Team USA Upsets Macedonia, Russia in Olympiad for People With Disabilities

FIDE Online Olympiad for People With Disabilities

Team USA currently outperforms itself halfway through the Online Chess Olympiad for People with Disabilities.  

The American squad fought to a draw against the 9-seed Russian team in Saturday’s opening round, and on Tuesday notched a fourth-round upset over 10-seed North Macedonia. The four-board U.S. team entered 39th out of 60 global squads, but now ranks 21st halfway through the seven-round Swiss event, with a 2-1-1 score.  

Organized by the International Chess Federation (FIDE), the first-ever online Olympiad for the disabled has drawn nearly 400 competitors representing 45 different countries. Each team consists of four players mixed with a physical, visual, hearing or social impairment, with at least one woman playing in every match. Over 30 titled players are competing in the event, including 2 Grandmasters and 12 International Masters.  


Team USA for the Online Olympiad for the Disabled
Image Caption
Team USA meeting for the Online Olympiad for People With Disabilities. // courtesy

Leading the charge for the Americans have been youngsters on the middle boards, with both Griffin McConnell and Pranav Shankar scoring three wins each through four rounds. McConnell was already an international star after being named the most successful player in last year’s Confederation Cup for Disabled People in Turkey, where he scored a perfect 4/4. In the past two rounds at the Olympiad, the 16-year-old from Colorado has notched back-to-back upsets on board two, including this wild fight on Tuesday against Macedonia’s Vladimir Trkaljanov, who was rated 273 points higher.  

[pgn][Event "FIDE Online Olympiad for people with di"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020.11.21"] [Round "4.15"] [White "McConnell, Griffin"] [Black "Trkaljanov, Vladimir"] [Result "1-0"] [WhiteElo "1823"] [BlackElo "2096"] [PlyCount "87"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Qh4 5. Nc3 Bb4 6. Be2 Qxe4 7. Ndb5 Kd8 8. O-O Bxc3 9. bxc3 Nge7 10. Re1 Qd5 11. Bd3 a6 12. c4 Qc5 13. Be3 Qe5 14. Bb6 axb5 15. Rxe5 Nxe5 16. Bd4 Nxd3 17. Qxd3 bxc4 18. Qxc4 d5 19. Qb3 f6 20. Re1 Ra5 21. Rxe7 Kxe7 22. Qb4+ c5 23. Bxc5+ Rxc5 24. Qxc5+ Ke6 25. Qc7 Bd7 26. Qxb7 Rc8 27. Qb3 Rc4 28. c3 Bc6 29. f3 h5 30. Kf2 Kf7 31. Ke3 Kg6 32. g3 Ba4 33. Qb1+ Kh6 34. Kd3 Bc6 35. Qc1+ Kg6 36. h4 Bb5 37. Kd2 Bc6 38. Qb1+ Kh6 39. Qb6 Kg6 40. g4 Kh6 41. gxh5 Kxh5 42. Qc7 Kg6 43. h5+ Kh7 44. Qc8 {#t} 1-0 [/pgn]

McConnell also notched this come-from-behind victory in Monday’s third round against Romania’s Mihai Dima, who out-rated him by 174 points. The late surprise came as the match-clinching final result of the day, pushing Team USA to a 2.5-1.5 win.  

