Olympiad: USA, Ukraine Ahead Of Russia; China Leads In Women's

Olympiad: USA, Ukraine Ahead Of Russia; China Leads In Women's

| 21 | Chess Event Coverage

USA defeated Ukraine back in round five, but after each won their ninth round matches today, the two countries are rivals again, sharing the lead at the Olympiad with two rounds to go. China is the clear leader in the women's section, and it's their gold to lose.

The Olympiad is quickly coming to an end, with only two rounds left in Baku. The U.S. team should be the favorite, but they haven't gotten rid of Ukraine yet. Meanwhile, Russia, another team that might well win its last two rounds, is only one point behind.

The USA made a good impression today and won their match against Norway rather quickly: two draws as White, two easy wins as Black.

On board one, World Champion GM Magnus Carlsen faced a 2700+ GM for the first time. In fact, he faced 2800+ GM Fabiano Caruana. The world champ played yet another surprising first move: 1...d5. After the game he told that it was "partly a joke" to play the Scandinavian against this opponent, whom he had beaten with the same opening two years ago at the Tromsø Olympiad. 

Carlsen playing the 3...Qd6 Scandinavian.

As it turned out, he had played 1.e4 d5 only one more time in his life, in a blitz game in Stavanger in 2015. Again, that was versus Caruana. However, that was kind of a coincidence. Neither player remembered that game!

Speaking of remembering, Caruana said that he hardly remembered the theory, and Carlsen's novelty 8...Nd5 was over-the-board inspiration as well. In any case, Black equalized comfortably and shortly after, the players repeated moves.

Another Scandinavian against me??

Carlsen has now played 3...Qa5, 3...Qd8 and 3...Qd6. He is running out of queen moves! Caruana: "Well, there's 3...Qe5, but that's terrible." 

The rest of the team "doesn't want to disappoint Carlsen," as GM Frode Urkedal said earlier, but today they failed in that area. Both he and GM Jon Ludvig Hammer were outplayed by their opponents. GM Sam Shankland had an easy day when Urkedal himself made some strange moves in a Sicilian Najdorf.

Shankland told that he noticed that his opponent had only played 1.e4 seven times in his life (three at this Olympiad), and he thought the complications of the Najdorf would allow his experience to shine.

Najdorf experience did the trick for Shankland today.

It wasn't that bad for Hammer, but somehow he got into an unpleasant position as well. "He probably mixed up the variations," said Nakamura. The American GM explained that White shouldn't have allowed the exchange of light-squared bishops. After that, he felt that Hammer played too ambitiously. "He should have just played something stupid and make a draw, but that's not easy when you're White in a team match."

Nakamura sealed the U.S. victory today.

That brought the USA to 16 match points. On board one, two other top teams were trying to do the same: India and Ukraine. This match was eventually decided on board four, where GM S.P. Sethuraman and GM Anton Korobov were still playing after the other three boards had ended in draws. 

It was a difficult endgame stemming from a Rauzer Sicilian with an early ...Nc6-a5. The line had only been played once before by a young GM Jan Timman in the 70s. 

"I was unable to evaluate the position properly," said Korobov. "I had a centralized king. At first glance, this is very good because after the exchange of queens your king must be centralized, but on the other hand, he was threatening all the time with something.

"After the time control, I think I am close to winning, because I am just moving my pawns forward, and he doesn't have any compensation. But maybe after 28...d4 I could have been lost because of the weakness of the light squares!"

Korobov might have revealed the secret of his success when he said: "After move 20, I have stopped looking at other games and concentrated on mine."

Korobov, the match winner for Ukraine today.

As the only team on 15 points, Russia is the biggest rival for the two leaders. Today, they beat Azerbaijan-A, who thus saw their last hopes for a gold medal on home soil vanish. GM Alexander Grischuk is getting into shape right on time. He defeated GM Arkadij Naiditsch. A crushing win was scored by GM Vladimir Kramnik who gave GM Teimour Radjabov no chance in another 1.e4 game by the ex-world champion.

A powerful game by Kramnik today.

Thus India remained on 14 match points, where it was joined by the Czech Republic and Georgia. The latter are led by an absolute star on board one. GM Baadur Jobava won yet another game; he now has a 3013 performance rating! (Only IM Capo Vidal Uriel of Mexico is doing better in the TPR department with a 7.0/7 score.)

Jobava's results, with an impressive list of opponents, are too pretty not to embed here. The Georgian number one is set to win 31 Elo points.

