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    « Olympiad Finishes: China Wins Both Sections | Main | TCEC Season 13 Finale: Stockfish vs. Komodo »
    Thursday
    Oct042018

    Olympiad, Rounds 9 & 10

    Only one round remains, and in both the Open and Women's sections the leading contenders for the gold medals are the Chinese and U.S. teams. In the Open section both teams have 8.5/10, half a point ahead of Poland, France, and Russia. The U.S. has the better tiebreaks against the Chinese, who are their last round opponents, but in case their match finishes in a draw other teams from the next score group could leapfrog the Americans to win. So the only way for the U.S. (or of course, China) to guarantee a win is with a last round win.

    In the Women's section there's a critical difference: China is alone in first place with 8.5 points, with Ukraine, the U.S., and Armenia (in tiebreak order) half a point back. Ukraine's tiebreakers are better than the Americans, but that's not a fatal problem as the two teams are playing in the last round. China will play Russia, which is after all the top seed, so the U.S. still has a chance for the gold, although they will be underdogs against Ukraine. It's a tall order, but not impossible.

    Let's recap the last two rounds, to see how we got here.

    Round 9 was the tragedy for the U.S. (Open) team. The Polish team they faced had performed brilliantly up to that point, but even so, the U.S. was a significant favorite. In fact, the U.S. enjoyed winning or near-winning advantages on boards 1, 2, and 4, and while Hikaru Nakamura started off with difficulties against Kacper Piorun, he managed to fight his way to equality at one moment. So, did the U.S. win by a 3.5-.5 margin, or at least 3-1? Nope. 2.5-1.5? No again. Not even a draw. All three better positions finished in draws, and Nakamura's defense broke down, resulting in a loss. With the win, Poland vaulted over the U.S. to take the lead, half a point ahead of the U.S. Also tied for second were China, who defeated Azerbaijan thanks to a win on board 4 by Bu Xiangzhi against Eltaj Safarli; Armenia, who defeated India 2.5-1.5 (also thanks to a board 4 win; the board 1 clash between Viswanathan Anand and Levon Aronian was drawn); and - surprisingly - England, who defeated Norway (remember, Magnus Carlsen isn't playing) 3-1.

    The leading round 10 pairings looked like this:

    • China (7.5) - Poland (8)
    • Armenia (7.5) - U.S.A. (7.5)
    • Russian (7) - England (7.5)

    In this round order was restored, with the favorites all winning: China dispatched Poland 3-1 with wins on boards 1 and 4, the United States defeated Armenia 2.5-1.5 thanks to our secret weapon Sam Shankland coming through with a win on board 3, and Russia defeated England 2.5-1.5 thanks to their little known board 3 player - someone called "Vladimir Kramnik". (Kramnik's tournament got off to a mediocre start, but he is now up rating points for the event. Hopefully he's getting back to form, and will keep Kamikaze Kramnik in the closet, taking him out only for blitz games and simuls.)

    So here's what's on tap for tomorrow, the final round:

    • U.S.A. (8.5) - China (8.5)
    • France (8) - Russia (8)
    • India (7.5) - Poland (8)

    In the women's section, China and Ukraine came into the round as co-leaders, half a point ahead of Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, the U.S, Hungary, and Armenia. China comfortably dispatched the Kazakhstan women 3-1, the Azeris and Ukrainians drew their match 2-2, and Armenia beat Iran 3-1. As for the U.S. women, they received a quasi-miracle, one that was half-earned. They led 2-1 against Hungary, but Irina Krush was dead to rights against Anita Gara. After a big mistake on move 31 she was lost, and would have had to resign if Gara played 44.Rd8. Still completely lost, she never gave up, and when Gara goofed on move 81 Krush could save the game - albeit with difficulty. However, she erred in turn on move 83, and White was again winning. Still, Krush kept fighting, and on move 108 Gara had to make a choice. Frankly, it shouldn't have been a hard choice, as the relevant motifs are well-known to anyone who has studied rook vs. one pawn endings in a work like Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual, so Gara should have been able to apply that knowledge to the position to calculate what would and wouldn't work. Instead, though she had the time, she uncorked 108.Rg8+??, and Krush escaped.

