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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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