Rd. SNo Title Name Rtg Fed Pts. Res. we w-we rtg+/-
2 150 GM Ghaem Maghami, Ehsan 2566 5,5 w 1 0,64 0,36 3,6
3 173 GM Ftacnik, Lubomir 2548 5,5 s ½ 0,66 -0,16 -1,6
4 8 GM Topalov, Veselin 2768 3 w 1 0,36 0,64 6,4
5 28 GM Vallejo Pons, Francisco 2716 5 s 1 0,43 0,57 5,7
6 16 GM Navara, David 2742 5,5 s ½ 0,39 0,11 1,1
7 100 GM Lupulescu, Constantin 2618 4 w 1 0,57 0,43 4,3
8 29 GM Ponomariov, Ruslan 2709 3,5 w 1 0,44 0,56 5,6
9 14 GM Rapport, Richard 2752 3 s 1 0,38 0,62 6,2

The explanation? Jobava told "I want to win for my team; that's the explanation! Now it's time for a cigarette."

Today's game was vintage Jobava, or vintage GM Richard Rapport for that matter. Pair these players against each other, and you can expect something to happen in the opening, like... leaving theory on move four. However, this time everything was decided deep in the endgame. 

Baadur Jobava.

Jobava is doing great, but today we'd like to pay tribute to two more players who are having an amazing Olympiad. First, let us tell you about 15-year-old IM Anton Smirnov of Australia. He has played eight games for his team and scored six wins and two draws. With a performance rating of 2755(!), a nine-round GM norm cannot escape him. Because it's an Olympiad, it will count for two!

Today, Smirnov beat GM Anuar Ismagambetov of Kazakhstan in a bit of a messy game, but that doesn't matter. He saw the last tactic!

Anton Smirnov interviewed by Susan Polgar. | Photo Paul Truong for Baku Chess.

Next there's the legendary GM Eugenio Torre, of the Philippines. There's no other player in Baku who has played more Olympiads than Torre; he is participating for the 23rd time!

This year it's going pretty well for the Pinoy hero who has played all nine games and collected eight points. His point total is only equaled by WGM Klaudia Kulon of Poland in the women's section.

The following win against GM Diego Flores of Argentina elevated him to a 2804 performance rating.

Eugenio Torre. | Photo David Llada for Baku Chess.

The Iranian team is one of the big surprises at this Olympiad. It's a very young team, on which board one GM Ehsan Ghaem Maghami (33) is joined by four players born in 1999 or later. Only two have a title:

  • Parham Maghsoodloo (2000)
  • IM Shahin Lorparizangeneh  (1999)
  • Alireza Firouzja (2003)
  • FM Aryan Gholami (2001)

Today they managed to hold England to 2-2, and they would have won the match if 13-year-old Iranian champion Firouzja had found the narrow path to a draw against GM Gawain Jones. Here's Lorparizangeneh's win over GM Luke McShane:

Below are the standings featuring all teams that have scored 13 match points or more.

Rk. SNo Team Team + = - TB1 TB2 TB3 TB4
1 2 USA 7 2 0 16 284 26,5 103
2 5 Ukraine 8 0 1 16 267 24,5 106
3 1 Russia 7 1 1 15 290 27 104
4 20 Georgia 6 2 1 14 235,5 23,5 98
5 17 Czech Republic 6 2 1 14 235,5 22 105
6 9 India 7 0 2 14 234 23,5 102
7 25 Canada 6 1 2 13 247,5 26 95
8 4 Azerbaijan 1 6 1 2 13 235 24 99
9 46 Iran 5 3 1 13 229 24 95
10 6 England 6 1 2 13 224,5 22 100
11 21 Latvia 6 1 2 13 218,5 22 95
12 35 Moldova 6 1 2 13 218 24,5 90
13 32 Vietnam 6 1 2 13 214,5 23 89
14 27 Greece 4 5 0 13 211,5 21,5 94
15 29 Slovenia 5 3 1 13 210,5 23,5 91
16 12 Norway 6 1 2 13 205,5 21 92
17 14 Spain 6 1 2 13 203,5 21 95
18 47 Chile 6 1 2 13 201 25 83
19 34 Peru 6 1 2 13 188,5 22 88
20 36 Italy 5 3 1 13 188 22,5 85

The main match-ups for Monday are Georgia vs USA, Czech Republic vs Ukraine, India vs Russia, England vs Azerbaijan, Latvia vs Canada, Norway vs Iran, and Moldova vs Italy.

