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FM Stojic: Day 3/4 Wrap – Aussies hold of West Indies and Smerdon holds Carlsen to draw!

FM Stojic: Day 3/4 Wrap – Aussies hold of West Indies and Smerdon holds Carlsen to draw!


By Dusan Stojic.


Day 3: Aussies hold off West Indies

In round three, the Open team overcame Barbados 3.5-0.5, while the Women’s team demolished Aruba 4-0. This time, the girls were ruthless while the boys had some trouble with their lower-ranked opponents.

There were some interesting games in Baku today!

Girl Power

WIM Alexandra Jule was the first to finish, obtaining a great position from a Scandinavian, and then her opponent blundered a rook in an already bad position. IM Max Illingworth also finished quickly, wih a nice tactic in a Bg5 Najdorf.

WIM Giang Nguyen’s opponent sacrificed a piece for two pawns but when the attack failed to materialise, Giang won comfortably. WIM Heather Richards exploited the poor positioning of her opponent’s queen on h5/h4 and also won. WIM Biljana Dekic’s game was the closest in the Women’s, but she eventually ground down her opponent in a superior endgame.

Boys Battling Barbados

The Open team, surprisingly, had a really tough time. GM Zong-Yuan Zhao had to settle for a draw by perpetual after he seemed to misplay a balanced middlegame position. Young IM Anton Smirnov seemed to have an inferior position early in the game, and later it was fairly balanced. Moulthun was pushing for a win in a rook endgame a pawn up, but it was doubtful whether he could win it.

The finale of these games featured two of the most elementary rook endgames. Moulthun simplified to the famous rook-pawn position, where the Black king is cut off four files from White’s. Some of my students back home will recognise that this is winning, but if we shift the white rook to d1 and the Black king to e7, it’s a draw (three files). The winning plan is Rh1-h8-b8 and freeing the king (Rc1-c8-b8 is also possible). Black played Ke8-Kd7, but Ke7-d6 would have been more challenging. Try for yourself!

Moulthun Pos
Anton reached this position with White to move:
Anton Philidor

His opponent had a chance to play Ra3 and apply the “6th-rank defence” (Philidor position). Simply patrol the rook on the 3rd rank, wait for Black to play e3 and then Ra8(b8/h8 etc) and check from behind. Most club players know this, but the 2248 FM from Barbados didn’t. Fatigue isn’t an excuse: recognition of such positions should be instantaneous.

Then Anton eventually obtained the winning Lucena position:

Anton Lucena

Could you win this position as Black? For the solution, click here and find Anton’s game.

So in the end, Moulthun and Anton had to win from (possibly drawn) endgame positions. No particular glory in that, but the team got the job done.

Competition Heating Up*

There were lots of upsets in Round 3, as we saw some heavy clashes on the top boards.

Top-seed China was held to a draw by Vietnam in the Women’s section, possibly the most important result so far for the gold medal race. Ukraine narrowly edged out close rivals USA.

The Polish teams (both ranked 7th) had a rough day at the office: going down to Cuba in the Open and Azerbaijan in the Women’s.

My country of birth Serbia are so far doing brilliantly, fresh from their victory against Israel. The team features Aleksandar Indjic, board three, probably the tallest GM in the world.
Norway, lead by World Champion Magnus Carlsen but lacking in depth, went down narrowly to Mongolia.

Away from the Board

During the games, the Press (yours truly included) are allowed in 20 minutes before the round and then (officially) 15 minutes into the round. So I spend most of the rounds following the action either from the Commentary room or the Press Room, which is quite a neat set-up.
Media Room
By the way, check out David and Sabrina’s About Juniors for Juniors blog. They’re doing a marvelous job following the smallest competitors of the Olympiad!

What frustrated everyone last night was when the broadcast site Chess24 crashed. By that time, most of the Aussie team was back in the hotel and we had no idea how Moulthun and Anton were going. Aussies down under were probably asleep by that stage. For future reference, try next time Chess24 goes down.

Next Round

The yo-yo continues for both Aussie teams: the strong Polish team for the Women and Norway for the Open.

On board one, GM David Smerdon has a tough task against the World Champion Magnus Carlsen! But don’t write off Australia just yet. David has a good track score of upsetting some top players in the Olympiad (Ivanchuk and Kasimdzhanov come to mind), and Norway is lacking in depth.

Day 4: Smerdon holds Carlsen to a Draw

The Australian Open team lost to Norway by the narrowest of margins: 2.5:1.5. The Women’s team lost to Poland 3:0. But of course the big news of the day is the fantastic achievement of Queenslander GM David Smerdon, who drew with the World Champion, GM Magnus Carlsen.

Media Frenzy

Fifteen minutes before the start of the round, some of the Aussies were filling out their scoresheets while the others were having a pre-game chat. The photographers were already jockeying for position around Magnus Carlsen and there was a large crowd. Below, you can seen GM Smerdon (r) v GM Carlsen (l) with Cathy Rogers in the background.

Smerdon Carlsen

As the players shook hands, there were camera clicks everywhere, and then another flurry of clicks as David Smerdon played 1.e4. After David played his “pet line”, c3 against the Sicilian, Magnus started to ponder his options, using up some time already on move two. David confidently stood up, surveying the other boards, though tension in David’s, and everyone’s, faces was apparent.

Carlsen seemed to have a solid position out of the opening, and then Smerdon started making some seemingly strange moves, like Qg4, fxe3 and b4. Moves that weaken the pawn structure and the safety of his king, moves that we are all told not to do. Watching from the Press Room, I really didn’t like this at all!

