Poland defeats Bulgaria to advance to quarters
No prisoners were taken in the match between Poland and Bulgaria, where all the games in both rounds reached a decisive result. All except one, which ended in a draw by accident: Viktoria Radeva was a piece up in the first round encounter, but she inadvertently repeated the same position three times against Alicja Sliwicka, who couldn't hide her joy in front of the webcam. This half a point was decisive, as it allowed Poland scrape out a victory by a minimal margin (3½ - 2½) in a match that would have been a draw otherwise.
Poland's second board Radoslaw Wojtaszek
Poland's top players proved to be stronger than their Bulgarian counterparts, and both Duda and Wojtaszek made a clean sweep in their games against Delchev and Enchev respectively. On the other hand, Bulgaria dominated the female boards: Salimova defeated Karina Cyfka in both rounds, while Radeva took her little revenge winning her second game against Sliwicka. Socko lost to the former Women's World Champion Antoaneta Stefanova in the first game, but then won the second, and this was one of the results that tipped the balance towards a more comfortable victory (4-2) for the Polish team.
Bulgaria 2½ : 3½ Poland
Delchev 0 : 1 Duda
Enchev 0 : 1 Wojtaszek
Stefanova 1 : 0 Socko
Salimova 1 : 0 Cyfka
Petrov 0 : 1 Gumularz
Radeva ½ : ½ Sliwicka
Poland 4 - 2 Bulgaria
Duda 1 : 0 Delchev
Wojtaszek 1 : 0 Enchev
Socko 1 : 0 Stefanova
Cyfka 0 : 1 Salimova
Gumularz 1 : 0 Petrov
Sliwicka 0 : 1 Radeva
It was a busy day at the office for most of the Polish players, since these days they are also playing the national clubs competition: the super-strong Ekstraliga. Many of them had to play an over-the-board classical game starting at 1 pm, and then run to their hotel rooms in Katowice to play the Online Olympiad game at 6 pm.
Poland takes on Azerbaijan in Quarter-Finals, which will take place tomorrow, August 28. The other QF duels are India - Armenia, Russia - Hungary, and USA - Ukraine.
Armenia will be the rival of India in Quarter-Finals
Greece has become one of the revelations of the first Online Olympiad, thanks, among other reasons, to the star performance by the young talent Stavroula Tsolakidou. However, their run in the FIDE Online Olympiad came to an end today, after the clash with a superior Armenian team. Despite Stavroula winning again both her games, Armenia outclassed the Greeks by 4½ - 1½ in the first round and won again by 3½ - 2½ in the second.
Armenia's top player Levon Aronian
The pillars of the Armenian team were a veteran, Levon Aronian, and a relative newcomer, Anna Sargsyan. Aronian won both his games with relative ease, first against Dimitrios Mastrovasilis, and then against Hristos Banikas. Sargsyan defeated Anastasia Avramidou with both colors. This is not the first great performance by Anna with the national team, since she already won a bronze medal on the 4th board at the last European Teams Championship in Batumi last year, where she also achieved WGM and IM norms.
Meanwhile, Woman Grandmaster Stavroula Tsolakidou (Greece), now a freshman at Saint Louis Chess University, took her overall score to an impressive 14.5 points out of 19 games.
The Greek star IM Stavroula Tsolakidou
Greece 1½ : 4½ Armenia
Mastrovasilis 0 : 1 Aronian
Halkias 0 : 1 Sargissian
Tsolakidou 1 : 0 Danielian
Botsari 0 : 1 Mkrtchian
Theodoru ½ : ½ Martirosyan
Avramidou 0 : 1 Sargsyan
Armenia 3½ : 2½ Greece
Aronian 1 : 0 Banikas
Sargissian ½ : ½ Halkias
Danielian 1 : 0 Tsolakidou
Mkrtchian ½ : ½ Botsari
Martirosyan ½ : ½ Theodoru
Sargsyan 0 : 1 Avramido
The Armenians advance to Quarter-Finals, where they will face India (Friday, August 28).
Ukraine knocks down China, advances to Quarter-Finals
Ukraine and China were the top seeds in their respective groups at the top division, but both failed to claim the first place and, as a result, they had to battle each other for a spot in Quarter-Finals against the USA.
The clash between these two chess giants came down to an Armageddon game after the two regular matches reached a 3-3 result.
In the first round, Ukraine was temporary two points down, because the Chinese victories came early in the match. But despite these early setbacks, Ukraine was actually very close to winning. Vassily Ivanchuk lost to Ding Liren with Black, while Shevchenko and Berdnyk took the whole point. Both Irina Gaponenko and Natalia Zhukova had much better positions against Hou Yifan and Ju Wenjun respectively. However, Gaponenko lost the thread of the game and lost, while Zhukova missed a forced checkmate and agreed to a draw. The resulting 3-3 tasted like a lucky save by the Chinese team.
Photo by David Llada: GM Vassily Ivanchuk, the leader of team Ukraine
The second match was also very balanced, but again the chances of Ukraine looked a bit better. Four of the six games ended in a draw, while Julia Osmak took down a very dangerous rival in rapid chess: Tan Zhongyi. Meanwhile, Zhu Jiner leveled the score by defeating Mariia Berdnyk.
