Can You Calculate like an Olympic Gold Medalist?

The US Team on the highest level on the Olympic podium along with the silver and bronze winners, Ukraine and Russia. Photo: Maria Emelianova, Official Website The US Team winning gold on the Olympic podium along with the silver and bronze winners, Ukraine and Russia. Photo: Maria Emelianova, Olympiad Website
For the first time in 40 years, the US has won gold at the Olympiad. How did they do it? Here’s a look at some of the stunning tactics from their games.

Board 1: Fabiano Caruana

Fabiano Caruana winning the bronze medal for board 1 with gold and silver winners, Baadur Jobava and Perez Leinier Dominguez. Photo: Maria Emelianova, Official Website Board 1 bronze medalist, Fabiano Caruana (right), with the gold and silver winners, Baadur Jobava (center) and Perez Leinier Dominguez ( left). Photo: Maria Emelianova, Olympiad Website
US Champion, Fabiano Caruana, led the team as a very dependable Board 1, including a key victory over Pavel Eljanov to seal an American win against Ukraine, their main competitor throughout the event. Going undefeated and consistently maintaining an above 2800 performance rating, Caruana took home the Bronze medal for Board 1.
Tactic #1

Fabiano Caruana vs. Evgeny Bareev

White to move. 

Level: Warm-Up

Show Solution
[pgn][Event "Chess Olympiad"]
[Date "2016.09.13"]
[Round "11"]
[White "Fabiano Caruana"]
[Black "Evgeny Bareev"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B12"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "1k2bn1r/qpb5/p4Pnr/P2pP1p1/3N2B1/1NP1Q1B1/5R1P/R6K w - - 0 31"]
[PlyCount "15"]
[EventDate "2016.??.??"]

31. f7 $1 {White's passed pawns come rolling down the board. Black resigned. If
} Bc6 (31... Bd7 32. e6 Bc8 33. Bxc7+ Kxc7 34. Nb5+) 32. e6 Bxg3 33. Qxg3+ Ka8
34. e7 Nxe7 35. Re1 Nfg6 36. Rxe7 {wins material:} Nxe7 37. f8=Q+ Rxf8 38.
Rxf8+ 1-0[/pgn]

Board 2: Hikaru Nakamura

Hikaru Nakamura was the only US Team member who played all 11 rounds of the Olympiad. He finished as the 5th highest Board 2 performance, winning 5 crucial games, many of which sealed team victories.

Tactic #2

Hikaru Nakamura vs. Robert Markus

White to move. 

Level: Intermediate

Show Solution
[pgn]

[Event "Chess Olympiad"]
[Site "Baku AZE"]
[Date "2016.09.06"]
[Round "5.3"]
[White "Hikaru Nakamura"]
[Black "Robert Markus"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B42"]
[WhiteElo "2789"]
[BlackElo "2662"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "3qrbk1/1b1n4/pp1pp1p1/4n2p/P2BPN2/1N1BQ2P/1PP3P1/R5K1 w - - 0 22"]
[PlyCount "7"]
[EventDate "2016.09.02"]

22. Nxg6 $1 {Black's position collapses. Markus resigned. If} Nxg6 23. Qg3 Nde5
(23... Kh7 24. e5 $1 Ndxe5 25. Bxe5 dxe5 26. Qxg6+) 24. Bxe5 dxe5 25. Qxg6+ {
when Black's open king and White's extra pawn give White a winning advantage.}
1-0[/pgn]

Board 3: Wesley So

Board 3 Gold medalist, Wesley So, with the silver and bronze winners, Zoltan Almasi and Eugenio Torre. Photo: Maria Emelianova, Official Website Board 3 gold medalist, Wesley So (center), with the silver and bronze winners, Zoltan Almasi (left) and Eugenio Torre (right). Photo: Maria Emelianova, Olympiad Website

Wesley So achieved an incredible 7 victories at the Olympiad, finishing with an undefeated 8.5 points out of 10. He won the gold medal for Board 3 with a 2896 performance rating.

Tactic #3

Wesley So vs. Aleksandr Lesiege

In this critical last round game against the Canadian team, Lesiege played 34...Qe5, counting on the rook to be indirectly defended because of 35. fxe3 Qg3 with a deadly checkmate threat on g2. What did he overlook?
White to move. 

