Newsflash: US Defeats Canada, Earns GOLD Medals

Our final round pairing against our northern neighbors seemed fortuitous on paper, but USA wasn’t able to wipe out the floor with the Canadians, despite a victory in the match.

America went 2.0-0.0 very, very quickly. Wesley So was the first win today, playing against Aleksandr Lesiege. The game transposed into a strange looking Panov Caro-Kann, but Lesiege’s g6 seemed superfluous. The position was still complicated, with White trying to grab plentiful space on the queenside. Black’s counterplay could not be underestimated. An excellently timed trade on c4 allowed White to “sacrifice” the exchange for two connected passed pawns, and it was extremely difficult for Black to hold. Lesiege made So’s life easy: a miscalculation cost him a rook and the game in an already near hopeless position.

Wesley thus ends the Olympiad with 8.5/10 and a fantastic performance.

Fabiano Caruana has been a rock solid first board for America, but today he took the bull by the horns. Playing White against veteran Evgeny Bareev, he chose a very sharp Caro-Kann and it paid off wonderfully. He put pressure on the queenside, and when Bareev counterstruck on the kingside he was more than prepared: he gladly accepted the pawn sacrifice and kept improving his pieces. Caruana simply steamrolled over the Canadian, the win never in doubt.

Hikaru Nakamura decided to not go crazy today, and instead of looking for a victory to avenge his last round loss, he calmly chose a position where White has a very tiny advantage in the endgame, but Nakamura as Black felt confident in neutralizing his opponent. Kovalyov tried to improve his position, but Nakamura kept showing 2800 technique, simply outplaying White’s plans. Black won a pawn, but things were still complicated, and the forcing of a draw sealed the draw. 2.5-0.5, America wins the match, and despite Ukraine still playing, the tiebreaks should be so massively in USA’s favor that the gold should be won.

Shankland had a bitter sweet finish to his Olympiad;  his game was far from successful against celebrity Eric “Chessbrah” Hansen.

Blitzing out preparation, little did Shankland know he was facing Eric’s own morning prep, which he did in conjunction with his second here, GM Cristian Chirila. Shankland ended up down a pawn, and more importantly unable to find a plan to create compensation and counterplay. Eric took down the American, and despite losing the match, can be extremely proud of Canada’s performance in the Olympiad. 2.5-1.5 America.

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The true nailbiter came after the win. For hours, Ukraine played against Slovenia. With the impossibility of calculating the tiebreak, it was nothing but nervousness all around. The players waiting by their laptops, John Donaldson running around with a notebook and a calculator. The tension could be cut with a knife, uncertainty ruled the Olympiad. Even boards such as Scotland and Germany might have a decisive impact in the tiebreaks and the gold/silver race. Russia clinched bronze, but no one was paying attention.

At 5:07 Baku time, the arbiters announced to the press center: USA won on tiebreaks!

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The women faced a tough final round pairing in India. The US faced seed numbers 1, 2, 3 and 5, in this tournament, while America themselves were the sixth seed. (China, Russia, Ukraine and India).

Irina Krush and Harika Dronavalli played a solid game, unable to outplay each other. The draw at the end seemed like a fair result, and it was the first game of the match to finish.

Nazi Paikidze’s game was extremely topsy-turvy, with the computer giving a huge edge to the White pieces, unfortunately for America. However, Nazi’s counterattack was swift, and she decided to sacrifice a piece for counterplay. A strange decision to sacrifice an exchange by Padmini resulted in a lost position for India, and USA’s Women’s Champion showed no mercy. Her rooks destroyed her opponent’s position.

Nemcova held off a difficult position for many, many moves, and even though she was lost at one point, she was able to come back and draw the game.

Anna Zatonskih was against the ropes in her game with Tania Sachdev, but upon reaching a basically drawn rook endgame, she completely blindsided. h5??? lost the game and drew the match, as India’s third board took the full point.

A very painful draw for USA, though they had no chances for medals, even with a win. China easily took gold by beating Russia, Poland massacred Hungary for seemingly silver while Ukraine seems to be edged out on tiebreaks and should be bronze.

What an exciting event! Congrats again to the US team for earning their first gold medals since the 1976 Olympiad.

Find results and 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.

Comments

  1. What an incredible moment in American chess! History was made by the ‘Dream Team’! We all can admire the dedication, team spirit, enormous amount of hard work, grit and tireless determination that both our U.S. men and women’s team demonstrated! Excellent work by both team’s captains and coaches. Big shout out to Alejandro for his top-notch reports and annotations. A good day for all!

