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    Entries in 2018 Chess Olympiad (14)

    Thursday
    Oct112018

    Chess Olympiad, Round 11 Games

    Not too many though - just three. As the U.S.-China match featured four pretty clean draws there weren't any last really critical games to highlight - at least not in the Open section. The one Open game I show features a horrifying self-mate by Evgeny Bareev, and then I show one game from each of the two critical matches in the women's section.

    Enjoy!

    Thursday
    Oct112018

    Chess Olympiad, Round 10 Games

    Almost to the finish - here is a selection of round 10 games, with my annotations. Do check out the Ding Liren-Jan-Krzysztof Duda game, which has some spectacular variations.

    Wednesday
    Oct102018

    Chess Olympiad, Round 8 Games

    Slowly, slowly, we catch up. Here are some games from round 8, with varying degrees of commentary. Some games were suggested by readers, some my own selections, and hopefully all are of interest.

    Tuesday
    Oct092018

    Chess Olympiad, Round 9 Games

    I said I would get to the games, and bit by bit, I am. Here, out of order (round 8 will come soon!) some of the interesting games from round 9, with annotations to some of the critical moments.

    Friday
    Oct052018

    Olympiad Finishes: China Wins Both Sections

    Well...that was a pity. (With all apologies to all Chinese readers and fans, of course.) The U.S. and China were co-leaders after round 10, with the U.S. enjoying a healthy tiebreak lead over the Chinese. The danger seemed to be what would happen in case of a drawn match between the two, as Poland and/or the winner of the match between France and Russia might catch up and come out ahead on tiebreaks.

    So there was good news and bad news. Although the USA-China match did finish in a 2-2 tie, with no player on either side facing any serious danger, Poland was held to a 2-2 tie against India while Russia's tiebreak scores left them behind the U.S. even though they beat France 2.5-1.5. The bad news: somehow the Chinese team's tiebreak score vaulted ahead of the Americans'. Ugh. Well, it happens, and two years ago it was the U.S. team that came out a whisker ahead of the Ukrainians in the tiebreak lottery. Congratulations to the top three teams, all of which finished with 9/11 (technically 18/22, since the Olympiad used a 2-1-0 scoring system, but it comes to the same thing) scores.

    In the Women's section, China led entering the last round but the U.S. team had a chance to take first, if all went well. Again, there was good news and bad news. The good news is that the Chinese team failed to win their last round match, and it was only because of Ju Wenjun's heroic efforts that they managed to eke out a 2-2 tie against the Russians. Ju Wenjun had absolutely nothing going against Alexandra Kosteniuk for a very long time, and even through move 71 the position was still equal. But she kept on fighting, and on her 87th move Kosteniuk went under for good, and resigned after 95 moves.

    If the U.S. had defeated the Ukrainian team, who knows? It would have come down to the wonders of tiebreaks. Tatev Abrahamyan destroyed Anna Ushenina, who really needs to do some sort of endgame bootcamp. Unfortunately, that was the sole bright spot on the day for the American women, as the Ukranian women won convincingly on the other boards to take a 3-1 victory. They tied the Chinese, but came in second on tiebreaks. Had Ju Wenjun not performed her quasi-miracle, the Ukranians would have taken clear first. (And of course, they probably would have won the event had it not been for Ushenina's endgame loss in the China match several rounds earlier.)

    Georgia 1 took clear third, half a point behind, after defeating Armenia 3-1. The U.S. team finished another half a point back, in a tie for 4th-12th and coming in 7th on tiebreaks. Again, congratulations to the medalists, and to the U.S. team for what was overall an excellent result.

    Let's quickly mention some notable performances, as measured by tournament performance rating (TPR):

    The top TPR of the event was achieved by Peruvian GM Jorge Cori (2664), whose 7.5/8 score against opponents averaging 2459 translated to a 2925 TPR. (Vladimir Kramnik's 6.5/9 against considerably higher-rated opposition - average 2602 - gave him the silver for board 3 with a 2770 TPR, and the U.S.'s least-favorite player this Olympiad, Kacper Piorun, took the board 3 bronze with a 2765 TPR.)

    Most of the top TPRs came on board 1. In order, the top six were Ding Liren (2873), Fabiano Caruana (2859), Anish Giri (2814), Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2803) (which in his exalted case meant he lost 1.5 rating points), Viswanathan Anand (2799), and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2775).

