Olympiad Round 11: Victory for Uzbekistan and Ukraine

With wins by both of our teams in rounds nine and ten, the Americans had put themselves in medal contention, which is a place most teams would be excited to find themselves in such an important event. But with both teams facing India 1, it was clear that victory (and medals) would not easily be secured.

Open

After the nailbiter of round ten, where Uzbekistan unbelievably saved a 2-2 draw against India 2, and Armenia won yet another match against Azerbaijan, these two teams led the field with 17 match points. A point off the pace at 16 match points were India 2, India 1, and USA. A further point back were the Netherlands, Spain, England, Germany, Serbia, and another potential Cinderalla, Moldova.

The top pairings for the 11th and final round were:

Uzbekistan-Netherlands, Armenia-Spain, India-USA, Germany-India 2, Moldova-England.

Before taking a look at the other matchups, let’s take a closer look at the battle between the two pre-tournament, highest-rated teams: USA and India 1.

The first game to finish was on board one. GM Fabiano Caruana faced GM Pentala Harikrishna, who had lost his previous two games. Harikrishna allowed Caruana to play the Nimzo-Indian but seemed to be surprised by Black’s choice of variation and soon it became clear that White had nothing better than to allow a draw by repetition of moves. This was a good, solid start for the U.S. team, neutralizing one of India’s chances with White.
 


 

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GM Fabiano Caruana at the 2022 FIDE Olympiad. Photo: Ootes
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GM Fabiano Caruana at the 2022 FIDE Olympiad. Photo: Ootes


On board two, GM Wesley So got an advantage out of the opening and held it in various sizes and shapes throughout the game. But he could not gain more than a clear advantage, and GM Vidit Gujrathi hung in there to save the draw for India in a long game.

Before GM Gukesh D made his emergence in Biel and particularly here at the Olympiad, it seemed like the next great thing on the Indian sky of chess stars would be GM Arjun Erigaisi. The nineteen-year-old, rated 2683, is obviously far from over the hill. In this event, he played every single round and had scored an impressive 7½/10 before his game on board three against GM Leinier Dominguez Perez, who similarly had performed solidly with 6½/9.

In another Nimzo-Indian, Erigaisi went for the sharp 4. f3 line, Black had a couple of chances to equalize in the opening, but after that, he never let go of the pressure. White won an impressive game and took the individual silver medal on board 3, won 13 rating points and passed 2700 in ELO.
 


 

Board four saw GM Sam Shankland facing GM S.L. Narayanan in the third Nimzo-Indian of the match. Shankland, like Harikrishna on board one, went for 4. Qc2, but thanks to some unusual moves by Black, the players soon left known opening theory.
 

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GM Sam Shankland at the 2022 FIDE Olympiad. Photo: Ootes
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GM Sam Shankland at the 2022 FIDE Olympiad. Photo: Ootes


White seemed to have the upper hand, but it while consistently better for White, there was not a clear way through. However, through a determined effort Shankland wore down his opponent who ultimately lost his patience with 47. ... c5?. After that, White converted his advantage in the rook ending with a steady hand and delivered the equalizing point.
 


 

With this 2-2 result, both teams were eliminated from the medal race.
 

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FIDE Olympiad Open Results, Round 11


Team USA Individual scores:

Fabiano Caruana: 5/10

Levon Aronian: 3½/7

Wesley So: 7/10

Leinier Dominguez Perez: 6½/10

Sam Shankland: 4½/7

 

With the first two boards clearly struggling and the other boards underperforming according to their ratings, it was surprising that the team was in medal contention at all. Many things may have contributed to this performance, but it is clear that something of an inquest may be required, and none of the players will be heading home satisfied.

The other top matches went as follows:

Uzbekistan-Netherlands – The Uzbek youngsters had already had an amazing tournament, and knew that if they could win the match, the tiebreak (board points of their opponents) would give them the gold. To their credit, they really went for it, and they were better on several boards, but in the end, it was on board four where Vakhidov took down Warmerdam.

Armenia-Spain - This matchup saw GM Gabriel Sargissian take down veteran and former world number two GM Alexey Shirov on board one, while the other games ended in draws. If anything, it was Armenia which had chances for more wins rather than Spain equalizing.

Germany-India 2 – After seeing the victory slip away in heartbreaking fashion against Uzbekistan in round ten, the youngsters picked up a solid victory against the strong Germans. The best game was GM Nihal Sarin’s victory against GM Matthias Bluebaum.

Moldova-England – The Moldovans picked up another sensational victory. The hero of the match was the sole grandmaster of the team, Vladimir Hamitevici, who turned a difficult position around and beat GM Luke McShane with the black pieces.

 

The medal winners:

Gold: Uzbekistan 19 (TB 435)

Silver: Armenia 19 (TB 382½)

Bronze: India 2 18 (TB 427½)

Behind them on 17 were India (TB 409), USA (TB 352), and Moldova (TB 316½).

 

In the pretournament seedings, none of the medal winning teams were among the top ten seeds, so they all made for healthy surprises. Similarly, Moldova, with just one grandmaster on the team and seeded 48th, made for a wonderful story. The biggest disappointment was Norway, which with GM Magnus Carlsen which was seeded third, but ended up as number 59 on the crosstable!
 

