India had been the last unbeaten and untied team. In the women’s section, five teams are tied for the lead.
The United States grabbed the sole lead of the open section of the Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan, with a crushing 3.5 – 0.5 win over India in Round 7. India had been the sole leader after Round 6 and the last unbeaten and untied team.
There were two other equally lopsided victories on the top boards as Russia beat the Czech Republic and Azerbaijan beat Croatia. In an upset, England downed China, the defending gold medalists, 3-1. It was China’s second defeat of the tournament and almost certainly ended any chance the team had to repeat as champion.
In the women’s event, Russia was held to a by Poland. That allowed four other teams — China, the United States, Azerbaijan and the Netherlands — to catch up to them. China, the top seed, did it the hard way with a hard-fought win over Ukraine, the No. 2 seed, and a co-leader after Round 6.
Despite the 3.5-0.5 score, the United States-India match wasn’t nearly so clear cut. On Board 4, America’s Sam Shankland, playing White, had gone horribly wrong very early in the game against S.P Sethuraman. Black had a huge advantage — the computers evaluated White’s position with a score of -10, meaning that it was the equivalent to being down 10 pawns, or a queen and a pawn! Surprisingly, the winning moves weren’t so clear or easy to find and Shankland kept finding ways to throw up obstacles and stay alive until Sethuraman lost his way:
Rxa2The position looks so ugly for White. His king is stuck on d3
and the computer even says it is almost -10.00, the equivalent of white being down 10 pawns. Usually when one side has such a huge advantage, the player on the worse side immediately resigns. But how Black should win is not clear so Shankland fights on: 27. Rh8+Ke728. Re8+Kf629. Be1Kg730. f4f5Qc4 is a mating threat! 31. Qb3In the next few moves Black had many ways to win but he had to find one of the right ideas. Sethuraman's moves don't look so bad, but his position becomes increasingly more difficult to play:
( 31. Bh4Qc4+!32. Bxc4dxc4# )
31... Qf7?!Black had to find a subtle way to make Ra3 possible:
( 31... Ra332. Rb2!!Rxb333. Rxg2+would lead to a draw! )
( 31... Rh2!or Kh7 and Ra3 next would avoid the White trick with Rb2 and it seems that Black should then win rather easily. But finding Kh7 is actually very difficult. )
32. Qd1Nc4?!33. Rd8Be7?
( 33... Nxe3!was now the only way to win but, like some of the early winning moves, this was not so easy to find. 34. Kxe3Bxf4+35. Kxf4Rg4+36. Ke3f4+37. Kf3Rg3+38. Bxg3Qh5+39. Kxf4Qf5+ )
34. Rd7!Rab235. Bxc4dxc4+36. Kxc4!Qe837. Rxb2Rxb238. Qa1!Black's initiative is gone and White
is basically better. Shankland eventually won the game.
As it turned out, even if Sethuraman had won, the Indian team would have probably lost. The top three players for the United States Fabiano — Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, and Wesley So, all of whom are ranked in the top 10 players in the world — was just too strong for India.
Caruana, who had Black on the top board, didn’t face many problems in drawing against Pentala Harikrishna, who is ranked No. 15 in the world. On Board 2, Nakamura dominated Baskaran Adhiban from the start. On Board 3, So played Black against Vidit Gujrathi, who is usually very solid. Vidit seemed to be doing fine after the opening, but then he chose a very questionable strategy that let So take control:
Qc715. Bf4?!Going for an ambitious but dubious plan. It ends f helping Black develop quickly. 15... Qc816. cxd5Nxd517. Bxb8Rxb818. Nd2If White had a couple of moves, he could deploy his knights perfectly on c4, etc. But there is not enough time: 18... Ba6!19. Nc4Nb4!20. Nxb4cxb421. b3Bxc422. Qxc4Qxc423. bxc4Rfc8Despite the opposite-color bishops, Black has a huge advantage because of his passed b-pawn. White had some defensive chances, but So kept the pressure up and eventually won.
The Czech Republic, led by David Navara, was no match for Russia (with their backs to camera) in Round 7.
Russia’s win over the strong Czech team was reflected in the score, as Russia dominated the match. The team’s top board, Sergey Karjakin, who will play Magnus Carlsen for the World Championship in November in New York City, won very smoothly and quickly against David Navara:
18. Ree1White has had a pleasant edge throughout the game, and now Navara collpases: 18... Nh5?19. exd5!Rxd520. Qa2The threats of axb5 and Qxd5 can't both be defended at the same time: 20... Nf421. axb5Rd622. bxc6Rg6A desperate try it's very easy to parry the Black threats: 23. Nd7Nxg224. Nfxe5
On Boards 2 and 3, Evgeny Tomashevsky and Ian Nepomniachtchi, respectively, also had little trouble with their opponents. With his win, Nepomniachtchi moved to a perfect score of seven wins in seven games. [Editors’s note, see Dennis Monokroussos’s column this week for more on Nepomniachtchi’s games and performance.]
Teimour Radjabov was in deep trouble in Round 7, but managed to turn things around.
Azerbaijan’s win over Croatia wasn’t quite as smooth. On Board 2, Teimour Radjabov of Azerbaijan, had a losing position against veteran Mladen Palac for a long time before pulling off a surprising turnaround at the very end:
46. Qg4g5?It seems that Palac thought he had already lost his advantage. Instead, playing g6 would probably have given him a huge advantage. Now, he probably expected a draw by perpetual check, but he is probably losing!
