After Ukraine lost to the United States and India beat the Netherlands, India is the sole remaining undefeated and untied team in the open section of the Olympiad.
After six rounds in the 42nd Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan, India is the only undefeated team left in the open section.
India won an extremely close match against the Netherlands in Round 6. The Netherlands had been one of the three remaining undefeated teams prior to the round. The other one, Ukraine, also lost an extremely tense match to the United States.
In the women’s section, it was the irrestible force against the immovable object as the two teams that that were undefeated heading into the round, Russia and Ukraine, were unable to break the deadlock when their match ended in a tie. They continue to be the only leaders as China failed to catch them when it was surprisingly held to a draw by the Romanian team.
Against the Netherlands, the Indian team was slightly higher rated on all boards except Board 1. The Netherlands started the match aggressively and couldn’t have had much to complain about after the openings on each board. In team events, it is particularly important how the players who have Black in each round do. In Round 6, the Dutch had a dream start.
Anish Giri's posture says that it has already been a long tournament, but it is barely half over.
On Board 1, Anish Giri, the top player for the Netherlands, who had Black against Pentala Harikrishna, chose the risky Sicilian Najdorf but obtained a very good position. And on Board 3, Loek van Wely, the other Dutch player with Black, caught his opponent, Vidit Gujrathi off-guard in particular line of the Slav Defense that allowed van Wely to force a draw by repetition after only 15 moves. Vidit had won all his previous games in Baku, so this was a very good result for Netherlands.
On Board 4, Benjamin Bok failed to make much progress as White against S.P. Sethuraman, who easily held a draw as Black. So it all came down to the game on Board 2 between Erwin L’Ami and Baskaran Adhiban. L’Ami seemed to be in control, but in time pressure, things turned around dramatically:
Re7Black has managed to keep his position from collapsing and it is now difficult for White to improve his position. L'Ami was probably running low on time, so he misses an unexpected tactic: 36. Rd1??Bxc4!37. Bf3
( 37. Bxf7+was what L'Ami had in mind: 37... Rxf738. Rxd6Rf1#Was what LAmi overlooked. )
37... Rxd1+38. Bxd1Now Black is just up an exchange. The rest isn't easy, but Adhiban converts his advantage into a win with excellent technique: 38... Bb539. Bf3Re640. Kf2Bc641. Bg4Rd642. Be5Rd2+43. Ke3Rxg244. h3h545. Bd1h446. Kf4Bd747. Bf3Rg148. Bf6Rf149. Ke3Bxh350. Bxh4Kxg751. Bc6Rb152. Bxa4Rxb253. Be7c454. Bb4Kg655. Kd4Be656. Kc3Ra257. Bc6f558. a4f459. a5Kf560. Bb7Ke561. a6Bd562. Bc5f363. Bd4+Kd664. Bxd5Kxd565. a7Kc666. Kxc4Kb7
Erwin L'Ami resigning to Baskaran Adhiban in Round 6.
In the next match between the United States and Ukraine, things were equally as tense. Ukraine was lower rated in all boards, but they weren’t intimidated and they played well. On Boards 3 and 4, they drew without any particular issues.
Ra8Black can obviously win the White a-pawn to restore the material balance. But the problem is that it would allow White to invade the Black kingside from the eighth rank with the rook and the queen. I think Ponomariov just did not expect Black could allow that and it
does look like Black should be lost if he does 30. Re1
( 30. Rd1Placing the White rook on any file but the e-file seems to create more problems for Black because after he takes the pawn on a4, the White rook has more possibilities. )
30... Qd231. Re4?!This makes Black's life easier
but he did have to come up with some good defensive moves:
( 31. Rb1Rxa432. Rb8+Kg7it isn't clear if White is winning. Certainly a position like 33. Qf8+g3!? to prevent Qc1-Qf4 is also interesting. White would definitely be better in that case as well, but is it enough? 33... Kf634. Rb6+Kg535. Qxf7Qc1+36. Kh2Qf4+would probably allow Black to escape into a drawn endgame. )
31... Rxa4!32. Re8+Kg733. Qf8+Kf6The rook is misplaced on e8. And the Black queen is better on d2 because it can create threaten a perpetual with Qc1-Qf4. 34. Qe7+
( 34. Qh8+Kg5! )
34... Kg735. Qf8+Kf636. Re3Rf4!Perhaps this is what Ponomariov missed. Now Black is able to regroup and get everything defended. 37. Qh8+Kg538. Rg3+Kh639. Qf8+Kh540. Qc5+Rf5And the Black king is safe!