Level: Advanced

Show Solution
[pgn][Event "Chess Olympiad"]
[Site "Baku AZE"]
[Date "2016.09.13"]
[Round "11.1"]
[White "Wesley So"]
[Black "Alexandre Lesiege"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A30"]
[WhiteElo "2782"]
[BlackElo "2512"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "8/2N2pk1/6pp/2PPq3/8/4r2P/4rPP1/2Q2RK1 w - - 0 35"]
[PlyCount "11"]
[EventDate "2016.09.02"]35. fxe3 $1 {Wesley So bravely falls into his opponent's "trap".} Qg3 36. Qa1+
{and, realizing that he gets checkmate first, Black resigned:} Kg8 (36... Kh7
37. Rxf7+) (36... Kf8 37. Qa8+ Ke7 38. Qe8#) 37. Qa8+ Kg7 38. Ne6+ fxe6 39.
Qf8+ Kh7 40. Rf7# 1-0[/pgn]

Board 4: Sam Shankland

Sam Shankland. Photo David Llada Sam Shankland. Photo: David Llada
Sam Shankland was a very reliable 4th Board, winning key games for the team during rounds 9 and 10 against the tough teams, Norway and Georgia. He also played a role in the US team's convincing 3.5 to 0.5 victory over India.
Tactic #4

San Shankland vs. S.P. Sethuraman

In this infamous game from the match against India, Shankland fights back from a losing position--with computer evaluations as bleak as -9.5. When interviewed afterwards by Chess.com, Shankland shared his thought process during the game: "I wanted to resign, but I didn't. At some point, I stopped calculating. I just tried to play a move that didn't lose each time." In the position below, Sethuraman just made a mistake, 34...Rab2, how did Shankland fight back?
White to move. 

Level: Intermediate

Show Solution
[pgn][Event "Chess Olympiad"]
[Site "Baku AZE"]
[Date "2016.09.09"]
[Round "7.1"]
[White "Samuel Shankland"]
[Black "Sethuraman P Sethuraman"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D12"]
[WhiteElo "2679"]
[BlackElo "2640"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "8/3Rbqk1/4p3/1B1p1p2/2nP1P2/2PKP3/1r4r1/1R1QB3 w - - 0 35"]
[PlyCount "82"]
[EventDate "2016.09.02"]35. Bxc4 {Trading off one of Black's key attacking pieces.} dxc4+ 36. Kxc4 {
Although the king is completely out in the open, precise calculation shows
that white doesn't get checkmated.} Qe8 ({If} 36... e5+ 37. d5 Qf6 38. Rxb2
Qa6+ (38... Rxb2 39. Qa1 Rb8 40. Qa7) 39. Rb5 Qc8+ 40. Kb3 Qxd7 41. c4) 37.
Rxb2 {Each exchange favors White, who is 2 pawns ahead.} Rxb2 38. Qa1 {
Activating the queen while gaining time by attacking the rook and chasing it
from the strong attacking post, the b2 square.} Rb8 39. Qa7 {when White's
active pieces keep his king from danger and put pressure on Black's position.
White's extra pawns will eventually win the game. The game finished with:} Kf8
40. Kd3 Ra8 41. Qb7 Rb8 42. Qh1 Qxd7 43. Qh8+ Kf7 44. Qxb8 Qc6 45. Qb2 Qe4+ 46.
Kd2 Qg2+ 47. Kc1 Qf1 48. Kd1 Qd3+ 49. Qd2 Qc4 50. Qe2 Qa4+ 51. Qc2 Qc4 52. Kd2
Qf1 53. Qd3 Qh1 54. Qe2 Qe4 55. Qh2 Qb7 56. Ke2 Qb2+ 57. Bd2 Qb5+ 58. Kf2 Kg6
59. Qg2+ Kf7 60. Qf3 Bh4+ 61. Kg2 Qd3 62. Qh5+ Kf8 63. Qd1 Kg7 64. Qg1 Qxd2+
65. Kh3+ Kf8 66. Kxh4 Qxc3 67. Kh5 Qc6 68. Kh6 Qf3 69. Qg7+ Ke8 70. Qe5 Kd7 71.
Kg7 Qg4+ 72. Kf8 Qh4 73. Qg7+ Kd6 74. Ke8 Qh5+ 75. Qf7 Kd5 1-0[/pgn]

Reserve: Ray Robson

The youngest player on the team, Ray Robson, finished the event with a respectable 3 points out of 5.
Tactic #5

Ray Robson vs. Iain Gourlay

White to move. 

