US Team in Prime Position as Baku Finale Looms

The penultimate round in Baku was a blazing affair on most boards for the American Open team. The games were fast and furious. First to finish was Sam Shankland. His opening preparation got him an excellent position, and his technique was very strong. His kingside expansion was almost unstoppable, and the early major pieces trades only accentuated how weak Black's king is. Eventually the monarch simply could not be defended, and Shankland prevailed.
[pgn]

[Event "Baku Chess Olympiad | Open"]
[White "Shankland, Samuel L"]
[Black "Sanikidze, Tornike"]
[Result "1-0"]
[WhiteElo "2679"]
[BlackElo "2497"]
[PlyCount "77"]
[EventDate "2016.??.??"]
[SourceDate "2015.02.07"]
[WhiteTeam "United States"]
[BlackTeam "Georgia"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "USA"]
[BlackTeamCountry "GEO"]
[WhiteClock "0:42:08"]
[BlackClock "0:00:58"]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. a3 Bxc3+ 5. bxc3 Nf6 6. e3 c5 7. cxd5 exd5 8.
Bd3 O-O 9. Ne2 b6 10. O-O Ba6 11. f3 Bxd3 12. Qxd3 Re8 13. Ng3 Nc6 14. Bb2 c4
15. Qe2 h5 16. Qf2 Qd7 17. Rae1 Ne7 18. e4 h4 19. Nh1 Ng6 20. e5 Nh5 21. Bc1
Nhf4 22. Bxf4 Nxf4 23. Qxh4 Nd3 24. Re3 Re6 25. f4 Rh6 26. Qg3 Qa4 27. Nf2 Nxf2
28. Qxf2 Qxa3 29. f5 {Black is very clearly getting killed.} a5 30. Rg3 Kh8 31.
Qf4 Qf8 32. f6 gxf6 33. exf6 Re8 34. Qf5 Rh7 35. Rh3 Qg8 36. Rff3 Re1+ 37. Kf2
Re2+ 38. Kxe2 Qxg2+ 39. Ke1 1-0

[/pgn]
Wesley So made it look easy against Pantsulaia. His opening prep was nice, equalizing easily, and then soon after the opening he started to obtain the advantage. Tactically, the Georgian's decisions did not work out, and Wesley capitalized on them powerfully. He first took a pawn, then two pieces for a rook, and his game was completely winning.
[pgn]

[Event "Baku Chess Olympiad | Open"]
[White "Pantsulaia, Levan"]
[Black "So, Wesley"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "2601"]
[BlackElo "2782"]
[PlyCount "74"]
[EventDate "2016.??.??"]
[SourceDate "2015.02.07"]
[WhiteTeam "Georgia"]
[BlackTeam "United States"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "GEO"]
[BlackTeamCountry "USA"]
[WhiteClock "0:01:04"]
[BlackClock "0:30:44"]

1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 g6 3. c4 dxc4 4. Na3 Bg7 5. Nxc4 Nc6 6. d3 e5 7. Bd2 Be6 8. Rc1
Nge7 9. Bg2 a5 10. O-O O-O 11. b3 h6 12. Bc3 f6 13. Qd2 a4 14. Bb2 $2 axb3 15.
axb3 b5 16. Ne3 Na5 $1 17. Qb4 Nxb3 18. Ng5 $6 hxg5 19. Bxa8 c5 $1 20. Rxc5
Qxa8 21. Rxb5 Nc6 22. Qd6 Nbd4 23. Bxd4 Nxd4 {The two peices are simply too
powerful compared to the rook.} 24. Rb2 Rd8 25. Qb6 f5 26. Rfb1 f4 27. Nc4 e4
28. e3 fxe3 29. fxe3 exd3 30. exd4 Bxc4 31. Qxg6 Qd5 32. Rf2 Qxd4 33. Rbb2 Qe5
34. Rbd2 Rd6 35. Qf5 Qe1+ 36. Rf1 Qxd2 37. Qc8+ Kh7 0-1

[/pgn]
In the surprise of the day, Hikaru Nakamura lost with the white pieces to Mchedlishvili. Nakamura's tactics did not work out, and Black's d-pawn was simply monstrous. It allowed Black to win material and the game.
[pgn]