    On to round 10, with these pairings at the top:

    • China (8) - U.S.A. (7.5)
    • Ukraine (7.5) - Russia (7)
    • Azerbaijan (7) - Armenia (7.5)
    • Georgia 1 (7) - Czech Republic (6.5)

    With a win, the U.S. would be in first, but to their credit, they at least managed to draw the match 2-2 despite being heavy underdogs. The board 2 match was also drawn; likewise board 3...and in fact, the top seven matches all finished 2-2. The relative standings are thus the same, as no team with 6.5 points or more won a match. Here, then, is what the final round pairings look like for the leading women's teams:

    • Russian (7.5) - China (8.5)
    • U.S.A. (8) - Ukraine (8)
    • Armenia (8) - Georgia 1 (7.5)

    Games...will have to wait (sorry).

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    Reader Comments (3)

    The end of the Azerbaijan-Armenia board 3 game in the women's tournament is the kind of thing that haunts you. Especially given the tournament situation, the fact that the match ended 2-2, and the that it was Azerbaijan vs. Armenia.

    October 4, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterChuckles

    "The U.S. has the better tiebreaks against the Chinese, who are their last round opponents, but in case their match finishes in a draw
    other teams from the next score group could leapfrog the Americans to win."

    The match was drawn, and China won the gold medal on tiebreaks ahead of the USA and Russia.
    Having the better tiebreaks before the last round does not necessarily mean having the better tiebreaks afterward.

    "China’s triumph was their second Olympiad gold, following Tromso in 2014, and was achieved despite a third board failure where
    19-year-old Wei Yi scored only 50%. Ding Liren, the top board and world No 4, played the entire Olympiad on crutches as he has still
    not fully recovered from breaking his hip in a cycle accident during the Stavanger tournament at the end of May. Despite this handicap
    he totalled 5.5/8 and is now on an unbeaten run of 88 consecutive games."
    -Leonard Barden

    October 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterYak

    The styles that players have make a difference in whether they function as strongly in open tournaments as in rarefied competitions. Notably—strong defense is less helpful in asserting your ELO gap over a weaker player. My question for you, D, is: to what degree are certain players sheltered by the habit top 20 competitors have of largely playing each other. And, contrariwise, can you think of any lower ranked players who might do surprisingly well (based on excellent defense) in match play with the top ten?

    [DM: I'm not a believer in the theory that the top guys stay the top guys by avoiding the hungry sharks in, say, the rest of the top 100. The top TPRs in the Olympiad are typically by the sorts of people you'd expect to have the top TPRs, and when top players poke their noses into top Swisses like Qatar and Gibraltar they again tend to do as we'd expect. Likewise, the players you'll find at the end of the World Cup are almost always drawn from the list of the usual suspects. In keeping with what we'd expect from bell curves, players outside the GCT occasionally do some damage to the top guys, and one or two top players will might a bad game or even a bad event. But when it's all summed up, the results are what we'd expect. We also shouldn't forget that the top players got to be the top players by dominating all the way up the Swiss ladder until they got some invitations to play with the alpha predators, and managed to hold their own there too.

    I'm not sure how far up and down you're going when you're asking how "lower-ranked players" might do against top-tenners in a match. I suspect that #11 would do pretty well, and #100 would lose without any hope. Whatever range you have in mind, I think more than excellent defensive skills will be required. Not even Sergey Karjakin can hold every bad position, and if the player in question has nothing positive (relative to his opponent) to bring to the table, he will be beaten down sooner or later. To compete with the absolute top players they'd better have great openings, a very high level of psychological toughness and resilience, no serious weaknesses, and at least something they can do exceptionally well. Lacking one or more of those qualities they might manage to win the occasional game, especially if the top player isn't in good form, but the longer the match the more certain the top player's victory.]

    October 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJB

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