Chess Olympiad: Czechia Beats China, Poland Rolls On In Round 5
Fabiano Caruana defeated Boris Gelfand in the USA-Israel match, which ended in 2-2. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Chess Olympiad: Czechia Beats China, Poland Rolls On In Round 5

| 44 | Chess Event Coverage

The annual "Chess Train" always departs from Czech Republic, and in most years goes through Poland. The thing is, it's not supposed to leave until next month.

Instead, Czech Republic and Poland are already both full steam ahead here in Batumi, Georgia at the 43rd Chess Olympiad. Today the Czech team beat China with an undefeated 3-1. Poland, a day removed from beating Russia, rebounded after losing on top board to win by the same score over France.


The Polish Express is not making stops for anyone. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

They both remain undefeated at 5-0, and were joined by two other teams today. Azerbaijan beat its political nemesis Armenia, while Ukraine took out Spain. The match on the second board could have also produced a perfect team, but the top-seeded U.S. squad could only draw Israel.

France, which has somehow never finished higher than seventh in the Olympiad despite playing nearly every event since the 1930s, looked primed to keep up its strong start. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave had a convincing win over Jan-Krzysztof Duda, after which he told he thought perhaps a drawn match might ensue. Instead Poland swept the bottom three boards to win 3-1.

Here's the brief French lead:'s interview with MVL while the other games in the match were still going.

Radoslaw Wojtaszek, stepping off top board for the first time since 2008, got his team back to square with this win over Etienne Bacrot. After yesterday's loss his teammates picked him, but today he wiped out Duda's loss.'s interview with Wojtaszek after the match.

Unlike Poland, Czech Republic never trailed in its match. It was a sizable underdog but made the upset look undramatic against China. David Navara ably held a worse ending against Ding Liren, who had a special chair to aid in his continuing convalescence. 


China lost to Czech Republic, and rather convincingly. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

From there, the two middle boards both won for the Czech squad. Its 2500 and 2600 players beat two 2700s. Jiri Stocek's win on board three was what set everything up. He got to Wei Yi's king one move faster, and that often makes all the difference.

Wei Yi is struggling with only 0.5/3 in the last 72 hours.

Armenia has now been victimized two straight Olympiads by Azerbaijan—once by the country and now by its countrymen. Unable to play in 2016 due to safety concerns, the team returned this year only to be taken down over the board this round.


Team Armenia (top) led early thanks to a quick win by GM Hrant Melkyumyan (sea green shirt) but ended up losing 2.5-1.5. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

Levon Aronian's shirt suggested there may be a "Cat-astrophy" (sic) but he looked downright somber when it ended up happening to him.

Levon Aronian

"Lev" means "lion" in Russian so Aronian loves cat shirts, but Shakhriyar Mamedyarov treated the white king like catnip today. | Photo: Mike Klein/

He's still playing 1. e4, but Shakhriyar Mamedyarov is also still playing in his usual theatrical style. The bishop pair is often worth a one-pawn investment, but instead the top Azeri made it two and successfully attacked Aronian's king with gusto.

Mamedyarov-Aronian, Batumi 2018A wild affair in Mamedyarov vs Aronian. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Unlike longtime number-ones such as Vladimir Kramnik and others giving way to their younger countrymen in recent years, Vassily Ivanchuk is still atop Ukraine after all this time. Two years ago he gave preference to playing a draughts tournament, but now he's back and for 14 out of the last 15 Olympiads he's played board one, with that first one of the streak in 1990 as top player for the Soviet Union!

Vassily Ivanchuk

Vassily Ivanchuk's baby blue eyes have stared at Olympiad chessboards for 30 years running. | Photo: Mike Klein/

And this is why his team still wants him there. He dispatched David Anton, who got zero counterplay as he awaited his fate:

Ukraine went on to take the match over Spain, 2.5-1.5.

Outrated by roughly 100 points on every board, Israel can go into the rest day pleased with its 2-2 tie against defending champions, the U.S. A day after beating Viswanathan Anand, Fabiano Caruana took down another member of the old guard, Boris Gelfand, but on the other end of the table, Emil Sutovsky squeezed out the full point in what seemed at one point to be a lifeless ending against Sam Shankland.

Caruana Gelfand

Members of the U.S. team have been seen joking with one another before nearly every round, and today was no exception. Fabiano Caruana (left) got the last laugh against Boris Gelfand (right) once play began. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Here's Caruana showing that playing the Olympiad may be beneficial for his form before London:

It has been a pretty good 48 hours for Caruana, with a gain of 7.5 rating points. He's now within nine of Carlsen; a few more wins and he could threaten the number-one ranking for the second time in as many months.'s interview with Caruana (don't miss the end!).

Netherlands, India, Russia and England all won today to try to get back among the leading pack. Germany did too, and almost had its round made even easier when Moldovan board three Vladimir Hamitevici didn't show up for the start of the round. He finally arrived and rushed through the crowded center aisle to get to his board after 12 minutes had expired. Hamitevici played 1...Nf6 only three minutes before he would have been defaulted, but lost the game "naturally" anyway.


Vladimir Hamitevici (grey shirt, right) arrived three minutes before the default time, as you can see on the clock. | Photo: Mike Klein/

Matchups for round six include two boards of 5-0 teams: Azerbaijan-Czech Republic and Poland-Ukraine. Two teams with 4.5-0.5 will face each other: Israel-Germany. The final 4.5 team, the U.S., will face 4-1 Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Batumi Olympiad | Top pairings round 6 (Sunday)
No. SNo Flag Team Pts. MP Res. MP Pts. Team Flag SNo
1 4 Azerbaijan 16 10 - 10 15 Czech Republic 15
2 11 Poland 16 10 - 10 13½ Ukraine 6
3 10 Israel 16 9 - 9 14½ Germany 16
4 56 Bosnia & Herzegovina 16 8 - 9 14 USA 1
5 23 Iran 15½ 8 - 8 14 China 3
6 2 Russia 14 8 - 8 15½ India 5
7 9 England 12½ 8 - 8 15 France 7
8 13 Netherlands 16½ 8 - 8 14½ Georgia 3 65
9 38 Norway 15½ 8 - 8 14 Croatia 18
10 22 Turkey 15 8 - 8 12½ Belarus 17
(Full pairings here.)