Level: Intermediate

Show Solution
[pgn][Event "Chess Olympiad"]
[Site "Baku AZE"]
[Date "2016.09.03"]
[Round "2.2"]
[White "Ray Robson"]
[Black "Iain Gourlay"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C77"]
[WhiteElo "2674"]
[BlackElo "2393"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "4r3/1b1nrp1k/pq1p2pp/3P4/1P1NP3/6NP/1P1QRPP1/4R1K1 w - - 0 32"]
[PlyCount "13"]
[EventDate "2016.09.02"]32. Ngf5 $1 {Targeting the weak h6-pawn. Black resigned. If} gxf5 (32... g5 33.
Nxe7) 33. Nxf5 f6 34. Qxh6+ Kg8 35. Re3 Rh7 36. Qg6+ Kf8 37. Rg3 {and Black
soon gets checkmated on g8 or if} Rh8 (37... Bxd5 38. Qxh7) 38. Qg7# 1-0[/pgn]

US Women's Team

Although the US Women's team ultimately did not finish on the podium, they achieved some impressive results throughout the event, including a victory against the highly ranked Russian team and a draw against the strong Indian team. Here is a tactic by the US Women's Champion, Nazi Paikidze, who debuted at the Olympiad as the US Women's team Board 2.
Tactic #6

Olga Dolzhikova vs. Nazi Paikidze

Black to move. 

Level: Advanced

Show Solution
[pgn][Event "Chess Olympiad (Women)"]
[Site "Baku AZE"]
[Date "2016.09.03"]
[Round "2.7"]
[White "Olga Dolzhikova"]
[Black "Nazi Paikidze"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B11"]
[WhiteElo "2167"]
[BlackElo "2366"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "2kr3r/pp3pp1/2p1p2p/q1bnP3/3P1PP1/1Pp4P/P1P1N2R/K2RQB2 b - - 0 20"]
[PlyCount "11"]
[EventDate "2016.09.02"]20... Ne3 $1 {Double attacking the c2 pawn and the white rook.} 21. Rc1 (21.
Qxc3 Qxc3+ 22. Nxc3 Nxd1 23. Nxd1 Rxd4 {wins}) 21... Qa3 {and White resigned:}
22. Nxc3 (22. Qxc3 Bxd4 $1 23. Nxd4 Qxc1#) (22. Rb1 Nxc2#) 22... Bb4 23. Nb5 (
23. Qxe3 Bxc3+ 24. Qxc3 Qxc1#) (23. Kb1 Nxf1 24. Qxf1 Bxc3) 23... Bxe1 24. Nxa3
Nxf1 25. Rxe1 (25. Re2 Bc3+ 26. Kb1 Nd2+) 25... Nxh2 {and Black is a rook
ahead.} 0-1[/pgn]
Check out Alejandro Ramirez's on-site report, Newsflash: US Beats Canada, Earns Gold Medals. For results and more information, visit the Official Olympiad Website. Also find the press release here and look for a post-tournament wrap-up by IM John Donaldson coming soon.  Thanks to the Chess Club & Scholastic Center of St. Louis and to the Kasparov Chess Foundation for their continued generous support.

Comments

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

why not Ne4? threatening mate on the weak a2 pawn, followed by w/nxc2 winning the queen.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

nazgul, assuming you meant 20. ... Nb4 in Ms Paikidze's game? White has 21. Nc1, the c-pawn protected by the rook on h2.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

After seeing the picture of IM John Donaldson at Chessbase with the caption, "Captain of the US Team, John Donaldson, begins doing calculations to try to figure out if the US won, and if not (yet) what they need to win," I thought the article would have been about calculating tiebreaks... http://en.chessbase.com/post/2016-baku-rd11-us-wins-historic-gold-china-wins-women-s

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

[…] Also see GM Alejandro Ramirez’s final piece in his Baku reporting, as well as Vanessa West’s Tactics Quiz from our Gold medal Olympic team.  […]

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

[…] Also see Vanessa West’s tactics article on Baku and GM Alejandro Ramirez’s wrap-up from the scene.  […]

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