The United States and Ukraine remain tied for the lead in the open section, while China and Russia will play each other for the gold in the women’s division.
There are only a few teams left in the fight for the gold medals at the 42nd Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan.
In the open section, the United States and Ukraine are tied for the lead and are the clear favorites to win. Russia is the only team within striking distance, but it has already played both of the leaders. To have a shot, it has to beat its last round opponent, Italy, and then hope that both the United States and Ukraine lose to their opponents, Canada and Slovenia, respectively. That would put the three teams into a tie and then it would come down to the one of the mathematical tie-breaker systems.
Such a scenario is extremely remote, partly because the United States and Ukraine (and Russia, too) are large favorites in their last matches as they outrank all their opponents by wide margins.
In the women’s section, the situation is relatively straight-forward. China leads Russia by 2 points, or one match victory, and they play each other. If China wins or draws the match, it is the champion. If Russia wins, it will go to tie-breakers.
One interesting thing about this Olympiad is the number of favorites that performed well below expectations. In the open section, China, the defending gold medalists, have lost three times. Azerbaija, which was the No. 4 seed, has also lost three times.
On the other side of the ledger are the teams that have done far better than expected, including Canada (No. 25 seed), Slovenia (No. 29), Peru (No. 34), and Italy (No. 36). All four are among the top ten teams in the rankings heading into the last round, which is also the reason they are playing a role (as underdogs) in which team wins the tournament.
Fabiano Caruana, left, playing Baadur Jobava, as Hikaru Nakamura and Magnus Carlsen observe. In the background, in the purple shirt is Sam Shankland.
In Round 10, the United States faced Georgia (the No. 20 seed), a team that, on paper, it should have beaten handily. But Hikaru Nakamura, Board 2 for the Americans, who had flirted with trouble earlier in the tournament, only to always escape, finally played with fire one too many times, this time against Mikheil Mchedlishvili:
12. e4Not exactly an error, but not the best move either. Nakamura is being
provocative, which can backfire. 12... dxc413. d5Bxb214. Qxb2cxd515. Rfd1?An error, and a simple one at that for a player like Nakamura who can
calculate so well. Instead, 15. ed5 Bd5 16. Rfd1 c3 17. Qc3 e6, would just
have been equal. 15... d4Of course. A simple reply. Now if 16. Rd4, then
16... Qb6 and Black keeps his extra pawn. 16. bxc4Nc6Black completes his
development and supports his d-pawn, which is immediately dangerous. 17. Qxb7Qc818. Qb5White has desire to trade queens, Black has a clear edge
afterward. 18... Rb819. Qc5Rb720. Nf3Rd821. Nd2White does not have
enough time to capture the d-pawn. 21... d3?!A bit premature. White could
now have played 22. e5 and after 22... Rc7 23. Bc6 Rc6 24. Qe7, Black will
eventually have to take on c4 with his bishop and the chances will be equal. 22. Rab1?Rc7Now White is clearly in trouble. 23. Rb6Nd424. Qxa5Bxc425. Nf3Ne2+26. Kh1Be6Black is clearly winning now; White cannot stop the
invasion along the file, after which the d-pawn will be very powerful. 27. Ne127. Nd2 was better. Now there is little that White can do as his position
collapses. 27... Rc128. Rxc1Qxc129. Rc629. Re6 is no better, for the
same reason... 29... d2Not the most accurate. After 29... Qd1, it would be
lights out. For exmaple: 30. Qd8 Kg7 31. Qa5 d2, etc. 30. Qxd8+Kg731. Rxc1dxc1=QWhite is temporarily up a pawn, but he is completely lost. 32. Qa5Nc3Winning the knight. The rest is easy. 33. Bf3Qxe1+34. Kg2h535. Qb4Bxa236. Qxe7Bc437. Qe5+Kh738. Kh3Qxf239. Qxc3Bf1+After 40. Kh4 f6!
41. h3 (41. Qf6 Qh2 42. Kg5 Qg3 43. Bg4 Qg4, mate) g5! 42. Kh5 Qg3, the threat
of mate on h4 wins, and White has no good checks because the Black queen
covers the square c7.