That left it all up to Board 1. In that game, Pavel Eljanov was doing very well against Fabiano Caruana of the United States, who is ranked No. 3 in the world. But Caruana found some resourceful ways to put pressure on Black to carry the American team across the finish line to victory:
a5Black seems to be doing just fine. White's pawn on e6 has become a liability, and each of White's major pieces is stuck defending one of his pawns. How is he supposed to improve his position? 23. b4!!This seems like it will eventually lead to the loss of the pawn on e6, but it also creates a passed pawn on the a-file. The change in the position is significant. 23... axb4The position still seems fine for Black, but the passed a-pawn puts a bit more pressure on him.
( 23... f424. Re4f325. g3Would have been similar to how the game actually progressed. )
24. cxb4cxb425. Rxb4Ra8White's pieces are no longer stuck defending weak pawns and he takes advantage of that flexibility to slowly increase the pressure on Black:
( 25... Rxb426. Qxb4Rxe6Eljanov probably thought that losing the e-pawn was enough of a deterrence for White not to play b4. But Caruana counts on the a-pawn, which looks dangerous: 27. a5or perhaps first Rxe6 and then a5. The computer says that after both moves chances are equal, and with perfect play, that might be true. But from a practical standpoint, it is hard to how Black can try to create a perpetual against Whites king, which makes the combination of White's a-pawn and queen very intimidating. It is perfectly understandable that Eljanov
tried to avoid this continuation. )
( 26... Kg827. a5Rxe628. Rxe6Qxe629. a6probably worried Black. The a-pawn stills more dangerous and Black has no play against the White king. Still, this was probably the best continuation. Even if White gets the pawn to a7, it probably won't be enough to win. But calculating several moves ahead, it probably was not obvious how Black would defend the resulting position. For example: 29... c530. Rb6Qxc431. a7Rxa7!is one possible trick that could have saved Black: 32. Qxa7Qc1+33. Kh2Qf4+with a perpetual check; there is no way the White king can escape. )
27. Re4f328. g4Kg8The White king has become more exposed, but White is able to push the a-pawn and play in the center making Black's defensive job more difficult: 29. Qd1!Rxe630. Qxf3Rxe431. Qxe4The exchanges of the previous few moves has clearly weakened the Black king. White has a clear edge. In the next few moves Caruana beautifully maneuvers his pieces to increase the pressure even more: 31... Qc732. c5!dxc533. Qc4+Kg734. Qc3+Kg835. Qc4+Kg736. Qxc5Qd637. Qc3+Qf638. Qe3Rf839. Re4!Another amazing idea. From e5, the Rook will dominate the whole board, while Black has no counterplay. 39... Rf740. Re5Qd641. a5Qd1+42. Kg2Qa143. Qe2e644. a6Qd445. Rxe6And now it is basically over. Black still has no checks but the combination of the weak Black King and White's
passed a-pawn is enough to make Black's defense impossible. 45... c546. Re7Qd5+47. f3c448. Rxf7+Qxf749. Qe5+Kh650. Qe3+Kg751. Qd4+Kh652. a7Qb753. h4
Pavel Eljanov of Ukraine was not able to hold off Fabiano Caruana of the United States in Round 6.
China, the third seed, which lost to Ukraine earlier in the competition, survived a scare against Argentina, the No. 26 seed. China was on the ropes after its top player, Wang Yue, missed some beautiful tactics to fall into a mating net against Sandro Mareco:
Qxb2Wang Yue has allowed Black too much counterplay. But Wang still doesn't quite sense the danger. 29. Bxc4?Nxc430. Nxc4Qe2!31. Rd2Qe1+32. Kg2Bh4!This was the move that White may have underestimated or overlooked. 33. Qxc5Rf3!!Another unexpected move that completely changes the game. White has no way to defend against the threat of Rg3+. 34. e6
Fortunately for China, Ding Liren and Li Chao, playing on Boards 2 and 3, respecitively, both won hard fought games to give China a narrow victory, 2.5 – 1.5.
Russia continued to be very solid, beating Germany, 3-1. Russia was led by Vladimir Kramnik, the former World Champion, who beat Georg Meier, while Ian Nepomniachtchi, Russia’s Board 4, won a messy game against Daniel Fridman. Though Russia lost earlier in the tournament to Ukraine, like China, it has done well otherwise.
Judit Polgar, the greatest women player in history, now retired, watching Magnus Carlsen get himself into some trouble.
As usual, Norway’s match drew a lot of attention because Magnus Carlsen, the World Champion was playing Board 1. For whatever reason, this seems to be the only tournament where Carlsen consistently performs below his level. In Round 6, he was doing very well against Julio Sadorra of the Philippines, but then he missed a crucial tactic and barely escaped with a draw:
( 21. Bxc7!And White
should be able to win back the pawn on c2 later on, after which White would simply be up a pawn. )
21... Re422. Bg3Ne5!23. Bxe5Rxe5Now
White has no advantage at all; Black will win the pawn on c5. It may have been time to think about trying to equalize, but Carlsen continues to try to press: 24. Ne3Rxc525. f4h626. Qb4Nd727. f5Bh5Carlsens aggression is only helping Black. 28. Qd2
( 28. g4Re5!29. Rf3Qg5The Black bishop will be saved by the counterattacks. )
28... Qg529. Qd4Re530. Qxd7Qxe3+The position looks very sketchy for White, but Carlsen defended very stubbornly to save the game.
