41st Chess Olympiad: China and Russia claim gold! Print
Friday, 15 August 2014 00:00

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China and Russia claim gold!

The leaders in both divisions turned up looking confident, the Russian women in particular, who were dressed for success, giving off a celebratory air.

The Chinese men's team was energetic on the board, and they looked intent on guaranteeing themselves the long coveted gold medal, Liren Ding and Yangyi Yu hitting fast and hard on boards two and three. Ding put China ahead in the third hour, and a 3-1 win and Olympiad gold at last seemed just a matter of time.
And so it proved! China could settle their nerves as Ding Liren's board two win over Grzegorz Gajewski was followed by draws on top and bottom boards. The one remaining game was an absolutely unloseable bishops of opposite colors ending where hot man Yangyi Yu had all the chances and eventually brought home the bacon to give the majestic Chinese men's team a first Olympiad gold.

'Blocker' Yue Wang neutralized every tough first board player he met but Peter Leko - and this was the team's only individual loss of the event. The rest of the team was in magnificent form. Rumor had it that a win by Yu in the last round would put him over the magic 2700 barrier - after 10 rounds he had 8.5/10 and a 2902 performance.

Hungary's hopes for silver looked to be dimming, after drawing both White games - they had uphill battles against the Ukraine on the remaining two boards.
All of the matches between medal candidates were open, but the USA had some setbacks - first board Nakamura appeared to be losing against Azerbaijan, and their 'bottom gun', Sam Shankland, could not convert an advantage against Eltaj Safarli on board four - this result means that the US GM had to 'settle' for a final personal score of 9/10.

India supporters noted that the not completely outlandish combination of a China win, draws in the Russia-France and Azerbaijan-USA matches, and an Indian win over Uzbekistan would bring them a medal. The first part quickly looked plausible, and the other matches were predictably close and tense.
Armenia-Czech Republic was a tough last round match with a heavyweight battle on first board. Both teams had hopes for a better result in Tromsø, and although Levon Aronian ended the event with a powerful win over David Navara he was far from satisfied.

The Russian women did not open as strongly as the Chinese men, and the matches in the women's section were still up for grabs in the third hour of play, with Bulgaria definitely having chances to produce the most dramatic of last round upsets against the leaders. 

Alexandra Kosteniuk always looked like delivering a full point for the leaders, but the Bulgarians had good winning chances on the top two boards. GM Valentina Gunina conjured up a winning attack from a not completely convincing position on board two to seize control of the match for Russia, and when the bottom board was drawn the first official team medals of the event were recorded.

The chasing Chinese had their hands full with the third seeds, Ukraine, but gradually took over the initiative on the middle boards in a match that’s still too close to call.

Elsewhere the Germans were locked in a sharp battle with 4th seeds Georgia, but their chances to leap into the medals list looked grim as they had uphill climbs on several boards, and Georgia drew first blood with a win on second board from IM Lela Javakhishvili.

41st Chess Olympiad Winners:

Open section
1. China 19 Match points
2. Hungary 17 Match points
2. India 17 Match points

Women Section
1. Russia 20 Match points
2. China 18 Match points
3 Ukraine 18 Match points

Board Prizes:

Open Section

Board 1

1. Topalov, Veselin (BUL)
2. Adams, Michael (ENG)
3. Giri, Anish (NED)

Board 2
1. Nguyen, Ngoc Truong Son (VIE)
2. Balogh, Csaba (HUN)
3. Ding, Liren (CHN)

Board 3
1. Yu, Yangyi (CHN)
2. Sasikiran, Krishnan (IND)
3. Eljanov, Pavel (UKR)

Board 4
1. Sedlak, Nikola (SRB)
2. Ortiz Suarez, Isan Reynaldo (CUB)
3. Ni, Hua (CUB)

Board 5
1. Shankland, Samuel L (USA)
2. Moiseenko, Alexander (UKR)
3. Nepomniachtchi, Ian (RUS)

Women Section

Board 1
1. Dzagnidze, Nana (GEO)
2. Hou, Yifan (CHN)
3. Cramling, Pia (SWE)

Board 2
Gunina, Valentina (RUS)
Khotenashvili, Bela (GEO)
Ju, Wenjun (CHN)

Board 3
1. Kosteniuk, Alexandra (RUS)
2. Matnadze, Ana (ESP)
3. Frisk, Ellinor (SWE)

Board 4
1. Zhukova, Natalia (UKR)
2. Bartel, Marta (POL)
3. Bulmaga, Irina (ROU)

Board 5
1. Padmini, Rout (IND)
2. Guo, Qi (CHN)
3. Dauletova, Gulmira (KAZ)

Download and view all Prizes

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Round 10

China's Open team will have the final rest day to mull over how best to bring home gold after Yu Yangyi's win over Laurent Fressinet gave them a vital win over France in Round 9. Now the only undefeated team in the Open event, 7th seeded China have only lost one individual game over ten rounds. Despite having a clear lead, China can still be caught, and if they want to avoid the trauma of calculating infinite tiebreak variations, they really need one more team victory.

What makes China's result even more remarkable - their team line-up in Tromsø omits three players with ratings over the 2700 mark - Hao Wang, Xiangzhi Bu, and Chao Li.

Round ten offered a chance for the top seeded women's team - from China - to resurrect their dreams of gold. The Ukrainian women continued a storming comeback with a win over Russia, in what had to be the grudge match of the entire event, after their acrimonious pre-Olympiad battle over who would get to field Kateryna Lagno in Tromsø. The match ended 2.5-1.5 after three draws and GM Natalia Zhukova's win on fourth board against WGM Olga Girya.

