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    Entries in Tromso Olympics 2014 (14)

    Friday
    Aug152014

    Tromso Olympics: China Wins the Open; Russia the Women's Section

    There was some drama on the last day of the Tromso Olympiad, but it didn't have to do with the race for first. In the Open Section the Chinese team crushed Poland and coasted to a 3-1 victory, clinching clear first place. Congratulations to them, and to Ding Liren and Yu Yangyi, their second and third boards, respectively. Ding took the bronze medal on board two, while Yu not only took the gold medal for board three but did so with the highest TPR of the entire Olympiad - a fantastic 2912. That pushed his rating from 2668 to 2700 (when rounded up).

    The battle for second was extremely close, however. The Hungarian team started the day in clear second, but when they drew their match with Ukraine a bunch of teams had the chance to catch them, and catch them they did. In addition to Hungary, India (thanks to a crushing 3.5-.5 win over Uzbekistan), Russia (2.5-1.5 winners over France), and Azerbaijan (2.5-1.5 winners over the USA - more about this below). Four teams competing for two medals meant two teams would be left out, and they were Russia and Azerbaijan. Hungary beat India for the silver by the narrowest of margins on the first tiebreak, and had they been tied there India would have taken second based on the next tiebreaker.

    For Russia it was yet another disappointment, though they at least managed to finish strongly. As for Azerbaijan, it was probably also somewhat of a disappointment, but they can also console themselves with having been a bit lucky today. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov had outplayed Hikaru Nakamura and had been winning for a long time, but first made it difficult and then definitely threw the win away with 40.g5 (if it was still there). Now Nakamura needed to nothing but wait, e.g. with 40...Rf5, but instead played 40...hxg5?? after which the game was gone. The point was that this allows White to win by returning the piece to achieve an elementary and winning pawn ending. From the final position, play might continue 42...Rd2+ 43.Kc5 Rc2+ 44.Kd6 Rf2 45.Rxf7+! Rxf7 46.Bxf7 Kxf7 47.Kd7 and so on. White's king wins the pawn, and because it is on the 6th rank it won't matter if Black has the opposition or not. White will regain it when it counts and safely promote his pawn.

    So why doesn't the same trick work even if Black sits and waits? It would work if Black played 40...h5: 41.Rxf7+ Rxf7 42.Bxf7 Kxf7 43.Kd5! (not 43.Ke5?? Ke7, with a draw - we'll see this exact position again shortly) and White's king will zigzag to the g-pawn. Instead of 40...h5 though, when Black plays something like 40...Rf5 he's fine: 41.Rxf7+ Rxf7 42.Bxf7 Kxf7 43.Kd5 Ke7 (the king is close enough to cope with 44.gxh6) 44.Ke5 and now 44...h5! allows Black to gain the opposition, with a draw.

    In addition to this bit of good fortune, Azerbaijan was also bailed out when super-sub Sam Shankland, winner of the gold medal for board 5 (9/10 and a 2831 TPR) didn't manage to convert his big advantage against Eltaj Safarli. So a drawn match was far from impossible, and with a little good luck the United States might have even won the match, though whether "our" tiebreak would have sufficed to win a medal is unclear.

    In the women's section Kateryna Lagno lost again, this time to Antoaneta Stefanova, and on board two Valentina Gunina was in trouble against Iva Videnova. Fortunately for the Russians, Videnova blundered on three consecutive moves (or at least made a big error on the first and blundered twice) and lost, allowing the Russians to defeat Bulgaria 2.5-1.5 and clinch clear first.

    China and Ukraine started the day tied for second, and had the chance to settle it head-to-head. It didn't happen, however, as all four games (and thus the match) were drawn it would come down to tiebreaks. There was a possibility coming into the round that Germany, which was alone in fourth place one match behind them, could sneak into the medals if they defeated Georgia. Only one thing went wrong, though - the part after the "if". Georgia smashed the Germans 4-0, leaving China and Ukraine alone in their score group. China took the silver on tiebreak; Ukraine the bronze.

    (More reportage here, complete with all the board prizes.)

    Finally, one tragic story, about which I haven't seen much by way of detail. An unnamed player on the Seychelles in his 60s collapsed and died during the round. We offer our condolences to and prayers on behalf of his family.

