News 2020

Division 2 Round-up

Virtually in every pool of Division 2 two teams advanced Top Division with a couple of rounds to spare, but there was a close fight for the third spot till the last minutes of Round 9. In some cases the scenario was predictable, but in some pools, we saw a lot of dramatic twists and turns.

Pool A
The final day in Division 2 started as a thriller – every round changed the configuration of the leaderboard and put up a new strong favorite to take the third spot. It is hard to believe given that after six rounds there were only two candidates for third place – Australia and Indonesia. Indeed, no one questioned Bulgaria's’ and Germany’s progressing to Top Division, whereas all other teams fell behind on Saturday.

Round 7 saw the clash of two main candidates for the third spot. Many thought that Australia would seal the deal – since the team was two points ahead of Indonesia even a draw virtually guaranteed them the third place. However, somewhat unexpectedly Indonesia crushed the opponents 1:5. GM Max Illingworth (Australia) was unlucky but on the women's board, Indonesia scored well-deserved victories.

Indonesia got into the driver’s seat – the team caught up with its rival but had a much weaker opponent in Round 9. However, both squads still had to play Round 8 in which both faced the leaders. We had another sudden twist here – Bulgaria predictably routed Indonesia but Australia was about to beat Germany, but Julia Ryjanova on fourth board let her big advantage slip first and then simply blundered a knight in a roughly equal endgame. Nevertheless, Australia drew the match and edged ahead of Indonesia by one point.

Still, it was wide-open, as in the final round Indonesia took on an underdog Bangladesh, whereas Australia squared against picking-up-steam Belarus. Australia did not manage even a draw, although even this result was not enough as Indonesia conceded just a half-point to Bangladesh. As a result, Indonesia won this “steeplechase” for the third place.  
All these dramatic events overshadowed the match for the first place in Pool A between Bulgaria and Germany. The former scored a confident victory and became the first team in Division 2 to win all the matches (as it turned out later, not only the first but also the only team).

Pool B

The intrigue in this pool was rather forced than real. After Romania clobbered Israel 5.5:0.5 in Round 7 the top-3 shaped up: Romania, Greece, and Slovakia.

However, after Romania benched its key players, the team suffered two defeats at hands of Latvia and Moldova. Besides, Slovakia lost to Israel, the team that definitely underperformed at the Online Olympiad. As a result, Slovakia had to reach at least a draw in the last-round match against Latvia; otherwise, a spot in Top Division could have slipped away. Slovakia had no trouble completing this task though – the team put 4.5:1.5 on the scoreboard, with 62-year old Lumomir Ftacnik scoring another victory. His impressive result 7.5/ 9 coupled with the same score by Zuzana Cibickova (pictured below) on the second women’s board became a cornerstone of Slovakia’s success in this tournament.


Pool С

This pool was in the focus of most spectators' and the official livestream commentator’s GM Roeland Pruijssers (working together with charming Anna Muzychuk) attention which was quite understandable – the threat of elimination was hanging over Pruijssers’ compatriots, team Netherlands, led by Anish Giri.

Slovenia looked like the most dangerous competitor of Netherlands but on the final day, the team suffered two defeats that dashed its hopes for advancing to the next stage. Nature abhors a vacuum, they say – team Switzerland quickly filled this void. Back on Saturday Switzerland beat Netherlands, in Round 7 prevailed over Slovenia and in Round 8 had excellent winning chances in the match against Italy. At this point, many thought that Italy was going to lose its spot in Top Division. However, the representatives of Apennines miraculously saved a draw in the match.

With his flag hanging, Fabian Baenziger (Switzerland) lost grip of the game in a classical drawing ending:

Fabian Baenziger – Luca Moroni

White should have switched to a frontal attack by 88.Rg1! forcing a draw. Baenziger complicated his task - 88. Kf5 Kh4 89. Rg4+ Kh3, and then сracked under pressure - 90. Re4 (90.Rb4! attacking from the side secured a draw) 90...h5 91. Kg5?? (a decisive mistake 91.Re3+ followed 92.Rb3 was still enough for a draw ) 91...Kg3 92. Re3+ Kf2 93. Re4 Kf3 94. Kf5 Rb5 0-1

Before the final round Netherlands and Italy were one point ahead of Switzerland, but unlike the competitors, taking on underdogs, Dutchmen faced Spain, the strongest team in the pool, which already secured its spot in Top Division.  

The start of the match was very tough for Netherlands: Alexei Shirov made a quick work of Jorden Van Foreest plus Anne Haast found herself in a hopeless position on the fourth board. At this critical moment luck favored Oranje – Haast wrestled a win although around 30th move could have got checkmated by force, Anish Giri finally proved his strength and scored a good victory over David Anton Guijarro (check it out). As a result, Netherlands won 3.5:2.5, and even Switzerland’s wiping out Estonia did not change anything. Switzerland played an excellent tournament but a missed victory against Italy and a vexing defeat from North Macedonia left the team behind Netherlands and Italy.

Pool D

Pool D sprang the greatest surрrise in Division 2. Before the final day, it seemed that Turkey, Norway, and Serbia would smoothly advance despite playing with one another. Only Croatia stood a chance to catch up with this trio, but the “Checkered” had to beat Norway at any cost. The Croatians succeeded by sheer luck – in time scramble Simen Agdestein lost an absolutely winning position with several extra pawns, whereas Frode Urkedal resigned in a roughly equal position:

Marin Bosiocic – Frode Urkedal

Apparently, the Norwegian GM missed that after 40... Ne8 41. Re5 Bc6 he would not lose material.

However, it was team Serbia that became the “odd-man-out”. The Serbian players did not manage to pull themselves together in the last-round match against Denmark – the defeat threw them back to the fourth place as Norway had better tiebreaks. Turkey and Croatia took two first positions.

Pool E

Hungary turned in an excellent performance in this event. After securing the first place by disposing of England, Hungary gave some rest to its scorers and lost two points in the match with Ecuador. England’s second place was in little doubt throughout all three days and the team aptly reached this position.  It was team Argentina that became a real star of  Sunday chess battles in Pool E. The squad appeared to the underdog against Ecuador and Columbia but the Argentineans, lead by GM Alan Pichot thought differently. Pichot, who had scored only ½ out of 3 on the first day, won all three games and all his teammates followed thу suit. Argentine walloped Equador (5.5:0.5), then won a decisive match against Colombia (4:2) and finally secured its spot in Top Division after beating Montenegro (4.5:1.5).

GM Alan Pichot (photo courtesy of Eugenia Alegre)

The Argentinineas finished third behind Hungary and England and now have a chance to test their skills against top-team over the next weekend.

In conclusion, let’s have a look at the full list of the teams to advance to the strongest Top Division:


The Top Division will get underway on Friday, August 21 at 08:00 UTC. Only 40 out of 163 teams taking part in the event continue their Olympic quest.