[Event "Baku Chess Olympiad | Open"]
[Date "2016.09.12"]
[White "Nakamura, Hikaru"]
[Black "Mchedlishvili, Mikheil"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "2789"]
[BlackElo "2609"]
[PlyCount "78"]
[EventDate "2016.??.??"]
[SourceDate "2015.02.07"]
[WhiteTeam "United States"]
[BlackTeam "Georgia"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "USA"]
[BlackTeamCountry "GEO"]
[WhiteClock "0:04:59"]
[BlackClock "0:11:00"]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. g3 g6 5. Bg2 Bg7 6. Nbd2 O-O 7. O-O a5 8. b3
Bf5 9. Bb2 Ne4 10. Nh4 Nxd2 11. Qxd2 Be6 12. e4 dxc4 13. d5 Bxb2 14. Qxb2 cxd5
15. Rfd1 $2 (15. exd5 Bxd5 16. Rfd1 c3 $1 17. Qxc3 e6 18. Bxd5 exd5 19. Qc5 $11
) 15... d4 $1 16. bxc4 Nc6 17. Qxb7 Qc8 18. Qb5 Rb8 19. Qc5 Rb7 20. Nf3 Rd8 21.
Nd2 {Black is structurally better. Nakamura was unable to equalize from here
on.} d3 22. Rab1 Rc7 23. Rb6 Nd4 24. Qxa5 Bxc4 25. Nf3 Ne2+ 26. Kh1 Be6 27. Ne1
Rc1 28. Rxc1 Qxc1 29. Rc6 d2 30. Qxd8+ Kg7 31. Rxc1 dxc1=Q 32. Qa5 Nc3 33. Bf3
Qxe1+ 34. Kg2 h5 35. Qb4 Bxa2 36. Qxe7 Bc4 37. Qe5+ Kh7 38. Kh3 Qxf2 39. Qxc3
Bf1+ 0-1

[/pgn]
It thus came down to Georgia's super star, Jobava, against Fabiano Caruana. Our top American player knows how to be solid, and he did not falter today. Holding down the fort with the black pieces was no problem in the Italian game, and Jobava was never able to put serious pressure on Fabiano's position. The transition to the endgame was perhaps even a bit dangerous for White, but of course the 2.5-1.5 clincher was of supreme importance. Caruana drew to win us the key match point.
[pgn]

[Event "Baku Chess Olympiad | Open"]
[Date "2016.09.12"]
[White "Jobava, Baadur"]
[Black "Caruana, Fabiano"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[WhiteElo "2665"]
[BlackElo "2808"]
[PlyCount "87"]
[EventDate "2016.??.??"]
[SourceDate "2015.02.07"]
[WhiteTeam "Georgia"]
[BlackTeam "United States"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "GEO"]
[BlackTeamCountry "USA"]
[WhiteClock "0:32:38"]
[BlackClock "0:24:48"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. b4 Bb6 6. d3 d6 7. a4 a5 8. b5 Ne7
9. Nbd2 Ng6 10. O-O O-O 11. Ba2 c6 12. Nc4 Bc7 13. Re1 Re8 14. Bg5 Be6 15. Ne3
d5 16. Bxf6 gxf6 17. g3 Qd7 18. Nd2 f5 19. exf5 Bxf5 20. Nxf5 Qxf5 21. Qf3 Qxf3
22. Nxf3 Kg7 23. Rab1 Rab8 24. Kg2 Bd6 25. Re2 f5 26. c4 dxc4 27. Bxc4 Bb4 28.
bxc6 bxc6 29. Ng5 Re7 30. Ne6+ Kf6 31. Nc5 Rb6 32. Reb2 Ra7 33. h3 Ne7 34. d4
exd4 35. Nd3 c5 36. Re2 Ng6 37. Rbb2 Rd6 38. f4 Re7 39. Kf3 h5 40. Rxe7 Nxe7
41. Re2 Nd5 42. Re8 Nb6 43. Ne5 Nxc4 44. Nxc4 1/2-1/2