    Wednesday
    Aug132014

    Tromso Olympics, Another Last Round Preview

    From the official/Chess24 site. This one has its own distinctive flavor to it, and also takes note of specific last-round individual pairings, which players are sitting out, who besides Judit Polgar may be retiring soon, and more besides.

    Wednesday
    Aug132014

    Tromso Olympics, Last Round Preview

    Here's a useful article on the ChessBase website, previewing the last round of the Tromso Olympiad, covering both the team aspect and the competition for the board prizes. Enjoy the stats!

    Tuesday
    Aug122014

    Tromso Olympics, Round 10: China, Russian Lead the Open & Women's Sections, Respectively

    One round remains in the Tromso Olympics, and it will be played on Thursday, after the second (and final) rest day. At this point, each section has a clear leader, and as both leaders are facing teams with considerably lower ratings their chances of victory look excellent.

    In the open section, China and France shared first entering the round, and were matched. Three games were drawn, and the decisive battle was on board three between Laurent Fressinet and Yu Yangyi. Fressinet had White and hoped for a position where Black's static pawn weaknesses would prove the deciding factor, but he always lacked the tempo or so needed to keep his opponent from having enough activity to compensate. I suspect that 21.Rd6 was played in hopes of bailing out to a draw, but it was inaccurate. Black soon won a pawn, and as he maintained the more active position as well he went on to win the game without much trouble.

    The Hungarian team is in a surprising second place, solo, after beating Romania 3-1. Their path to second was sneaky, but there they are, a point behind China and a point ahead of eight other teams, which are listed in their current tiebreak order: France, Ukraine (drew with Azerbaijan this round), Russia (beat Serbia), the United States of America (beat rather than drew with Argentina by a miracle, as Mareco was crushing Onischuk before letting him sneak out with a draw; also noteworthy was Shankland's win, bringing his total score to 8.5/9), Uzbekistan (beat the Netherlands), India (beat Germany(!); imagine if they had Anand playing for them!), Azerbaijan and Poland (overcame a loss on board 1 to Topalov to beat the Bulgarians). Here are the last round pairings involving these teams:

    Poland - China, Hungary - Ukraine, Russia - France, Azerbaijan - USA, India - Uzbekistan.

    Also of note: the Armenian team, which has been extremely successful in olympiads over the past dozen years or so, was held to a draw by Vietnam and is out of the running. Also of interest was the 3.5-.5 shellacking of Norway by the Croatian team. Ivan Saric massacred Magnus Carlsen on board 1, and it was as if that drained the spirit out of the Norwegians. Immediately after Carlsen resigned, Kjetl Lie made a series of blunders that took him from an equal position to the loss of two rooks and mate. (The last rook and the mate may have been deliberate, but even without that the collapse was stunning.) Jon Ludwig Hammer's position also rapidly disintegrated after Carlsen's resignation as well, and match that looked like a toss-up suddenly turned into a rout. Headed into the last round, the Norwegian first and second teams are tied with 12 match points apiece.

    To the women's section: Russia still enjoys the solo lead despite losing to Ukraine. Kateryna Lagno escaped punishment on board 1, getting an easy draw with Black against Anna Muzychuk, but justice was served (if justice it be) on board 4, somewhat ironically by Natalia Zhukova's win over Olga Girya. (The irony is that Zhukova is married to a Russian, Alexander Grischuk.) The Ukranian team is now a single match point behind Russia, and so is China. China could have caught the Russians, but although Hou Yifan did her job the Chinese third board lost with the white pieces to Ana Matnadze, whom she outrated by 100 points. In the last round Russia plays Bulgaria, and on paper that looks like an easy win for Russia. Bulgaria has Antoaneta Stefanova, who is a solid GM, but after that the team is made up of mostly 2300s. China and Ukraine will face each other, and a point behind them Germany still has a shot at the medals; they will face Georgia.

    The download page, once again, is here.

