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:

Colovic, Aleksandar vs. Mamedov, Rauf
42nd Olympiad 2016 | Baku AZE | Round 2.3 | 03 Sep 2016 | ECO: E91 | 0-1
35. Kf1 Be5! Saving the d6 pawn seems like an obvious idea, but Black had to know what he was going to do against f4.
36. f4 Bxf4! 37. gxf4 Qh4 The queen and rook are quite enough to control the game. Just as importantly, the Black king is completely safe:
38. Qc8+ Kg7 39. Qg4 Ra1+ 40. Kg2 Qe1 41. Bf3 h5 One among several winning moves.
42. Rxh5 Qg1+ 43. Kh3 Qxg4+ 44. Bxg4 gxh5

Baskaran Adhiban, playing Board 1 for India, came up with an even more devilish tactic to overcome the great defense of Sergio Minero Pineda, an international master from Costa Rica:

Adhiban, Baskaran vs. Minero Pineda, Sergio
42nd Olympiad 2016 | Baku AZE | Round 2.1 | 03 Sep 2016 | ECO: B47 | 1-0
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. f7 Rf5
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. Bf6 Bf8 48. Ra8 Kxd5! 49. Rxf8 Ke6! 50. Ba1 Ke7 51. Rc8 Kxf7  )
47. Bf6!! With one move, everything has changed and Black is no longer in time to stop the f-pawn.
47... Rxf6 48. Ra6+
48. Ra6+ Ke7 49. Rxf6 Kxf6 50. f8=Q+  )

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:

Ali, Muhammad Lutfi vs. Adams, Michael
42nd Olympiad 2016 | Baku AZE | Round 2.1 | 03 Sep 2016 | ECO: C95 | 1/2-1/2
137. Qb7 The 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. Kh1 Qf2! The king is poorly misplaced on h1:
139. Qb1+ Qe1 140. Qc2!! A precise defense. If Qf5, then Ke2+ and Qf2+ forces the exchange the queens.
140... e2 141. Qf5+ Qf2 142. Qb1+ e1=N!! To avoid a perpetual!! As 142 e1=Q 143. Qb5+ would still have been a perpetual check.
143. Qb5+ Qe2 144. 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. Kh3 Qd7+ 140. Kg2 Qd2+ 141. Kh3 e2 142. Kg2 Qb2 143. Qd5 Qc3 144. Qd6 Qb3 145. Qd4 Qb7+ 146. Kg1 Qb3 147. Kg2 Qa3 148. Qd5 Qc3 149. Qd6 Qd2 150. Qe5 Kd1 151. Qa1+ Qc1 152. Qd4+ Qd2 153. Qa1+ Kc2 154. Qa2+ Kd1 155. Qa1+ Qc1 156. Qd4+ Ke1 157. Qd5 Qa3 158. Qd4 Qa5 159. Kg1 Qf5 160. Qa1+ Kd2 161. Qb2+ Ke3 162. Qc3+ Qd3 163. Qe5+ Kd2 164. Qb2+ Kd1 165. Qa1+ Kc2 166. Kf2 Qd2

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:

Jobava, Baadur vs. Ghaem Maghami, Ehsan
42nd Olympiad 2016 | Baku AZE | Round 2.1 | 03 Sep 2016 | ECO: A45 | 1-0
Nc6 7. 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... Ng8 This really slows down Black's development.
8. Ngf3 f5 9. dxc5! For the rest of the game, Black struggles to win this pawn and restore the material balance.
9... Bxg5 10. Nxg5 Nf6 11. O-O Qe7 12. b4 e5 13. Re1! h6
13... e4 14. Bb5 and White easily retains his extra pawn.  )
14. fxe5 Qxe5
14... hxg5 15. exf6 gxf6 was 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! fxe4 16. Ngxe4 dxe4 17. Bxe4 Black has castle:
17... O-O which lets White regain his piece
18. Bxc6 Qxc3 19. Ne4 Nxe4 20. Bxe4 and 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:

Carlsen, Magnus vs. Hossain, Enamul
42nd Olympiad 2016 | Baku AZE | Round 2.1 | 03 Sep 2016 | ECO: A00 | 1-0
Rfe8 As 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... Nf8 20. g5 N6d7 21. h4 There is no hurry -- Black has no good moves.
21... Rad8 22. h5 Bc8 23. Ng4 Re7 24. Rg2 Kh8 25. Qf3 Rde8 26. Qg3 Rd8 27. Bd2 Rde8 28. f5 Ne5 29. Nxe5 Rxe5 30. Bf4 Nd7 31. f6 g6 32. hxg6 fxg6 33. 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.

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:

Fronda, Jan Jodilyn vs. Khotenashvili, Bela
Olympiad Women 2016 | Baku AZE | Round 2.2 | 03 Sep 2016 | ECO: C45 | 1-0
29. cxb3 Black 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. Rxf4 gxf4+ 31. Kxf4 Black'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... Kd6 32. Kf5! c5 33. f4 and after 33... d4 34. Ke4, White should be able to draw.  )
32. b4!!
32. Ke3 c5 33. Kd3 Kf5! 34. Ke3 Kg5! And Black should win, although she still needs to perform some gymnastics with the king:
35. h3 Kf6! 36. h4 h5 37. Kd3 Kf5 38. Ke3 Ke5 39. f4+ Kf5 40. f3 d4+  )
32... axb4 33. 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... b3 34. Kd2 c5 35. a5 Kd7 36. Kc3 c4 37. a6 d4+ 38. Kb2 Kc7 39. f4! One of White's pawns will promote to a queen.
39... Kb6 40. f5 Kxa6 41. f6 Kb5 42. f7 Ka4 43. f8=Q c3+ 44. Kb1 d3 45. Qa8+ Kb4 46. Qe4+ Ka3 47. 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:

Dolzhikova, Olga vs. Paikidze, Nazi
Olympiad Women 2016 | Baku AZE | Round 2.2 | 03 Sep 2016 | ECO: B11 | 0-1
12. f4 White seems to be doing fine, but Black begins to transfer her pieces to the queenside:
12... Nc5! 13. Qe1 Qb5 14. e5? This helps Black move another piece to the queenside.
14. b3  )
14... Nd5 15. b3 Na4! 16. Kb1 Bc5 Continuing to improve the placement of her pieces. Black doesn't have to hurry.
17. Ka1 Makes things easier for Black, but it wasn't a pleasant position to defend.
17... Nac3! 18. Bxc3 dxc3 19. d4 Qa5! 20. Rh2
20. dxc5 Qa3 21. Rb1 Nb4 and mate will follow.  )
20... Ne3 21. Rc1 Qa3

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:

Muzychuk, Anna vs. Baciu, Diana
Olympiad Women 2016 | Baku AZE | Round 2.1 | 03 Sep 2016 | ECO: A07 | 1/2-1/2
Nd7 Black has played excellently so far to refute Muzychuk's overly ambitious play on the queenside. Baciu probably didn't realize just how good her position is.
31. a6
31. a6 Rd1! the strongest, but not the only, way to win. White will be mated because the White queen is so far away from the White kingside. Instead:  )

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.