There were no upsets in the open section, but the women’s section produced one major surprise as a pre-tournament medal favorite lost.
The level of the competition at the Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan, took a noticable step up on Day 2. This did not lead to any upsets in the open section — indeed the top teams all advanced comfortably — but in the women’s section, the Philippines produced a major surprise by beating Georgia, former champions and the No. 4 seed.
On the middle boards, there were many evenly balanced matchups with quite unpredictable results. Magnus Carlsen, the World Champion, played his first game for Norway and, playing White, started with 1.e3(!). Despite his unorthodox approach, he still beat Enamul Hossain, a grandmaster from Bangladesh, and helped lead his team to a narrow victory, 2.5-1.5.
In the open section, most of the top seeds faced teams with average ratings around 2450, so the matches were clearly not trivial. But the top teams showed that their players are in good form by winning almost every game. Russia, Azerbaijan, Poland, India and the Netherlands all swept their opponents by scores of 4-0.
The games weren’t all easy.
For example, Azerbaijan’s third board, Rauf Mamedov, had to come up with an ingenious trick to beat Aleksandar Colovic, a grandmaster from Macedonia:
35. Kf1Be5!Saving the d6 pawn seems like an obvious idea, but Black had to know what he was going to do against f4. 36. f4Bxf4!37. gxf4Qh4The queen and rook are quite enough to control the game. Just as importantly, the Black king is completely safe: 38. Qc8+Kg739. Qg4Ra1+40. Kg2Qe141. Bf3h5One among several winning moves. 42. Rxh5Qg1+43. Kh3Qxg4+44. Bxg4gxh5
( 45... Bxf6!A player should not be afraid to go into a theoretically drawn endgame. It is true that White could torture Black for a long time, so Black obviously wanted to find an easier way to draw. )
( 46... Be7!would have again allowed Black to go into a rook and bishop vs rook endgame, although now it would have needed a bit more accuracy to achieve: 47. Bf6Bf848. Ra8Kxd5!49. Rxf8Ke6!50. Ba1Ke751. Rc8Kxf7 )
47. Bf6!!With one move, everything has changed and Black is no longer in time to stop the f-pawn. 47... Rxf648. Ra6+
Several top teams, including the United States, China, France and Israel, all gave up one draw in their matches, but the final results were never in doubt.
Luke McShane, England’s Board 3, over-pressed and lost to Irwanto Sadikin, a 45-year-old Indonesian international master. But the English team were never in danger on the other boards and won, 2.5 - 1.5. Their top board, Michael Adams, was probably ruing a missed opportunity as he faltered around move 137(!) to let his opponent, Muhammad Lutfi Ali, another international master, force a perpetual to escape with a draw:
137. Qb7The game had been going for hours and the players were
clearly tired. Adams had steadily improved his position for a long time, but now he missed a chance to set his pieces up perfectly. The key is to force the White king to as awkward a square as possible: 137... Qd2?
( 137... Kf1+!If 138. Kh3, then 138... Kg1! So White would be forced to play 138. Kh1. 138. Kh1Qf2!The king is poorly misplaced on h1: 139. Qb1+Qe1140. Qc2!!A precise defense. If Qf5, then Ke2+ and Qf2+ forces the exchange the queens. 140... e2141. Qf5+Qf2142. Qb1+e1=N!!To avoid a perpetual!! As 142 e1=Q 143. Qb5+ would still have been a perpetual check. 143. Qb5+Qe2144. Qf5+Qf3+ )
138. Qe4!In the rest of the game, Adams never came close to getting his king covered to escape the checks by White. 138... Ke1+139. Kh3Qd7+140. Kg2Qd2+141. Kh3e2142. Kg2Qb2143. Qd5Qc3144. Qd6Qb3145. Qd4Qb7+146. Kg1Qb3147. Kg2Qa3148. Qd5Qc3149. Qd6Qd2150. Qe5Kd1151. Qa1+Qc1152. Qd4+Qd2153. Qa1+Kc2154. Qa2+Kd1155. Qa1+Qc1156. Qd4+Ke1157. Qd5Qa3158. Qd4Qa5159. Kg1Qf5160. Qa1+Kd2161. Qb2+Ke3162. Qc3+Qd3163. Qe5+Kd2164. Qb2+Kd1165. Qa1+Kc2166. Kf2Qd2
On the lower boards, the matches were closer and more intense fights. Georgia vs. Iran was perhaps the toughest pairing of the day. On the top board, Baadur Jobava, the always entertaining Georgian grandmaster, avoided typical theory and won with some nice tactics against Ehsan Ghaem Maghami, an experienced and strong grandmaster:
Nc67. f4!?White's setup is a typical Stonewall, which is usually played by Black. The difference is that White has a bishop on g5 which is very annoying for Black. Clearly Maghami felt the same way as he tried a surprising move to exchange that bishop. 7... Ng8This really slows down Black's development. 8. Ngf3f59. dxc5!For the rest of the
game, Black struggles to win this pawn and restore the material balance. 9... Bxg510. Nxg5Nf611. O-OQe712. b4e513. Re1!h6
( 13... e414. Bb5and White easily retains his extra pawn. )
( 14... hxg515. exf6gxf6was a better move. White would probably still have an edge, but the position would still be complicated and Black would have some play on the h-file )
15. e4!fxe416. Ngxe4dxe417. Bxe4Black has castle: 17... O-Owhich lets White regain his piece 18. Bxc6Qxc319. Ne4Nxe420. Bxe4and with an extra pawn, Jobava won without too many problems.