  2. 29…eRe2 instead of the move played, 29…Qf6, wins for black against super GM So, according to IM Mark Ginsburg. White’s knight will have to move after 30…Rd2 I assume is the idea, leaving f2 pawn vulnerable.

    • The winning line that Lesiege missed is tricky. Per Stockfish: 29…Ree2 30.d5+ f6 31.c6 Red2 32.c7 Rac2! 33.Qb4 (or 33.c8Q Qxc8 34.Qxc8 Rxc8 35.Nf4 g5 with a winning ending) 33…Qxd3 34.Qe7+ Kh6 35.Qf8+ Kh5 (35…Kg5 also wins) 36.g4+ Kg5 (and not 36…Kh4?? 37.Qh6#) 37.h4+ (and not 37.c8Q Qg3+!!) 37…Kh4 38.c8Q Rxc8 39.Qxc8 Qf3. White has temporarily reestablished material equality, but has to bail out into a lost ending to avoid getting mated.

      Easy for engines, hard for humans.

      • I think 29… Ree2 no matter what must be played as it is active, intensifies pressure on f2, and is clearly much superior to any other move. It turns out black wins without too much fuss… so the entire Olympiad hinged on one move!

        • THE lEGENDARY AMERICAN MASTER M. GINSBURG IS ABSOLUTELY CORRECT THAT IN THEORY WHITE IS DEAD LOST WITH 29 Nd3?? permitting total wild invasion with Re- e2 albeit with less than 100 seconds for feisty Canadian grandmaster Lesiege’s later execution of 11 moves..with the worlds most dangerous red hot young player whistling out moves with plenty of time to kill.. So rolling the dice!…recalling So’s astounding three wins and PLUS SCORE versus Kasparov in Ultimate blitz 2016.. SLIGHTLY Ill and knowing that he had to go for it at all cost.. the FULL TIME CHESS PROFESSIONAL WHO KNOWS WHERE HIS NEXT MEAL IS COMING FROM(THANKS REX AND JEANNE!) intentionallhy PLAYED THE BLUNDER TO OFFER ALA MARSHALL MANY CHOICES AND BY THAT TIME So knew his sacrifice of the exchange and queenside pawns were going absolutely nowhere..may I remind readers throughout the world that the square D3 is baffling hall of fame legend for the entire 2016 US world champion team..it there that a Houdini Sam ALSO moved his doomed king during what is already CERTAINLY his career immortal swindle and by far his most memorable career game ever ..as I told Fischer in room 104 Graham Hall LSU March 1964 ..it was all downhill after the miniature Fischer versus Robert Byrne in 11-0 1964 US championship..simply breathtaking to behold.No other game will LIKEWISE ever remotely approach Shankland’s miracle CAREER HIGHLIGHT RIGHT NOW save versus India ..it will follow him like a wonderful happy shadow for his lifetime, surely bring a smile to people in the many lands he visits in a thunderous wonderful and hopefully long career to boot..finally, after 60 plus years of watching world chess..I remind all readers of grim reality..BILLIONAIRES REX AND JEANNE SINQUEFIED (the ST .LOUIS SCHOLASTIC AND CHESS CENTER) TOTALLY MADE THIS HAPPEN WORLDWIDE … AMERICA THANKS THEM..WITH HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS SPENT DIRECTLY ON HOUSING, FOOD AND BACKING THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM… chess grandmasters have to eat and drink water, avoid sleeping on hotel floors or beneath a tree… and ALTHOUGH MY VIEW IS CERTAINLY NOT SHARED BY EVERYONE I BELIEVE THAT THE US CHESS FEDERATION IS INCOMPETENT AND SO HORRIBLY RUN THAT PROFESSIONAL PLAYERS will die in the street if any future matter is ever left to the so called US chess federation…My view therefore, again hardly shared by everyone in the nation, is that the THE US CHESS FEDERATION MUST DIE SO PR0 CHESS CAN LIVE. Your opinion readers? Jude Acers, New Orleans, Louisiana

  3. Still hoping the Kosinteva sisters can be somehow acquired in time for the next Olympiad. This year, women’s team was simply outgunned. With two 2500s, the U.S. can seriously compete for double gold in 2018.

  4. There is something wrong with the TWO women’s games in this article!

    (A)
    Both games appear to be IDENTICAL.

    (B)
    The score given for Nemcova’s game is the SAME with the score of Zatonskih’s game.

    How can this be?

    With best wishes,
    FM George Alexopoulos

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