But could the favorites seize their opportunity? Although their world champion, Yifan Hou, steadily outplayed IM Sabrina Vega Gutierrez on top board, Spain hung tough. First drawing both of their games with White, and then with IM Ana Matnadze grinding down WGM Zhongyi Tan on board three, Spain saved part of the day for Russia.

Despite the misstep against Ukraine, Russia enters the final round with a one match-point lead over the field, with 18/20, and Ukraine has caught China on 17. Germany is the sole team on 16 points.

In the final round Ukraine meets China, while Russia faces Bulgaria and Georgia plays Germany in the matches most likely to decide the medals.

In the Open event, 5th seeds Hungary found themselves alone in second place, a point behind China. They did this by puncturing the incredible Romanians, who started the day fighting for silver position despite being seeded only 32nd. Another overperformer bit the dust today - the high-flying Bulgarians were edged out 2.5-1.5 by the 15th seeds, Poland. Former World Champion Topalov kept his hot streak going, beating Wojtaszek on first board, but his teammates could not maintain the pace. Poland struck back on the middle boards, Gajewski and Duda beating Cheparinov and man-in-form Iotov, respectively.

Top seeds Russia returned to the chasing pack with a 2.5-1.5 win over Serbia, Kramnik winning after a horrendous opening from Ivanisevic, and with the teams trading wins with White on the bottom two boards. The 6th seeds USA also made a late reappearance, edging out Argentina 2.5-1.5 thanks to wins by anchor Nakamura and the unstoppable Sam Shankland, who now has 8.5/9.

India handed Germany their first team defeat of the event, winning 2.5-1.5 on the strength of GM Krishnan Sasikiran’s victory with the black pieces over Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu. Uzbekistan are the clear positive surprise after ten rounds, thanks to another upset, this time 2.5-1.5 over 11th ranked Netherlands, with IM Jahongir Vakhidov supplying the only decisive result, beating GM Robin van Kampen on board four.

The round's battles produced a log-jam of teams on 15 points, and since Hungary has already faced - and lost - to China, one of these must float up to first board. If the Chinese can be vanquished at the final hurdle, the destination of the medals will be an incredibly exciting and complicated affair. The protagonists with an uphill battle in the potentially wild final round are, all on 15 points: USA, Russia, Ukraine, France, Azerbaijan, Poland, rising India, and the latest high-fliers, 33rd seeded Uzbekistan.

GMs Hammer and Lie seemed to have attractive positions, but both eventually went astray in radically different ways - Hammer being methodically rolled back, while Lie's sacrificial melee with Kozul was arguably the most spectacular and interesting game of the tournament, but in one of the oddest resulting material imbalances I have ever seen in my life, the Norwegian's king turned out to be frighteningly exposed and impossible to defend in time trouble. 

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Results and Pairings

Round 9

Signs of accumulating fatigue or shaky nerves could be seen as Round 9 of the 2014 Chess Olympiad headed towards the first time control. New hope for the Chinese women's team gold medal chase appeared as top board Kateryna Lagno was the first to crack in Russia's tense match against number 10 ranked Armenia… although there was eventually a happy ending for Team Russia. It was also tight in the men's event, as 9 of the top 14 matches finished drawn.

In the crucial women’s match GM Elina Danielian won a piece when Lagno erred under pressure, and more surprises looked likely to follow. The Russians caught a lucky break, however, when GM Valentina Gunina managed to escape serious trouble. The same story was repeated with WGM Olga Girya, and the potential Armenian upset had turned into a 2.5-1.5 win for the frontrunners. China did what they could to mount psychological pressure on their rivals, rolling to a smooth 3.5-0.5 win over France, and that with world champion Yifan Hou being held to a draw.

Third seeds Ukraine continued their comeback, edging out India 2.5-1.5, a result that moves them into third place - at the moment the top three have carved out their own spot at the top.

The Czechs could not mount a reply, and lost 2.5-1.5, a result that puts France into a tie for first with China. China lost the sole lead in the event after trading four draws with 2nd seeded Ukraine.

Bulgaria look determined to have a memorable Tromsø Olympiad, their hot men Topalov and Iotov delivering a win each over the tough Cubans. Cheparinov's draw on board two was all the Bulgarians needed - and all they got - to clinch both match points. Romania seem to have established themselves as the discovery of the event. Ranked 32nd, they remain in the thick of the medals battle, turning in another solid upset performance, today drawing all games against the next hosts of the Olympiad, Azerbaijan. Hungary are also right in the thick of things after being able to rest Judit Polgar and still roll over Israel, with Richard Rapport winning a nice game against Emil Sutovsky:

13 teams, including pre-tournament favorites Russia, are a point back on 13.

There are two other teams that are playing well over their heads. Argentina are seeded 35th, but could have joined the tie for third place with a win today - but four draws against India, while a good result, makes both of them outsiders for any kind of medal. 29th ranked Serbia continues to impress, and pulled off a 2-2 upset of defending champions and fourth seeded Armenia. The loss of a match point puts a serious dent to any kind of medal hopes for these teams, which must be terribly painful for Olympiad specialists Armenia.

Levon Aronian said afterwards that the Armenian team was "like a locomotive" and struggles when they meet strong teams early on as they did this time round.

US GM Sam Shankland's long winning streak came to an end against German acquisition Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu, but Shankland is presumably still content with his 7.5/8 score. Less satisfyingly for him, Germany's board two, Georg Meier, made Gata Kamsky's tournament even worse. Meier, who is studying in the USA, turned an advantage into an instant win after a tactical oversight from Gata. The match was still finely balanced, and Varuzhan Akobian leveled the scores with a win over Daniel Fridman, but the split decision likely means the end of the medals race for both sides.

