5 Perfect Teams Left At Baku Chess Olympiad 2016

5 Perfect Teams Left At Baku Chess Olympiad 2016

| 13 | Chess Event Coverage

Only India, Netherlands and Ukraine started with five team victories at the 42nd Olympiad. In the women's tournament, Russia and Ukraine did the same, going into the rest day.

The Netherlands once won silver at an Olympiad (Haifa 1976), and once bronze (Thessaloniki 1988 — without Jan Timman that was!). Although they still need to face the strongest opponents, anything is possible with a shared lead after five rounds.

They were the clear favorites against Belarus, but the match was won with the smallest-possible margin. With the first three boards ending in draws, the man of the match was, once again, GM Benjamin Bok.

The 21-year-old grandmaster, who won the open tournament of the 2015 London Chess Classic, has now scored 4.0/4 for his team and is the Netherlands' most valuable player so far.

Today he defeated GM Kirill Stupak in what was one of the craziest games of the round.  A white king on e2 and a black queen fianchettoed on g7, by move 10! Seriously?

That was most definitely preparation, and in fact this game might well have put an end to this line for White. Black was clearly better out of the opening and went directly for the white monarch. At some point Bok went wrong, and it was White who was winning but then the game turned around one more time.  

Annotations by GM Cristian Chirila:

Benjamin Bok, Netherlands' MVP.

That's 10 points out of five matches for "Team NL," a nickname that was used for the Dutch squad at the Rio Olympics. With cyclist Tom Dumoulin, athlete Dafne Schippers and gymnast Epke Zonderland missing out on expected medals there, it's not clear whether the moniker will bring any luck for the chess players. But hey, the orange squad did win quite a few unexpected medals in Rio...

The second team with a perfect match score is Ukraine. After upsetting neighbor Russia the other day, today it was too strong for the reigning champs as well. In another close match with three draws it was GM Yuryi Kryvoruchko, who snatched the two match points with a fine win over GM Yu Yangyi. A smooth game from start to finish, where it's hard not to condemn 13...Nb8.

An excellent game by Ukraine's Yuryi Kryvoruchko.

In the same match a theoretical duel was battled out to a draw in a Poisoned Pawn Najdorf. Both GMs Wei Yi and Andrei Volokitin proved up to the task and followed what was basically six-year-old theory, but since it's a nice line we'll embed the game anyway. Included here is the famous encounter Gashimov-Grischuk, Bursa 2010, where the black king walks all the way to b1 — a must-see if you don't know this one yet.

Those were better days for GM Alexander Grischuk, who hasn't found his form in Baku yet. Today he failed to beat IM Moheb Ameir of Egypt.

Ameir-Grischuk: a draw!

Russia did win that match with Egypt 3-1, but GM Vladimir Kramnik was held to a draw as well by GM Ahmed Adly.

The third team to get to the full 10 match points was India. That wasn't good news for the local fans, because it meant Azerbaijan's first loss in "their" Olympiad. And it even went rather convincingly, with draws in Adhiban-Radjabov and Sethuraman-Safarli and Black wins for both GM Pentala Harikrishna vs GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov on board one, and GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi vs. GM Arkadij Naiditsch.

A great start for India.

Rarely have we seen Naiditsch lose a game with White where he didn't have a chance of even grabbing the initiative. Gujrathi has now scored 5.0/5. He shares that score with GMs Jan-Krzysztof Duda (Poland), Hjorvar Steinn Gretarsson (Iceland), and Ian Nepomniachtchi (Russia).

Vidit Santosh Gujrathi, one of the players to start with 5.0/5 | Photo David Llada for Baku Chess.

Mamedyarov-Harikrishna was a theoretical fight in an Open Catalan with the Indian player playing the first new move. This was followed by a wonderful positional exchange sacrifice that Tigran Petrosian certainly would have approved. Mamedyarov played a lot of logical, active moves, but still Black's positional compensation was tremendous.

The Azerbaijani was obliged to give back the material, hoping to defend the QR-QR endgame, but with some fine tactical shots Hari finished the game.

There are just three teams with 10 points, and there are also three teams with nine points: Czech Republic, USA (who tied 2-2 yesterday) and Georgia. Having defeated Bulgaria yesterday, the Georgians, led by GM Baadur Jobava, today crushed Spain 3.5-0.5. Jobava today defeated Paco Vallejo as Black in game that was difficult to understand. What was clear is that Vallejo erred decisively on the infamous 40th move.

The U.S. team expectedly won against Serbia, with two draws and two wins. For GM Hikaru Nakamura it was a quick affair; on move 21 his opponent missed a relatively simple threat, and could resign immediately.

An easy game for Hikaru Nakamura.

The other U.S. victory should definitely included as well. GM Wesley So played a fantastic game where a long-term exchange sac paralyzed White completely. Running with the h-pawn was a quiet but devastating execution.