    Tuesday
    Aug122014

    Tromso Olympics, Round 9: China, France Lead

    Yesterday wasn't just about the FIDE election; there was a round played, too. In the open section most of the top matches were drawn (e.g. China-Ukraine, Azerbaijan-Romania(!), Belarus-Netherlands, Argentina-India, USA-Germany, Armenia-Serbia(!) and Norway 1st-Turkey(!), to name a few). As that group included the leading team - China - that offered an opportunity for four of the five teams on their tail to catch them. (Ukraine was the fifth.) Azerbaijan and Romania drew their match, as noted above, but that left an opportunity for the winner of the match between France and the Czech Republic. As it turned out, the French won 2.5-1.5, and so they're now tied for first with two rounds to go. Five teams are right behind them, a group that includes the other two high-profile match winners on the day: Hungary (which beat Israel 3-1) and Bulgaria (2.5-1.5 winners over Cuba).

    On the individual level I'll note three results. First, Magnus Carlsen had White against Dragan Solak, but was getting his head handed to him until Solak played the awful 32...a3?? in time trouble. That only served to shield Carlsen's vulnerable king; had he played 32...Rxd4! instead he would have remained on his way to a beautiful and shocking upset. Having escaped peril in that game, Carlsen remains in the running for an individual gold medal for board 1, along with Veselin Topalov, who took another huge scalp yesterday in beating Lenier Dominguez. Finally, on a lower board, young American GM Sam Shankland was held to his first draw yesterday by Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu. Shankland has 7.5/8 and looks likely to win the gold medal for board 5.

    In the women's section Russia kept their two-point lead over China with a narrow win over Armenia. Kateryna Lagno lost to Elina Danielian, but the Russians won on boards 2 and 4 to assure themselves of at least a drawn match. That would have been the result, too, had Armenia's board 3 converted her huge advantage, but she let the Russian slip out with a draw. As for the Chinese, they crushed the French 3.5-.5 to keep their gold medal hopes alive. Russia is playing Ukraine this round, and as the Ukranian team is both very strong and highly motivated, some drama remains. (At least I assume they're highly motivated. If they're not feeling driven both by political factors and to punish Lagno for defecting from their team, someone should check them for a pulse or at least for major depression.)

    More information and the games can be downloaded here.

    Monday
    Aug112014

    Breaking News: Ilyumzhinov Re-elected FIDE President, Wins 110-61

    Defeating incumbents is never easy. This is true when the incumbent is competent and honorable, but it seems almost equally true even when the sitting office-holder is incompetent and corrupt. (Perhaps especially when he is corrupt.) Which kind of incumbent Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is I leave to your evaluation, but one way or another he repulsed Garry Kasparov (pun intended) and won re-election a few minutes ago with a big margin of victory, 110-61.

    Monday
    Aug112014

    Tromso Olympics, Round 8: China Leads the Open Section, Russia the Women's

    Seeing China and Russia leading their sections isn't surprising; what is surprising is which section each is leading. But with Russia men losing to the Czechs in round 7 and only drawing the Spaniards in round 8 (Vladimir Kramnik lost with White to Francisco Vallejo!), their chances of earning their first gold since 2002 are next to non-existent. And in the women's section the Chinese loss to Russia in round 7 may provide an insuperable obstacle to their winning. The Russians rolled the Hungarians 3.5-.5 in round 8 to maintain their two point lead (remember, on a 2-1-0 scoring system) over the Chinese (3-1 winners over the Poles).

    Some highlights of the current round (open section only): China came into the round tied with the Azeris, and beat them by a convincing 3-1 margin. Azerbaijan had been playing some great chess, so this is an especially remarkable result. There were a lot of draws at the top: Romania vs. the Czech Republic, Germany vs. Cuba, India vs. Armenia and the USA vs. Hungary, for example, plus the Russia-Spain match mentioned above. The American team had to sweat it out, as Alexander Onischuk blundered a piece to Richard Rapport to a two-move tactic and resigned on move 21. Fortunately Sam Shankland managed to overcome Judit Polgar's prolonged resistance to square the match.

    With three rounds left, the Chinese have 14 match points and are the sole leaders, but five other teams are just a point back: France (2.5-1.5 winners over Poland), Ukraine (2.5-1.5 winners over Bulgaria), Azerbaijan, the Czechs and Romania. 12 more teams are another point back, including the USA. In the women's section Russia has a perfect 16-0 team score, China has 14, while France (who defeated the U.S. 2.5-1.5), Armenia and Ukraine all have 12 points apiece. (But how would things stand if Lagno had stayed in Ukraine?)