Norway 1 had a rollercoaster day against Turkey, with Magnus Carlsen being unusually reckless, coming under serious attack before emerging from mutual time trouble with a very promising ending. Turkey took the lead with GM Emre Can beating Simen Agdestein on board two, and the world champion’s eventual win on board one only evened the score, since Norwegian GM Leif Erlend Johannessen was unable to turn an extra pawn into a tangible advantage in a queen ending. Another disappointing result for the ambitious home side.

Norway 2 steadily notched up half points against Russia, working their way up the match boards. After teenager Aryan Tari drew Ian Nepomniachtchi, Torbjørn Ringdal Hansen held Sergei Karjakin with the black pieces on board three, and Frode Elsness neutralized Peter Svidler on two, but young Norwegian champion Frode Urkedal could not repeat the upset he produced against the Ukraine. Top Russian Alexander Grischuk capped a strong performance with a neat tactical finish to give the top seeds a narrow 2.5-1.5 victory.

Tomorrow's Round 10 is already the penultimate round, and sees France-China and Ukraine-Azerbaijan in the Open event. All eyes are likely to be fixed, however, on the battle between first and second seeds Russia and Ukraine in the Women's section - a match that of course has more than pure chess interest.

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Results and Pairings

Round 8

In the Open section, second seeds Ukraine got tough when they needed it most, turning what looked like impending defeat and the end of medal hopes into a crucial victory over 18th ranked Bulgaria. It was the opposite story for Russia, who fell out of contention for gold after suffering a demoralising draw against Spain, with Vladimir Kramnik losing with White to Paco Vallejo.

In the Ukraine-Bulgaria match Pavel Eljanov strung together a long series of crisp tactics to hand Valentin Iotov his first loss of the event, and to bring Ukraine level after Ivan Cheparinov had punished Ruslan Ponomariov on board two.

urk r7

On first board Vassily Ivanchuk successfully weathered sustained pressure from Veselin Topalov to lessen the pressure on his team, and Anton Korobov delivered the decisive blow on board four, downing Bulgarian Krasimir Rusev to edge a vital 2.5-1.5 win.

The high-flying Czechs could not repeat the form that downed the Russians the day before, and with four draws against 32nd seed Romania, they dropped a valuable match point.

China-Azerbaijan was on a slow simmer after quick and peaceful results on the top two boards. Black was on the defensive in the remaining games, but what looked like an even match exploded in the fifth hour of play. Yangyi Yu ground down Eltaj Safarli to put China in front, and then Azeri Gadir Guseinov overpressed in a tricky endgame, allowing Hua Ni to cement a surprisingly convincing 3-1 win and move the Chinese team into sole first place.
Although this could be an unusually even Olympiad, 19/22 match points have been necessary historically to take the gold medals. Using this as a benchmark, ambitious teams needed to make it to 13 today to keep pace. With that in mind, the multitude of incredibly even matches were even more nerve-wracking. France edged out Poland thanks to a steady win from second board Etienne Bacrot, the only decisive game of the match.

Germany-Cuba and India-Armenia also began with three draws, and Hungary-USA was also tense, with an early win from Rapport looking likely to be erased by another rescue by American Sam Shankland, who was poised to maintain his perfect personal score by beating Judit Polgar on board four - and he did.
Unfortunately for both of these teams, the 2-2 result left both Hungary and the USA short of the magic 13-point mark. 

India-Armenia ended with four draws, and left the defending champions - and India - a point off traditional gold pace. 

Serbia shattered England 3-1 to revive their medal hopes – Michael Adams' win on board one kept him in the lead for the top individual gold medal, but his team's chances for metal must be more or less over.

Tomorrow’s top bout will be between China and the resurgent Ukraine. Local underdog lovers will doubtless find Russia-Norway 2 to be the day’s focal point.
Other news: Former world champion Vladimir Kramnik's recent run of poor form continued. With Russia already needing more or less perfection the rest of the way, his loss to Spanish number one Francisco Vallejo Pons did nothing to raise spirits for him or the team.
Sergey Karjakin responded for the favorites by winning a brawl of a game against GM Ivan Salgado Lopez to level the match, leaving the decision to fall on board two. Alexander Grischuk split the point, and the 2-2 result means that the top seeds have dropped a shocking five match points in the first eight rounds - medals of any valor will now be a big ask.

Local news
Norway 1 hammered Bosnia & Herzegovina 3-1 in a drawless match. Magnus Carlsen resumed his business-like ways and ground down GM Borki Predojevic, as Norway swept the top three boards, winning both blacks. 

The Women’s section
Buoyed by their win over China yesterday, Russia maintained their match point lead with an imperious 3.5-0.5 result, though not without some nervous moments, as former world champion Alexandra Kosteniuk was in real trouble for a while against Hungarian IM Anita Gara.
Top seeds China can only hope that the Russians stumble now. They turned in a solid 3-1 win over tough 8th seed Poland, but needed a bit of time to get their engines running at top speed. 

This was a good day for Ukraine, as the third seeded women also bounced back into serious medal contention by edging out 4th seed rivals Georgia 2.5-1.5. Ninth seeds France swept the bottom boards to beat the 7th ranked USA 2.5-1.5 in a match filled with violent games.
Armenia bashed Colombia 3.5-0.5 to vault back into the hunt.

Doping Control: The Chess Olympiad in Tromsø has made preparations for the Norwegian Antidoping Association to perform doping tests. According to Olympiad Press Officer Morgan Lillegård, the checks may be performed on Monday and Tuesday after the round.

The Qatar Masters Open raffle: The first lucky winners of flights and accommodation to attend the 2014 Qatar Masters Open in Doha are WGM Ticia Gara (rated 2321, Hungary) and GM John Paul Gomez (2526, Philippines). Our congratulations! Olympiad participants can still enter the draw by using the boxes in the players' entrance.

