team medal in the women's section, it may have to look back on this moment:

Anna SargsyanDeep focus didn't prevent Sargsyan from overlooking a stalemate, twice. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com

With the other three games in the match also drawn, Armenia settled for one match point. The vital match point lost costs the team a share of first place going into the last round.

Ukraine-Russia was a star-studded matchup on paper (seven GMs out of eight players, or about 20 percent of the female grandmasters in the entire world). But the actual games didn't live up to the hype. Or, maybe both teams were just given instructions to play it carefully.

Symmetry permeated the top two boards, and if you had to look for one game where a player enjoyed a modicum of winning chances, that would be board four. Curiously, it came from the one non-GM of the lot. WGM Olga Girya's space advantage and powerful bishop looked like they might amount to something against GM Natalia Zhukova

Olga Girya

WGM Olga Girya. Was she thinking about what might have been? | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com

An incredibly subtle bishop redirection would likely have tilted the balance of power.

Batumi Olympiad (Women) | Round 10 Standings (Top 20)

Rk. SNo Flag Team TB1 TB2 TB3 TB4
1 3 China 17 343,5 28,5 126
2 2 Ukraine 16 329,5 27,0 130
3 10 USA 16 319,0 26,5 125
4 12 Armenia 16 315,0 26,0 129
5 1 Russia 15 319,0 28,5 119
6 4 Georgia 1 15 304,0 25,0 126
7 11 Azerbaijan 15 286,5 26,5 119
8 13 Hungary 14 293,5 26,0 121
9 15 Spain 14 292,0 25,5 109
10 5 India 14 288,0 26,5 119
11 14 Georgia 2 14 281,0 26,0 117
12 7 Poland 14 279,5 27,0 109
13 8 Kazakhstan 14 279,0 26,0 115
14 19 Vietnam 14 276,5 28,5 108
15 26 Czech Republic 14 273,0 27,5 108
16 17 Mongolia 14 273,0 26,0 117
17 6 France 14 266,5 26,5 107
18 23 Serbia 14 255,5 24,5 114
19 22 Cuba 14 246,0 25,5 110
20 35 Slovenia 14 222,0 23,0 109

(Full standings here.)

Top pairings: Russia-China, U.S.-Ukraine, Armenia-Georgia, Vietnam-Azerbaijan, Hungary-Slovenia, Poland-Spain. 

WOMEN'S SECTION CALCULATIONS FOR GOLD

  • China (17 points): Wins gold by beating Russia. Can also win gold by drawing Russia and maintaining its superior tiebreaks over all the teams that could then tie it (Ukraine, U.S., Armenia). Could even lose the match and win a multi-team tiebreak event, but only if U.s.-Ukraine is a draw and if Armenia does not win.
  • Ukraine (16 points): Wins gold by beating the U.S. and China loses and Armenia does not win. Could also win and have China tie, if many of its previous opponents score well enough to overcome a tiebreak deficit with China.
  • U.S. (16 points): Wins gold by beating Ukraine and China loses and Armenia does not win. Could also win and have China tie, if many of its previous opponents score well enough to overcome a tiebreak deficit with China.
  • Armenia (16 points): Wins gold by beating Georgia one and China loses and U.S.-Ukraine is a tie. Could also win and have China tie, if many of its previous opponents score well enough to overcome a tiebreak deficit with China.
  • Russia, Georgia one, Azerbaijan (all 15 points): In a real longshot, and perhaps mathematically close to impossible, each of these nations would need to win, have China lose, have Armenia not win, and have Ukraine-U.S. end in a draw. And even then a mammoth tiebreak reversal would need to take place, which may be close to impossible.

Games via TWIC.

Mike Klein contributed to this report.

NOTE THAT THE LAST ROUND STARTS FOUR HOURS EARLIER. You can watch live coverage with GMs Robin van Kampen and Yasser Seirawan at Chess.com/TV and Twitch.tv/Chessbrah starting from midnight Pacific, 3 a.m. New York, 9 a.m. Central Europe.


Earlier reports:

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