After a draw on the top board between Russia and the United States, three teams lead the open section. In the women’s section, after upsetting the Russian team, the United States is now tied for the lead with China.
After Round 8 of the 42nd Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan, the United States is in good position to fight for a team gold medal — not just in the open section, which was expected, but also in the women’s division, which is a bit of a surprise.
Round 8 featured exceptional pairings on the top board in each section: Russia vs. the United States. In the open section, the face-off ended in a tense drawn match. But in the women’s division, the American women pulled off a big upset by beating the defending champions in the event.
The United States is now among the leaders in both sections. In the open section, it is tied with India and Ukraine, who both won in Round 8, while in the women’s section, the Americans are tied with China, who crushed Azerbaijan, 3.5-0.5, on Saturday.
The Russia vs. United States match attracted a lot of interest.
Russia’s two top scorers in the Olympiad through seven rounds - Sergey Karjakin (6 points out of 7) and Ian Nepomniachtchi (7/7!) — both had White in Round 8. On the bottom board of the match, Russia also had an edge because the team’s fourth player, Alexander Grischuk, outranked Ray Robson of the United States by a pretty big margin.
But the beginnig of the match looked quite good for the United States. Fabiano Caruana, who is ranked No. 3 in the world, neutralized Karjakin’s edge with White on the top board, Wesley So, ranked No. 7, did even better by outplaying Nepomniatchtchi on Board 3. Black had an advantage soon after the opening:
22. Nd4Ne6!Giving up the light-squared bishop was definitely a surprise. It also feels a bit dangerous for Black, but So evaluated, correctly, that gaining control of the central squares is a lot more important. 23. Nxf5Rxf524. Bd3Rf4!It is surprising that White doesn't seem to have any play on the kingside.
( 24... Rxe525. Bxg6!Rxe1+26. Qxe1hxg627. Re3Black is up a pawn but he no longer has control of the center. White should have more than enough compensation for his small material deficit. )
25. Bxg6hxg626. Qd1Raf827. Rf3Qb4!Black has control of the key squares on both sides of the board! 28. Rxf4Rxf429. Nf3Qxa4Black has won a second pawn. The game continued for another 20 moves but White was in too deep a hole.
Hikaru Nakamura of the United States and Vladimir Kramnik of Russia have had many interesting matches against each other, but in Round 8 they played a relatively calm draw. On Board 4, Robson, had played a super solid line against Grischuk, who had opted for the Berlin Defense. It seemed unlikely that Robson would face any trouble.
But he is a tactical player by nature and he clearly didn’t feel comfortable just playing solidly. He seemed to alternate between playing active moves and trying not to compromise his position. This indecisiveness proved costly, as Grischuk soon created some pressure. In the end, Robson blundered and walked into a lost king-pawn endgame:
( 38. Bh3!It looks ugly to put the bishop here,
but it was the only way to keep fighting. It would be very difficult for Black to make progress. 38... Qh539. Kg2Kf640. Qd3!Preventing Qd1. Then White could play Kg1 and Kg2 over and over, just waiting for Black to try to do something. 40... Ke641. Kg1The game is still very tense. Black's king could perhaps go to the queenside to support the move b6, but it doesn't look easy to make progress. )
38... fxe439. Qf2
( 39. Qg3+Qxg340. hxg3Kg641. Kf2Kf542. Ke3Kg443. Kf2h544. Ke3h445. gxh4Kxh4The f-pawn will fall and Black should be able to win. )
India was beaten decisively by the United States in Round 7, but it bounced back strongly against England, a team that it matched up well against. The first three boards were solid draws, so it all came down to S.P. Sethuraman on Board 4 against Nigel Short.
Nigel Short and S.P. Sethuraman at the start of Round 8.
Sethuraman had lost a heartbreaking game from a winning position against Sam Shankland in Round 7, but he showed no signs of carrying that burden in Round 8. (Shankland even complemented Sethuraman on his Facebook page.) Short, who played for the World Championship against Garry Kasparov in 1993, played some very interesting moves, including a surprising maneuver in which he switched his queen to h8:
20. g4!?Qh8!The queen looks terribly misplaced on h8, but I think the idea is kind of sweet. It will come back into play after Nd7 and g6 and may turn out to be quite well positioned after all as becomes apparent later.
26. Qe2Qe5This turned out to not be such a good square for the queen. Perhaps Black should have played Rfe8. 27. Rhe1!Short probably didn't expect this because the h2 pawn is no longer defended adequately.