[/pgn]
Our chances of earning a medal are extremely high. A match victory should guarantee gold as the USA's tiebreaks are much better than Ukraine's, the only other team that has the same amount of points. Russia drew India, which means that all the other teams are trailing America and Ukraine by a full match point.In round 11, the US team will face Canada while Ukraine plays Slovenia. Olympiad Open Standings after 10 rounds Team Points TB (Tiebreaks) 1 USA 18 344,5 2 UKR 18 328 3 RUS 16 345 4 CAN 15 312,5 5 IND 15 291 6 NOR 15 277,5 7 SLO 15 273,5 8 ENG 15 269 9 PER 15 251,5 10 ITA 15 247 The Women's team had a bit of a disappointment today. Sabina outplayed her opponent on the fourth board, and it seemed that the bishop endgame held some chances for a win. It will need to be analyzed a bit further before I can say if it was definitively winning, but Be4?! Made life easy for Black, transitioning into a drawn king and pawn endgame.
[pgn]

[Event "Women's Baku Chess Olympiad"]
[Date "2016.09.12"]
[White "Foisor, Sabina-Francesca"]
[Black "Enkhtuul, Altan-Ulzii"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[WhiteElo "2279"]
[BlackElo "2288"]
[PlyCount "103"]
[EventDate "2016.??.??"]
[SourceDate "2015.02.07"]
[WhiteTeam "United States"]
[BlackTeam "Mongolia"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "USA"]
[BlackTeamCountry "MGL"]
[WhiteClock "0:12:52"]
[BlackClock "0:23:11"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. Bf4 Be7 4. e3 b6 5. Nbd2 Bb7 6. Bd3 Nh5 7. Be5 d6 8. Bg3
Nxg3 9. hxg3 Nd7 10. Qe2 h6 11. g4 a6 12. Nf1 c5 13. Ng3 b5 14. c3 Qa5 15. O-O
c4 16. Bc2 Rc8 17. a3 Nf6 18. Nd2 Qb6 19. f4 Qc6 20. Nh5 Nxh5 21. gxh5 f5 22.
e4 O-O 23. Rf3 Qd7 24. Raf1 Bf6 25. Rg3 Rcd8 26. Rg6 Kh8 27. g4 fxg4 28. Qxg4
e5 29. Qxd7 Rxd7 30. fxe5 dxe5 31. dxe5 Rxd2 32. exf6 Rxf6 33. Rfxf6 gxf6 34.
Rxh6+ Kg7 35. Rg6+ Kh7 36. Rg2 Rxg2+ 37. Kxg2 Kh6 38. Kg3 Kxh5 39. Kf4 Kg6 40.
e5+ Kf7 41. Be4 $2 (41. Bf5 Bc6 42. a4 $5 bxa4 43. Bc8 a5 44. Kf5 fxe5 45. Kxe5
Ke7 46. Be6 {looks winning to me, at least without any deep analysis.}) 41...
fxe5+ 42. Kxe5 Bxe4 43. Kxe4 Ke6 44. Kf4 Kd5 45. Kf5 a5 46. Kf4 Ke6 47. a4 Kd5
48. axb5 Kc5 49. b6 Kxb6 50. Ke4 Kb5 51. Kd4 Ka4 52. Kxc4 1/2-1/2

[/pgn]
Katerina Nemcova used her favorite Italian idea of a quick Nh5 to obtain a great position. Her initiative was clear, and her plan of going g5-g4 was very strong and quick. White's reaction wasn't great, but when Kacka's time to capitalize and gain material came, she decided to instead try to continue the initiative. White was back in the game, but she was unable to understand the transition. Further mistakes left Black with a winning position yet again, and this time Kacka did not forgive. America 1.5-0.5 Mongolia.
[pgn]

