For the second time in three years, underdog Iran has entered the last day of the World Youth Olympiad in the lead, only to falter with the finish line in sight.
In Gyor, Hungary, Iran had done most of the hard work, beating the previously undefeated Russian team in a key seventh round match-up, and Iran needed only a minimal victory over Hungary to take home gold.
However the home team triumphed, allowing both India and Russia to overtake Iran, with the Indians taking home their second consecutive U/16 Olympiad title.
In most sports an U/16 event might not deserve much attention, but with so many teen professionals in the chess world, the Youth Olympiad is as strong as an Australian Championship.
India saw two of its players confirm Grandmaster titles from the Olympiad, with 15-year-old Aravindh Chithambaran (pictured top right) securing the title after 13 hectic months from his ‘discovery’ during the world title match in his home town of Chennai in 2013.
Although the Hungarian hosts received lavish praise for the organisation of the 2014 Youth Olympiad, which enjoyed an 80,000 Euro budget, the results of the competition were distorted by a new rule requiring each team to include a female player.
In a competition where plenty of teams include females on merit – Russia’s top rated player in Gyor was female and Australia in the past has sent an all-female team – the rule was both unnecessary and pointless, since the female player was not required to play any games.
Thus Iran used their female player, far lower rated than the rest of the team, only in the first round and dropped her for the rest of the tournament. India ventured their female player three times. Some weaker teams were even more ruthless.
Encouraging greater female participation in chess tournaments is highly desirable, especially in countries such as Australia where female participation in adult tournaments is a pitiful 4%, but such tokenistic rules are both insulting and demoralising for the girls who know they are being brought to the Olympiad just to tick a box and not to play.
Australia had no such worries because, with top board Ari Dale (pictured below left) tied up at the London Classic during the first part of the Olympiad, Australia’s girl player Kristine Quek was a crucial team member in a squad which finished =25th among the 54 team field.
Australia’s par result was as good as could be expected given the absence of Anton Smirnov and Karl Zelesco, both competing in the GM group of the Australian Masters held simultaneously with the Youth Olympiad. However the team did pick up three brilliancy prizes in Gyor. One was shown in my previous blog and the following game was another of the prize winners.
Black: Z.Loh (pictured above right)
Opening: French Defence
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Be7!?
A system developed in the 1960s by Australia’s John Kellner, who twice finished high in World Correspondence Championships. Australia’s first chess professional Max Fuller took the move to Europe where it soon became known, quite unfairly but typically for the era when the USSR dominated the chess world, as the Romanishin Variation!
4.Ngf3 Nf6 5.e5 Nfd7 6.Bd3 c5 7.c3 Nc6 8.0-0 g5! 9.g4?!
A typical reaction, but here misguided. White had to risk 9.dxc5 g4 10.Nd4 Ndxe5 11.Bb5 Bxc5 12.Re1 with excellent compensation for the sacrificed pawn.
9…h5 10.h3 hxg4 11.hxg4 Qb6! 12.dxc5 Nxc5 13.Bc2?
13.Nb3 was necessary.
13…Qc7! 14.Re1 b6 15.b4
Desperation, but on 15.Nb3, Ne4! 16.Bxe4 dxe4 17.Rxe4 Bb7 is strong.
15…Nd7 16.Ba4 Bb7 17.Nb3 d4!!
Now the long diagonal threats become overwhelming.
18.Bxc6 Qxc6 19.Nbxd4 Qxc3 20.Be3 Nxe5! 21.Kf1 Nxf3 22.Nxf3 Qc4+ 23.Qe2 Bxf3! 0-1