China’s quickfire victory over Poland left them a full two points ahead of the field, but while their chess looked nerveless you only had to see their reaction afterwards to realise how much it meant to them:
Ni Hua and Yu Yangyi visited the live broadcast shortly afterwards:
That still left everything to play for, and in the end there was a log-jam on 17 points, with four teams left biting their nails as the tiebreaks were finalised. The first team to reach that the 17-point mark was Azerbaijan, who edged out the USA thanks to Shakhriyar Mamedyarov's first board win over Hikaru Nakamura.
Hungary, who entered the round in sole second, were reduced to hoping that their board two, Csaba Balogh, would hold a grimly passive knight ending and leave them in the medals pool. Only a win by Pavel Eljanov in that ending would be enough for Ukraine to reach 17 points - but the Hungarian GM did his job, and his team joined the tiebreak sweepstakes. They would be richly-rewarded in the final Olympiad for the retiring Judit Polgar:
Top seeded Russia drew their white games against 3rd ranked France, but the favorites ground away with black, gaining the upper hand on the bottom board, still straining for a result that would add them to the medals tiebreak mix. Ian Nepomniachtchi finally brought home the only full point of the match, and Russia's comeback was complete.
The surprising Indians, seeded 19th and entering the event without their star players Vishy Anand and Pendyala Harikrishna, pulled off a massive 3.5-0.5 rout against the last of the big upstarts, 33rd ranked Uzbekistan. Would it be enough?
The answer was a resounding yes, with Hungary finishing 2nd,
India 3rd and the heavy-hitting Russia and Azerbaijan leaving Norway
empty-handed. The fact that the only Top 10 seeded team that India encountered were 4th seeds Armenia (a 2-2 draw) may provide ammunition for critics of the tiebreak and pairing system:
Full standings here.
Although the Olympiad is a team event chess is an individual sport and we’re always fascinated by individual results. So who stood out at the Olympiad? Let’s look at the medalists board by board:
Bulgaria may have ended badly after a fine start, but Veselin Topalov was back in the form of old, not even letting a loss to Vladimir Kramnik get him down. Anish Giri moved up to no. 11 in the world on the live ratings:
7 wins and three draws for Ngoc Truong son Nguyen couldn't lift the Vietnamese team above expectations, but Csaba Balogh was the powerhouse behind Hungary's surge to silver, meaning the Hungarian captain could contemplate leaving out Judit Polgar.
Yu Yangyi had the best performance rating of anyone in the Olympiad and gained 32 rating points. In the final round he defeated 16-year-old Jan-Krzysztof Duda, who had also been having a phenomenal event.
Ian Nepomniachtchi went some way to justifying the faith put in him instead of Dmitry Jakovenko with a match-winning final round victory, though his bronze board medal came despite performing 64 points below his rating.
Sam Shankland, meanwhile, talked to Tarjei J. Svensen after playing the tournament of his life:
What can you say about USA's performance in this event?
It's a shame we never got to fight for gold. I think we could've done better, but you can only control what you can control. Hopefully next time we will do better.
And your own performance has been amazing, how did that happen?
After I played in Edmonton, Ivanchuk won the tournament with 8 out of 9. But I was telling a friend of mine who doesn't play chess about it and he replied, "8 out of 9, why is that so impressive? Couldn't he go 9?" I said, "Nobody ever gets 9 points in one event!" I've never been happier to be corrected. 9 out of 10, I am just so happy. It's fair. I think I should have won today, but I also think I should have lost the game I drew. It's a fair result on the whole. I’m pretty happy – I’m going to get a medal and a lot of rating points.
Are you surprised yourself by your score?
Of course. If someone had told me... there's a reason I’m not 2900. I didn't expect to play a 2900 performance. I just wanted to play at my best, and it's been great.
How did you find the city and the organization and everything? Did any of that contribute to your result?
I’m not sure exactly. I mean, it's lovely here, but it's my first Olympiad so I don't have anything to compare it to. The only thing I have to complain about is the ridiculous prices in Norway. But that’s absolutely not the organisers’ fault. Everything else they did great.
Shankland is already heading on his way to Latvia where Riga Open starts tomorrow.
In the women’s event Ukraine left it late, but fought tenaciously for their medal chances, with Natalia Zhukova top-scoring on Board 4.
The top-seeded Chinese women were
unable to break Ukraine down, and a 2-2 all draws tie meant that both teams
ended on 18 points. When Georgia battered the fourth place German squad the
medal nations were clear - but would the tiebreak edge for China stand up to
the final round of results, and at least give them the silver? Or would the
events of the 11th round boost the Ukraine above the bronze medals? The answer
was no – China held on for silver.
That was still a disappointment for World Champion Hou Yifan’s hopes of winning a first gold medal with China, but at least the first and second places in the Open and Women’s sections ensured China ran away with the overall Gaprindashvili Cup (Russia were second, Ukraine third).
It's no surprise, of course, to see that World Champion Hou Yifan made the medals table, but Pia Cramling's 10/11 is an extraordinary feat for a 51-year-old, even one of her legendary chess longevity. The one controversy on this list is the fact that Nana Dzagnidze (7 wins, 2 draws) didn't risk her performance rating by playing the final round - though her team's 4:0 rout of Germany defused that bomb!
Valentina Gunina took gold on Board 2, while Alexandra Kosteniuk did the same on Board 3, powering the Russian women to overall victory - all the board medalists can be found here.
The list of medals does not tell all the stories of the Olympiad, and there are surely more hidden in the vast array of statistics for the event. Most chess players love a good rummage in the tables of numbers that catalog the tournament's adventures.
English GM Jonathan Speelman pointed out the impressive performance of young untitled Cypriot Andreas Kelires, who scored a GM norm with 7 wins and 4 draws, and 13-year-old Australian FM Anton Smirnov completed his IM title in Tromsø, getting the needed rating points and adding a fourth norm to his collection. Padmini Rout won the women's fifth board goal medal to spread some Indian Olympiad joy to the women's team, while a special shout out should go to Egypt - they won category prizes in both the Open and Women's sections!
Norway's top women could make the same claim, and with more pride. Ranked 38th, they were also the top Nordic team in their event, finishing 25th after beating Montenegro 3:1 in the final round. On Norway 3 Maud Rodsmoen scored an FM norm and picked up a whopping 96.4 rating points.
We shouldn't leave the local news without another mention of Norway 2 - four of the five performed markedly above their ratings, first board Frode Urkedal beat Ivanchuk and narrowly missed taking his final GM norm, and Torbjørn Ringdal Hansen had a Norwegian rating performance only bettered by Magnus Carlsen. They drew against second seeds Ukraine and lost to favorites Russia by the smallest margin. There are advantages to being away from the spotlights.
All that remained before bidding farewell to the 2014 Olympiad was the closing ceremony, and the handing out of well-earned rewards:
You can download and enjoy our final free PDF bulletin, including more games, GM Einar Gausel's "Blunders, upsets and knockouts" section and the interim as well as the final report, by clicking the link below:
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