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Results and Pairings

Round 7

The decision of national Norwegian TV to showcase the women's event paid off with a dramatic showdown between the big favorites, China and Russia. Russia's new number one, Kateryna Lagno, brutally upset women's world number two Yifan Hou. Elsewhere the Russian men lost, as did Norway, after Magnus Carlsen was downed by Arkadij Naiditsch.

With China under pressure on board four as well, it looked as if the fate of the gold medals could already be decided today, and WGM Olga Girya sealed a 3-1 win for Russia with a victory on the bottom table against WGM Zhongyi Tan. In the previous Olympiad Russia edged out China on tiebreak, both teams scoring 19 match points, but the 2010 Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk showed the kind of performance that might be required for gold, with Russia posting a perfect 22 over the 11 rounds. Dresden 2008 was full of shock results, and ended with Georgia taking the gold from Ukraine on tiebreak, both scoring 'just' 18 match points.

Azerbaijan struck back to level the top Open match, winning on board four against Cuba to neutralize Dominguez' flashy win over Mamedyarov on board two.

Azerbaijan then snatched both match points and moved into sole first by winning on board two, with Teimour Radjabov beating Lazaro Bruzon Batista in a deceptively tricky rook ending.

Even more dramatic were developments on the second table, where top seeds Russia were facing the 16th ranked Czech Republic. Disaster loomed for the favorites after David Navara toppled Alexander Grischuk in energetic fashion on board one.

Viktor Laznicka guaranteed the Czechs at least a draw by downing Peter Svidler with black to sweep the top boards. When Czech GM Zbynek Hracek liquidated to a draw against Sergey Karjakin, the match was secured for the underdogs, who closed out with another draw to make it 3-1.

Russia has now dropped four match points. Checking the statistics of the last three Olympiads, which share the 11-round format, the winner has never scored less than 19/22 match points - in Istanbul 2012 Armenia and Russia reached this total, and Armenia won on tie-break - in Khanty-Mansiysk only the Ukraine scored 19, and in Dresden 2008, only Armenia. Although there are signs that Tromsø could be an unusually even Olympiad, the pressure on the top seeds must now be immense, with 18 match points now being their maximum possible score.

The next sensation was the shaky collapse of World Champion Magnus Carlsen. Locals were glued to their TV sets in confused horror as their hero, playing White against German first board Arkadij Naiditsch, began gradually turning a clear advantage into a situation of real danger. The Norwegian's normally fearsome technique was absent, and it was clear at the end of the first session that he would need all his vaunted technical skills to avoid defeat. All the other games in the match were drawn, and Naiditsch clinched the match for Germany.

China's disappointment in the Women's event was avenged in full in the Open, with China adding a third win to complete a 3.5-0.5 mauling of Serbia. Bulgaria continue to fight at the top, beating the Netherlands 3-1, with their hot man Valentin Iotov running his score up to 6.5/7 by beating Sergei Tiviakov, and GM Krasimir Rusev downing Loek van Wely.

Defending champions Armenia dropped another match point, this one to Hungary, despite Levon Aronian's win over the usually indestructible Peter Leko. Csaba Bologh evened things up by beating Gabriel Sargissian and the other boards were drawn. Third seeds France took the up elevator, beating Georgia 3-1, boosted by a successful grinding win in a Q+a-pawn vs Q ending by Vachier-Lagrave over Baadur Jobava.

The 6th seeded USA began what could be a fight back to the top of the table - with GM Sam Shankland running up his score to 6/6 on fourth board, and with leader and world number five Hikaru Nakamura doubling their early lead over Uzbekistan by beating Rustam Kasimdzhanov. Down on table 12, Ukraine belatedly showed their strength by overrunning Kazakhstan by the same score.

Azerbaijan and now the sole leaders and will face China in Round 8.

The 5th seeded Indian team turned in an impressive 3.5-0.5 rout of 16th ranked Netherlands and IM Tania Sachdev dropped by the chess24 studio after her game.

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Round 6

Norway 1 entertained the home fans with a clean 3-1 over Italy, with Magnus Carlsen performing some of his patented minimalist magic to defeat a major rival. GM Kjetil Lie put the Norwegians ahead with the kind of robust aggression typical of his best form on board four, and the teams traded wins on boards two and three. All eyes were fixed on the Caruana-Carlsen clash, where Magnus presumably pulled off an opening surprise by adopting the offbeat variation that he himself had faced as White against Nikola Djukic of Montenegro in round three.

round6 3

Caruana appeared to gain a small but comfortable advantage in a queenless middlegame, but as Carlsen has shown so many times before, the quieter the position, the deadlier he is. In typically hypnotic fashion, the position steadily swung Carlsen's way, and suddenly all of White's pawns were falling like overripe fruit.

On top board Azerbaijan continues to set the pace, clinching another match victory thanks to two wins with the white pieces – GM Rauf Mamedov nailing GM Gaioz Nigalidze with a steady technical performance and Mamedyarov beating Jobava in a bare-knuckle brawl.

Radjabov's draw with black on board two provided the Azeris guaranteed match points, and on board four Eltaj Safarli finished the rout with his queen finally overcoming Konstantine Shanava’s rook and bishop in 101 moves. Serbia-Bulgaria ended 2-2, with former World Champion Veselin Topalov tying things up for Bulgaria on board one in the final game to finish.