[pgn][Event "FIDE Online Olympiad for people with di"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020.11.21"] [Round "3.23"] [White "Dima, Mihai"] [Black "McConnell, Griffin"] [Result "0-1"] [WhiteElo "1997"] [BlackElo "1823"] [PlyCount "158"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. h4 h5 5. c4 e6 6. Nc3 Ne7 7. Qb3 Qc7 8. Nge2 Nd7 9. Nf4 g6 10. cxd5 exd5 11. Be3 Bh6 12. Rc1 Qb6 13. Qxb6 axb6 14. a3 f6 15. exf6 Nxf6 16. Be2 Kf7 17. Nd3 Bxd3 18. Bxd3 Ng4 19. Bxh6 Nxh6 20. Ne2 Nef5 21. g3 Rhe8 22. O-O Kf6 23. Rcd1 Re7 24. Rfe1 Rae8 25. Kf1 Ng4 26. Bxf5 Kxf5 27. Rd2 b5 28. Rc2 g5 29. hxg5 Kxg5 30. Kg2 Nh6 31. Rd2 Nf5 32. Kf1 Re4 33. Red1 Kg4 34. Ng1 R4e7 35. Kg2 h4 36. gxh4 Nxh4+ 37. Kf1 Re4 38. Rd3 Rf8 39. Rg3+ Kh5 40. Rh3 Rff4 41. Ne2 Rf3 42. Ng3+ Kg6 43. Rh2 Rg4 44. Ke2 Rff4 45. Ke3 Nf3 46. Rh8 Kg7 47. Rb8 Kf6 48. Rf8+ Kg5 49. Rg8+ Kf6 50. Nh5+ Kf7 51. Rxg4 Rxg4 52. Kxf3 Re4 53. Ng3 Re8 54. Rd3 Re1 55. Re3 Rb1 56. Re2 Kf6 57. Kf4 Rd1 58. Ke3 b6 59. Rd2 Re1+ 60. Kf4 Rc1 61. Ne2 Rf1 62. Ke3 Ke6 63. Nf4+ Kd6 64. Nd3 c5 65. dxc5+ bxc5 66. Ke2 Rh1 67. Rc2 c4 68. Nb4 d4 69. Rd2 Rh4 70. Kf3 Kc5 71. Kg3 Rh8 72. Nc2 d3 73. Ne3 Kd4 74. Kf4 Rf8+ 75. Nf5+ Kc5 76. f3 Re8 77. Ng3 Kd4 78. Ne2+ Rxe2 79. Rd1 Rxb2 {#T} 0-1 [/pgn]

And after a fourth-place finish in last year’s World Junior Chess Championship for Players with Disabilities, New Jersey 13-year-old Shankar is also dealing out upsets as the Americans’ third board in the Olympiad. Shankar had already knocked off Romania’s Eugen Cezar Vieru despite the 300-point rating advantage, when he followed up with this whopper on Tuesday against Macedonia’s Zarko Selkovski – who out-rated Shankar by more than 500 points.  

[pgn][Event "FIDE Online Olympiad for people with disabilities"] [Site ""] [Date "2020.11.21"] [Round "4.15.3"] [White "Selkovski, Zarko"] [Black "Shankar, Pranav"] [WhiteElo "2007"] [BlackElo "1499"] [Result "0-1"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. c3 Bf5 5. g4 Bg6 6. h4 h6 7. h5 Bh7 8. e6 fxe6 9. Bd3 Nf6 10. Bxh7 Rxh7 11. Qd3 c4 12. Qg6+ Kd7 13. Nf3 Nc6 14. Ne5+ Kc8 15. f4 Qd6 16. Rh3 Qc7 17. Nf7 Nd8 18. Nxd8 Kxd8 19. g5 hxg5 20. fxg5 Rxh5 21. gxf6 Rxh3 22. fxg7 Rh1+ 23. Kf2 Qh2+ 24. Qg2 Bxg7 25. Qxh2 Rxh2+ 26. Kg1 Rh5 27. Bf4 e5 28. dxe5 Bxe5 29. Bxe5 Rxe5 30. Nd2 Kd7 31. Nf3 Rg8+ 32. Kf2 Rf8 33. Kg3 Re3 34. Rf1 Rexf3+ 35. Rxf3 Rxf3+ 36. Kxf3 Ke6 37. Kf4 Kf6 38. b3 e5+ 39. Ke3 b5 40. bxc4 bxc4 {#R} 0-1[/pgn]

Rounding out Team USA is NM Michael “fpawn” Aigner from California on the top board, as well as reigning three-time U.S. Blind Chess Champion Jessica Lauser on board 4. The team also has two reserve players: 11-year-old Oskar Zoffer from Massachusetts; and 8-year-old Nguyen Tran, the youngest player in the international event. The USA team is being wonderfully coordinated, coached and led by team captain NM Lior Lapid.  

The Online Olympiad for People with Disabilities plays one round per day and will close on December 3, recognized by the United Nations as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Team USA has paired with 18th-ranked Chile in the fifth round. Games begin at 9:00 a.m. Eastern and may be viewed here: