The second day in Division 2 clearly demonstrated that several squads that got into action at this stage are superior to all the teams which thousands of spectators of the Online Olympiad have seen before. These teams showed their worth and should be reckoned with even in Top Division where they are bound to qualify. On the other hand, not all the favorites looked convincing and some of them might “zip rackets in a bag” this Sunday.
Team Bulgaria continues its impressive run in the competition. Yesterday the Bulgarian chess players outclassed their opponents in all three matches losing just two games out of eighteen. If we have to highlight someone personally, it should be 19-year old WIM Viktoria Radeva who won all five games on her sixth board.
Germany was scraping up points all day but the high level of this team allows it to win one match after another although sometimes by a minimal margin. Given that Elisabeth Paehtz is having rest this week, by the decisive matches in Top Division Germany will become a powerful force.
Australia made an important, maybe even decisive step towards the third “golden” place in the final standings by winning three matches with the same score 4:2, including one against its main competitor Philippines. Team Philippines also lost two points in the encounter with Belgium and now has very little chance to progress into the next stage. Indonesia became the main rival of Australia – their match in Round 7 will be decisive. Belarus suffered three straight defeats yesterday – the Belarussian players surely just want to leave this terrible week behind and move on.
The day started with the match between prohibitive favorite Romania and a hell-raiser team Slovakia. Not without some problems but Romania lowered the broom on Slovakia – 4:2, despite another victory by GM GM Lubomir Ftacnik. In Round 5 Lubomir lost after all – in-form GM Antonios Pavlidis from Greece, finished him off with a nice “petite combination” (as Capablanca would put it):
Antonios Pavlidis - Lubomir Ftacnik
Antonios played an elegant 32. Ra8! Qxa8 33. fxg6 hxg6? (33...Kh8 would have protracted the game, but after 34.gxf7 Black will hardly survive with White’s pawn on the seventh rank) 34. Qxf7+ Kh8 35. Rf3, and Black resigned facing the imminent checkmate.
Despite its moral leader’s defeat, Slovakia managed to draw the match with Greece and now has all the reasons to be optimistic about its future. Israel lost one point in each of two matches with IPCA and Singapore and is trailing by two points. Given that in addition to the key match with Slovakia, Israel will also face Romania, the team has only a slim chance to advance.
This pool has the highest concentration of star players in all Division 2. However, after his first-day setback, the leader of team Netherlands Anish Giri did not show up yesterday due to some organizational problems. For two-thirds of the day, the Dutchmen managed without their leader but unexpectedly lost the final match of the day against Switzerland and seriously complicated their task of advancing to Top Division.
Noel Studer - Jorden Van Foreest
A highly irrational, chaotic position emerged by move 15 on the first board, which Noel Studer (SUI) handled better than his higher-rated opponent.
Spain also benched its leaders - David Anton Guijarro played just a single game, Francisco Vallejo Pons had a rest day, but as some sort of compensation, Alexei Shirov has torn it up, winning six games in six rounds. Check out how he wrapped it up in a key match with Italy:
Danyyil Dvirnyy – Alexei Shirov
Danyyil Dvirnyy has just imprudently played 26. g4?, thinking that Black’s queen was trapped. All of a sudden the hunter became the hunted – 26...Nxg4! 27. Rxg4 Qxg4! 28. Qxg4 Nxd2+ and it turns out that after 29.Ka2 b3+ Black delivers an elegant checkmate 0-1
Spain dominates the field in this group; despite the defeat in the above-mentioned game and the match Italy will most likely come second. As for the third position, there are four candidates for this spot with Slovenia (not the Netherlands) having the best shot.
Three teams have shown outstanding results and level of play in this pool - Turkey, Norway, and Serbia won six matches each. Turkey was considered to be a clear favorite before the start but Serbia’s and especially Norway’s performance came as a surprise. Both teams clobbered Sweden yesterday with the same score 5:1. Since it is pretty much over for Sweden, Croatia remains the only squad that can prevent one of top-trio from advancing to the next stage. The Croatian players have to beat Norway and hope that this team will be a weak link in the matches between the leaders.
Other teams are relegated to supporting roles although many spectators were happy to see in action legendary Icelandic GM Johann Hjartarson.
Hungary has all the right to claim an unofficial title of the best team in Division 2. On the first day, the Magyars scored 15 out 18, on the second day they went even further and nicked 15.5. England also won all its matches including the key one against Ecuador in Round 6. In Round 7 the leaders will clash to determine who will take the first position in the pool. Since both teams advanced to the next stage only prestige will be on stake in this match.
Ecuador looked like a clear candidate for the spot, but a loss in Round 5 at hands of Mexico complicated matters to the max. Today four teams – Ecuador, Mexico, Colombia, and Argentina – will determine the only team to advance in their matches between each other.
After Scotland lost chances for top-3 Andrew N Greet and Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant opted not to play – in the absence of the leaders, the Scots did not win a single game and finished the day in 9th position.
This Sunday the final matches in Division 2 will be played. Very soon we will know all 15 teams to join 25 seeded squads in Top Division. The way things are going, those will be 13 teams from Europe, Australia, and one of the South American squads.