( 27. f4isn't possible because of 27... Rxf4! )
( 27... Qxh2!had to be played, but Short got cold feet: 28. Qb5!?White could also play Qxh2, but that was certainly not what Short was worried about. 28... Ne5the position remains very complicated. There is no easy way to exploit the position of the queen on h2. )
28. f4!This move is now very strong because Black cannot reply Rxf4. 28... Qe429. Bc1Qa4
( 29... Qxe230. Rxe2White is simply up a pawn in the endgame. )
30. a3Nf831. f5!Now White has an extra pawn and the initiative, though the position is still complicated. 31... c432. fxe6Rb733. e7!A precise move. 33... Bxe734. Qf3!Again, Sethuraman finds the most precise continuations. This was particularly hard because he had to have foreseen his 38th move. 34... cxb335. Qxd5+Kh836. cxb3Qa637. g5!!The only way to win! Now the White rook is able to attack the pawn on h4. 37... Kg738. Bf4!Bxa339. Be5+Kh740. Re4!It is all over. 40... Ne641. Rxh4+
Ruslan Ponomariov, left, about to become another victim of Baadur Jobava.
Georgia has been doing quite well in this Olympiad, powered by their top board, Baadur Jobava. In Round 8, he was against at his creative best, winning a brilliant miniature against Ruslan Ponomariov of Ukraine, a former FIDE World Champion. As he often does, Jobava started with an obscure, unorthodox opening. Black seemed to be doing fine until Ponomariov missed some brutal tactics:
1. d4Nf62. Nc3!?This variation used to be considered dubious even among lower-level players, but Jobava has been a champion of such side variations and he has done surprisingly well with them. 2... d53. Bf4c54. e3cxd45. exd4a66. Bd3Nc67. Nge2Essentially, White is playing some sort of Queen's Gambit Declined, but with colors reversed. In that sense, White has a good version of that opening because he has an extra tempo. But this isn't a big problem for Black. He has a choice of many good plans. 7... e68. Qd2b59. O-OBe710. a3Bd711. h3O-O12. Rfe1Na513. Rad1Black seems to be doing well. 13... Qb614. Ng3Rfc8?Ponomariov becomes careless. 15. Nf5!exf516. Rxe7Be617. Bh6!!gxh6
( 17... Qd818. Bxg7!Qxe719. Qg5! )
( 18... Bd719. Rde1White is in no hurry; Black doesn't have any way to untangle his pieces
and White can transfer his rook on e1 to g3 etc. If he continued 19... Qd620. Rxd7Qxd721. Qg5+Kf822. Qxf6Kg823. Re3should be crushing (among several possibilities) )
( 19. bxc3Ne4 )
19... Kf820. Qxf6Rxd321. cxd3and with the threats of Rxf7, or just Re1, etc., Black's position is collapsing.
Alexei Shirov, left, and Igor Kovalenko of Latvia.
The host team from Azerbaijan was stretched to its limit in its win over Latvia, 2.5-1.5. Latvia had been doing surprisingly well in the competition, but its dream run came to an end after Eltaj Safarli of Azerbaijan managed to convert his advantage into a victory on Board 4 against Nikita Meskovs.
Among the surprises in Round 8 was that Norway pulled even with India and Ukraine after a tough win against Peru.
Magnus Carlsen, the Norwegian World Champion, has not been playing all that well, but it is still very intimidating to face him. In Round 8, he beat Emilio Cordovo after a messy scramble in mutual time pressure. There were quite a few interesting possible continuations at the end and Corodovo was probably disappointed that he missed some of his opportunities:
38. Qe6!Rf839. Rgf2At this point, Carlsen had a winning continuation, if he could have found:
( 39. g6!Qd1+40. Kxh2Qh5+41. Kg3!and now after Qg6+, White could play Kh3, pinning the queen! 41... hxg642. Rgf2!Qg5+43. Kh3Qh6+44. Kg2and the king escapes the checks. 44... Qg745. Rxf7Rxf746. e5!dxe547. d6The pawn can't be stopped because Black is so tied down. )
( 39... Kg7Would have provided the most resistance. Black might even have had chances to gain a draw. 40. Qh6+Qxh641. Rxf7+Rxf742. gxh6+Kg643. Rxf7Kxf744. Kxh2Kg645. Kg3Kxh646. e5It seems that White could win after playing his pawn to e6, but there is no way to get an entry into the kingside. 46... Kg6!47. e6c448. Kg4h649. Kh4h550. Kg3Kf6and White has no way to win if Black chooses to do nothing. )
( 40... Qxg641. Rg2And it also would be all over. )
Among the other matches, the Netherlands recovered from two consecutive tough losses with a win against a strong Cuban team. Anish Giri of the Netherlands and Leinier Dominguez Perez of Cuba drew on the top board, but Erwin L’Ami and Robin van Kanmpen both won smooth games on the next two boards. The Dutch team should have won 3 - 1, but on Board 4, in a very drawish endgame, Benjamin Bok was caught in a beautiful zugzwang:
Kc647. Bf3!Bxf348. Kxf3I think this is a beautiful zugzwang position! Black has no moves that allow him to continue to defend all his pawns. Bok gave up the g5 pawn but he didn't really have sufficient drawing chances after that.
