By Dusan Stojic.
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!
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!
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:
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.
Away from the Board
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 http://theweekinchess.com/live next time Chess24 goes down.
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.
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.
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.
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 Chess.com 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.
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.
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
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.
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