Olympiad R10: China Close to First Gold Ever, Russia Women Lose But Still Lead | Update: VIDEO

Olympiad R10: China Close to First Gold Ever, Russia Women Lose But Still Lead | Update: VIDEO

| 55 | Chess Event Coverage

China has excellent chances to clinch its first-ever gold medal at a Chess Olympiad.

In the penultimate round in Tromsø, China's biggest star, Yu Yangyi, decided the match with France by beating Laurent Fressinet in a double rook ending.

The Russian women lost their match with Ukraine, as Olga Girya was defeated by Natalia Zhukova, but they're still in the lead as China was held to  2-2 by Spain.

First, an update on a small side-story that was reported on earlier this week. According to NRK, the Tromsø sistrict court has dismissed the petition submitted by the Russian Chess Federation to arrest an amount of 1,288,217 NOK (155,962 Euro or U.S. $208,593), because of the legal costs they made just before the Olympiad to get their women's team playing.

At the start of the 10th (and penultimate) round of the Olympiad, there was an important delegation at board one of the Norway vs. Croatia match. Besides old/new FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, there was Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg. She performed the first move for Norway's big sport hero:

But it wasn't a good day for Carlsen. Maybe it's the pressure coming from the huge amount of media attention, the spectators sitting a few meters away or a prime minister showing up? Or is it something else?

In any case, the world champ played below par and was convincingly beaten by the strong GM Ivan Saric, board one for Croatia.

After the game, Carlsen told him that he had missed, or forgotten about 14.f4, after which he realized that he didn't have enough for his sacrificed pawns. All in all, it was a risky opening strategy that completey backfired.

For the rest of the Norwegian team, it didn't go much better, as Jon Ludvig Hammer and Kjetil Lie also lost. That means that the goal, to reach the top 10, won't be achieved.

That's it for the local perspective; let's quickly move on to the top boards, where China created an excellent opportunity to win its first Olympiad gold medals ever.

With draws on the other boards, the match winner was Yu Yangyi, who has now reached the splendid score of 8.5/10:

Yu Yangi is in great form in Tromsø.

China got to 17 match points while France stayed at 15. Out of the five teams that were on 14, only Hungary won (against Romania) and so it is now in clear second place.

Like yesterday, the wins came from Csaba Balogh and Richard Rapport on boards two and four; they beat Mircea-Emilian Parligras and Leventa Vajda respectively. 

In a slightly worse position, Vajda blundered material:

The following teams are tied for third place behind China (17 points) and Hungary (16 points) and will fight for medals as well: France, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, USA, Russia, India, Poland, and Uzbekistan.

Azerbaijan, and especially Ukraine, could have been shared second with Hungary if they hadn't tied their match 2-2. In an equal ending, Vassily Ivanchuk suddenly collapsed:

Luckily for the Ukrainians, Pavel Eljanov was playing a good game and didn't give Rauf Mamedov a chance as Black's queen was completely out of play:

A good win for Pavel Eljanov.

USA's team captain left out-of-form Gata Kamsky out, and at the end of the day a 2.5-1.5 victory over Argentina was on the score board. Hikaru Nakamura used 1.b3 to beat Fernando Peralta:

And on board four, Sam Shankland improved his enormous score even further, to 8.5/9! He might have won the gold medal for board five already, because Palestine's Christian Michel Yunis, who was on 7.0/7, lost today.

Sam Shankland is in tremendous form.

What about Russia? Did it finally do a bit better after all these disappointing performances? Well, yes and no. Russia won, with good games for Vladimir Kramnik and Sergey Karjakin, but Peter Svidler lost again. He has now even dropped out of the world's top 20 in the live ratings.

Peter Svidler has had better tournaments.

India vs. Germany was a very hard fought match, eventually decided by Krishnan Sasikiran's game against Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu. All other games were drawn, with David Baramidze holding a R vs RN ending against Baskaran Adhiban.

Despite another victory for Veselin Topalov (now on 6.0/8!) the Bulgarians couldn't do it today against Poland as Ivan Cheparinov and Valentin Iotov lost to Grzegorz Gajewski and Jan-Krzysztof Duda, respectively. First that Topalov game:

And here's Gajewski's win, scored in the always-exciting Mar del Plata King's Indian:

Uzbekistan upset Netherlands today, which was higher rated in all games but could only draw on boards 1-3.  On board four, GM Robin van Kampen lost to IM Jahongir Vakhidov:

Top Pairings Last Round (Thursday), Open Section

No. Team Pts. MP - MP Pts. Team
1 Poland 27½ 15 - 17 28½ China
2 Hungary 27 16 - 15 27 Ukraine
4 Russia 26 15 - 15 27 France
5 Azerbaijan 25½ 15 - 15 26½ USA
6 India 27 15 - 15 25 Uzbekistan
7 Cuba 27 14 - 14 25½ England
8 Spain 25½ 14 - 14 27 Vietnam
9 Israel 25½ 14 - 14 27 Croatia
10 Armenia 25½ 14 - 14 26 Czech Republic
11 Belarus 24½ 14 - 14 25 Bulgaria
12 Romania 25½ 14 - 14 26½ Brazil

The women's section saw the top match Russia vs. Ukraine, which doesn't need to be made political to be interesting!

The game on board one, between two players who recently switched federations (Anna Muzychuk and Kateryna Lagno), was a rather quick draw.

Valentina Gunina and Mariya Muzychuk also split the point, and so did ex-world champions Anna Ushenina and Alexandra Kosteniuk on three.

It was Natalia Zhukova who ensured a thrilling finale on Thursday, as she beat Olga Girya. The game went a bit up and down, but in the end it was the Ukrainian GM who had the strongest nerves:

Ukraine-Russia, with Girya-Zhukova on board 4. | Photo © David Llada

But Russia was lucky because China, who had a chance to catch Russia in first place, couldn't get more than a 2-2 tie with Spain!

Update: here's a video with both Natalia Zhukova and Hou Yifan:

Hou Yifan won again to take her score to 6.5/8, but Tan Zhongyi went down against Ana Matnadze:

Ana Matnadze wins for Spain. | Photo © David Llada

This means that Russia is still on 18 match points, followed by China and Ukraine who have 17. The latter two meet at the board in the final round on Thursday, while Russia faces Bulgaria, keeping good chances for gold.

Top Pairings Last Round (Thursday), Women's Section

No. Team Pts. MP - MP Pts. Team
1 Russia 29½ 18 - 15 28½ Bulgaria
3 Ukraine 26½ 17 - 17 30½ China
4 Georgia 28 15 - 16 26½ Germany
5 Armenia 26½ 15 - 15 26½ Spain
6 Kazakhstan 24 15 - 14 27½ Czech Republic
7 Romania 25½ 14 - 14 28½ India
8 Azerbaijan 26 14 - 14 23 Poland
9 United States of America 25½ 14 - 14 26 Argentina

Don't miss the Chess in Tweets blog!

The official website is here, and the Olympiad is also on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram. is transmitting a number of top games every round in Live Chess, and we're hosting a daily show on reporter Peter Doggers is present in Tromsø for on-the-spot (video) reports and calls in live from Tromsø during the show, so stay tuned!

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

In October, Peter's first book The Chess Revolution will be published!

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