The rest of Iran’s team, who are teenagers and younger, bailed out their compatriot. Parham Maghsoodloo, who does not even have a title yet, despite being rated 2566, beat Mikheil Mcheidishvili, a strong and experienced grandmaster, in exquisite positional style on Board 2. And Alireza Firouzja, the country’s reigning champion, who is 12 years old(!), held on in a precarious endgame against grandmaster Tamaz Gelashvili on Board 4. That allowed Iran to draw the match.
Needless to say, Carlsen’s participation made the Norwegians the favorites against Bangladesh. Enamul Hossain, Carlsen’s opponent, did not try to exploit Carlsen’s unusual first move and the game soon turned into a normal Nimzo-Indian Defense. Carlsen won in his trademark style:
Rfe8As usual, Carlsen is controlling his opponent's activity very well. Now he goes on to the offensive. Notice how the rook on a2 turns out to be perfectly placed for the break: 19. g4!Black had absolutely no chance in the rest of the game. White's play was majestic to watch: 19... Nf820. g5N6d721. h4There is no hurry -- Black has no good moves. 21... Rad822. h5Bc823. Ng4Re724. Rg2Kh825. Qf3Rde826. Qg3Rd827. Bd2Rde828. f5Ne529. Nxe5Rxe530. Bf4Nd731. f6g632. hxg6fxg633. Bxg6
Niaz Murshed, a veteran grandmaster from Bangladesh, won convincingly on Board 4 to equalize the match. But, as in Round 1, 17-year-old Aryan Tari provided a crucial win to get Norway its second hard-fought match victory.
United Arab Emirates vs. South African in Round 2.
The Women’s section also had much tougher competition today. In Georgia vs. Philipines, the difference in their ratings was not apparent by looking at the quality of the games. The Philippines women played very well.
The turning point was probably when Bela Khotenashivili of Georgia overlooked a beautiful pawn sacrifice by her opponent, Jan Jodilyn Fronda, in a king-and-pawn endgame:
29. cxb3Black is a bit better, but it is hard to say if she is winning.
Khotenashvili found an interesting idea that she probably thought would easily finish off her opponent. 29... d5?
( 29... Rf8 )
30. Rxf4gxf4+31. Kxf4Black's plan is based on infiltrating White's kingside with her king, while White isn't able to do anything on the queenside. For this to work, Black must not play d4 because then White's king can be perfectly placed on e4 to prevent the Black king's entry. The only way to stop White forcing Black to play d4 with either Ke5 or Kf5 was to play: 31... Ke6?it makes perfect sense but she missed
( 31... Kd632. Kf5!c533. f4and after 33... d4 34. Ke4, White should be able to draw. )
( 32. Ke3c533. Kd3Kf5!34. Ke3Kg5!And Black should win, although she still needs to perform some gymnastics with the king: 35. h3Kf6!36. h4h537. Kd3Kf538. Ke3Ke539. f4+Kf540. f3d4+ )
32... axb433. Ke3!Amazingly, White's king can defend the three Black pawns,but White's two passed pawns on the f-file and a-file can't be held by Black. 33... b334. Kd2c535. a5Kd736. Kc3c437. a6d4+38. Kb2Kc739. f4!One of White's pawns will promote to a queen. 39... Kb640. f5Kxa641. f6Kb542. f7Ka443. f8=Qc3+44. Kb1d345. Qa8+Kb446. Qe4+Ka347. Qxd3
Fronda’s teammate, Catherine Secopito managed to win a messy game against Salome Melia, an international master. On Board 1, Nana Dzagnidze, a grandmaster from Georgia, agreed to a draw against her opponent, Janelle Mae Frayna. Dzagnidze was actually fortunate to obtain the draw as she had a lost position, but the draw sealed the team victory for the Philippines.