[Event "Women's Baku Chess Olympiad"]
[Date "2016.09.12"]
[White "Uuriintuya, Uurtsaikh"]
[Black "Nemcova, Katerina"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "2228"]
[BlackElo "2365"]
[PlyCount "96"]
[EventDate "2016.??.??"]
[SourceDate "2015.02.07"]
[WhiteTeam "Mongolia"]
[BlackTeam "United States"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "MGL"]
[BlackTeamCountry "USA"]
[WhiteClock "0:28:13"]
[BlackClock "0:28:51"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d3 a6 6. Bb3 Ba7 7. h3 d6 8. Nbd2
h6 9. Nf1 Nh5 10. Ne3 Nf4 11. O-O Qf6 12. Nd5 Nxd5 13. Bxd5 Ne7 14. Bb3 g5 15.
Nh2 $6 h5 $1 16. d4 g4 17. h4 exd4 18. Bg5 Qe5 19. Kh1 dxc3 20. bxc3 f6 $1 21.
f4 gxf3 $4 (21... Qxc3 22. Rc1 Qd4 23. Qxd4 Bxd4 24. Rfd1 Bb2 25. Rxc7 fxg5 26.
hxg5 {is simply an extra piece for Black.}) 22. Nxf3 Qg3 23. Bxf6 Rf8 24. Bg5 (
24. e5 $1 {Gives White a decisive initiative. It is Black's king that is weak
now, but sometimes it is hard to make that switch from defense to offense.})
24... Bg4 25. Qd3 Bf2 26. Bd1 Nc6 27. Be2 $2 (27. e5 $1) 27... Kd7 28. Rab1 $4
Bxf3 $1 29. Rxf2 (29. Bxf3 Ne5 {now simply loses, White has no good checks.})
29... Ne5 30. Rxf3 Rxf3 31. Qxf3 Nxf3 32. Bxf3 {Two bishops are pretty good,
but a queen is better.} Rf8 33. Rf1 Rh8 34. Bf6 Rh7 35. c4 c6 36. a4 Ke6 37.
Bg5 Rf7 38. Rc1 Rxf3 39. gxf3 Qxf3+ 40. Kg1 Qxe4 41. Kf2 Kf5 42. Kg3 Qd3+ 43.
Kh2 a5 44. Kg1 Kg4 45. Kf2 Qf3+ 46. Ke1 Qb3 47. Ke2 Qxa4 48. Rg1+ Kf5 0-1

[/pgn]
Former American player Batchimeg Tuvshintugs faced Anna Zatonskih on board two. Mutually surprising each other, they ended up in an h3 King's Indian Defense that was unfamiliar for both players. As with most King's Indians, this was a very complex game, but it does seem that the Mongolian player obtained the superior position. Anna kept playing resourcefully, and the game eventually ended in a draw.
[pgn]

[Event "Women's Baku Chess Olympiad"]
[Date "2016.09.12"]
[White "Zatonskih, Anna"]
[Black "Batchimeg, Tuvshintugs"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[WhiteElo "2449"]
[BlackElo "2391"]
[PlyCount "87"]
[EventDate "2016.??.??"]
[SourceDate "2015.02.07"]
[WhiteTeam "United States"]
[BlackTeam "Mongolia"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "USA"]
[BlackTeamCountry "MGL"]
[WhiteClock "0:31:46"]
[BlackClock "0:27:46"]

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. d4 O-O 6. h3 e5 7. d5 Na6 8. Be3 Ne8
9. a3 f5 10. b4 Nf6 11. Be2 Qe7 12. Nh2 Nb8 13. g4 a5 14. f3 c6 15. O-O Nbd7
16. dxc6 bxc6 17. Qd2 Bb7 18. Bd3 fxe4 19. fxe4 Kh8 20. Bg5 Qe6 21. Rae1 axb4
22. axb4 Nb6 23. c5 dxc5 24. bxc5 Nbd7 25. Be3 Qe7 26. g5 Nh5 27. Rxf8+ Rxf8
28. Ne2 Nf4 29. Nxf4 exf4 30. Bxf4 Nxc5 31. Bc2 Ne6 (31... Rd8 32. Qg2 Nd3 $17)
32. Be3 $6 c5 33. Rf1 Nd4 $1 34. Rxf8+ Qxf8 35. Bd3 Be5 $6 (35... Qe7 {would
have started targetting a lot of pawns, and would have been unpleasant for
Zatonskih.}) 36. Qf2 $1 Qxf2+ 37. Bxf2 Bxh2+ 38. Kxh2 Nf3+ 39. Kg3 Nxg5 40.
Bxc5 Nxe4+ 41. Bxe4 Bxe4 42. Bd4+ Kg8 43. h4 Kf7 44. Bc3 1/2-1/2