But David did have a plan, and it combined his development advantage by transferring his pieces towards Magnus’ king. At the same time, his moves were directed at displacing the Black queen. This critical position was reached:

Many commentators criticised Carlsen’s next move, 18…Qh4. It allowed David a forced draw, which was played: 19.Qxh4 Bxh4 20.Rh3 Bg5 21.Rg1 h6 22.Rxg5 hxg5 23.Bh7+ with perpetual. Perhaps Carlsen missed something after 18…Qh4, or perhaps he simply wasn’t convinced that his position was tenable after 18…Qh5. David also had winning attempts that the engines liked on move 21.

But in any case, the draw was a fantastic result! The two also had a friendly “post-mortem” analysis. There is a four minute video interview with David straight after the game embedded in the article.

The Rest of the Contingent

IM Anton Smirnov was next to finish, holding a comfortable draw. The two games where the Australian Open team had Black remained. GM Max Illingworth was doing well in a Classical Gruenfeld, but wrongly assessed a tactical continuation that left him in a losing position. GM Moulthun Ly was initially worse, but then his opponent, GM Jon Ludvig Hammer, made a big mistake just as Board 1 was finishing. Moulthun was pressing for a win!

Max did well to complicate matters, but it wasn’t enough. And Moulthun’s position wasn’t enough to win. So with just one loss and three draws, we narrowly missed a great result. But the overall match was certainly much closer than most commentators around the world expected! Hopefully the team will concentrate on the positives, and be even more convinced now that they can beat these top teams.

For our Women’s team (in action, below l-r: WIm Alex Jule, WIM Emma Guo, WFm Giang Nguyen and WIM Heather Richards), it simply wasn’t their day. The games weren’t all bad, but the opposition was too strong in the end. WIM Heather Richards was once again the unlucky one (see Day 2). From a clearly superior position against GM Monika Socko, she blundered around the time control and things fell apart quickly. We went down 0-4.

Girls Match

Other Matches

In the Open, in the biggest result of the event so far, top seeds Russia were defeated 2.5-1.5 by Ukraine. The Russian team, chasing that elusive gold since Bled 2002, were dealt a heavy blow. Of course, there are still seven rounds left to mount a comeback, but if history is anything to go by, this does seem in doubt.

Second-seed USA was held to a 2-2 draw by the Czech Republic. The struggles continue for Bulgaria: former World Champion Veselin Topalov was defeated by Baadur Jobava and the Bulgarians were soundly disposed of by the Georgian side.

The Dutch crushed the English side 3.5-0.5, in a match-up that had a lot of interest and some pundits
predicting the opposite result.

In the Women’s section, top-seed China managed to bounce back with a narrow victory over Latvia despite the loss of the Women’s World Champion Hou Yifan. Serbia continued their strong start with a win over Sweden and are currently sharing the lead.

Further down, the Philippines’ women (who upset high-seed Georgia in Round 2) continued a strong campaign, holding Canada to a draw. The Kiwi girls lost to Puerto Rico 1.5-2.5.


GM Susan Polgar interviewed our Anton Smirnov (below). He had a great start so far (3.5/4) and is yet to lose a game at an Olympiad (he went undefeated in Tromso 2014). You can find the full interview here.
Anton and Polgar    Press Conference

There was also a press conference with IA Faik Gasanov, Chief Arbiter of the Olympiad. For those of you following the “Toiletgate 2.0”, he did have something interesting to say: “[It is] common sense that you can’t ask the arbiter every time you have to use the restroom.” But then he said that players that visit the bathroom too frequently may be subject to action. The lack of further guidance seems a little concerning.

Baku at Night

We (Alex and Dusan below) did manage to see a bit of Baku, the new city centre. It’s a lovely stroll at night, with so many people, little patisseries, cafes and bars. One gets a sense that the locals stay up late (it was Monday night), and aren’t exactly “morning people”. (The shopping centre opens at 10 and stays open till late.)
Baku D and A        Baku Night

Do Uniforms Matter?

The Australian teams don’t have uniforms this year. If you look around the playing hall, one can see most of the teams wearing something to identify the country they represent. From overalls, to jackets, to an emblem on their blazer or a polo shirt. Of course, uniforms aren’t mandatory. So the question is: do team uniforms have any significance at the Olympiad?

Well, our Women’s team went to the shopping centre and stumbled upon these sweaters that had “Australian” written on them. They weren’t in green-and-gold, and they didn’t have our emblems, but the effect to our girls was the same.

 Girls Uniforms

Sure, the Australian chess federations struggle with raising enough funds for our players, and we don’t have the financial support of the government that most nations around the world do. So uniforms don’t seem to be high on the list of priority.

But perhaps Australia could learn something from other countries, and I don’t mean countries from Europe or former USSR where chess is established in mainstream culture. Take a look at this intriguing article on the Jamaican chess team: Chessbase link

During the Opening Ceremony, for the traditional “raising of the flags”, the teams that cheered loudest and had flags and uniforms, weren’t the teams likely to win medals or the teams with the proudest chess traditions. They tended to be from African and Caribbean nations, from countries that always finish in the bottom quarter of the draw. And the whole arena heard Jamaica: they jumped in their uniforms and waived their flags high in the air.
The reason why uniforms actually do matter, is because it gives our teams a sense of pride, and reminds them that what they do really matters. So the lesson is, even if it is difficult to support our teams financially, there are many small ways of making them feel proud. And they should feel proud: representing Australia in chess is a great honour, whether or not they actually wear the “green-and-gold”.
So, dear reader, what can you do to show our teams support?

Next round

The Aussies Open team will face Albania in Round 5, a match where we are expected to win. The Women’s team has another tough opponent in Colombia, and once again go in as the underdogs.

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