The match also marked the end of Valentin Iotov's perfect run, after he drew as Black against GM Robert Markus. The Uzbekistan-Russia match did indeed turn into a win with White contest. Kasimdzhanov beat Kramnik but that was answered by Grischuk's demolition of Filippov. The favorites nevertheless completed their pair of white wins when Ian Nepomniachtchi beat IM Jahongir Vakhidov on board four.

round6 1

The match would be decided by whether GM Marat Dzhumaev could complete the set by converting his advantage against the formidable Peter Svidler. In the end the Russian escaped, and his team took the hard-earned match points. There were a number of lopsided results, and several favored teams soared up the points table. Cuba nearly blanked Kazakhstan 3.5-0.5, China did the same to Egypt, as did India to Moldova. Croatia, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Latvia all won 3-1 today.

Highly seeded teams that got back to business were #2 Ukraine 3.5-0.5 over Switzerland, #4 Armenia 2.5-1.5-1 vs. 10th seed England, and #6 USA 3-1 against Paraguay. Third seeds France had to settle for four draws against 42nd ranked Bosnia & Herzegovina, and ninth ranked Israel split 2-2 with a tough Canadian team. One of the positive surprises of the event so far, Qatar, ranked only 57th, won again, this time 2.5-1.5 over Greece. Women’s event

The rest day seemed to have rejuvenated the top teams, and they won in style. China was all business, 3-1 and two white wins against Hungary, Russia deflated Serbia 3.5-0.5, third seed France downed Slovakia 3-1, 8th ranked Poland defeated Netherlands 3-1, 6th seed Romania bounced back with 4-0 over Switzerland, and number 7 USA beat Estonia 3-1 by winning both games with the black pieces.

The only 'perfect perfect' score in the Women's event also ended today, as Peruvian WGM Deysi Cori dropped her first half point in six rounds, to English IM Jovanka Houska.

Bulgaria fell to a 3-1 loss to Ukraine, though GM Antoaneta Stefanova managed to hold GM Anna Muzychuk to a draw on top board.

round6 2

There are also two clear leaders in the women's event, though in this case only Poland are keeping pace a point behind them: Tomorrow's pairings feature the showpiece of the event - Russia and China clash at last, and the second seeded Russians will have white on the odd numbered boards, possibly a crucial factor when thinking about how to handle the Chinese number one, Yifan Hou, who is in range of catching the formerly untouchable Judit Polgar on the women's rating list.

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Results and Pairings

Round 5

Despite Kramnik's imposing play against Topalov on board one, Bulgaria actually took the lead in their match versus Russia as man in form Valentin Iotov torpedoed heavy favorite Sergey Karjakin with the black pieces on board three. But the decision in the battle of the ex-world champions went to Kramnik, who won a nice game over his rival to even things up. Ian Nepomniachtchi could not make an impression on GM Krasimir Rusev in the last game to finish, and the Russians were held to a draw for the second day in a row.

The duel between teams with perfect Olympiad records, Azerbaijan-Serbia, also looked set to end in a deadlock after GM Milos Perunovic pulled Serbia even by beating former Azerbaijan number one Teimour Radjabov on board two. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov had earlier won.

Other top matches were predictably long, grim and close – China-Netherlands saw four draws, Cuba edged out Israel 2.5-1.5 and Armenian GM Gabriel Sargissian ground out a slow win over GM Simen Agdestein to beat Norway by one - but there were some surprises. Kazakhstan, ranked 49th, beat Turkey soundly 3-1 despite being outrated on every board, and Georgia moved up the table by beating Belgium by the same margin.

Qatar continues to have a fine event with the 57th seeds holding Germany 2-2, and England also had to split their match vs. Vietnam, with Michael Adams winning a crisp game against Quang Liem Le. English anchor Matthew Sadler was held to a draw for the first time. Third seed France sailed up the points table with a resounding 3.5–0.5 win over Argentina.

Local news

The Norwegian media had been getting progressively more optimistic about the chances of the first team, but while they were clinging on to hopes of a 2-2 split with Armenia, encouraging attention could have been spent on Norway 2 – they are undefeated, including a spectacular 2-2 draw against second seeds Ukraine. In round 5 they won again, four IMs beating four Slovenian GMs 2.5-1.5.

Ranked 58th, Norway 2 has now won three matches and drawn two, have a better match score than the first team, and they have been comprehensively outrated in the three matches where they faced stronger opposition. They may be led by a Norwegian rather than world champion, but they have earned the attention of an increasingly chess-crazy nation. The USA benched an out of form Gata Kamsky for their grudge match against North American neighbors Canada, but things are still not going smoothly for the 6th seeds. Canada took the lead thanks to a win by GM Bator Sambuev over GM Varuzhan Akobian, and US number one Hikaru Nakamura was held by GM Anton Kovalyov. US hopes for a split decision rested on GM Sam Shankland, who delivered the necessary point over IM Aman Hambleton.

Ukraine are another big team struggling to find form, and today the second seeds had a tragic result, losing 1.5-2.5 after Ivanchuk crashed to defeat against Rustam Kasimdzhanov, and GM Anton Korobov got tricked and imploded while trying to convert a pawn advantage.

The women's event

China rolled to a 3.5-0.5 win over Indonesia, but not without some nervous moments. WIM Chelsie Sihite had GM Xue Zhao completely at her mercy after the Chinese grandmaster made a serious error, but let victory slip after trying to cash in too quickly in an overwhelming position.

Iran’s hot streak finally came to an end vs. Hungary. GM Thanh Trang Hoang put the 13th seeded Hungarians in front with a win on top board over WGM Atousa Pourkashiyan. Hungary pressed for a bigger margin after the bottom boards were drawn, but had to settle for 2.5 points.

Russia-Georgia was the kind of tough battle one would expect from a meeting between the second and fourth seeds. Very closely fought, and coming down to one key game after three draws. Nela Khotenashvili looked set to seal the match for Georgia against GM Valentina Gunina on board two, but the Russian escaped and then stole the full point after it appeared her opponent could not readjust to the new situation.