[/pgn]
It all came down to board one. The 16 year old prodigy, Normin-Erdene, truly got a bad position from the opening against Irina Krush, with doubled pawns and no real strategic compensation. But that didn't stop her from finding ideas and pushing Black back. Irina's transition into the endgame was probably not the most precise, and although it seemed equal, the Mongolian girl was fixated on drawing the match. She showed incredible technique and in a Carlsen-like way she edged out her opponent little by little until the pressure was too much. Irina toppled her king and Mongolia drew the match.
[pgn]

[Event "Women's Baku Chess Olympiad"]
[Date "2016.09.12"]
[White "Nomin-Erdene, Davaademberel"]
[Black "Krush, Irina"]
[Result "1-0"]
[WhiteElo "2422"]
[BlackElo "2444"]
[PlyCount "125"]
[EventDate "2016.??.??"]
[SourceDate "2015.02.07"]
[WhiteTeam "Mongolia"]
[BlackTeam "United States"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "MGL"]
[BlackTeamCountry "USA"]
[WhiteClock "0:05:26"]
[BlackClock "0:12:40"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. c4 Nf6 6. Nc3 Bb4 7. Qd3 d6 8. Nc2
Bxc3+ 9. bxc3 Nbd7 10. f3 Nc5 11. Qd4 e5 12. Qe3 O-O 13. Nb4 Be6 14. Be2 Rc8
15. Bd2 Na4 16. Nd5 Nb2 17. Qb6 Qxb6 18. Nxb6 Rc6 19. Nd5 Kh8 20. Rb1 Nxc4 21.
Nxf6 Nxd2 22. Kxd2 gxf6 23. Rxb7 Rfc8 24. Rc1 Bxa2 25. Ra7 Be6 26. Rxa6 {The
game should be close to a draw, but White surprisingly has the more pleasant
side of it. First, her king is closer, second, Black's pawns need defense
while the pawn on c3 will have no problems. Black should play f5, and Krush
misses her chance.} Kg7 27. Rxc6 Rxc6 28. g4 $1 {Not allowing Black to break.
The position should be holdable, but Krush eventually loses her way.} Kf8 29.
Rb1 Ke7 30. Rb7+ Kd8 31. Bb5 Rc7 32. Rb6 Ke7 33. Rb8 Rc8 34. Rb7+ Kd8 35. Kd3
h6 36. h4 Rc7 37. Rb6 Ke7 38. Bc6 Bc8 39. Kc4 Bd7 40. Kb5 Rc8 41. c4 Bxc6+ 42.
Rxc6 Rb8+ 43. Rb6 Rc8 44. Rb7+ Ke6 45. h5 Rc5+ 46. Kb4 Rc8 47. Kc3 Ra8 48. Rb6
Kd7 49. c5 Rc8 50. Rxd6+ Ke7 51. Kc4 Ra8 52. Rd3 Ra1 53. c6 Rc1+ 54. Kb5 Rc2
55. Kb6 Rc1 56. Rb3 Kd6 57. Kb7 Rc2 58. Rd3+ Ke7 59. Rd5 Rb2+ 60. Kc8 Rb3 61.
c7 Rb2 62. Ra5 Rb3 63. Ra7 1-0

[/pgn]
With this draw, the Women will need some luck and skill to earn medals. China is the clear favorite for Gold. With Poland, Ukraine and Russia also ahead, they will need some mathematical help, and a win in the last round against India. Women's Olympiad Standings after 10 rounds  Team Points Tiebreak 1 CHN 18 316,5 2 RUS 16 317 3 POL 15 333 4 UKR 15 332 5 IND 15 290,5 6 HUN 15 281,5 7 USA 15 274,5 Follow live games, results and find more photos at the tournament site. 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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