    Round 9 starts tomorrow (or today, depending on where you are), and it's also the big day for chess politics, as the FIDE presidential election between the incumbent, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, and his challenger, Garry Kasparov, also takes place tomorrow/today = Monday.

    Meanwhile, the match bulletin and the games can be downloaded from this page.

    Sunday
    Aug102014

    Tromso Olympics, Round 7: A Day Of Mega-Upsets

    If you had asked me before round 7 what players were having a really outstanding tournament, I would have given you four names: Magnus Carlsen, who has been playing like the world champion he is; Hou Yifan, about whom I would only change the pronoun; Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who has been successfully leading the first place team; and Rustam Kasimdzhanov, who has defeated Arkadij Naiditsch, Vassily Ivanchuk and Vladimir Kramnik. All four players lost today, in most cases pretty badly.

    Carlsen had White against Naiditsch, and when he won a pawn one would have expected everything to be smooth sailing. As it turned out, it was - for Naiditsch. The German grandmaster completely outplayed the world's #1, and in the process his team was victorious as well.

    Hou Yifan at least had the black pieces in her game, and she picked the worst possible time to come a-cropper. Her Chinese team really had just one rival in the tournament, the Russians (and vice-versa, with all due respect to the Georgian women), and this was the day when they met. Unfortunately for Hou, she was already lost after 12 moves (thanks to her 11th and 12th moves), and while Kateryna Lagno (aka the face that almost stopped the launch of a thousand ships*) may not have played perfectly, she played well enough to reel in the full point. The other Chinese women were unable to make up for their leader's failure, and Russia's 3-1 victory has them in great shape for tournament victory.

    On to Mamedyarov. He was butchered by Leinier Dominguez, who won a great game, but - unlike Carlsen and Hou Yifan - Mamedyarov was bailed out by his teammates. Teimour Radjabov won on board two and Gadir Guseinov won on board 4, and so the Azeris beat the Cubans to take sole possession of first place.

    Finally, Kasimdzhanov received his come-uppance from Hikaru Nakamura, but this was more due to Nakamura's playing extremely well than to Kasimdzhanov being in bad form. In fact, his preparation was excellent and he enjoyed a big lead on the clock, but Nakamura worked everything out, winning some material and converting his advantage. In fact, it was an excellent day for the USA, which won 3.5-.5.

    More info (available for download) can be obtained here.

    * This is not meant as a disparaging remark about her appearance, but refers to the controversy generated by her switch from the Ukranian to the Russian chess federation and the kerfuffle it raised between FIDE and the Norwegian organizers. At one point there was even talk of cancelling the Olympics, which would have metaphorically entailed scrubbing the launch of the "thousand" "ships" bringing the players to Tromso.

    Friday
    Aug082014

    Tromso Olympics, Round 6: Azerbaijan, Cuba Lead

    The Olympiad is in an especially fun stage for fans. It's far enough in that lots of top teams are battling with each other, but still early enough that a few semi-outsiders are still hanging on to their medal hopes. The Serbs and the Romanians are in the tie for the 3rd-12th places, and Bosnia, Canada and Qatar are among the teams giving the favorites a consistently hard time.

    Overall though, the top teams are justifying their ratings. Azerbaijan, led by a very much in-form Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, crushed Georgia 3.5-.5. Cuba won by the same margin, but against the considerably lower-rated team from Kazakhstan. They will face off in tomorrow's games.

    Top-seeded Russia has the best tiebreak score of the next group down, but while they defeated Uzbekistan it wasn't so easy. Vladimir Kramnik was crushed by Rustam Kasimdzhanov, but was avenged on board 2 when Alexander Grischuk whipped Anton Filippov with a beautiful attack. Ian Nepomniachtchi won on board 4 to put the Russians up 2-1, but Peter Svidler could very easily have lost to Marat Dzhumaev. Svidler put up great resistance, but Dzhumaev's position was clearly winning for a long time, and he could have won in spite of it despite Svidler's efforts. In the end though, Svidler's persistence paid off, and with the draw the Russians won their match 2.5-1.5.