Wesley So and Ray Robson, former Webster University roommates.

A game that should definitely be included here is GM Gawain Jones' win for England today. The team recovered well from its loss against Netherlands, and defeated Vietnam 3-1. Jones won in great style, sacrificing his queen for two minor pieces in a King's Indian. That's the kind of chess the Ginger GM likes!

And of course a win for the world champion cannot be omitted here, even though it wasn't the most exciting of victories. GM Magnus Carlsen slowly outplayed veteran GM Luc Winants of Belgium in a match won 3-1 by Norway. That guy Magnus really knows how to handle himself in Belgium.

Carlsen-Winants. | Photo David Llada for Baku Chess.

"At Olympiads, the last three rounds are all that matters." This well-known rule is what the French players are holding onto after a loss against Paraguay today. After three draws, GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave did score his first win.

Below we give the current standings with all teams that have eight match points or more.

Baku Olympiad | Open, Round 5 Standings

Rk. SNo Team Team + = - TB1 TB2 TB3 TB4
1 11 Netherlands 5 0 0 10 87 16,5 28
2 5 Ukraine 5 0 0 10 84 15 30
3 9 India 5 0 0 10 79 16,5 26
4 17 Czech Republic 4 1 0 9 81 14,5 30
5 2 United States of America 4 1 0 9 79 15,5 28
6 20 Georgia 4 1 0 9 74,5 15 26
7 23 Belarus 4 0 1 8 83 14,5 32
8 1 Russia 4 0 1 8 78 15,5 29
9 4 Azerbaijan 1 4 0 1 8 76 15 30
10 3 China 4 0 1 8 75 15 29
11 28 Azerbaijan 2 4 0 1 8 72,5 15,5 27
12 13 Germany 4 0 1 8 69 14 28
13 19 Turkey 4 0 1 8 67,5 16,5 23
14 21 Latvia 4 0 1 8 66 13 28
15 30 Romania 4 0 1 8 64 13,5 28
16 6 England 4 0 1 8 63 12,5 29
17 25 Canada 4 0 1 8 62 16,5 22
18 39 Paraguay 4 0 1 8 61 12,5 28
19 12 Norway 4 0 1 8 60 12,5 26
20 37 Kazakhstan 3 2 0 8 59 15,5 22
21 44 Iceland 4 0 1 8 57 15 23
22 26 Argentina 4 0 1 8 57 12,5 27
23 53 Philippines 4 0 1 8 55,5 15,5 20
24 27 Greece 3 2 0 8 54,5 12,5 24
25 47 Chile 4 0 1 8 54 15,5 21

The main matchups for round six on Thursday are India-Netherlands, USA-Ukraine, Czech Republic-Georgia, Greece-Azerbaijan, Canada-Belarus, Germany-Russia, and China-Argentina.

Women's section:

One the women's side, it's set: Russia-Ukraine part II will be simmering for the next 48 hours.

After Ukraine's mini-upset over its border rivals on the men's side in round four, the tournament will host the ladies' edition after the rest day. Talk about slow-rolling a big hand!

They will meet by virtue of being the only two teams remaining on perfect scores -- five up and five down for a total of 10 match points.

Round five also saw a bevy of blunt kingside attacks. Make sure you read on if you like g- and h-pawns advancing with reckless abandon.

Team Israel would have been loved by GM Simon Williams today. Pawns "Harry" and "Garry" had some fun.

Today Ukraine occupied top board and repeated yesterday's formula. The sisters Muzychuk played their usual duet to the tune of 2-0 while the bottom two boards both held draws (today from slightly worse endgames).

For Russia, its play was even more dominant. Russia won the first three games of the match and closed out with a draw on board three to easily beat another border rival, Kazakhstan.

Particularly dominant was board one. Former women's world champion GM Alexandra Kosteniuk pounced with a 30-move win to open the scoring. The 16-year-old WGM Zhansaya Abdumalik, who once beat GM Anatoly Karpov in a blitz game in her home city of Almaty, couldn't double her world champion scalps.

She survived an inaccurate middlegame, only to blunder in an unrecoverable way.

From there, WGM Olga Girya won without issue on board four, then GM Valentina Gunina clinched with an instructive endgame technique. Knights simply don't have the skills to compete with rook pawns:

Confident GMs: Valentina Gunina (left) and Hou Yifan. Both won today.

Back to the adjacent match, Ukraine's been performing well with a balanced attack. All five of its players have now sat out exactly once, spreading the wealth equally. Like Russia, Ukraine does not have any individual losses on its scorecard.

GM Anna Muzychuk is playing for Ukraine for the second-straight Olympiad after five turns leading the Slovenian team. She won for the second game in a row, this time in a wild Sicilian Dragon transposition where she not only sacrificed her queen, but also refused to take her opponent's!

Muzychuk to Ukraine's ears: the sisters are 4-0 in the last two days.

