The World Chess Federation has been trying to get chess into the Olympics for many years. In 2000, it was, as an exhibition sport.
The biennial Chess Olympiad begins in Baku, Azerbaijan, on September 1, while the better-known Olympic Games are at the halfway point. Many chess fans know about the Chess Olympiad and some may know that the World Chess Federation (or FIDE, for Fédération Internationale des Echecs) has tried to have chess included in the Olympic Games. But how many know, or remember, that at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, chess was included as an exhibition sport with a two-game match between elite players?
Viswanathan Anand of India and Alexei Shirov of Latvia, who was then representing Spain, played that match. Except for Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik (who were about to play a match for the World Championship), Anand and Shirov were probably the best possible representatives for the Olympic exhibition.
Shirov had defeated Kramnik in a Candidates match in 1998 to qualify for a title shot with Kasparov that never came to pass and was ranked No. 6 in the world.
(As it turned out, a few months after the Olympics exhibition, Anand and Shirov would also play each other in the finals of the 2000 FIDE Knockout World Championship in Iran, which Anand would win, 3½ - ½.)
Both Anand and Shirov were in very good form for the Olympics exhibition. Shirov had White in Game 1, and the players tested one of the sharpest lines in all of chess, the English Attack (6.Be3 e6 7.f3) against the Najdorf Sicilian.
Shirov, Alexei vs. Anand, Viswanathan
Sydney ol exh |Sydney |Round 1 |24 Sep 2000 |ECO: B80 |1/2-1/2
11. h4b412. Na4Qa513. b3At the time of this game this line was all the rage, and there are well over
1000 games with this position in the database. Then it was popular, but
current theory suggests that Black is in grave danger. 13... Nc5Najdorf
specialist Loek van Wely tried to rehabilitate this line with
( 13... Be7earlier this year, but it didn't go very well. 14. Rh3Nc515. a3Rc816. axb4Nxb3+17. Nxb3Qxa418. Kb2d519. Bc5Qd720. g5hxg521. hxg5Rxh322. Bxh3Nh723. f4Qc724. Bxe7Kxe725. Nc5a526. g6Nf627. e5Nd728. Nxd7Qxd729. f5Rc430. f6+gxf631. exf6+Kd632. Qh2+Kc633. g7Qd834. Qe5Bc835. b5+Kb736. Rg1Qb637. g8=Q1-0 (37) Caruana,F (2787)-Van Wely,L (2640) Wijk aan
Zee 2016 )
( 14... Rc8hasn't fared so well either: 15. axb4Nxb3+16. Nxb3Qxa417. Kb2d518. c3dxe419. Ra1Qd720. Qxd7+Kxd721. Rd1+Kc722. Bf4+Kb623. fxe4is well known to theory. )
15. axb4Qc716. bxa4d5
( 16... Nd7makes sense, aiming to transfer the knight to the attack via b6.
Maybe this is Black's best hope, though White is still better after 17. c4Nb618. Rh2!!Nxc419. Qc3Rc820. Rc2Of course, this is the point behind 18.Rh2. 20... d521. exd5Bxd522. Bxc4Bxc423. Nxe6!fxe624. Rd4 )
( 17... Qxe5??18. Bf4is a simple but important point. )
18. f4Nb6Still following
600 games in the database. As I said, the line was all the rage, even if today
it's the chess equivalent of a ghost town. 19. f5After this, the position
appears to be a forced draw.
( 19. Rh3!is the move that seems to have put
Black out of business. 19... Nxa420. Bf2brought Black's attack to a
standstill, while White still enjoys various ways of continuing his active
play. One example: 20... Rc821. Be1Nb622. f5Nc423. Bxc4Qxc424. fxe6fxe625. Rf3Be726. Nxe6Qa227. Qd3Qa1+28. Kd2Qxe5was Gabrielian,
A (2545)-Oguzov,S (2024) Dombai 2013, and now instead of 29.Re3 (which kept
the advantage and led to an eventual win, 29. Nc5!would have given
White a decisive advantage. )
19... Nxa4Intending ...Nc3 followed by ...Bxb4. 20. fxe6White must counterattack; there is no time and there aren't enough
resources to attempt a defense on the queenside. 20... Nc321. exf7+Kxf722. Bd3Bxb423. Rdf1+Kg824. Qf2White's last two moves could be played in the
opposite order. 24... Ba3+25. Kd2Ne4+26. Bxe4dxe427. g5
32... Bxh133. Rb6Rc8?This natural move allows White to escape.
( 33... Bd5was the cleanest move, covering the a2-g8 diagonal. 34. Rg6Rh735. e6Rc836. c3Qa537. Rxg7+Rxg738. Bxg7Qa3+39. Kd2Qb2+40. Ke1Qb1+41. Kf2Rb8 )
( 34... Qf735. hxg7Rxh436. Rb8Qxb3comes to the same thing. ... )
35. hxg7Rxh436. Rb8!Qxb3Black has nothing better. 37. Rxc8+Kxg738. cxb3Rxd439. Rc7+!Next is 40.Ra7, and as Black has no reasonable way to defend the a-pawn the
result is a theoretical draw, even if Black manages to win both of White's
8... Nc6As with the previous
game, here too we have a line that was hot around the turn of the century, but
that has fallen into disuse.