This bit of good fortune means that three teams remain with a perfect match record as the Olympiad heads into its first rest day; China, Hungary and Russia.

Netherlands upset 11th ranked Spain 2.5-1.5 despite GM Zhaoqin Peng being upended on board one by IM Sabrina Vega Gutierrez, and 8th seed Poland downed 17th ranked Kazakhstan 3-1, thanks to an efficient duo on the bottom boards. Poland, Serbia and the Netherlands are therefore the chasing trio, with 9/10 match points.

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Results and Pairings

Round 4

France came down to earth with a slight thud today, unable to repeat the form that overcame defending champions Armenia in round three. Number eight Azerbaijan edged out a solid and impressive victory over the third seeds, drawing three and producing a win with Black on board one – Shakhriyar Mamedyarov beat Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, whose recent run of good form has lifted him into the world top ten.

Round 4 1

Russia-China was the kind of grim duel expected of a top clash, closely fought even when team members found themselves under pressure. The top two boards were the most eventful, with Kramnik and Yue Wang drawing an extremely lively game where the ex-world champion was pressing, while the fate of the match eventually came to rest on Grischuk's ability to steer to safety against rising star Liren Ding, which he managed after a long defensive slog. With the top half of the table now featuring largely even pairings, the matches were close affairs. One notable exception was Turkey's 3.5-0.5 dismantling of slightly higher seeded Italy. Only world number three Fabiano Caruana survived for Italy.

England vaulted back into the fray with an impressive 3-1 win over Latvia, and GM Matthew Sadler racked up his fourth win in a ferocious comeback for his country. England's David Howell also won.

Serbia maintained a perfect match record by narrowly upsetting the Czech Republic, Bulgaria edged out Romania thanks to a grinding win from leader Veselin Topalov and a flashy and brutal attacking knockout from GM Valentin Iotov. Cuba also took a fourth match win, a bottom board victory the only decisive result against India.

Netherlands-Israel looked like a close one on paper, and there was no separating them afterwards, trading wins on the top two boards, and drawing the rest. Germany also fought to a 2-2 draw, this time against Uzbekistan.

The surprise losers of the previous round rebounded with predictable fury. Armenia shredded Costa Rica 4-0 and world number two Levon Aronian finally started winning for the defending Olympiad champions. The USA shrugged off disappointment vs. France and cruised to a 3-0 lead over South Africa, though Gata Kamsky finally went down to a shock defeat against IM Henry Robert Steel.

Hungary also recovered from their frustrating loss to China the day before, dispatching Portugal 3.5-0.5, with IM Paulo Dias holding Hungarian ace Peter Leko on board one.

Home team excitement

Norwegian hopes were high when Magnus Carlsen showed his full class, sweeping aside a player like Radoslaw Wojtaszek with bone-crushing simplicity.

Round 4 2

Magnus Carlsen spent 35 minutes after the game in the NRK studio talking about the game and we translated some of his best quotes in this separate article.

When Simen Agdestein built up a sizeable advantage with Black, Jon Ludvig Hammer created winning chances on board three and Kjetil Lie neutralized Mateusz Bartel, Poland's favorite on board four, national news outlets began predicting a rout, but all remaining games gradually fizzled out in draws - still, an encouraging result for Norway 1 against their toughest opposition so far.

The results mean that only three teams now have maximum points in the men's competition.

Women’s section

If the perfect score of the Iranian women's team after three rounds was newsworthy, then perhaps the best way to angle the headline for round four is - Iranian women drop first half point! The Olympiad sensations, seeded 21st, defended their right to the top table with a resounding 3.5-0.5 win over slightly higher rated Slovakia. Only Slovakian top board IM Eva Repkova survived, and the magical Iranians continue to outpace the clear pre-tournament favorites, China.

Iran's Khademalsharieh Sarasadat won her third game in a row and later attended the day's press conference: On paper, China should have steamrolled over 22nd ranked Azerbaijan, but the first result was a quickish draw from Chinese WGM Wenjun Ju with WGM Gulnar Mammadova. The favorites had a roughly 200 point advantage on the bottom three boards, and over twice as much on board one, where World Champion Yifan Hou put China ahead early. WGM Zhongyi Tan extended the gap to two points with White on board three, and WGM Qi Guo made the final result 3.5-0.5, but only after a topsy-turvy brawl with WIM Sabina Ibrahimova on board four.

Round 4 3

If Iran has been the surprise of the event so far, the shock of the day has to go to Indonesia, who handed tenth seeded Armenia an incredible 3.5-0.5 drubbing. Seeded only 23rd, the Indonesians were outrated on all four boards. Russia is still looking to hit top form, and although they kept a perfect match record, they had to settle for a minimal 2.5-1.5 win over 12th seed Germany, WGM Melanie Ohme beat Russian colleague Olga Girya, and German WGM Sarah Hoolt drew WGM Nina Pogonina. Fourth seeds Georgia dropped a match point, only drawing 2-2 with Netherlands.

Fifth seeds India were upset by Serbia, 1.5-2.5, making the fourth round a cheery double for the Eastern Europeans. Ukraine, led by the Muzychuk sisters, turned in a solid 3-1 win over Turkey, but the third seeds must make up for a dropped match point against Spain in round three.

The 13th seeds Hungary produced another solid match victory, beating Cuba 3-1 - a result that sends them up to meet the red-hot Iranians. 

Olympiad official website

Photo Gallery

Results and Pairings

Round 3

The last missing stars appeared as more evenly matched teams faced off against each other. Hikaru Nakamura's painfully slow trip to Tromsø was over, and he led the USA against the Netherlands. Although his duel against Anish Giri was over relatively quickly, it was tense while it lasted.