    On board 2 only Vietnamese star Ngoc Truong Son Nguyen broke 2800, with a 2804 TPR. Ian Nepomniachtchi, probably the MVP of the Russian team, was next with a 2790 performance, two rating points ahead of Teimour Radjabov.

    Board 3 we've already mentioned, and on board 4 Germany's Daniel Fridman had an impressive 2814 TPR, scoring 7.5/9 against 2541-rated opposition. China's Bu Xiangzhi was second with 2774, Rauf Mamedov of Azerbaijan was third with 2740, and Sam Shankland proved once again that his entry this year into the 2700 club was justified with a fourth place finish and a 2733 TPR.

    Amongst the reserves, Anton Korobov of Ukraine was first with a 2773 TPR, Israel's Ilia Smirin was second with an impressive 2746, and Christian Bauer of France took the board 5 bronze with a 2743 performance.

    In the women's section, the best performance was, appropriately enough, on the winning team's board 1: Ju Wenjun had a 2661 TPR. Also scoring at least 2600 were Hungary's board 1, Thanh Trang Hoang (2636); Georgia 1's board 1, Nana Dzagnidze (2600 on the dot); and Ukraine's board 2 Maria Muzychuk (2616). (Her sister Anna had the fourth-best TPR on board 1, at 2568.)

    The American women did well, in almost every case exceeding their rating. Board 1 Anna Zatonskih's 2421 TPR was slightly below her actual rating of 2431, and the other three regulars played over their ratings. Irina Krush (2423) took the board 2 silver with a 2552 TPR, Tatev Abrahamyan (2368) was 5th on board 3 with a 2417 performance, and 16-year-old Jennifer Yu (2268) got the bronze on board 5 (the reserve board) with a 2407 TPR. Yu played in all 11 rounds, largely because Sabina-Francesca Foisor was having such a bad time of things that she only played in four games, scoring just half a point.

    It will be a few days before I'll have the time to start posting games, but I fully intend to do so. Thank you to all of you who have submitted suggestions - they are appreciated!

     

    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).

    Tuesday
    Oct022018

    Olympiad, Round 8: U.S. in Clear First

    In the Open section, that is. The women are in a five-way tie for third - more on that later.

    Entering round 8 (of the Open) three teams led: the U.S., Azerbaijan, and Poland. The first two teams faced off, while Poland took on Armenia. The U.S. team didn't get off to a disappointing start, as Hikaru Nakamura obtained a serious advantage against Arkadij Naiditsch but had it slip away after an inaccurate 28th move. That game finished in a draw, and then Wesley So lost to Teimour Radjabov. It was a remarkably easy win for Radjabov, too: he collected a weak pawn and converted his advantage in a heavy piece ending. The U.S. had its work cut out for it, but it came through. In the match of the Olympiad, the world's #2 and #3 players - Fabiano Caruana and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, respectively, faced off. Caruana had White and obtained a moderate plus and permanent pressure in a deep theoretical line of the Open Ruy. Mamedyarov's position was fine - for a computer - but the continuous pressure against his king eventually cost him the game. (N.B. With the win, Caruana is only 4.5 points behind Magnus Carlsen on the rating list. A strong finish for Caruana will put him at #1 on the list, the first time in seven years, I think, that anyone else has had the top spot.) Finally, Sam Shankland was quickly better with Black against Rauf Mamedov in an Italian Game, but converting the advantage took forever and a day. It took 96 moves before Mamedov finally forced to throw in the towel, and that's okay: Shankland can take tomorrow off if he's too tired to play.

    On to Armenia-Poland. On board 1 Levon Aronian had good chances to beat Jan-Krzysztof Duda, but the latter escaped with a draw. On board 2 Radoslaw Wojtaszek never had much (and generally had nothing) against Gabriel Sargissian: another draw. On boards 3 and 4, as on board 1, White had some advantage, but those games also finished in a draw. Poland thus fell behind the U.S. team, but is ahead of everyone going into round 9, when they will face the leaders.

    In other top matches: India beat the Czechs thanks to a win by Sasikiran over Stocek on board 4; Germany beat Spain thanks to Fridman's board 3 win over Lopez Martinez; England beat Israel thanks to McShane's board 2 victory over Rodshtein, France beat Ukraine on account of Bacrot's win against Kryvoruchko on board 2, and China won their match against the Netherlands when Bu Xiangzhi defeated van Wely on board 3. In all five matches, the victory given was the only one of the match!

