Armenia, England, India B, Israel and Spain still on 100%
The fourth round began this afternoon with the traditional first-move, performed on this occasion on board one of the Women's India-Hungary match by managing director of Microsense, Mr S. Kailasanathan.
After some action-packed days with regard to media coverage – "India is crazy for chess" was my observation on social media – players are now much more relaxed when the entourage comes along for the opening ceremony.
Four of the scheduled eleven rounds of intense play are in the books, and fewer and fewer teams have 100% of the points. The equality between the leading teams is maximum, and many encounters ended in 2-2 draws this afternoon.
France vs India A was a solid match. All four games ended in draws, and at least from what we witnessed in the venue, there didn't seem to be any clear chances of victory for either side.
However, USA vs Uzbekistan was a completely different matter. The Americans pulled ahead early when Wesley So, playing on board three, captured a Benko pawn and held it to the end. A solid draw between Nodirbek Yakubboev and Levon Aronian on board two left everything to be decided on the outer boards.
Uzbekistan coach Ivan Sokolov was understandingly very happy when both of the games seemed to be going his way, but suddenly on board four Jakhongir Vakhidov spoiled a winning position against Sam Shankland, which meant that Nodirbek Abdusattorov's great win against Fabiano Caruana on board one was just enough to score the draw.
In his post-match press conference at the media centre, Sokolov lamented his bad luck. "I would have immediately taken the draw before starting the match, but I think we have fallen short".
The tough matches between Poland vs Romania, Canada vs Iran and Turkey vs Azerbaijan also ended in 2-2 draws, allowing other strong teams to pull ahead in the standings.
Spain's victory over India C by 2.5-1.5 (Anton Guijarro scored the key point) will allow the Spaniards to start from pole position tomorrow. Still unbeaten individually, they have come to play with their best team in many years and the Olympic medal is the target. However, they have been matched up in the fifth round with India B, who took down Italy by 3-1 this afternoon and are also undefeated individually – for sure a great match ahead for all to enjoy.
In addition to Spain and India B, three other teams went to dinner tonight with 8/8 match points. England, who defeated Serbia by 3.5-1.5, have been paired against Armenia, who took down Austria by 3-1. They have arrived in great form, led by their lifetime top board Michael Adams, and are all still unbeaten.
However, David Howell is clearly the team's mainstay at the moment, scoring 4/4 on third board. Nonetheless, they would do well not to sleep on Armenia: a very tough and experienced team, and Olympic medallist in previous years.
Michael Adams was kind enough to share his thoughts with FIDE Press Officer Michael Rahal in a short post-game interview.
The final team on 8/8 is Israel, who perhaps made the biggest surprise of the day, defeating the Dutch team – led by Anish Giri - by 2.5-1.5, thanks to veteran Ilya Smirin's win on third board against Erwin l'Ami.
Another very strong team, Israel has five very experienced +2600 players who are also unbeaten at the moment and in very good shape. Tomorrow's match-up against number one seed USA will be a huge challenge to see what they are capable of in Chennai.
Some other very surprising results today were Zambia – seeded 73 – once again defeating a much stronger team – this time Egypt – by 2.5-1.5 and above all, Norway vs Mongolia – after losing yesterday to Italy, everyone expected seed number three Norway, with Carlsen on board one, to bounce back with a win, but 45th seed Mongolia kept them at bay with a 2-2 tie.
Games will begin at 3 pm sharp and can be followed live on the tournament website.
For a complete list of results, please visit the official website at https://chessolympiad.fide.com/open-results/
Text: IM Michael Rahal, FIDE Press Officer, Chennai
Photos: Lennart Ootes, Mark Livshitz and Stev Bonhage