( 8... Nd7 )
9. c3e510. d5Ne711. Nxf6+gxf612. Qd2
( 12. Nh4is the principal alternative, which worked out very well for
Shirov a couple of years later. 12... Ng613. Qh5Qd714. h3Qa415. b3Qa516. O-OQxc317. d6Kg7?18. dxc7Qd419. g3Qd720. Rac1Qxh3?21. Bd3Qe622. Be4Qb623. Rfd11-0 (23) Shirov,A (2697)
-Akopian,V (2678) Kallithea 2002 )
12... Kh813. O-O-OBg414. Be2
( 14. Qe2 )
14... Qd615. Nh4Rg8
( 15... Bxe216. Qxe2Rad8 )
16. g3Rad817. Bxg4Rxg418. Qe2
( 18. Qc2 )
18... Ra419. Kb1Nxd5
( 19... Ra5might be a
shade better for Black. )
( 20. Rhe1 )
( 20. Qb5 )
20... Qe6Hitting f5 and hinting at tactics against a2. 21. Ne3
( 21. Qc2!Rxa222. c4Qa623. Qb3Ra1+24. Kc2Ra5!25. cxd5Qe2+26. Kb1Qe4+27. Qd3Qa428. Qa3Qe4+would have made for a spectacular finish. )
21... Rd6!22. Nxd5Rxd523. a3Raa524. c4Rd4
( 24... Rd6! )
25. Rxd4exd426. Qd3Rc5?
( 26... c5 )
( 27. Rc1 )
27... Rxc428. Qd8+Kg729. Rd1Qf5+?!
( 29... Rc6 )
30. Qd3Qxd3+31. Rxd3f532. Rd8Black is better
and can certainly play for a win, but his next move lets it all slip away. 32... a5?A simple blunder. 33. Rd5Regaining the pawn, after which the position
is completely drawn. 33... a4
A different opening, but once again the players castled on opposite flanks and went after the opponent’s king. Here, too, Black was more successful and had chances to win, and once again the result was a peaceful outcome – probably due in part, in both games, to inaccuracies in time trouble.
As this was not an official Olympic competition, there were no medals to be won and thus no tiebreaks to be played. And although the games were very exciting, they went almost completely without notice. There were practically no spectators and there was almost no coverage in the mainstream media. Chess was not given a place in the 2004 Olympics in Athens or in any subsequent Games, so, for now, the Chess Olympiad will have to do.
Speaking of which, the defending champions are the Chinese, who went from also-rans late in the 20th century to a powerhouse today. The following game was their first splash on the international stage — a crushing victory in the Buenos Aires Olympiad in 1978 by Liu Wenzhe, who later became an international master, over Jan Hein Donner, the experienced Dutch grandmaster.
Liu, Wenzhe vs. Donner, Jan Hein
Buenos Aires ol (Men) |Buenos Aires |Round 8 |1978.??.?? |ECO: B07 |1-0
1. e4d62. d4Nf63. Nc3g64. Be2It looks peaceful, but White's next move
will dispel that impression. 4... Bg75. g4
( 5. h4is an even more popular thrust
against the Black kingside. )
5... h6Black has a wide choice here. One
logical move is the counter-thrust
( 5... d5!Black has lost a tempo, but
White's g4 changes the character of play. It makes sense for Black to blast
open the center in response. 6. e5Ne47. f4c58. Nxe4dxe4is very sharp
and imbalanced. One high-level (blitz) game went 9. d5e610. c4Qh4+11. Kf1g512. Qc2exd513. cxd5Bxg414. Bxg4Qxg415. Qxe4gxf416. Nf3Qg617. Qa4+Nd718. Bxf4b519. Qd1Qe420. Bg3Bxe521. Kf2Bxg3+22. hxg3O-O-O23. Re1Qf524. a4Nf625. axb5Ne4+26. Rxe4Qxe427. Rxa7Rxd528. Qa1Qc2+29. Ke3Re8+30. Kf4Rf5+31. Kg4Qe4+32. Kh3Rh5+33. Kg2Qe2+34. Kg1Qe3+35. Kg2Qe2+36. Kg1Qe3+37. Kg2Qe2+38. Kg11/2-1/2 (38) Smeets,J (2538)
-Mamedyarov,S (2754) ICC INT 2007 )
9. g5Black is already in serious trouble. 9... hxg5?
( 9... Nh7 )
( 10... Nh7had to be played, followed
by ...Re8 and ...Nf8. Still, White is probably winning after 11. Qd3Re812. Qg3Nf813. Bf4e514. Bd2, as Black has virtually no counterplay and his
king is in a coffin. )
11. Qd3exd512. Nxd5The immediate
( 12. Qg3was
even stronger. )
( 12... Nc713. Nf6+!Bxf614. gxf6Qxf615. Bd2Nc616. O-O-ONd417. Qg3Black's kingside is too gappy to sustain a
long-term defense. )
( 13... f5 )
14. Qh4White is mating by
force. 14... f515. Qh7+Kf716. Qxg6+!!Very nice - like something straight out
of a tactics book. Or in this case, something headed straight for the tactics
books. 16... Kxg6
[Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated that chess was a demonstration sport in the 2000 Olympics, which would indicate it had an official status. It did not. It was an exhibition held in conjunction with the Olympics. The error was introduced in the editing of the article.]
Dennis Monokroussos is a FIDE master who has written about chess on his blog “The Chess Mind,” since 2005. He has been teaching chess for almost 20 years and for the last 10 years has been making instructional chess videos, which can be found at ChessLecture.com. Between 1995 and 2006, he taught philosophy, including a four-year stint at the University of Notre Dame.
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