( 46... g647. Qh4h548. Qg5Qa8!Black has an advantage that should be big enough to win easily. )
47. Qh5!Kf848. Qxh6+Ke849. Qxg5!Rxf250. Qg8+Kd751. Qxf7+Kc852. Qg8+Kc753. Qh7+!The little tactic that Palac probably missed. The rook on b1 is lost.
Michael Adams playing Wang Yue in Round 7. Adams won.
China’s loss to England by a score of 3-1 was the surprise of the day.
In the 2014 Olympiad, when China took the gold, the team’s players lost just one game the entire tournament. This time, they have lost many games between them. The top board, Wang Yue, is usually very solid, but in Round 6 he was outplayed by Michael Adams, who displayed some nice technique.
The most exciting game of the match was on Board 4 between Li Chao and Nigel Short, the former World Championship contender. At 51, Short is well past his prime, but in this game he kept his calm in an amazingly complicated position:
( 34. f6!!gxf635. Bxe4Is the key move. The threats along the g-file would be very strong. 35... Bc4White now has a lot of ways to win, including playing Qg4, but the computers suggestion is particularly entertaining: 36. Qe6!!Bxe637. Bxf6+and mate next. )
34... exf435. Bxf8Bxd4!36. Qg4Once again the correct move was
( 36. f6!Bxf637. Qd7!Qxe3+38. Kh1Qd439. Qe8!Kxh740. Bd6!!The only move! White had to stop Re6 which would have prevented the perpetual. 40... Rxd641. Qh5+Kg842. Qe8+and a draw. )
36... Rc7!Black has defended everything. 37. Qh5f3!38. Rg4Be5?39. Bc5?The right idea of a perpetual with Qe8 - Qh5, but the wrong move order.
( 39. Qe8!would still have led to a perpetual check 39... Qxe3+40. Kh1Qe1+41. Rg1Kxh742. Bc5!f243. Qh5+Kg844. Qe8+and a draw. )
Anish Giri, left, of the Netherlands, and Alexei Shirov of Latvia during Round 7. Latvia won.
Another surprise was that the Netherlands, who were were among the co-leaders after Round 5, lost to Latvia. Latvia isn’t particularly strong on paper, but they have been powered by great performances on Boards 2 and 4 by Igor Kovalenko and Nikita Meskovs, respectively. In Round 7, they came through again to upset the Dutch team.
Carlsen on a display screen in the hall during Round 7.
Elsewhere in the tournament, Carlsen, who has struggled a bit so far, won a crushing game with Black against Dragun Solak of Turkey to help Norway win, 2.5-1.5. And Jobava Baadur, the top board for Georgia, beat Constanin Lupulescu to help lead the Georgian team over Romania, 3-1. Baardur now has 5 points in the six rounds that he has played.
Russia, backs to camera, and Poland during Round 7.
In the Women’s section, the big surprise of the day was Poland holding the formidable Russian team to a draw. Actually, the Russians were very lucky to have escaped with such a result. On Board 3, Aleksandra Goryakchina of Russia, who is only 16 years old, was completely outplayed by Horowska Szczepkowska:
Goryachkina, Aleksandra vs. Szczepkowska-Horowska, Karina
20. Bd3Black has played rather well to increase the pressure on White despite being a pawn down in the endgame. She continues dominating the position in the next few moves: 20... g521. Bxe4Bxe422. Nc3Bd323. Rd1Bc224. Rf1Rcd825. a4Bd326. Rd1Bc227. Rf1Bb3!After Black plays Bc4, White can't play Rd1 28. Kh1Bc429. Rg1Bd4!30. Nd1Re2Black completely controls the board. 31. a5Rc232. Re1Kg833. h4h634. hxg5hxg535. Kg1Kf7White has no good moves and she just collapses: 36. g3Rh8!and Bd5 and Rh1# next can't be stopped.
Qf7White had an edge for a while - not too much, but enough to not have to take any risks. But gradually the situation had changed and she wanted to restore her former edge all at once, so she played the very ambitious move 31. g4she probably didn't expect that g7 could be defended. Instead, White could have played
( 31. Qf3and she would have been perfectly fine. )
31... Be5!32. Qxc4
( 32. Bxe5Qxf2+was White obviously missed in her calculations. 33. Kh1Nxe534. Rxd8Qe1+35. Bf1Qxf1# )
32... Bxd433. cxd4Qxf2+Black is winning. 34. Kh1Rxd435. Qc3Nf436. Rg1Qxg1+
The Chinese women, who have yet to come through with a dominating performance so far, managed to squeeze out a crucial win against Ukraine. All the games were close, and ended in draws, except on Board 3. There, Tan Zhongyi won a rather easy game against Natalia Zhukova:
Kh7White has had a solid edge for a long time, and Black really
shouldn't be just ignoring the d-pawn like this. It was time for Black to try to play defense: 23. d6!Qc624. d7Rf825. Nb6f526. Qd6Rf727. Nca4Qxd628. Rxd6Black's position is too cramped and uncomfortable and White had no trouble converting her advantage.
Round 8 should be very exciting as both sections feature match-ups on the top board between the United States vs. Russa. The Russians are clearly the favorites in the women’s section, but as Round 7 showed, anything can happen. The confrontation in the open section is perhaps the most anticipated of the whole tournament!
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