Halfway in the Chess Olympiad

Halfway in the Chess Olympiad

Hikaru Junction

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The danger of writing blog posts about current news (and especially chess news) is that they tend to become outdated quickly. However, there’s one thing that I don’t think will change anytime soon, and that is the sadness and frustration of Aaron the a-pawn. Here he is.

Aaron the a-pawn.

Why is Aaron sad? The answer is that tickets are still not on sale for the World Chess Championship. This makes him worried, because the poor organization to this point might make a championship difficult.

However, his compatriot Beaufort is more excited.

Beaufort the b-pawn.

Why is Beaufort excited? He is an actual pawn, not a metaphorical pawn. He plays in chess games for the United States team. And so the Chess Olympiad means he is played with! Below is Beaufort on b2, proudly winning the game for one Sam Shankland.

Samuel Shankland–Joan Fernandez Lopez Chess Olympiad 2016

The team which just played Beaufort and his United States compatriots was India, who started off with a better start than the U. S. (who were nicked for a draw by the Czech Republic in the third round.) One key game by the Indian team to ensure their perfect start was GM Adhiban’s win against GM L’Ami in the sixth round, which pit them against the United States in the seventh.
Erwin L’Ami–Baskaran Adhiban Chess Olympiad 2016

This win (with Black!) was especially important as his teammate Santosh Gujrathi on board four drew (with White!) against Loek van Wely of the Netherlands. In the same round, Sethuraman and Harikrishna both also drew, making Adhiban’s win the decisive game of the match.

The U. S. is now leading the Olympiad, on 6.5/7. Here are a few of the games that got them there. As a sidenote, it’s quite strange for the U. S. not to be an ‘underdog’ team. Instead, they’re now very much an ‘overdog’ team, second seed, behind Russia. It’s insane that now they’re fielding Wesley So, top-ten ranked player, on third board! IMO, they haven’t been this good relative to the world since the 1930s. It’s a very interesting thing to think about– one sudden influx of talent made up by a few players is all you need for a team of four.

Anyhow, one of these top-class players is Hikaru Nakamura, currently rated sixth in the world (on second board, behind Caruana.) He has demonstrated his class in this Olympiad by finding tactical blows against weaker players, forcing them to resign rather than be able to fight a difficult game.

Hikaru Nakamura–Robert Markus Chess Olympiad 2016

Black’s last move was 21…Qd8, retreating, and it appears reasonable. Hikaru now plays, however, 22. Nxg6! When Black retakes with the knight, 23. Qg3 pins the knight, and it can’t be defended well. 1-0.

Likewise, against John Shaw, in the first round, he uncorked another quality tactic after a suspect move by his weaker opponent.

Hikaru Nakamura–John Shaw Chess Olympiad 2016

Shaw’s last move, 20…Qd6, gives Black an opening– Nakamura played 21. Bd5. Neither Black’s bishop nor the queen could take back. Nakamura, on the next move, was able to simply capture and win a pawn to go with his dominating position. Or, he would have, had Shaw not resigned. 1-0.

Outside of the top three (Caruana, Nakamura, and So,) Sam Shankland and Ray Robson have so far this Olympiad competed for the fourth board. However, both have performed well, so far. Here is Shankland’s escape against S. P. Sethuraman, about which he commented “This is the first time in any of the Olympiad games in which I was just dead.”

Samuel Shankland–S.P. Sethuraman Chess Olympiad 2016

31…Rh2 is a beautiful zugzwang for Sethuraman.
If 32. Qd1, Qc4+ 33. Bxc4 dxc4#
If 32. Rb2, Ra3.
If 32. Rxe6, Ra3.
Every position makes White worse. However, Black played 31…Qf7, instead, and after he lost the thread of the game, White emerged with the victory.

Lastly, it must be mentioned that Ian Nepomniachtchi is on an incredible 7/7. Here are two of his games. Firstly, in the seventh round, to set up a match with the United States in the eighth, and continue his run of not giving up even a draw.

Ian Nepomniachtchi–Zybnek Hracek Chess Olympiad 2016

Previously, in round two, Nepomniachtchi helped his team coast to a 4-0 victory over Turkmenistan. In round one, they had also swept Nigeria 4-0. Unfortunately for the Russians, they (except for Ian) were unable to continue this start– they lost to rivals Ukraine by a 2.5-1.5 score in the fourth round (Nepomniachtchi being the sole win.) However, here’s the round two game.

Ian Nepomniachtchi–Saparmyrat Atabayev Chess Olympiad 2016

That’s my round-up of the Olympiad so far. Now I’ll try to get this out before it’s obsolete!


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Hikaru Junction
Last Post
30 Jun 19
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27 Mar 15