The United States won the open division of the Chess Olympiad, while China took home the gold in the women’s section.
It was a long-time coming, but Tuesday the United States won the team gold medal in the open section at the 42nd Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan. The last time the United States won the Olympiad was in 1976, but the Soviet Union, Hungary and Yugoslavia had boycotted that competition because it was held in Israel. Before that, the last United States victory was in 1937, before the Soviet Union even played in the Olympiad.
In the women’s division, China also took the gold, holding off Russia by beating their rivals in the last round. Russia’s loss knocked the team from medal contention, allowing Poland and Ukraine, who both won their final matches, to take silver and bronze, respectively.
In the last round, the United States needed to beat Canada, which was much lower-ranked, to keep pace with Ukraine (which actually tied for first, but had to settle for silver because it had inferior tie-breakers; Russia took the bronze). It turned out to be a surprisingly hard-fought victory for the United States.
Evgeny Bareev of Canada and Fabiano Caruana during Round 11. Caruanan won.
The match started out encouragingly enough with Fabiano Caruana, the United States’ top player, coming up with an unusual opening set-up against Evgeny Bareev, a very experienced grandmaster who used to play for Russia. Bareev was unable to cope with Caruana’s idea, and the United States had its first point of the match.
a6This seems like a standard position in the Caro-Kann Defense, but Caruana now played something unexpected. 9. b4!It is an unusual idea for White to play on the queenside. Caruana's move prevents Black from playing c5 and forces him to find another plan. That turns out to be surprisingly difficult and Black's position deteriorates rapidly. 9... Nf510. c3f611. Bf4fxe512. dxe5Be713. g4Nh414. Nd4!Bf715. Bg3h516. gxh5Qc717. Bg4Whites advantage is already overwhelming.
The rest of the match was not so easy for the United States. On Board 2, Anton Kovalyov played very solidly against Hikaru Nakamura. And on Board 4, Eric Hansen found a really cool knight maneuver to win a pawn against Sam Shankland:
Qxf518. Ng3Qf619. Nh5!Qf520. Ng3a harmless repetition. 20... Qf621. Nh5Qf522. g4!And Black can no longer adequately defend his e-pawn. White's weakened kingside appears to give Black some compensation, but Hansen skillfully avoided any problems in the next few moves. 22... Qc823. Nxe5Nxe524. dxe5Qc725. Qe2Rad826. Nf4Rd727. Kg2Kh828. Rac1!An excellent way to regroup his pieces. 28... a629. Rc2Qd830. Qf3!And then the rook will go to e2. 30... Bc731. Rce2White has a big advantage.
The fate of the match rested on the game on Board 3 between Wesley So of the United States, ranked No. 6 in the world, and Alexandre Leisage, who was vastly outrated. Lesiege defended excellently, and it wasn’t clear that So could win until the very end:
After the United States knew that it had the gold, Shankland, wrote in an email, “It was a long event, full of tense moments, huge swings, successes and disappointments. Everyone was the hero of at least one match, and everyone needed his teammates to carry him at least once.” He closed with, “It’s been 79 years since team USA became undisputed World Champions, and I could not be more proud to have played for the squad that rewrote history.”
As is typical in many events, the last round was held at a much earlier time than usual. Not everyone adjusts so well to playing earlier, so there were many crucial games decided by sudden blunders. One of those happened in the match between Ukraine and Slovenia in the game on Board 3 between Anton Korobov (Ukraine) and Jure Borisek (Slovenia):
That gave Ukraine its quickest point, but it was perhaps not the most crucial error as Korobov was already a bit better in the position. Ukraine also won convincingly on Boards 1 and 4 to seal its win over Slovenia, 3.5-0.5.
India’s S.P. Sethuraman had a more unfortunate blunder in his game against Frode Urkedal of Norway:
The face of the World Champion, Magnus Carlsen, seemed to suggest that it had been a long tournament.
Magnus Carlsen, the World Champion, didn’t face much trouble on Board 1 against Pentala Harikrishna, but he also never came close to getting an advantage. On Board 2, Jon Ludvig Hammer of Norway played Baskaran Adhiban of India. The game ended in a draw, but Adhiban may have missed a nice little tactical idea:
In the end, the 2-2 score wasn’t so bad for India, as the team, which finished fourth on tie-breakers, would also have been fourth even if it had won the match. For Norway, it was a great result. Ranked No. 12 at the start, it finished fifth on tie-breakers, by far its best showing in an Olympiad.