Women's section

On the women's side, match one featured the only two teams on 14 points. The match lacked the compelling drama from yesterday, but that was just fine for China.

Like their male counterparts, USA had already faced Ukraine and Russia, but unlike the men, the Chinese ladies were doing well. So the Americans took on the top-rated team and remained on board one.

Ping-pong diplomacy? You don't see this every day: The Chinese team asked the American captain, GM Yasser Seirawan, to join them in the pre-round team photo.

The United States played their top four players. In fact, none of their top three have had any rounds off, and that seems likely to continue as the medal rounds approach.

GM Irina Krush did not suffer any after yesterday's topsy-turvy win over GM Alexandra Kosteniuk. Although it could be argued she didn't get too much with White, she did hold comfortably against the women's World Champion GM Hou Yifan.

GM Hou Yifan was neutralized, but her board two covered for the team today.

The other turn with the White pieces netted the U.S. a little more, but it was not enough for IM Anna Zatonskih to get the full point against WGM Tan Zhongyi. The Chinese sat out their board three, GM Zhao Xue, who hasn't won a game since round two.

Their draw was followed by IM Guo Qi's split point with WGM Katerina Nemcova. That meant everything came down to board two, the last to finish.

Board two was the only one that mattered in the end.

IM Nazi Paikidze could never solve her problems on the c-file against GM Ju Wenjun. Coupled with her early voluntary exchange of bishop for knight, taking Black and facing the women's world number three was too much to endure.

The win ensured China sole possession of first after being as low as 14th place after a round-three upset for a draw. They have not won team gold since 2004 (the last of their four consecutive titles), but they are firmly in control after today.

IM Nazi Paikidze, right, could never recover from a worse middlegame against GM Ju Wenjun.

For the rest of the field, it was just about keeping pace. Poland vs Israel on board two featured the only teams on 13 points, allowing the winner to move up to sole second place for the penultimate round. This also meant the "reward" would be a date with China; both teams had "faded" the top seed thus far as the poker players say.

Israel had been overachieving, but today their success came to a halt. They weren't the only mini-surprises going into today's round—match boards two through five all featured double-digit versus single-digit seeds.

Poland got off to a very fast start when GM Monika Socko made pirogi out of White's king. The batch was done cooking in a little less than two hours.

From there, board four WIM Mariola Wozniak "invented" something nearly as spectacular as long-lost relative, Steve. Sure, it's no Apple, but this is not "Entrepeneur" magazine, so we'll credit her with more ingenuity.

Poland's final score against Israel was 3.5-0.5.

GM Monika Socko got Poland a win faster than the running time of the "The Queen of Katwe" movie.

Russia got back on track, and once again, GM Valentina Gunina can be thanked for that. She saved matches six and seven with key draws, and she won despite a team loss in round eight. Today's win, the only one her team needed, put her on 7.0/8 and gave her a performance rating cresting 2700, the highest of any woman. GM Anna Muzychuk is second, more than 100 points back!

Today, Gunina took control despite being in trouble after Black's 19th move when all of her opponent's pieces came to life.

On match board four, Ukraine vs Azerbaijan-A was a rout. Ukraine won easily 3.5-0.5. GM Mariya Muzychuk had a day replete with tactics, a mating net, and a big payday.

A double win for GM Mariya Muzychuk (left). Not only did she win her game today, but GM Susan Polgar of the FIDE Women's Commission also presented her with the "Caissa Award" for best female player of 2015. The trophy, made of gold, silver, and diamonds, is valued at more than $10,000.

Today's game was the type that earned Muzychuk the honor:

The only other team sharing the top three placements is India, who stopped the enterprising run of Netherlands. In a match without a single drawn game, India won three of them, but all had their moments. The match contained an upset, a game with four queens, and a checkmate on the board.

Dutch WGM Anne Haast (left) is still unbeatable, while teammate GM Zhaoqin Peng could not score against a top-10 woman.

Board one may have been the most sedate, but even there GM Harika Dronavalli excited with a pawn offer that kept her grandmaster colleague's king in the maelstrom.

WGM Anne Haast continued her streaky but excellent play. After drawing her first six games, she earned her second upset in a row on board two. Netherlands got to play a mate on the final board, so we'll close this match with board three.

It wasn't the most exciting four-queens position, but chess journalism "rules" require that we show it!