Alexandra Kosteniuk of Russia, left, made some questionable moves against Anna Muzychuk of Ukraine.
In the women’s section, all eyes were on the grudge match between Russia and Ukraine. On the top board, Alexandra Kosteniuk of Russia, the former World Champion, was doing fine against Anna Muzychuk of Ukraine, until her position collapsed suddenly after some questionable knight maneuvers. She violated the axiom, “Don’t put knights on the side of the board,” and paid the price:
16. Re1This looks like a very typical position. White has control of the center and some advantages related to that, but the center can also be counterattacked. Black needs to choose a plan, but Kosteniuk doesn't choose the best one: 16... Ng417. Bg1Nb418. Rad1Black's knight moves seem a bit pointless. It isn't clear what she is trying to do. 18... c6I guess now I can see her idea. Black was obviously worried about Nd5 and thought this regrouping might improve her structure. But putting the knight on the side of the board is still not recommended, particularly not when a player gives free moves to the opponent. 19. a3Na620. e5!Now the knight on g4 is in trouble. 20... h521. h3Nh6Within a span of five moves both of Black's knights went from being placed nicely to the side of the board! White is clearly better and though Muzychuk took her time, the result was no longer really in doubt:
Meanwhile, on Board 4, Olga Girya of Russia seemed to be well on her way to win against another former World Champion, Anna Ushenina of Ukraine. But on move 40, Girya gave it all away with an unfortunate blunder! She showed incredible grit, however, to regain her advantage and level the score for the Russians:
Qf6White is controlling the whole board. She probably has a lot of good moves, but in time pressure, Girya played 40. Rf5??It looked like White completely forgot that Black could just play 40... Qxd4and the threat is Qxb2 mate. 41. Qg2Black is now fine. But Ushenina struggled to come to terms with the huge gift she had just been given. 41... Rxf542. Bxf5Qf6
( 42... Kd6and Qd5 next was the simplest. In the endgame, only Black could be better. )
43. Bg4Qe544. Rh3!The position looks about equal, but it is never certain when there are bishops of opposite color. The transfer of the rook to b3 will happen at the perfect time. The
White queen will then be free to roam the board, and the Black king
is certainly more exposed than the White king. 44... Qb545. Rb3Qc446. Be2!Of course White doesn't care about the pawn on e6. 46... Qxe647. Qxg5+Bf648. Qh5Black's exposed king is a serious problem. Black now makes things worse by letting the White rook on b3 get out of the pin: 48... Bg749. Bf3Qe5?50. Qg6!Qf651. Qh7With the rook free to roam, White has the attacking forces that she needs. 51... a552. Rb5!a453. Bd5Rd754. Qe4+Kd855. Qxa4Things look very bleak for Black. 55... Qd456. Qa8+Ke757. Qg8Qf658. Rb8Bf859. Bc4Rc760. Qd5Rd761. Qe4+Kd662. Rb6+
20. e4b5?missing a sweet little tactic. 21. Ng6!Qe822. Bxf7+Qxf723. Qxf7+Kxf724. Ne5+And White wins a pawn. The rest of the game was easy: 24... Ke825. Rxd8+Kxd826. Nxc6+Kc727. Rxc5Kb628. Rc2Rc829. Nd4
60. Ke3Chances are about equal, but Black becomes careless: 60... Kf7?61. Nh6+!Kg662. Nf5!Re6+63. Kf4The White knight now dominates the position and the pawn on b5 is in danger. 63... Be864. Rc7!White is even creating mating threats. 64... Bf765. Rb7Re566. Nd6Bc467. Nxc4bxc468. Rc7It is still not clear if White is clearly winning, but the position proved to be too difficult for Ju Wenjun and White eventually converted her advantage.
In other matches, the Georgian recovery (after their surprise loss against the Philipines in Round 2) was temporarily halted with a 2-2 draw against the hosts from Azerbaijan. The Indian women’s team has been a bit shaky in the event so far, but they squeezed out a win, 2.5 – 1.5, over Latvia led by Dronavali Harika, their top board, who had struggled in the event so far. That might point to better things to come for the team.
In Round 7, China will play Ukraine, which could be a very crucial match to decide the fate of the women’s gold medal. Russia will face a strong Polish team, but with the form that Russia has displayed so far, the Russian team is a clear favorite.
In the open section, everything has been going right for India so far. But the team, which won the bronze medal in the last Olympiad in Tromso, Norway, in 2014, will be put to test a big test when it faces the formidable American squad. Can India’s excellent team spirit do much when confronted with three of the world’s top 10 players?
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