It was only the second game, collectively, that the United States had lost all tournament. Fortunately for the Americans, Wesley So, who has perhaps been the team’s most consistent performer, came through again on Board 3 against Levan Pantsulaia:
12. Bc3This is a fairly standard type of position arising out of one of the
variations of the English. Chances are about equal. 12... f6The only way
to defend the e-pawn. 13. Qd2a4White has a few reasonable moves here,
including 14. e4 or 14. Rfd1. 14. Bb2?A blunder and also an inexplicable
move. What is the idea? 14... axb315. axb3b5!16. Ne3Na5And White must
lose a pawn. 17. Qb4Nxb318. Ng5?White finds a clever solution -- that
makes things worse. After the following forced sequence of moves, Black will
be winning. 18... hxg519. Bxa8It looks like Black has a problem because
if he plays 19... Qa8, then 20. Qe7. 19... c5!20. Rxc5Qxa821. Rxb5Nc622. Qd6Nbd4Good enough; 22... Re8 was simpler. The smoke has cleared and
Black has two pieces for a rook and pawn, but Black's pieces also control the
center of the board. Black is clearly better. 23. Bxd4Nxd424. Rb2Rd825. Qb6f526. Rfb1f4!27. Nc4?!White plays actively, underestimating the
danger. Better was 27. Nd1. 27... e428. e3?White continues to fall apart. 28... fxe329. fxe3exd330. exd4Bxc4The rest is easy. 31. Qxg6Qd532. Rf2Qxd433. Rb2Qe534. Rbd2Rd635. Qf5Qe1+36. Rf136. Kg2 Bd5 37.
Kh3 Be6, etc. 36... Qxd237. Qc8+Kh7White finally concedes as there is no
David Navara, back to camera, and Pavel Eljanov, during Round 10. Nona Gaprindashvili, the former Women's World Champion, is walking by the board.
Ukraine kept pace by beating the Czech Republic, 3-1. Ukraine was led by Pavel Eljanov, who beat David Navara in a game in which Navara just kind of collapsed after achieving a decent position out of the opening:
15. b4This position arose out of an anti-Berlin Defense opening. White has
more space, but Black is fine for the moment. 15... Nd8Black's idea, of
course, is Ne6 and then Nf4. The knight will be annoying there, but there will
be no direct threat. 16. d4?!An overreaction to Black's plan; 16. Qc2 was
fine. 16... exd417. Qc2!?An interesting idea. White offers a pawn
sacrifice to open the position and try to exploit the weak pawn cover around
Black's king. 17... Bg6Black finds a different way to accept the pawn sacrifice than by immediately taking the pawn, judging that the position could
quickly become dangerous if he does. 18. cxd4Nc6The knight returns, but the situation in the
center has changed drastically now. 19. Qc3Nxe420. Nxe4Rxe421. b5Ne722. Rxe4Bxe423. Re1Bg6So far, White has compensation for his pawn
sacrifice. 24. Nh2Nf525. Ng4Kg7A counter-intuitive move, as the king
steps into a discovered check, but it is perfectly safe because 26. d5
accomplishes nothing after 26... Bd4. 26. Re4?A blunder. But note that
Black cannot play 26... d5 because of 27. Be5 followed by 28. Nf6, 26... Rf8Now Black threatens d5, so... 27. d5+f628. Re6Bd429. Qe1Rf7White
is over-extended. 30. Bd3?A big error. White's position collapses. 30... Nxg3!31. Bxg6Kxg632. Qb1+Kg733. Qd3h534. Qxd4?A final blunder.
It is over now. 34... Qxe635. dxe6Ne2+After 36. Kf1 Nd4 37. ef7 hg4,
Black wins easily.
Sergey Karjakin and Vladimir Kramnik against Pentala Harikrishna and Baskaran Adhiban (obscured). Igor Kovalenko of Lativa, left, watches, as does Alexander Grischuk of Russia.
The main damage was on Board 1, where Sergey Karjakin of Russia (who will play for the World Championship title in November in New York City against Magnus Carlsen of Norway, the reigning champion) lost to India’s top player, Pentala Harikrishna:
23. Nh5Black's position is okay, but white's extra space, particularly his
e-pawn, which controls key squares, gives him an edge. 23... a3?!It is
understandable that Black was tired of supporting this pawn, but now it will
be even weaker; 23... Ra8 made more sense. 24. b4!It is possible that
underestimated this move. 24... Ne625. Qd2Ng5Black has no real plan. 26. Ng4Suddenly White has threats around the Black king. Right now he is
just threatening to win Black's queen with Nf6. 26... Qf5??An inexplicable
blunder. Black had to play 26... Kh8. 27. Nhf6+Of course. White wins an
exchange. 27... Kh828. Nxe8Rxe829. Rxc7Nf430. Qe3Nge631. Rc3Qg632. Qg3Ra833. Kh2h534. Ne3Qh735. Rec1Qe436. Rc8+Rxc837. Rxc8+Kh738. Qf3The game is effectively over. The rest is mop up. 38... Qxf339. gxf3Nxd440. Rc7b541. Rxf7Nde642. Rd7d443. Nc2d344. Ne1
15. Nd1!Kramnik already has a plan in mind of how to reposition his pieces,
which is why he retreats the knight to d1, not e2. 15... e516. Nf2c5While Black's moves look logical, they have one drawback: he is placing his
pawns on the same color as his bishop, thereby making it less useful. 17. Qe2Nc618. Bg4!The bishop will relocate to a much better diagonal via e6. 18... Kh819. Be6exf420. gxf4g5?!Black begins to panic; he can already see the
storm clouds on the horizon. 21. Ng4gxf422. Bxf4Qe8The transformation
in just a few moves is startling. White is clearly better now as his bishops
control so much space. 23. e5Imprecise. It was time to think about the
other side of the board and play 23. Qb5. 23... Bh424. Bc4Qg625. Kh1Bg526. Bh2Nb627. Bd3Qe628. Qe4Qd529. e6Rae830. Rxf8+Rxf831. Ne5Qxe4+32. Bxe4Nd833. a4Nxe6The e-pawn did its duty. 34. a5Nc835. Nd7Re836. Be5+Ng737. Rg1Good enough, though 37. Rf1 was better. 37... Bh638. Bxb7Ne739. Nf6Rf840. Be4Ng8Black's position is almost comical. It is
unbelievable how tied up he is. 41. Nxh7Re842. Ng5Re743. Bd3Bxg544. Rxg5Nh645. Bxg7+Rxg746. Rh5Black will lose the knight.
