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    « Olympiad, Round 10 Game of the Day | Main | Olympiad, Rounds 8 & 9: USA Beats Russia, Four Teams Lead »
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    Sep072012

    Olympiad, Round 10: Russia, China and Armenia Lead

    Not so easy come, easy go for the Americans. Boards 1, 2 and 4 were drawn in their match with China, and all that remained was Alexander Onischuk trying to hold against Ding Liren. He was a pawn down in a rook ending, with all the pawns on one side, and with plenty of time on the clock. Normally, the draw should have been routine. Instead, after 54.g4, Onischuk rejected the obvious and sufficient 54...hxg4 for 54...Ra1. In fact this wasn't so bad, but it was the first step in a terrible direction. Onischuk may have missed White's next move, 55.g5, but this was only a trick. First off, the passive 55...Ra6 should be enough to hold the draw, but the best move was the obvious 55...fxg5! After 56.Rd6+ Kf5 57.Rd5+ Kg6 58.Rxg5+ (58.hxg5 h4 59.f4 h3 draws immediately) Kh6 Black has a tenable ending - in fact, it's drawn even without Black's h-pawn. Unfortunately, Onischuk rejected both 55...fxg5 and even 55...Ra6, uncorked the horrid 55...Rh1??, and was immediately and manifestly lost after 56.Rd6.

    Ironically, the Russians won their match against Argentina in part by saving a similar ending. They won one game, when in a normal-looking Sicilian position Diego Flores played 17...b5?? against Sergey Karjakin. It's a perfectly normal kind of move; it's just that here, after 18.Nd5 Bxd5 19.exd5, Black was left to choose between positional capitulation (19...Ne7 20.c3 Nbxd5 21.Rxd5 Nxd5 22.Qxd5 etc.) and the loss of material (as in the game). Two games were drawn pretty routinely, and then it came down to Dmitry Jakovenko holding a pawn-down rook ending against Sandro Mareco.

    Finally, there's the Armenian story. They followed inverse strategy, drawing with White and winning with Black on boards 1 and 3: Levon Aronian and Vladimir Akopian defeated Anish Giri and Ivan Sokolov, respectively.

    Those are the leaders, and the only other team within a point is Ukraine. (They defeated the Azeris 2.5-1.5, with the sole decisive game coming on board 2, with Ruslan Ponomariov beating Eltaj Safarli.) There's one round to go, which comes after tomorrow's rest day, and then on Sunday the final top pairings are these:

    Ukraine 16 - China 17
    Hungary 15 - Armenia 17
    Russia 17 - Germany 15
    Poland 15 - USA 15

    (Remember that 2-1-0 scoring is being used. All other teams have 14 points or fewer.) As the board 1 match will produce a team with at least 18 points, all the 15-pointers are shut out of the race for gold. But silver and bronze could come down to tiebreaks, and I'm not sure what the situation is there. According to reporting in Chess Today - and they weren't completely sure either - the first tiebreaker is the opponent's cumulative score, only then followed by board points. As that first tiebreaker is highly volatile, I'll leave analyzing that to my more industrious readers. Those who want to look up information of this sort may wish to investigate the official site and the full list of pairings.

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    Reader Comments (6)

    Naka's tweet after the round:

    ‏@GMHikaru
    The cruel and harsh reality of playing in a team chess event is that you are only as good as your teammates.

    Poor Onischuk :)

    [DM: That's true (if unkind, coming from a teammate while the event is still ongoing), but the problem isn't that Onischuk wasn't good enough to save that game; it's that he was more than good enough but didn't. Is there anything worse in sport than defeating oneself?]

    September 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJaideepblue

    The tiebreak rules can be found at http://www.fide.com/fide/handbook.html?id=95&view=article, clause 14, and the current tiebreak scores are at http://results.chessolympiadistanbul.com/tnr77681.aspx?art=0&rd=10&lan=1&flag=30.

    September 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdfan

    The first tiebreak is Sum of (Board points scored against an opponent * match points of that team), excluding the weakest opponent - hence a combination of whom you played, and how you performed against them. For the USA, their exact final standing might depend on the results of Scotland-Macedonia (Table 26) and Finland-Turkey (Table 29). If the Netherlands had beaten Armenia in round 10, they would (play Russia in the final round and) still have medal chances - with their tiebreak depending on Egypt-Belgium, Malaysia-Thailand, Jamaica-Sri Lanka and/or Monaco-Japan. The system can be silly, but I can't propose a better one.

    As to Onischuk losing a drawn endgame: Grischuk had done the same against Kamsky in the previous round - I won't expect Nakamura to criticize or feel sorry for Grischuk, but the "logical" result of both US matches might have been 2-2. Was Russia lucky against Ukraine? I think Kramnik-Ivanchuk was objectively drawn throughout (engines and other GMs are more objective than Ivanchuk!?). Was Armenia lucky against Germany when Georg Meier blundered his queen soon after the time control? Maybe, but it's all part of the game ... .

    [DM: Whatever the meaning and merits of Nakamura's comment, I don't think Grischuk-Kamsky and Ding Liren-Onischuk are the same. RBr gets lost all the time, even by great players. Losing that is not what I would normally consider an unforced error, given the historical track record. Onischuk's error was another matter altogether. It wasn't a tricky theoretical ending and no special finesse was required. The obvious moves were entirely good enough.

    As for Akopian-Meier, Black was probably lost anyway, but even if he wasn't a blunder is different than what Onischuk did. When you have an easy draw, you don't get fancy - especially when you're tired after many hours of play. If you want a parallel, there's Bauer-Moiseenko, when instead of staying put with 78.Kh3 (with the idea of 79.Qf5), he decided to be take a shortcut with 78.Kxh5. It was a shortcut, alright.... (Of course, Bauer gets a double pass on this one. First of all, his team had already lost the match; second, because of the recent, tragic death of his 4-month-old child. That he's even able to play decent chess is remarkable.)

    Oversights happen. You try to be the best player you can be and develop the best possible habits so as to minimize the likelihood of outright blunders, but their complete eradication is impossible. But they are not self-inflicted wounds. Blunders are "all part of the game", as you say, but errors like Onischuk's needn't be.]

    September 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThomas

    Wow, that´s a bit of an irritating comment by Nakamura. Not the most supportive comment in the world, and to be fair - this team strength thing applies not only to chess teams, but to all team sports.
    But, maybe it´s only some kind of "description of what things are like in a team", and not meant to be a harsh criticism of Onischuk.

    I liked the big win of the US boys against Russia. Pity that they lost against China.

    [DM: Who knew that in a team event one's teammates mattered? Go figure.]

    September 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterOlaf Steffens

    DM's laudable family-friendly policy prevents me from giving my full opinion on Nakamura. As someone who regularly participates in team sports, I would be most upset to see that sentiment from a team-mate, and worse still right on the heels of another team-mate's unfortunate mistake. Great chess player, not such a great guy.

    September 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKen

    Nakamuras comment isn't helpful at all. Teammates do matter, and that's why armenia have done so well over recent years - they've not been the highest rated team but their togetherness and team spirit is obvious and admirable.

    September 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjonathan

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