Olympiad R9: France Joins China, Russian Women Still Lead

Olympiad R9: France Joins China, Russian Women Still Lead

| 8 | Chess Event Coverage

France joined China in the lead in round 9 of the 41st Chess Olympiad in Tromsø. It was again Etienne Bacrot who clinched the two match points for the French team, and on the top boards China drew four games with Ukraine. The Russian women's team is still two match points ahead after beating Armenia 2.5-1.5.

While all delegates and most of the journalists were a few miles away in the Tromsø University, waiting for the results of the FIDE Presidential elections, the 9th round of the Olympiad started in the former Mack Brewery. “Chess Olympiads are all about performing well in the last three rounds,” is a well-known saying, and so on this day it was going to be clear which teams would be playing for the medals.

It looks like China and Ukraine decided to take no risks. Their match on the top boards saw four rather uneventful draws, where one would almost suspect that a chat between the two team captains took place after a few hours of play. The way the draw was reached on board 4 was rather spectacular:

The top match Ukraine-China saw little excitement

For the second day in a row, Etienne Bacrot was the match winner for France. With draws on the other boards, the 31-year-old grandmaster beat Viktor Laznicka in a Chebanenko Slav. A game between two players who are in form often leads to something very nice. This time it was a crystal-clear positional game finished with a tactical sequence, like Anatoly Karpov liked to play them:

After losing to China, Azerbaijan dropped another match point against Romania, who are have a great tournament as the 32nd seeded team! 
Unlike China-Ukraine, this was a hard-fought match, especially on board 3:

Israel and Cuba seem to have lost the chance for a medal as they lost their matches on Monday. It Israeli GMs went down against Hungary, where Csaba Balogh beat Maxim Rodshtein, and Richard Rapport won against Emil Sutovsky. The latter game saw a bit of a strange opening (perhaps it's an Exchange Caro-Kann, via a transposition of moves?):

A good game by Richard Rapport

The Cubans lost to Bulgaria, whose board one player Veselin Topalov is having an excellent tournaent. He only lost to Vladimir Kramnik, and on Monday he moved to +3 again (a 2864 performance) against Leinier Dominguez:

Veselin Topalov played well for Bulgaria

Norway isn't going to win a medal either, but that wasn't the goal anyway. A place in the top 10 is still in reach after playing 2-2 with Turkey. That could have been a loss, though, as Simen Agdestein went down against Emre Can and Magnus Carlsen escaped from a lost position against Dragan Solak and even won:

Carlsen wins a rollercoaster game

Lost of other top matches saw 2-2 scores: Belarus-Netherlands, Argentina-India, USA-Germany and Armenia-Serbia.

The situation at the top is as follows: China & France leading with 15 points, and so with the best chances for gold. Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania are on 14 points, followed by USA, Russia, India, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Armenia, Poland, Uzbekistan, Serbia, Vietnam, Germany, Belarus and Argentina.

The mighty Russian team can be considered lucky to be in this group. They were paired against Norway 2 in round 9, and their 2.5-1.5 win wasn't convincing at all: three 2700-GMs (Peter Svidler, Sergey Karjakin, Ian Nepomniachtchi) drew with three IMs (Frode Elsness, Torbjorn Ringdal Hansen and Aryan Tari) on boards 2-4. Only Alexander Grischuk played a “normal” game:

Grischuk vs Urkedal

The USA team is having a strange tournament where one player is performing amazingly well, and another doing badly. Sam Shankland's winning streak ended as he drew with Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu but of course his tournament is still fantastic. Gata Kamsky, however, is on 3.0/8, with a 2464 performance. He missed a tactical shot against Georg Meier:

Top Pairings Open Section, Round 10

No. Team Pts. MP - MP Pts. Team
1 France 25½ 15 - 15 26 China
2 Ukraine 25 14 - 14 23½ Azerbaijan
3 Croatia 23½ 12 - 12 21 Norway
4 Hungary 24 14 - 14 24½ Romania
5 Bulgaria 23½ 14 - 13 25 Poland
6 United States of America 24 13 - 13 23½ Argentina
7 Serbia 22½ 13 - 13 23½ Russia
8 Germany 23 13 - 13 24½ India
9 Netherlands 24 13 - 13 22½ Uzbekistan
10 Czech Republic 24 13 - 13 22½ Belarus
11 Vietnam 25 13 - 13 23½ Armenia

Russia kept excellent chances for gold in the women section after another win. Nerves start to play a role though! Kateryna Lagno lost her first game of the event. She was under pressure almost from the start and then took a poisoned pawn:

Lagno losing her first vs Danielian

Valentina Gunina was also in trouble but had a narrow escape:

Top Pairings Women Section, Round 10

No. Team Pts. MP : MP Pts. Team
1 Ukraine 24 15 : 18 28 Russia
2 Norway 22½ 12 : 12 23 Azerbaijan
3 China 28½ 16 : 14 24½ Spain
4 Germany 24 14 : 14 24 Romania
5 Georgia 25 13 : 14 22 Poland
6 Kazakhstan 21 13 : 13 23½ France
7 Slovakia 23½ 13 : 13 26 Bulgaria
8 Croatia 23½ 13 : 13 24 Armenia

In the 10th and penultimate round the matches France-China and Ukraine-Azerbaijan will be crucial for this Olympiad. No mistake can be allowed at this stage! The women section has the fight between Russia and Ukraine, especially interesting if Ms. Lagno plays. Update: she does play, on board one, against Anna Muzychuk, who switched back to the Ukrainian federation recently, while Ms. Lagno switched from Ukraine to Russia!

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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.”

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