    Here are the top pairings for round 9:

     

    • Poland (7) - USA (7.5)
    • Azerbaijan (6.5) - China (6.5)
    • India (6.5) - Armenia (6.5)
    • Germany (6.5) - France (6.5)
    • England (6.5) - Norway (6)

     

    In the Women's section, Armenia led entering the round but was dispatched by Ukraine 3-1. China crushed Romania by an even more impressive 3.5-.5 margin, and joins Ukraine in the lead. They already played (recall Ushenina's failure to hold a drawn rook ending against Huang Qian, allowing the Chinese to draw the match), so they'll drop down to teams in the next score group. That includes the U.S., which defeated Italy 3-1. Other important results: Georgia 1's shocking 3-1 loss to Kazakhstan, Hungary's 3-1 win over India, and Azerbaijan's 2.5-1.5 win over Georgia 2.

    Top Women's pairings for round 9:

     

    • Kazakhstan (6.5) - China (7)
    • Azerbaijan (6.5) - Ukraine (7)
    • USA (6.5) - Hungary (6.5)
    • Armenia (6.5) - Iran (6)

     

    Games: I'll try to catch up on them tomorrow.

    Tuesday
    Oct022018

    Olympiad, Round 7

    The match of the day was between the hitherto perfect co-leaders, Poland and Azerbaijan. They're still undefeated and still the co-leaders, but after a 2-2 draw (all four games were drawn as well), they're no longer perfect, and they've been caught by the U.S. The Americans faced an overperforming Croatian team, but the rating gap proved too much for the latter this time and the U.S. won 3-1, winning both white games and drawing the black ones. Ukraine-China and Germany-Netherlands were also 2-2 ties with every game drawn, and Israel vs. the Czech Republic was likewise drawn, but with White winning every game. Almost all of the higher-rated favorites won in the subsequent top matches, with Russia's failure to defeat Serbia a stunning exception. If anything, they were fortunate to save the match as Kramnik won his game only after his opponent blundered in a complicated position.

    Top pairings for round 8 (ongoing):

    • USA (6.5) - Azerbaijan (6.5)
    • Armenia (6) - Poland (6.5)
    • Czech Republic (5.5) - India (5.5)
    • Spain (5.5) - Germany (5.5)
    • Israel (5.5) - England (5.5)
    • France (5.5) - Ukraine (5.5)
    • China (5.5) - Netherlands (5.5)

    In the Women's section, the United States' dream run came to an end as they lost to Armenia 2.5-1.5. Armenia won both white games, and while our youngest and lowest-rated player, Jennifer Yu, came through to defeat her higher-rated opponent on board 4, Irina Krush only managed a draw against her opponent. In other top matches, Georgia 1 drew with India 2-2, China beat the Netherlands 3-1, Ukraine beat Iran 2.5-1.5 (but gave Anna Ushenina the day off), Italy and Azerbaijan played to a 2-2 tie, and the Romania women beat the Uzbeks 2.5-1.5.

    Leading Women's Pairings for Round 8:

    • Ukraine (6) - Armenia (6.5)
    • China (6) - Romania (6)
    • Georgia 1 (6) - Kazakhstan (5.5)
    • USA (5.5) - Italy (5.5)
    • Hungary (5.5) - India (5.5)
    • Georgia 2 (5.5) - Azerbaijan (5.5)

    And finally, here's a selection of games with very light notes, taken from readers Greg Steele (the first four suggestions are his, going back to round 6 and mainly focused on opening ideas that caught his attention) and Marc Beishon (mostly noting some blunders).

    Sunday
    Sep302018

    Olympiad, Round 6

    Just results for now; I'll leave game selection to all of you. The Azeris and the Poles share the lead with perfect scores, at least one of which will come to an end when they face off tomorrow. Azerbaijan defeated the hitherto surprisingly successful Czech team 3-1, with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov defeating David Navara on board 1 and Arkadij Naiditsch defeating Zbynek Hracek on board 3. Jiri Stocek had a chance to win one back against Rauf Mamedov on board 4, but didn't manage to pull it off.

    Poland defeated Ukraine by the minimum margin, 2.5-1.5, drawing three games while Jan-Krzysztof Duda beat Vassily Ivanchuk on board one. Anton Korobov probably should have won against Kamil Dragun on board 4, but before Ukranian fans despair about what could have been, they can console themselves in the knowledge that Kacper Piorun had an even more winning position against Yuriy Kryvoruchko that he failed to convert.