Before the round, six teams were leading the women's section with four wins each and got paired thus: Armenia-China, USA-Mongolia and Georgia-Ukraine. At the end of a pretty crazy day, the American women are the only ones, in both the open and women's section, to go 5-0. But it could have gone quite differently.

After a few hours of play, WGM Sabina Foisor had drawn with WIM Dulamsuren Yanjindulam and IM Anna Zatonskih won her game with IM Batkhuyag Munguntuul. However, both boards two and four, GM Irina Krush and FM Jennifer Yu, were in trouble.

The latter was, in fact, totally lost right after the time control. How IM Tuvshintugs Batchimeg managed to not win the position on move 45 is quite unbelievable, and the way she lost at the end will haunt her as well.

That means Yu is now on 4.5/5, just like Zatonskih. Krush maintained her 100 percent score (4/4) in a game where White's winning position was much harder to convert. In the end, experience was decisive.

Irina Krush Batumi

Irina Krush played a hedgehog and is on 4/4 now. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

That wasn't all. The drama was even bigger in the Georgia one vs Ukraine match, where the local heroines seemed well on their way to go down 1-3. GM Nana Dzagnidze and IM Lela Javakhishvili had drawn their game with GMs Anna and Mariya Muzychuk respectively, while GM Nino Batsiashvili had lost to GM Anna Ushenina.

Georgia vs Ukraine women Batumi Olympiad

Georgia-Ukraine, where most of the attention would go to board four. | Photo: Peter Doggers/ 

GM Natalia Zhukova had a winning position vs GM Bela Khotenashvili roughly between moves 28 and 53(!) but somehow she couldn't find a way to break through, while probably also fearing her opponent's bishop pair. She seemed to have decided to play it safe, because a draw would be enough for victory as well, but after a long day Zhukova lost her sense of danger:


A disillusioned Zhukova takes her score sheet while Khotenashvili is still in shock. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/ interviewed Khotenashvili in Russian, a video that includes dramatic b-roll of the final moments of the game.

The match on top boards between Armenia and China was also scored 2-2, and saw draws on boards one and three (Danielian-Ju and Sargsyan-Huang).

Armenia China Batumi Olympiad

The start of the Armenia-China match. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

IM Lilit Mkrtchian played the Queen's Gambit Accepted, faced the slightly boring 7.dxc5 but managed to outplay IM Shen Yang in the ending:

Lilit Mkrtchian, Olympiad Batumi

Lilit Mkrtchian (left) next to Elina Danielian. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

However, on board four GM Lei Tingjie played an excellent game vs WGM Maria Kursova, a Scheveningen Sicilian where the Chinese player was the better calculator:

Tingjie Lei chess

GM Lei Tingjie. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

India and Georgia two both won with 3.5-0.5, to join the group of teams that are trailing the USA by a point. Interestingly, after the rest day we'll see Georgia one and Georgia two facing each other. It will be a great day with multiple big clashes: India-USA, Ukraine-China and Russia-Armenia.

After their early loss, the Russian ladies are definitely fighting back. Today they crushed Germany 3.5-0.5, including on board one a positional clash between two regular streamers on GM Alexandra Kosteniuk (@Chessqueen) vs IM Elisabeth Paehtz (@ElliPaehtz).


The round started with a moment of silence for Nino Khurtsidze, who would have celebrated her 43rd birthday today but sadly died in April.

Batumi Olympiad (Women) | Top pairings round 6 (Sunday)

No. SNo Team Team Pts. MP Res. MP Pts. Team Team SNo
1 5 India 16½ 9 - 10 15½ USA 10
2 2 Ukraine 15½ 9 - 9 15 China 3
3 1 Russia 15½ 8 - 9 14½ Armenia 12
4 11 Azerbaijan 15½ 8 - 8 14½ Latvia 42
5 18 Italy 14 8 - 8 15½ Cuba 22
6 4 Georgia 1 14½ 9 - 9 15½ Georgia 2 14
7 34 Lithuania 14 8 - 8 14½ Kazakhstan 8
8 40 Canada 15 8 - 8 14 Uzbekistan 31
9 26 Czech Republic 15½ 8 - 8 14 Iran 28
10 17 Mongolia 13½ 8 - 8 14½ Romania 20

(Full pairings here.)

Games via TWIC.

Peter Doggers contributed to this report.


Earlier reports:

FM Mike Klein

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Mike Klein began playing chess at the age of four in Charlotte, NC. In 1986, he lost to Josh Waitzkin at the National Championship featured in the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer." A year later, Mike became the youngest member of the very first All-America Chess Team, and was on the team a total of eight times. In 1988, he won the K-3 National Championship, and eventually became North Carolina's youngest-ever master. In 1996, he won clear first for under-2250 players in the top section of the World Open. Mike has taught chess full-time for a dozen years in New York City and Charlotte, with his students and teams winning many national championships. He now works at as a Senior Journalist and at as the Chief Chess Officer. In 2012, 2015, and 2018, he was awarded Chess Journalist of the Year by the Chess Journalists of America. He has also previously won other awards from the CJA such as Best Tournament Report, and also several writing awards for mainstream newspapers. His chess writing and personal travels have now brought him to more than 85 countries.

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