This is where 17-year-old Kirill Shevchenko decided to spice things up adding some drama to the clash. The young prodigy, who had won all his 7 games so far in this competition, conceded his first draw in this round, after failing to find a decisive blow that could have given him the whole point - and a team victory.
However, Kirill was given an immediate opportunity to make things right, since it was decided that the Armageddon game for this duel between Ukraine and China would be a clash between the two junior boards. For the third time in the day, Shevchenko and Liu Yan crossed swords - the Ukrainian rising star demonstrated stamina and nerves of steel and, in a favorable endgame, he created enough problems for his opponent to make him forfeit on time.
The Quarter-Finals clash between Ukraine and the United States will take place tomorrow, Friday (August 28).
This elimination is a major setback for the Chinese team, the winner of two of the last three Olympiads (Tromsø 2014 and Batumi 2018), as well as the recent Online Nations Cup. Their low performance can't be attributed to the absence of key players, since they lined up all their top guns - with the only exception of Wang Hao.
China 3 : 3 Ukraine
Ding Liren 1 : 0 Ivanchuk
Wei Yi ½ : ½ Korobov
Hou Yifan 1 : 0 Gaponenko
Ju Wenjun ½ : ½ Zhukova
Liu Yan 0 : 1 Shevchenko
Ning Kaiyu 0 : 1 Berdnyk
Ukraine 3 : 3 China
Ivanchuk ½ : ½ Ding Liren
Korobov ½ : ½ Yu Yangyi
Osmak 1 : 0 Tan Zhongyi
Gaponenko ½ : ½ Lei Tingjie
Shevchenko ½ : ½ Liu Yan
Berdnyk 0 : 1 Zhu Jiner
Shevchenko (UKR) 1 : 0 Liu Yan (CHN)
Hungary beats Germany to face Russia in the Quarterfinals
Hungary knocks out Germany and will play Russia in Quarter Finals. The Hungarian team defeated Germany in a double-round match, in what was probably the narrowest win ever in the history of the Chess Olympiads. In the decisive game between Dennis Wagner (GER) and Tamas Banusz (HUN), the German Grandmaster lost on time, while his opponent, forced to win, had only 0,3 seconds left on the clock himself.
This do-or-die situation was caused by the result of the regular games. Hungary defeated Germany by the minimum score in the first round: 3½ - 2½, with 2 victories, three draws, and one defeat. However, in the second round, Germany managed to return the blow and won by exactly the same result, thanks to the victories of their first board, Dennis Wagner, and the best German female player, Elisabeth Paehtz.
With one victory for each team, the match had to be decided in an "Armageddon" game. A random draw decided for the category, in which the game will be played - it could be open, women's, juniors' or girls' boards. In this case, it fell on the open boards. A hard task for the captains is to decide for a player to represent the whole team in this ultimate battle. Germany opted for their top board Dennis Wagner, while Hungary settled for board #2 Tamas Banusz.
An Armageddon is a single game guaranteed to produce a result because Black has draw odds: that is, for Black, a draw is equal to a victory. To compensate, White starts the game with 5 minutes on the clock, against 4 minutes for Black.
Tamas Banusz got the white pieces and achieved an almost decisive advantage, but both players were really short of time - especially, Banusz, and it wasn't clear at all if he could materialize his advantage. But in the end, the player in an inferior position had to solve more problems, he played a bit slower, and he was the one to lost on time, giving Hungary a very important victory and a place in the Quarterfinals.
Hungary 3½ : 2½ Germany
Erdos ½ : ½ Wagner
Banusz ½ : ½ Fridman
Papp 0 : 1 Paethz
Gara 1 : 0 Schulze
Kozak 1 : 0 Vogel
Demeter ½ : ½ Muetsch
Germany 3½ : 2½ Hungary
Wagner 1 : 0 Erdos
Fridman ½ : ½ Banusz
Paethz 1 : 0 Hoang Thanh Trang
Schulze 0 : 1 Gara
Vogel 0 : 1 Kozak
Muetsch 1 : 0 Gaal
Erdos (HUN) 1 : 0 Wagner (GER)
Photo by David Llada: Members of the Hungarian team at the 2018 Batumi Chess Olympiad.
With 12 medals in total, Hungary is historically one of the most successful teams at the Chess Olympiads, only behind Russia/Soviet Union and the United States. They have achieved a total of 3 gold, 7 silver, and 2 bronze medals. Their last great success was in 2014, when the team led by Peter Leko and Judit Polgar got bronze at the Tromsø Chess Olympiad (Norway).
Hungary has also been one of the first countries to host a Chess Olympiad, in 1926, and recently the Hungarian Chess Federation has expressed their interest in bidding to host this competition again in 2024.
The Quarterfinals clash with Russia will take place tomorrow, Friday (August 28).
This is the schedule for tomorrow:
India - Armenia
Russia - Hungary
Azerbaijan - Poland
USA - Ukraine
Text and photo: David Llada