There were other mistakes in other matches, including the one between England and Peru. England seemed to be doing well, but it lost its advantage after David Howell’s position fell apart because of an unfortunate move against Jorge Cori:
Ne7Black has a bit of compensation, but White's position was probably a bit better. However, after 28. Qf4Black played 28... f5!And the situation has changed completely. The threats of Qc6 and Ng6 are both very strong and White was unable to resist much longer: 29. Nf1Ng630. Qh2Qc631. g3Rh8the attack is clearly too strong.
In the end, England drew the match because of a nice win by Michael Adams over Emilio Cordova on the top board. England finished ninth on tie-breaks, while Peru, which was the 34th seed, had an incredible result, finishing tenth.
Georgia, which had a great run through much of the tournament, was less fortunate at the end against Turkey. On Board 2, Mikheil Mchedlishvilli couldn’t follow up on his brilliant win against Nakamura in Round 10. He was doing quite well in Round 11 against Alexander Ipatov, until he made a simple oversight:
Natalia Pogonina of Russia during Round 11. She won.
Mistakes affected the results in the women’s section as well. Guo Qi, China’s Board Board 4, certainly could have reacted better in the following position of her game against Natalia Pogonina of Russia:
Pogonina, Natalija vs. Guo, Qi
42nd Olympiad Women 2016 |Tromso NOR |Round 11.4 |13 Sep 2016 |ECO: E00 |*
29. Qc6Qd7?Black's move allowed White to take control after
( 29... axb4or Bxd6 would have been just fine for Black. )
30. b5!Now none of Black's pieces can really move. 30... h631. Be3f632. Nf5!And it is all over. 32... Qa733. Nxe7+Qxe734. exf6Qxf635. Bxb6
Fortunately for Guo, the other Chinese players were able to overcome her loss with some superb play. In particular, Ju Wenjun played a great positional game to beat Valentina Guinina, who still ended up being Russia’s top scorer for the Olympiad.
China had another nice win on Board 3 to seal the match and Olympic victory:
Tan, Zhongyi vs. Goryachkina, Aleksandra
42nd Olympiad Women 2016 |Tromso NOR |Round 11.3 |13 Sep 2016 |ECO: D43 |1-0
Bd645. Qe3!A brilliant idea. Black will not be able to stop Nb5 on the next move. 45... b446. Nb5!Qxb5
( 46... Qxe347. fxe3Bb848. c7is winning for White as White's knight can get back in time to stop the b-pawn. 48... Bxc749. Nxc7b350. Nb5Kg751. g4Kf652. Nc3Ke553. Kg3 )
47. Qxe6+Kg748. Qxd6and Black has no checks against the White king, so the endgame is an easy win for White. 48... Qb649. Kg2b350. Qe7+Kg851. Qb7
Poland and Ukraine won their respective matches by wide margins, though many of the games were not easy.
The medal prospects for both teams were aided by India and the United States drawing their match, 2-2. India, the No. 5 seed, was certainly disappointed with the result. On Board 2, Nazi Paikidze, the reigning United States Women’s Champion, had a lot of help from her opponent, Padmini Rout:
Padmini, Rout vs. Paikidze, Nazi
42nd Olympiad Women 2016 |Tromso NOR |Round 11.2 |13 Sep 2016 |ECO: B12 |0-1
Kd730. Bd2?This allows Black to completely change the course of the game.
( 30. Ra5!attacking the b-pawn was the best move, with the threat of Qxb5, when White would win a pawn as well as exchange the queens. )
30... Nd3!31. Qa5Qc5+32. Kh1f3!And now, though White is objectively fine, the initiative has passed to Black. White did not adjust well to this change in circumstances and went down quickly: 33. g3h5!34. Rae1Nxe135. Rxe1f2
On Board 3, Tania Sachdev was able to pull India even with a long, positional win over Anna Zatonskih. But on Board 4, Soumya Swaminathan missed some great winning chances to let Katerina Nemcova escape with a draw.
All-in-all, it was a remarkable and thrilling Olympiad — great for the players and the fans, too.
The Malaysian women's team before the final round.
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