The English team, left to right, Nigel Short, Gawain Jones, David Howell, and Michael Adams.
Azerbaijan’s latest loss was pegged on it by England, 2.5-1.5. The difference in the match was England’s two bottom boards, Gawain Jones and Nigel Short, who both won, beating Arkadij Naiditsch and Eltaj Safarli, respectively. Short, who played for the World Championship in 1993, has always had a somewhat odd style. When it works, it is brilliant, as it did against Safarli, it is brilliant:
16. Bc3White probably did not see what was about to happen. 16... Nxd317. cxd3g5!An anti-positional move that forces White's queen away from the
protection of f2. 18. Qh5Ng619. Nh2??White did not want to deviate from
classical principles, but against a player like Short it is sometimes
necessary. White had to play 19. g3 to control f4, as ugly as that move
looked. 19... Bc5And White has no good replies. If 20. Nhf3, then 20...
Nf4 21. Qh6 Bf8! trapping the queen. 20. Nb3Bxf2+21. Kh1Bxe1More
precise would have been 21. d4 first. 22. Rxe1Qd623. Ng4Bxg424. Qxg4White just does not have enough compensation for his material deficit. 24... Qd725. Qf3Re826. Rf1f527. Qh5g428. Nd4Re529. Nc2d430. Nxd4Rd5It is impressive how Black's domination of the light squares controls the
game. 31. Ne2Rxd332. hxg4Rd133. Rg1Rxg1+34. Nxg1fxg4White is tied
up and has no counterplay.
In the women’s section, China put itself in perfect position to win the gold by beating Poland, its closer pursuer before Round 10. It was no surprise that China was led by Hou Yifan, the Women’s World Champion, who outplayed and outcalculated Monika Socko:
19. Nxb519. Qd3 might have been better. 19... Rxe420. Rxe4Nxe421. Qa4?An error, based on a faulty calculation. She clearly missed Black's 23rd
move. 21... Bxd522. Nh4Nxh423. Bxe4Qe8!Oops. The two cross pins (along
the a4-e8 diagonal and along the e-file) are decisive. White cannot play 24.
Bd5 because of 24... Qe1 mate. 24. gxh4Bxe4The rest is relatively easy. 25. Qa5Qd726. h3h627. Nc3Bf328. Kh2Qe729. Qa6Qe5+30. Kg1Qe631. Kh2Qg632. Qf1Qf633. Kg3Bc634. Qe2d535. Qg4d436. Nb1Qe5+37. Qf4Qe138. Qf5Qg1+39. Kf4Qxf2+40. Ke5f6+Black wins the queen.
One can only wonder what Ian Nepomniachtchi, left, and Magnus Carlsen were talking about that produced such a face on the champion.
In the open section, the path for the United States and Ukraine is also pretty clear. Of the two, the United States would seem to have the inside track as it has the better tie-breakers.
If the United States wins, it would be its first gold medal since 1976. But that Olympiad, at Haifa, Israel, was boycotted by the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries, including Hungary, because of its location in Israel. Before that, the United States last won in 1937 — the last of four consecutive golds (1931, 1933, 1935, and 1937), when the American teams included players such as Samuel Reshevsky, Reuben Fine, Isaac Kashdan and I.A. Horowitz.
It hasn’t been nearly as long a drought for Ukraine. It last won in 2010 and before that in 2004.
Dylan Loeb McClain is a journalist with more than 25 years of experience. He was a staff editor for The New York Times for 18 years and wrote the paper’s chess column from 2006 to 2014. He is now editor-in-chief of WorldChess.com.
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