Round 3

Nakamura may have regretted putting off his exertions as the match took a dramatic turn after the USA went out in front thanks to GM Alexander Onischuk downing Dutch colleague Loek van Wely. First GM Erwin L'Ami evened the match with a nice technical grind over the nearly indestructible Gata Kamsky and then GM Robin van Kampen completed the comeback by cracking GM Varuzhan Akobian.

The defending champions and 4th seeds Armenia stumbled in today's round, losing 1.5-2.5 to 3rd seeded France. World number two Levon Aronian was again held to a draw, despite pressing long and hard against rapidly rising star Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. The only decisive result came on board three, where sometime Magnus Carlsen second Laurent Fressinet defeated Sergei Movsesian with black.

The other grudge match on the top boards was Germany-England, and while not reaching football fever pitch, it was a tense affair. The 10th seeded English held two Berlin Defences with the black pieces, but could only trade wins in their white games.

While attention was focused on the top clashes, the quirks of the pairing system had floated the powerhouse Russian team down the table, where they met - and blanked - Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). The only other team to post a huge win in the upper levels was Uzbekistan, who won 3.5-0.5 over very slightly higher seeded Brazil, and will rise high up the standings. 

Round 3 1

Bulgaria moved up to 10 game points by edging out Spain 2.5-1.5. Former World Champion Veselin Topalov, playing his first game of the event, won a nice game against Spanish top gun Francisco Vallejo Pons despite the distraction of still waiting for his suitcase to arrive.

Norway's World Champion shrugged off yesterday's disappointment of a draw, winning against Montenegrin GM Nikola Djukic. Norway 1 finally recorded a business-like result, winning 3-1 after GM Jon Ludvig Hammer also won with white for the Norwegians.

Norway's second team followed up their spectacular 2-2 result against Ukraine with another split decision, this time against Bosnia & Herzegovina. This too was an upset, but one of only minor proportions. One notable shocker of the day was Sudan's victory over Ireland, where the hugely outrated African team's margin of victory was CM Samir Nadir's win over GM Alexander Baburin on board one.

Women's event

The battle at the top of the Women's event sharpened as well, with the favorites having to work hard at last. Second seed Russia looked to be struggling against 9th seed France, but former world champion Alexandra Kosteniuk squeezed out the only win of the match for the favorites. Not only was it a slender victory, but French IM Sophie Milliet agreed a draw in an extremely promising position against GM Valentina Gunina - who is well known to the locals as a frequent tournament visitor from Murmansk.

The USA put up stiff resistance against mighty China, who finally played their ace, World Champion Yifan Hou. Hou, who is closing in on Judit Polgar's top spot on the women's rating list, was the last to finish, after her teammates established a 2-1 lead, with WGM Wenjun Ju supplying the only win up till then. US top board Irina Krush finally had to abandon her grim defensive task, and Hou maintained China's position as pace-setters by making it 3-1. 

Round 32

The sensation of the women's event was also hidden slightly below what appeared to be the focus of attention. Iran's 4-0 demolition of Bosnia & Herzegovina catapulted them to the top of the table. WGM Sarasadat Khademalsharieh's display of aggressive attacking chess against WIM Elena Boric was a highlight of both the match, and the round.

Olympiad official website

Photo Gallery

Results and Pairings

Round 2

Many of the top matches were again
characterized by healthy rating gaps between top and bottom half, but the atmosphere was noticeably more tense and the duels more closely fought. 

The start of serious business was also evident from the appearance of nearly all of the big guns who rested up on day one. The heavyweight teams rolled out their muscle on top, with a few notable exceptions - England's Michael Adams has not been spotted yet, and the USA's Hikaru Nakamura has made his frustration with travel problems well known via Twitter, and had not yet arrived after getting stuck in London.

The local teams continue to make the job of including reportage of interest to a Norwegian audience a straightforward task. Less than three hours into the session, it became clear that Norway's second team would be increasing its time in the spotlight, while the main squad for the home nation again gripped viewers by not quite meeting expectations. Norwegian champion Frode Urkedal, 21, evened up Norway 2's tussle with second ranked Ukraine by defeating the renowned Vassily Ivanchuk, a feat which immediately catapulted the youngster into the media hot seat and the NRK TV studio.
Not long afterwards, World Champion Magnus Carlsen agreed to split the point against Finnish GM Tomi Nybäck, a result that symbolizes the slow start to the high hopes for Norway's A-team.

round 2

Nybäck's draw carried some extra sting as Carlsen was undoubtedly eager for revenge, having lost to the Finn in the 2008 Olympiad in Dresden. Norway 2 completed their upset by holding Ukraine 2-2, a result that would have pleased the first stringers. Norway 1 had to settle for 2-2 against Finland, a repeat of their 2008 meeting.

Zero tolerance claimed several casualties today - the Burundi men's team, and most of the Palestinian teams - one of their men played a few moves before giving up, perhaps in sympathy with his forfeited teammates. Another casualty was Alexander Beliavsky, who was forfeited on board one for Slovenia versus Iran for late arrival.

One tragic enforcement of the zero tolerance rule ended in tears when Layola Murara Umuhoza, the 10-year-old first board for the Rwandan women's team, lost without play. One has to question the point of a rule that prevents games being played in an event that has so much importance, especially for smaller nations, because of what is often just minor tardiness.

round 21

Veteran Scottish GM Colin McNab held his own with the world elite, splitting the point with Azerbaijan's number one Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. World number two Levon Aronian was held by Australian GM David Smerdon, and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi drew with untitled Hamad Al-Tamimi from Qatar. Hungary had a tough time with Venezuela, and only edged out a 2½-1½ victory, with young star Richard Rapport losing to IM Juan Rohl Montes.