The women’s Norwegian team put up a spirited performance against the Americans, the No. 6 seed, but they fell just short. America was saved by a controlled performance from the latest addition to their team - Nazi Paikidze, the reigning United States Women’s champion:
12. f4White seems to be doing fine, but Black begins to transfer her
pieces to the queenside: 12... Nc5!13. Qe1Qb514. e5?This helps Black move another piece to the queenside.
( 14. b3 )
14... Nd515. b3Na4!16. Kb1Bc5Continuing to improve the placement of her pieces. Black doesn't have to hurry. 17. Ka1Makes things easier for Black, but it wasn't a pleasant position to defend. 17... Nac3!18. Bxc3dxc319. d4Qa5!20. Rh2
Two of the other major favorites in the women’s section, China and Russia, won all their games. Ukraine also won comfortably, but their top board, Anna Muzychuk, who is ranked No. 4 in the world, escaped with a draw against Diana Baciu, an opponent rated 300 points below her. Muzychuk offered a draw in a completely lost position and Baciu, perhaps out of inexperience, accepted:
India also produced a dominant performance on all boards, but their top board, Dronavali Harika, who is ranked No. 5, lost on time in a winning position.
Round 3 should bring much tougher competition for the top teams. It will be interesting to see if they can continue to be so dominant.
Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Anna Muzychuk was the former Women’s World Champion. It is her younger sister, Mariya Muzychuk, who is the former Women’s World Champion.
Parimarjan Negi is an Indian grandmaster who is the second-youngest ever to earn the title (at 13 years 4 months and 22 days). Ranked No. 80 in the world, he is about to start his junior year at Stanford University. He can be found on Twitter at @parimarjan.
FIDE and World Chess announces today that the 2018 World Chess Championship Match will take place in London in November 2018. The world’s most prestigious chess tournament is to be the climax of a season of high-profile activity to extend the sport’s appeal among global audiences – and make 2018 the Year of Chess in the UK.
After 9 days of intense chess battles at the last leg of the World Chess Grand Prix series 2017 in Palma de Mallorca, the two winners of the series were finally determined: Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan, overall 340 points in the series) and Alexander Grischuk (Russia, 336,4 points). They qualified for the Candidates Tournament – the next part of the World Chess Championship cycle, which leads up to the Championship match.
The sole leader of the Palma de Mallorca Grand Prix Levon Aronian made a quick draw with Evgeny Tomashevsky today, inviting the group of rivals to join him at the top. But same as in the previous rounds all games on the top boards finished peacefully and not a single player came close to catching up with him.
After seven rounds Aronian is in the lead with 4,5 points. A group of 8 players is half a point behind, including Vachier-Lagrave. In order to qualify for the Candidates, the Frenchman needs to win at least one more game. Boris Gelfand defeated Alexander Riazantsev, Pavel Eljanov won against Jon Ludvig Hammer, while Teimour Rajabov outplayed Li Chao. After the victory the Azerbaijani Grandmaster still hopes to qualify, but in that case has to win both games.
Javier Ochoa, Honorary FIDE Vice President and President of the Spanish Chess Federation, made the first symbolic move to start the fourth round, which turned out to be the most exciting round of the tournament so far, with six decisive games out of nine.
In the Third Round of the FIDE Grand Prix in Palma de Mallorca games between the four leaders, Vachier-Lagrave-Aronian and Rajabov-Giri, finished in a draw. Peter Svidler joined the group of leaders by beating Jon-Ludvig Hammer in the third round.
The world’s best chess players and chess establishment came together in Bellver Castle to celebrate the opening of the final leg of the FIDE 2017 World Chess Grand Prix Palma de Mallorca – a prestigious qualifier for the World Chess Candidates Tournament.
Katerina Lagno, one of the strongest Russian women-grandmasters won the historic Moscow Blitz Tournament, beating her fellow Russian Olympic team members Alexandra Kosteniuk, Valentina Gunina and Olga Girya.
After a draw against Ian Nepomniachtchi, Teimur Rajabov won the tournament. One of the strongest players, Rajabov had not won a major tournament lately, but has shown phenomenal form in Geneva and managed to overpower some of top world’s players