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    « Baku Olympiad, Round 6 Updated | Main | Baku Olympiad, Round 10: U.S. Continues to Lead Ukraine on Tiebreaks Heading into the Final Round (Updated) »
    Tuesday
    Sep132016

    Baku Olympiad, USA Wins; China Wins Women's Section

    Our neighbors to the north weren't as friendly as they could have been, to put it mildly, but it was a happy ending for the U.S.A. all the same. By defeating the Canadians 2.5-1.5, they finished with 20 match points and took first on tiebreaks over Ukraine. Ukraine did their part, hammering Slovenia 3.5-.5, but as the U.S. had a superior Sonneborn-Berger tiebreak (and, for that matter, more board points, and a win in their head-to-head matchup with Ukraine) they finished the deserved winners of the 42nd Chess Olympiad. Russia took third, defeating Italy 3-1.

    About the U.S. vs. Canada match: Fabiano Caruana obliterated Evgeny Bareev with White on board 1, and on board 2 Hikaru Nakamura drew comfortably with Black against Anton Kovalyov. But that's where the fun and games ended. On board 3 Wesley So started off quite well against Alexandre Lesiege, but then it got messy. So's interesting exchange sac was dubious, and the evaluation went up and down. Sometimes So was a little better, more often it was equal, and at one terrifying moment (for U.S. fans) Lesiege was probably winning. Only Lesiege's blunder on move 34 allowed So to win the game, and simultaneously give the Americans victory in the match and the Olympiad. The win was needed because on board 4 Canada's Eric Hansen beat Sam Shankland. It was one of those games where Black was always one move short of full equality, and he never got it. Shankland's 9...d5 turned out to more or less commit him to a pawn sac, and he wasn't able to sustain his compensation in the long run. A nice game by Hansen, who probably wouldn't have been allowed onto U.S. soil ever again (except for Gitmo) had it not been for So's narrow victory. (Kidding!)

    Honorable mentions: Norway tied for 4th-10th, coming 5th on tiebreak. With a mid-2600 player on board and a 2500 on board 3, that's an exceptional performance, especially since Magnus Carlsen had a good but not spectacular tournament. (By his standards.) Turkey came in 6th, and while they had three (mid-) 2600s they didn't even have the luxury of a super-GM on board 1. Greece finished in the next score group down, but can boast that other than the United States they were the only team to go undefeated in the event.

    In the women's section China beat Russia 2.5-1.5 and won their section; Poland (3.5-.5 winners over Hungary) took second and Ukraine (3-1 winners over Bulgaria) took third. China scored 20 match points; Poland and Ukraine 17 each. The U.S. could have finished with 17 match points as well, had Anna Zatonskih managed to draw her rook endgame against Tania Sachdev. She defended excellently for a long time, but finally faltered when the draw was in reach. They thus drew with India, and finished in a six way tie with 16 match points, coming in sixth on tiebreaks. Had Zatonskih drawn, however, the U.S. still would have finished fourth, out of the medals, as Poland's and Ukraine's tiebreak scores were much better than the Americans'.

    Board Prizes! These were awarded by tournament performance rating (TPR), which indicates what a person's rating would be if based solely on how he or she did in the particular event. (Now if we can just persuade Ken Regan to determine who had the best IPR in the event...)

    Board 1: 

    1. Baadur Jobava GEO (2926 TPR!)
    2. Leinier Dominguez CUB (2839)
    3. Fabiano Caruana USA (2838) 

    Board 2: 

    1. Vladimir Kramnik RUS (2901)
    2. Anton Kovalyov CAN (2852)
    3. Jorge Cori PER (2810) 

    Board 3: 

    1. Wesley So USA (2896)
    2. Zoltan Almasi HUN (2845)
    3. Eugenio Torre(!!) PHI (2836) 

    Board 4: 

    1. Laurent Fressinet FRA (2809)
    2. Ian Nepomniachtchi RUS (2804)
    3. Aleksandr Indjic SER (2786) 

    Board 5: 

    1. Andrei Volokitin UKR (2996!!)
    2. Sami Khader JOR (2932 - a seemingly spectacular result, especially so from an IM rated just 2373, but it resulted from his going 8-0 against opposition rated between 1713 (not counting one unrated opponent) and 2267. This is more a glitch in the way the rating system handles perfect scores than an indication of Khader playing world championship caliber chess. Of course, this is not a criticism of Khader, who couldn't have done more than he did!)
    3. Aleksej Aleksandrov BLR (2760) 

    In the women's section two players achieved TPRs over 2600: Anna Muzychuk of Ukraine, with a 2629 TPR on board 1, and Valentina Gunina of Russia on board 2, with a 2643 TPR.

    Finally, some more games, here.

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    Reader Comments (3)

    Just a great win by the USA team. They all fought hard. So is looking like a championship challenger for the near future. Let's hope Caruana and So are around for a long time.
    I will say that I was very impressed with Kramnik's play. He gave his team every chance for victory. On the downside what happened to keep Anand and Gelfand from playing. Both could have changed the final results.

    [DM: This isn't a mystery. Anand has only very rarely played on the national team, probably due to financial issues, and Gelfand explicitly said pretty much the same thing about himself in an interview I linked to about a week or so before the Olympiad.]

    Also I did get to see Eugenio Torre back in the late 1960's (he was 16 or 17 years old and still an IM) in the Philippines. He did not play but he came to see one of his fellow Filipino chess master play 6 US Airmen (I was one of them and lost quickly) in a blindfold simul at Clark Airbase. If I remember he and a couple other Filipino masters played some blitz with the GI's after the blindfold exhibition. He was a real chess hero that everyone there looked up to.

    September 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLarry L.

    Excellent coverage as usual. Ramirez' column on uschess glossed over the topsy turvy nature of So's game. Maybe he did not use computer analysis and was blissfully unaware.

    September 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKris

    IM Khader's medal on board 5 is due to much more than a glitch in TPR calculations. Check out how Jordan set their board order:

    http://chess-results.com/tnr232875.aspx?lan=1&art=20&fed=JOR&flag=30&wi=821

    AFAIK, this is perfectly within the FIDE rules (and maybe also the FIDE spirit!?)

    [DM: I'm not a fan of that either, but that sort of shifting was pretty common. It was by no means universal, but to list just three high-profile teams: Russia's board order was 2-1-4-5-3, China's was 3-1-4-2-5, and France went 1-5-3-2-4.]

    September 15, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterjohn upper

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