    Magnus Carlsen already played Levon Aronian, and today he took on Fabiano Caruana. In both games he had the black pieces, but this time - using the 3...Qd8 Scandinavian of all things - he managed to slowly grind Caruana down. (Caruana enjoyed a small advantage into the middlegame though, despite the sure surprise, so 3...Qd8 fans shouldn't try to wrest this game for propaganda purposes. The real lesson of this game is a familiar one: Carlsen can win against everyone playing just about anything.)

    The United States defeated Paraguary 3-1, but unfortunately the Greeks lost Qatar 2.5-1.5. Drat.

    In the women's section, nothing is new: China and Russia won their matches and remained perfect, a state of affairs that will finally come to an end next round when they play each other. Hou Yifan won her individual game, over a second GM (Judit Polgar has yet to play a GM in the open section, though she did play a highly-rated IM today), and remains perfect in the event. The American women beat the Estonians, so they're still very much in the medal hunt.

    The download page for games and the tournament bulletin is here. If nothing else, do check out the Kasimdzhanov and Grischuk wins!

     

    Wednesday
    Aug062014

    Tromso Olympics, Round 5: A Big Tie For First Entering the First Rest Day

    All three teams entering round 5 with a 4-0 score drew their matches, and a bunch of others caught them at the top. Right now seven teams have 4.5/5 (or rather, 9/10, since the official scoring uses 2-1-0 rather than 1-.5-0); in tiebreak order they are Azerbaijan, Serbia, Kazakhstan, Bulgaria, Cuba, Uzbekistan and Georgia. No less than 17 other teams are right behind them at 4/5 (or 8/10), including main contenders Russia, France, China and Armenia, but also surprises like Indonesia, Norway's B team, and Iran! Norway's A team has 7/10, along with the USA, Greece, Italy (Caruana et al), Israel (Gelfand et al), Ukraine (Ivanchuk et al) and many more. Not much stratification has occurred yet.

    In the women's event China, Hungary and Russia remain perfect; the Netherlands, Poland and Serbia all have 9/10, and then there are 12 more teams at 8, including the USA and Greece. Bravo Hellas!

    As the top teams are already facing off there were some real highlights on the day, most notably one-on-one battles between Levon Aronian and Magnus Carlsen and between Vladimir Kramnik and Veselin Topalov. In the first game Aronian was up a pawn for most of the game, but never with any serious winning chances. Still, it was probably nice to press, and in the end his team won - the most important thing.

    As for the hatefest between Kramnik and Topalov, Kramnik played what Garry Kasparov labeled a "great game", and he (Kramnik) certainly enjoyed discussing the game afterwards (with a bit of occasional gleeful malice) with the commentators. His pleasure was in good part spoiled however by the Russian team's failure to win the match. The culprit was Sergey Karjakin's blunders against Valentin Iotov. The most obvious one was his failure to recapture on d5 with the bishop on move 27. He apparently thought he could build up more and then take, but the problem with taking later was that Black would win by sacrificing the exchange on d5 and playing ...f4, when the threat of ...Qh2# would win the game. That wasn't a worry on move 27: 27.Bxd5 Rxd5 28.cxd5 Qf4 and now White returns the exchange with 29.Rxe5, and he'll have no problems. Karjakin may be even more upset when he learns that he could have won the game practically in the opening with 14.Qa3! The knight on e4 can't be taken because of 15.Qe7#, 14...Bxg5 is met by 15.Nd6+ Kd8 16.Nxf7+, and meanwhile the threat of 15.Bxf4 followed by 16.Nd6+ forces Black to cough up a pawn without a shred of compensation (in fact, White will have the better position to go along with the extra pawn).

    Another high-profile blunder cost another of the pre-tournament favorites a crucial point in the standings. The Ukraine-Uzbekistan match was headed for a draw, but an out-of-form Vassily Ivanchuk blundered in time trouble and lost to Rustam Kasimdzhanov from what Kasparov had considered a "dead drawn" position. Errare humanum est!

    As usual, I refer you to this page for more information, but as a little added bonus, here's the Kramnik-Topalov game, with my summary of Kramnik's comments and analysis.