Olympiad R8: China Beats Azerbaijan to Take Sole Lead, Russia Tops Women's Section

Olympiad R8: China Beats Azerbaijan to Take Sole Lead, Russia Tops Women's Section

| 27 | Chess Event Coverage

China is the new leader at the 41st Chess Olympiad in Tromsø. With three rounds to go they are the only team with 14 match points after beating Azerbaijan 3-1 on Sunday. Russia continues to top the women section after a 3.5-0.5 win over Hungary. On the eve of the FIDE Presidential elections, both candidates are urging their opponent to have a civilized meeting tomorrow, but it remains to be seen whether that will happen.


On Sunday morning (or rather Saturday night) the Kasparov team posted an open letter on its website (in PDF here), proposing to the Ilyumzhinov ticket “a short set of detailed procedures that would guarantee a fair and confidential election for FIDE President on Monday.” In includes, for example, a request to have all six members of each ticket to be seated on stage facing the assembly, and to have an extra 15 minutes for both teams to present their tickets.

Later on Sunday a reply from the other team came, unambiguously titled “Open Reply by Kirsan Ilyumzhinov to the Open Letter of Garry Kasparov”. It starts as follows:

“In the hours leading up to the FIDE Presidential Election, Garry Kasparov is in panic mode.  Painfully aware of his imminent defeat, unable to resign and just go home, he must play to mate.  All he can do at the moment is muddy the waters and try to manufacture explanations for his financial backers:  he is paying a team of lawyers from one of the most expensive firms in the world (>$725/hour/lawyer) to create fog and confusion.”

It is clear that on the eve of the election, both teams aren't mincing words anymore and the prose used in their communication predicts a hostile atmosphere tomorrow. Meanwhile, VG has posted a very interesting video interview with both candidates - don't miss it.


Before turning to the games, first an update on the Burundi story mentioned yesterday. Apparently a big part of their delegation has simply disappeared! Here's an official statement from the organizers:

“Seven individuals from Burundi have left the Olympiad - five players - four women and one man, plus a team captain and a team leader. We are disappointed that they have not completed the event. The police were informed yesterday (Saturday) evening about their disappearance.

All of the missing persons have Schengen visas, which give them three months freedom of movement in the Schengen area. No laws have been broken and we have not heard anything back from the police and have no reason to suspect any trouble. The matter is now in the hands of the police, and not the Olympiad organization.”

Round 8

At the Olympiad there was a change of the guard as China defeated Azerbaijan 3-1. Wang Yue-Mamedyarov and Radjabov-Ding Liren both ended in draws and Yu Yangyi slowly outplayed Eltaj Safarli. It then came down to the following game, which reached a knight vs not so great bishop endind that looks close to winning for White after 44.Ne2. But Guseinov stumbled at the end when the team desperately needed a win:

China takes over the lead | Photo © Paul Truong

Romania and Czech Republic played 2-2 with four draws and so did India & Armenia. The huge pre-tournament favorite, Russia, also dropped one match point in their fight with Spain. At the start it looked alright, as Sergey Karjakin was crashing through against Ivan Salgado Lopez's Dragon:

However, Vladimir Kramnik suffered a painful loss to Paco Vallejo (and in doing so, the 14th World Champion dropped out of the top 10 in the live ratings).

It was quite a disappointing day for Bulgaria as well, who were doing well after about two hours of play against Ukraine. Ruslan Ponomariov committed a blunder in a slightly worse position against Ivan Cheparinov. It was basically immediately over, but in team matches you normally play on a bit longer than normal:

Ukraine started badly but are back in the game | Photo © Paul Truong

But then suddenly the tables turned as Valentin Iotov lost his first game of the event, against Pavel Eljanov, Krasimir Rusev didn't survive against Anton Korobov and then Veselin Topalov failed to convert a winning position against Vassily Ivanchuk:

Norway beat Bosnia & Herzegovina 3-1, where Magnus Carlsen won against his friend Borki Predojevic to quickly wash away the memory of that unnecessary loss yesterday.

Carlsen beats Predojevic as Black| Photo © Paul Truong

France improved their medal chances with a 2.5-1.5 win over Poland where Etienne Bacrot was the match winner:

Etienne Bacrot clinches two match point for France | Photo © Paul Truong

As mentioned, there were some matches ending in 2-2 among the teams just below the top - for example also Germany-Cuba and Hungary-USA. The latter saw draws on boards one and two, but Onischuk blundeded terribly on three:

Sam Shankland saved the day for the Americans, moving up to an amazing 7.0/7 score!

Sam Shankland wins his seventh, against Judit Polgar | Photo © Paul Truong

Netherlands is also in the group of countries with two points below the leaders thanks to a convincing 3-1 victory over Brazil. One of the winners was Erwin l'Ami, who played a very creative game:

Top Pairings Open Section, Round 9

No. Team Pts. MP - MP Pts. Team Team
1 China 24 14 - 13 23 Ukraine UKR
2 Czech Republic 22½ 13 - 13 23 France FRA
3 Norway 19 11 - 11 20½ Turkey TUR
4 Azerbaijan 21½ 13 - 13 22½ Romania ROU
5 Israel 22 12 - 12 21 Hungary HUN
6 Bulgaria 21 12 - 12 22 Cuba CUB
7 Belarus 20½ 12 - 12 22 Netherlands NED
8 Argentina 21½ 12 - 12 22½ India IND
9 United States of America 22 12 - 12 21 Germany GER
10 Armenia 21½ 12 - 12 20½ Serbia SRB
11 Russia 21 11 - 11 19½ Norway 2 NOR2

After beating China, Russia continued their role as favorite for gold in the women section with a solid 3-1 victory over Hungary. Kateryna Lagno drew with Hoang Thanh Trang on board one and Anita Gara put up a good fight against Alexandra Kosteniuk, but on the other boards the difference in strength was clear. Valentina Gunina won very easily: 

A relaxed Russian ladies team before the round | Photo © Paul Truong

But also here the tournament isn't decided yet. China recovered well, and that includes Hou Yifan. The World Champion nicely demonstrated that a lead in development can also be decisive after the queens have left the board:

Like Carlsen, Hou Yifan duly picked up that winning thing again | Photo © Paul Truong

A horrible blunder was seen on board 2 of the match between Norway and Turkey. Black reached a winning position, but blundered a mate in one:

Top Pairings Women Section, Round 9

No. Team Pts. MP - MP Pts. Team
1 Armenia 22½ 13 - 16 25½ Russia
2 Estonia 17½ 10 - 10 20 Norway
3 France 23 13 - 14 25 China
4 India 23½ 12 - 13 21½ Ukraine
5 Spain 21 12 - 12 23 Argentina
6 Romania 21½ 12 - 12 21 Vietnam
7 Germany 21½ 12 - 12 20½ Hungary
8 Poland 19½ 12 - 11 22 Mongolia
9 Indonesia 20 11 - 11 21½ Georgia
10 United States of America 21 11 - 11 21 Montenegro

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!

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