China, the defending gold medalists and No . 3 seed, continued to fall apart. After leading the tournament early, it had lost two matches. In Round 8, it lost its second consecutive match, this time to Hungary, by the narrow margin of 2.5-1.5. The only decisive game was on Board 3 between Li Chao and Zoltan Almasi. Li was doing well but then lost his concentration, with disastrous consequences:
19. Rxe5Bxg2!The best - or really only - practical chance. 20. Kxg2Qg4+21. Kh1Qf3+22. Kg1Qg4+23. Kf1Qh3+24. Ke1??
( 24. Ke2White would still need to be a bit careful after Ng4 but it would clearly have been an improvement over Ke1. 24... Qxh225. Qf5!is perhaps what Li missed, but that is hard to imagine. )
24... Qxh2!Possibly Li forgot about how strong this simple move is and assumed that White would still be doing well. 25. f4Qg1+26. Bf1Ng4White's position is collapsing; there are too many threats, like Qf2, etc. 27. Qc4Rae8And also this! 28. c6Nxe529. fxe5Rxe5+30. Kd1Rf5It is all over. 31. c7d332. Qxd3Rxf1+33. Kc2Rxa1
Irina Krush, left, and Alexandra Kosteniuk, early in their game in Round 8.
On the top board, Alexandra Kosteniuk of Russia, the former Women’s World Champion, was doing very well on the White side of Sicilian Defense against Irina Krush. But Krush held on and after many inaccuracies by Kosteniuk, Krush turned things around with a nice trick in the following position:
Kosteniuk, Alexandra vs. Krush, Irina
42nd Olympiad Women 2016 |Tromso NOR |Round 8.1 |10 Sep 2016 |ECO: B42 |0-1
42. c4Qd2!A somewhat unexpected move. 43. Qxd2
( 43. Rf8+!would have allowed White to avoid losing the exchange because Rxf8 isn't good: 43... Rxf8After Kh7 chances are about equal. 44. Rxf8+Kxf845. Qb8+!Ke746. Qe8# )
43... Nxd244. cxd5White still had compensation for the exchange but after a few more inaccuracies, Kosteniuk couldn't hold on any longer.
But just this win wasn’t enough, as on Board 2, Valery Gunina of Russia continued her excellent run by defeating Nazi Paikidze, the reigning United States Champion, quite comfortably.
On Board 4, Russia’s Girya Olga found a very interesting pawn sacrifice to take the initiative against Katerina Nemcova, but she then lost her way. When Nemcova had a chance to recapture the initiative, she took it and the, with very precise play, scored another crucial win for the United States:
Nemcova, Katerina vs. Girya, Olga
42nd Olympiad Women 2016 |Tromso NOR |Round 8.4 |10 Sep 2016 |ECO: B12 |1-0
12. Bxg5f6!Very ambitious and a good move! 13. exf6Bd614. Re1Kf7?Black's follow-up to her earlier moves is incorrect.
( 14... Ndf8!15. Bd3Bg4Would be similar to the game, but Black has a huge initiative. 16. Bxg6+Nxg617. Qd3Qh7!one of the key advantages of playing Nf8 - the 7th rank is available for the queen. )
15. Bd3Bg416. Bxg6+!Kxg617. Qd3+Kf718. Qe3Bh2+19. Kf1The White king is safe, while the Black king isn't. 19... e520. Nxh2Rxh221. f3Be622. Bf4Rh523. Bxe5White is ahead by too many pawns.
The Muzychuk sisters, Anna, left, and Mariya early in Round 8.
Ukraine was also a favorite to join the leaders, but they were held to a draw by Hungary. The crucial game was the loss of Mariya Muzychuk of Ukraine, the former World Champion, to Szidonia Vajda:
Muzychuk, Mariya vs. Lazarne Vajda, Szidonia
42nd Olympiad Women 2016 |Tromso NOR |Round 8.2 |10 Sep 2016 |ECO: E97 |0-1
f511. exf5?Precipitating some forced lines, in which Muzychuk misses a brilliancy! 11... e412. Nd4Nxf5!13. Be3Nxe314. fxe3Qh415. Bxh5Be5!!The move that makes 11.exf5 turn out to be such a bad move. 16. g3Bxg3!17. Re2
( 17. hxg3Qxg3+18. Kh1Rf2and mate follows. )
17... Bf2+18. Kh1gxh5Black is up a pawn, has powerful bishops, and the initiative. Black went on to win without too many problems.
The tournament situations in both sections are far from resolved.
In the open section, three teams are tied for the lead, but the United States would seem to be in the best position. It leads on tie-breaks and has the strongest team, on paper. It also has the easiest pairing, on paper, in Round 9 as it faces the Norway. Norway is, of course, led by Carlsen, the World Champion, but the team’s strength falls off rather sharply after him.
In addition, the other two co-leaders, Ukraine and India face each other, so they could knock each other out of the lead if they draw. The other two teams that are just behind the leaders, Russia and Azerbaijan, also play each other.
In the women’s division, the two co-leaders, China and the United States are paired. China is the clear favorite and the United States will once again have to exceptionally if it is to stand a chance.
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