Women

By losing in round nine to Poland, India 1 had allowed the field to get closer in the overall standings, yet going into the final round, they were leading with 17 match points. Behind them on 16 were Poland, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and Georgia. A further point behind were India 2, USA, Kazakhstan, India 3, and Slovakia.

Team USA found itself paired with India 1 in the final round. Other top pairings were Ukraine-Poland, Azerbaijan-Georgia, Kazakhstan-India 3, and Slovakia-India 2.

Any hope of medals for the U.S. required victory over India. As we shall see, the team was hungry to win, but given the nature of the tiebreaks, no one could know it would be enough…

 

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WGM Tokhirjonova Gulrukhbegim (right) at the 2022 FIDE Olympiad. Photo: Ootes
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WGM Tokhirjonova Gulrukhbegim (right) at the 2022 FIDE Olympiad. Photo: Ootes


On board 1, WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova had unpleasant task of facing the strong grandmaster, the almost 200-points higher-rated GM Humpy Koneru with the black pieces. When faced with 1. d4, Tokhirjonova wheeled out another Grunfeld. As in round nine, she had things solidly under control throughout the game, was never in trouble and could possibly have played for more at one point. But a draw was a very satisfactory result.
 


 

GM Irina Krush faced IM R. Vaishali (the sister of Praggnanandhaa, from India 2) on board two. Understandably, the Indian captain had decided to let the eight-month pregnant GM Harika Dronavalli sit the final round out.
 

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GM Irina Krush calculates at the 2022 FIDE Olympiad. Photo: Bonhage
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GM Irina Krush calculates at the 2022 FIDE Olympiad. Photo: Bonhage


As on board one, the players went for a Grunfeld, but unlike Koneru, Krush had an advantage for the majority of the game. Unfortunately, Black was able to neutralize White’s pressure and was even able to pretend to play for a win at the end, but the draw was never in danger.
 

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IM Carissa Yip focusing at the 2022 FIDE Olympiad. Photo: Bonhage
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IM Carissa Yip focusing at the 2022 FIDE Olympiad. Photo: Bonhage


The well-known IM Tania Sachdev had scored an undefeated 8/10 on the Indian board three heading into the final round, but here she was facing IM Carissa Yip, who had also won her previous four games consecutively. Something had to give.

Playing for a win, Yip again went for her trusted King’s Indian. Sachdev played an interesting idea and could have gained an advantage. Once that moment passed and the game became a battle of who understood the King’s Indian better, the Indian player was no match for Yip, who despite some missteps in Sachdev’s time trouble, took home the full point.
 


 

On board four, the Indian captain called on IM Kulkarni Bhakti, who had only played four games in this Olympiad but had won each and every one of them! In a Two Knights Defense, Abrahamyan went for a somewhat unusual line which allowed Black to equalize, but when Black pushed too hard for more than that, White completely took over the game. This was a very one-sided victory and well-executed by Abrahamyan.
 


 

The end result was a brilliant 3-1 victory against favorites from India.
 

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FIDE Olympiad Women Results, Round 11

 

Team USA Individual scores:

WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova: 7/10

GM Irina Krush: 7½/10

IM Carissa Yip: 6/9

IM Anna Zatonskih: 4/6

WGM Tatev Abrahamyan: 7/9

 

Looking at our results, Tokhirjonova on the difficult board one had yet another break-through performance. Krush did about as expected on board two, while Yip on board 3 started poorly but won her last five games to limit the rating loss. Zatonskih had a bit of a bad tournament, whereas Abrahamyan scored nicely and picked up some rating.

The losses to Mongolia in round 3 and Peru in round 5 cost dearly, but the final result, a fourth place finish was a good result for this seventh seeded team, even if they missed out on the medals by a hair.

The other top matches went as follows:

Ukraine-Poland – On board one, former women’s world champion GM Mariya Muzychuk had out-prepared the strong Pole IM Alina Kashlinskaya and basically was winning at the end of the prepared line, which she duly converted to a full point. On board three, another former women’s world champion, GM Anna Ushenina took down WIM Oliwia Kiolbasa, who previously had scored an unbelievable 9½/10.

Azerbaijan-Georgia – Georgia won 3-1 with victories by IM Salome Melia, who won a beautiful, thematic game and GM Nino Batsiashvili, who turned a terrible position around to win in the endgame.

Kazakhstan-India 3 – After a crushing loss to India 1 in round 10, Kazakhstan got some measure of revenge by winning this match.

Slovakia-India 2 – This matchup ended 2-2, not the result that either team needed.

 

These results led to the following final standing in the Women’s event:

 

The medal winners:

Gold: Ukraine 18 (TB 413½)

Silver: Georgia 18 (TB 392)

Bronze: India 17 (TB 396½)

Also on 17: USA (TB 390) and Kazakhstan (TB 352).


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Comments

Fabulous wrap up coverage by chess master Hansen who has released an incredible series of dynamite chess books over many years.. close encounters with chess of every kind!...He really burned midnight oil on this one.
Jude Acers/ New Orleans

Comments on the American territories were absent. Guam's leading woman player Olga Szekely died suddenly just before the Olympiad was to begin. Puerto Rico's men's team had a player named Mike Fellman who turned in a result that earned him the title of FIDE Master. Natasha Morales Santos demonstrated courage and grace and Coralys Alvarado Perez may have won the shortest game of the entire Chess Olympiad (in 5 moves).

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