    The board three match was a draw between Israel and Germany. Israel was the favorite, but was never close to winning the match.

    On board 4, the U.S. had an easy time against the heavily outrated Bosnia & Herzegovina team, winning 3.5-.5.; only Hikaru Nakamura failed to win on board 3, despite outrating his opponent by almost 400 points.

    China eked out a win against Iran, 2.5-1.5, and Russia-India and England-France finished in 2-2 draws - and all eight games were drawn. Unfortunately, there was no match between Viswanathan Anand and Vladimir Kramnik. Both played in the match, but Kramnik is playing board three for the Russians. (Board two in this match, as Alexander Grischuk took the round off, but with Anand on board one it didn't matter.) [UPDATE/correction: It was Sergei Karjakin, not Alexander Grischuk who took the round off. Grischuk has taken the entire Olympiad off.]

    Here are the top pairings for round 7: 

    • Poland (6) - Azerbaijan (6)
    • Croatia (5) - USA (5.5)
    • Ukraine (5) - China (5)
    • Germany (5) - Netherlands (5)
    • Czech Republic (5) - Israel (5)
    • Belarus (5) - Armenia (5)
    • India (4.5) - Egypt (5) 

    In the Women's section, the U.S. women faced the top seeded Indians, and were outrated on every board - by more than 100 points on boards 1 and 4. And yet they survived with a draw, with White winning every game. The Indians' white games were massacres, but Irina Krush and Jennifer Yu outplayed their opponents in longer games to save the match. Well done!

    Board 2 was a bit of a farce, as Ukraine drew with China. It was a very even match in terms of ratings, but when Mariya Muzychuk won on board 2 while the boards 1 and 4 games were drawn, Ukraine had the match in the bag. All that was needed was for Anna Ushenina to draw a routine rook and one pawn vs. rook and two pawns ending against Huang Qian. Maybe a club player could lose it on a bad day or in time trouble, but surely not a grandmaster and former women's world champion. Right? Well, she found a way - and it's more interesting than you might suspect.

    If you look at the game with engine evaluations you might be inclined to blame 119.Rb8, and it is indeed the losing move, objectively speaking. There's a "but" coming, however, and it has three parts. First, while I'm sure Ushenina spotted 119.Rb3 Rg2 120.Kd4, it's not really something you want to play, allowing the king to be cut off from the kingside. Second, in the game continuation, it's very possible to miss the nasty trick 124.Kf4 Re4# back on move 119 (or earlier), and if not for that Ushenina gets her draw. The third point is that the really bad idea, to my mind, was putting the king on e3. Leaving it on f2, and when it's forced to quit the second rank to go back to f1, would have kept her out of trouble. Playing 116.Kf2 would let her draw in her sleep, e.g. 116...Ra2+ 117.Kf1 Rd2 (to block side checks when the king advances) 118.Ra8 (a "pass" move to prove the point) 118...Ke4 119.Ra5 and there's just nothing for Black. 119...f4 120.gxf4 is a trivial draw; 119...Rd5 120.Ra4+ (just not 120.Ra3+?? Rd3-+) 120...Kf3 (120...Rd4 121.Ra5) 121.Ra3+ keeps Black at bay, and in case of 119...Kf3 White avoids the temptation of the taking on f5 and kicks Black's king back with 120.Ra3+. It's a draw. So while the engine-question marks go on move 119, White's 116th move was a poor practical decision. Errare humanum est.

    Back to the overview: Russia lost again, 3-1 to Armenia; Azerbaijan beat Latvia 2.5-1.5; Italy beat Cuba 3-1; and the top Georgian team eked out a 2.5-1.5 win over the Georgia 2 squad. The U.S., Georgia 1, and Armenian teams are tied for first with 5.5/6, and here are the leading pairings for round 7: 

    • Armenia (5.5) - USA (5.5)
    • India (5) - Georgia 1 (5.5) (For some reason Georgia 1 is on board 6. I assume it has something to do with their being the home team, but I don't know what the exact explanation is, especially since they're the fourth seeds, not sixth.)
    • China (5) - Netherlands (5)
    • Iran (5) - Ukraine (5)
    • Italy (5) - Azerbaijan (5)
    • Romania (5) - Uzbekistan (5)
    Saturday
    Sep292018

    Olympiad, Rounds 2-5: Selected Games, Part 2

    It's a sequel to the previous post, but the title is a misnomer as all the games here are from rounds 4 and 5. Enjoy!