She wasn't giving GM Richard Rapport's new bride a wedding present -- all the complications were in Black's favor.

After this, things weren't as smooth as Russia's day. The bottom two boards drew inferior endings, then Anna's sister GM Mariya Muzychuk not only held on an exchange down, but even won. Like WGM Jovana Rapport, she also threw her g- and -h pawns down the board, but that was hardly her reason for winning.

How will Russia prepare for its matchup with the nation that shares its 2300 km border? It would be best not to call the neighbors a "road apple":

To continue the theme of kingside pawn storms, just go down one more board. In match three, Romania took out Israel 2.5-1.5 thanks to wins on the middle boards.

On board three, IM Irina Bulmaga played the "accelerated" version of the Ukrainian-Russian special. Here's her 8th-13th moves: ...h6, ...g5, ...g4, ...h5, ...h4, ...h3. That's six consecutive kingside pawn moves in the opening phase. And she won, fittingly with three connected passers!

We're not quite done with the "g and h special." We need not even have to leave the match to find another! On board four, Israel got its lone win when WIM Olga Gutmakher mostly went it alone with her rook pawn. She played ...h5, ...h4, ...h3 in succession, and it was sound! White's light-squared bishop was caught guarding two diagonals.

In other action, WGM Gulnar Mammadova's win ensured Azerbaijan A's win over Germany (3-1). Vietnam tied India 2-2 and also GM Hou Yifan got back on track with a personal and team win. China beat Italy 3-1.

Lithuania doesn't have GM Viktorija Cmilyte in Baku yet (she's due to arrive later) but that wasn't an issue on the top board today. IM Daulyte Deimante won both the strategic and the stylistic battle against GM Irina Krush, who looked out of sorts with her play today.

Just look at captain GM Yasser Seirawan's reaction to her position:

...Rxf3!! Uh-oh.

The U.S. team held on to win 2.5-1.5 due to wins on the bottom two boards. WGM Sabina Foisor won for the second straight day to ensure her team's continuation of medal hopes (her mom's win helped Romania today too -- true family success).

"Today, I was more alert than I was yesterday," Foisor said. "I am still getting in shape." 

WGM Sabina Foisor paces as her opponent sweats. Foisor went on deliver mate on the board to give her team the match win.

Preparation at Olympiad is often thorough, as players have many hours and often lots of coaching resources. In Foisor's case, she gets the help of's own GM Robert Hess, the coach of the U.S. women's team. Here's her explanation on her game today:

"This morning I woke up planning to play something, but I decided to go for Robert's idea. About half an hour before leaving to the game I realized my fiancee (GM Elshan Moradiabadi) has played this line not long ago, and I reviewed his game starting 10...Nh5. His opponent played the same until move 12. Where he went Ne3, my opponent chose 12. Be3 and although I had previously analyzed the game between Admiraal-Adhiban from this year's Wijk aan Zee, I decided to go 12...Kh8, an idea I had seen earlier today in one of Robert's games and also (from) Carlsen."

We close today with a full-on roller coaster. WCM Phiona Mutesi, the real-life personality behind the current movie "The Queen of Katwe," had the machine's needle flopping everywhere today. But like everyone in history who's played an early f4 and Qd1-e1-h5 idea, she got her favored kingside attack.

GM Maurice Ashley just completed a tour of Africa and stopped by to see the inspirational player in action. Ashley and Phiona Mutesi were also at a charity event earlier this year in Cincinnati.

Again, below we give the current standings with all teams that have eight match points or more.

Baku Olympiad | Women, Round 5 Standings

Rk. SNo Team Team + = - TB1 TB2 TB3 TB4
1 3 Russia 5 0 0 10 93 17 29
2 2 Ukraine 5 0 0 10 86 16,5 28
3 11 Romania 4 1 0 9 81,5 15 30
4 1 China 4 1 0 9 81 15,5 29
5 16 Azerbaijan 1 4 1 0 9 76,5 14 31
6 8 Hungary 4 0 1 8 80 14 30
7 4 Georgia 4 0 1 8 76,5 16,5 25
8 7 Poland 4 0 1 8 74,5 17 25
9 5 India 3 2 0 8 74,5 14,5 27
10 17 Turkey 4 0 1 8 69 15,5 23
11 27 Serbia 4 0 1 8 67 14,5 28
12 19 Vietnam 3 2 0 8 65 13,5 27
13 6 USA 4 0 1 8 62,5 13 29
14 29 Latvia 4 0 1 8 61,5 13 26
15 31 Kazakhstan 4 0 1 8 55,5 12 29
16 21 Netherlands 4 0 1 8 53 12,5 26

The main matchups for the women on Thursday are Ukraine-Russia, Romania-China, Kazakhstan-Hungary, Georgia-Azerbaijan, Poland-Vietnam, India-Latvia, Turkey-USA, and Netherlands-Serbia.

This report was co-written by FM Mike Klein.

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