He has a knack for meeting with national figures, and today FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov entertained Her Excellency The Honorable Mom Luang Rajadarasri Jayankura, the great granddaughter of King Rama IV of Thailand (famously depicted in "The King and I").

Finally, one cavewoman battle had no bearing on the top placements but simply must be seen. What is it with elected officials this Olympiad? First Latvia's finance minister beats the world champion, and now Lithuanian Parliament Member GM Viktorija Cmilyte plays a terrific idea and achieves mate on the board!

She hasn't been married to GM Alexei Shirov for a while, but you wouldn't have known it by watching that game!

For round 10, Poland gets China as stated. For the group in the 14s, India and Ukraine face off while Russia drops down to play Georgia and USA also drops down a score group to play Mongolia.

Below are the standings with all teams that have scored 13 match points or more.

Rk. SNo Team Team + = - TB1 TB2 TB3 TB4
1 1 China 7 2 0 16 261 26 96
2 7 Poland 7 1 1 15 277,5 28 93
3 2 Ukraine 6 2 1 14 268,5 25,5 103
4 3 Russia 6 2 1 14 256 25 101
5 5 India 6 2 1 14 232,5 24 94
6 6 USA 7 0 2 14 231 23 95
7 4 Georgia 6 1 2 13 251,5 26 92
8 8 Hungary 5 3 1 13 230 23 93
9 10 Germany 5 3 1 13 219 23 93
10 15 Mongolia 6 1 2 13 215,5 24,5 84
11 23 France 6 1 2 13 206 24,5 86
12 9 Bulgaria 5 3 1 13 206 23,5 81
13 18 Israel 6 1 2 13 192 21,5 92

The main match-ups for Monday are Poland vs China, India vs Ukraine, Russia vs Georgia, Azerbaijan-A vs Colombia, Mongolia vs USA, and France vs Hungary.

FIDE Congress, Part 2

Today was the first day of the the General Assembly, held in the Fairmont Hotel. Things started to get interesting during the opening speech of FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. You could say that he started defending himself before he was attacked, making several prophylactic moves in a row.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov addressing the General Assembly on Sunday morning.

Ilyumzhinov tried to convince the delegates that the sanctions imposed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury didn't influence his work at all, and that he didn't have money or accounts in the U.S. "I want to accept the challenge. They either made a technical error, or it's a political game."

The president then revealed that he had written a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama in which he requested U.S. citizenship, "so that we can look at the case of the sanctions in a local court." Ilyumzhinov thinks that this way the American constitution can protect him "from the attacks of the officials in the U.S. Department of the Treasury."

With his usual flair, he then promised that the money he would earn for winning this battle in court would be used for developing chess.

As he had announced in this week's ChessCenter, Jamaican delegate Ian Wilkinson then took the mic and expressed his opinion that the FIDE President should resign. In a passionate speech he supported his opinion with a long list of arguments, such as the aforementioned sanctions and the current financial state FIDE is in.

Wilkinson: "The FIDE President should resign."

First Ilyumzhinov was allowed to respond, and in another lengthy speech, he expressed his desire to remain the FIDE President. "You have elected me until 2018. If I hadn’t kept more than half of my promises, I would go!"

Both Vice President Israel Gelfer and Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos then strongly defended Ilyumzhinov. The latter made an important point: he stated that it wouldn't be possible for Ilyumzhinov to run for another four-year term in 2018 under the U.S. sanctions. In other words, the FIDE board admitted there's a serious problem, which needs to be resolved within two years.

Even Continental President for Americas Jorge Vega, who is FIDE's most powerful functionary in Latin America, made a rare comment. He merely stated that it was "an important topic to discuss," but between the lines, this could be interpreted as a shrinking support from him toward Ilyumzhinov.

The FIDE board, with Georgios Makropoulos and Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in the middle, top row.

The delegates from Tunisia, Djibouti, Ivory Coast, Philippines, Kyrgyzstan, Rwanda, Sri Lanka and Venezuela joined the discussion and all expressed their support for the FIDE President. Makropoulos then explained why it made sense to keep him in function: since December 2015, Ilyumzhinov has not been involved in the decision-making process; he only performs ceremonial acts.

And so the chess world is left with confusion. The president of the international chess federation is sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, which makes it impossible for him to run for presidency in 2018, but it allows him to stay in function until then.

This report was co-written by FM Mike Klein.

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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