The Women's event 

Among the women the picture was similar - the big favorites continued to gather steam - though there was an interesting contrast in their deployment of heavy artillery. Top ranked China continue to reserve World Champion Yifan Hou for use at a later date, while rivals Russia have put their controversial new acquisition, former Ukrainian GM Kateryna Lagno, into action from round one.

Even with the champ still on the sidelines the powerful Chinese team rolled to another 4-0 win, this time over Venezuela, and Russia kept pace by blanking Brazil. Armenia was the only other top ten team that managed to extend a perfect score. 

round 22

Ukraine and Georgia each dropped a point today - Ukrainian GMs Anna Muzychuk and Anna Ushenina were held to draws by significantly outrated IM Irina Berezina and WFM Thu Nguyen of Australia. Georgia had their bid for continued perfection derailed after WFM Marija Stojanovic beat IM Salome Melia in a violent battle.

The Egyptian team came close to nicking a match point against 12th seeded Germany, managing a 1½-2½ result despite being massively outgunned on every board. Norway's women impressed with a 4-0 win over Ecuador, in a match that looked to be close on paper. 

Olympiad official website

Photo Gallery

Results and Pairings

Round 1

The first round of the Tromsø Olympiad got off to a slightly delayed start, one result of the teething pains expected when an event of this size actually goes live. Security measures for the record field meant that even with teams turning up early for play, not everyone could be processed by the scheduled 3 p.m. start. With the field divided in half for the first round pairings, there were heavy mismatches, and spectators were on the lookout for upsets of any form. None was forthcoming on the top match or board.

But there was plenty of pure chess drama as well. The match of the day in the Open section had to be the inspired resistance given by team Japan against highly rated and perennial Olympiad champions Armenia. The final result was another 4-0 whitewash by a favorite - but at one point the match had the makings of a literal whitewash, with all players with the black pieces under heavy pressure. Most heartbreaking for the underdogs was the missing of a forced mate by FIDE Master Shinya Kojima, who cracked in time pressure after a violent hunt for highly-rated GM Sergei Movsesian's head.


Norwegian fans could follow the fates of three local teams in both the Open and Women's events. These fans were doubtless a bit puzzled by the fact that the second and reserve teams in the Open section both posted better scores than the first team. Like many of the heavy first-round favorites, Norway rested their top board, anticipating that this would have little impact on the rating gap over their opponents.

But Yemen produced one of the biggest sensations of Saturday's action, taking advantage of a Norway without their world champion. In fact, Norway narrowly escaped being held to a 2-2 draw thanks to GM Jon Ludwig Hammer surviving what appeared to be imminent defeat. The other two Norwegian teams, like very, very many of the favorites, recorded perfect scores.


Four teams did not appear for the first round - Timor Leste, Congo, Mali and Turkmenistan - it is still not confirmed whether these squads may appear late and take part in the event.

The Women's event also featured a flood of brutal results. The Portugal team came closest to a sensational upset, with first board WFM Margarida Coimbra leading the charge with a win over WGM Guliskhan Nakhbayeva of Kazakhstan, and WCM Maria Ines Oliveira holding WGM Dinara Saduakassova to a draw, but the favorites emerged victorious after managing to sweep the bottom two boards.

The women's teams from Syria, Turkmenistan and Lebanon lost their matches on forfeit, but organizers were not certain if they still might arrive late for the event.

In the women's section Norway 1 faced off against South Korea. With an average rating advantage of nearly 600 points the home team was hoping to kick things off with a 4-0 shutout. After scoring relatively smooth wins on the bottom boards, top Norwegian, WIM Sheila Barth Sahl (2216) suffered a surprise loss with White at the hands of Chengja Wang (1989).

Norway's second team avoided slip-ups and secured 4-0 against Madagascar, while Norway 3 were clearly outgunned and lost 4-0 to Argentina.


Olympiad official website

Opening Ceremony

The Tromsø 2014 edition of the Chess Olympiad is now officially underway, after a gala musical opening ceremony. The opening ceremony was the first time that most of the chess players, coaches and officials taking part in the 2014 Olympiad had gathered together in the same venue, with a huge range of people from all around the world making the trip to the event in Tromsø's Skarphallen.

 MG 4875

FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov welcomed the gathering to the 41st Chess Olympiad and praised the natural beauty of the event's setting. All 174 participant nations were introduced in a flag ceremony, and there was an enthusiastic international welcome for the arrival of the Norwegian team on stage, led by world champion Magnus Carlsen, who said: “It is very special to be on home ground - and this is a unique opportunity! I have great faith in our team, and am sure that we can give anyone we meet a real fight.”
Norway's Finance Minister Siv Jensen introduced the start of the games with a wink to national pride: "With Magnus Carlsen world chess champion it is only fitting that the Chess Olympiad is held in Norway and Tromsø."

 MG 5080

World Champion Magnus Carlsen was designated to make the official drawing of colours for the open and women's events. Both times he pulled out a black piece to give the odd-numbered teams black on first board in the first round.

In a typically Norwegian welcome, the mayor called on each team to introduce themselves by standing and cheering as their flag rolled past on a central screen. Not every nation rose to the occasion with hearty enthusiasm, but the invitation did succeed in raising the sense of excitement and anticipation for the games to come.

Now attention will turn to the games, as a record number of teams have succeeded in making the trip to Tromsø. Further to the north of an already far-flung destination, this small spot is known, like much of the country, for its natural beauty, and for extremes like the Midnight Sun, the Northern Lights - and northern hospitality.


Olympiad official website

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