Signs of accumulating fatigue or shaky nerves could be seen as Round 9 of the 2014 Chess Olympiad headed towards the first time control. New hope for the Chinese women's team gold medal chase appeared as top board Kateryna Lagno was the first to crack in Russia's tense match against number 10 ranked Armenia… although there was eventually a happy ending for Team Russia. It was also tight in the men's event, as 9 of the top 14 matches finished drawn.
by GMs Jonathan Tisdall (text) and Einar Gausel (chess analysis)
In the crucial women’s match GM Elina Danielian won a piece when Lagno erred under pressure, and more surprises looked likely to follow. The Russians caught a lucky break, however, when GM Valentina Gunina managed to escape serious trouble:
36... ♗a5 with the idea of blockading and rounding up White's queenside pawns, would have maintained Black's edge.
The same story was repeated with WGM Olga Girya, and the potential Armenian upset had turned into a 2.5-1.5 win for the frontrunners.
China did what they could to mount psychological pressure on their rivals, rolling to a smooth 3.5-0.5 win over France, and that with world champion Yifan Hou being held to a draw.
Third seeds Ukraine continued their comeback, edging out India 2.5-1.5, a result that moves them into third place - at the moment the top three have carved out their own spot at the top:
In the Open section, third seeded France applied pressure early over the Czechs after Bacrot produced a sparkling win over man-in-form Viktor Laznicka.
35. ♗xg7! The bishop continues its mission of destruction.
39. ♖e7+ Black resigns.
The Czechs could not mount a reply, and lost 2.5-1.5, a result that puts France into a tie for first with China. China lost the sole lead in the event after trading four draws with 2nd seeded Ukraine.Bulgaria look determined to have a memorable Tromsø Olympiad, their hot men Topalov and Iotov delivering a win each over the tough Cubans. Cheparinov's draw on board two was all the Bulgarians needed - and all they got - to clinch both match points.
Romania seem to have established themselves as the discovery of the event. Ranked 32nd, they remain in the thick of the medals battle, turning in another solid upset performance, today drawing all games against the next hosts of the Olympiad, Azerbaijan.
Hungary are also right in the thick of things after being able to rest Judit Polgar and still roll over Israel, with Richard Rapport winning a nice game against Emil Sutovsky:
1. d4 ♘f6 2. ♘c3 d5 3. ♗f4 c5 4. e3 cxd4 5. exd4 a6 6. ♘f3 ♗g4 7. h3 ♗xf3 8. ♕xf3 ♘c6 9. 0-0-0 e6 10. g4 ♗b4 11. ♘e2 ♕a5 12. ♔b1 ♘e4 13. ♘c1 ♗d6 14. ♘b3 ♕c7 15. ♗e3 0-0 16. ♖g1 b5 17. ♗d3 f5⁈ This seriously weakens Black's pawn structure. Black still looks fairly solid after the more measured response
25. ♖c1 ♘xd3 26. cxd3 ♕g3 27. a3 ♗f4 28. ♖d1 ♕xh3 29. ♘c5 White has only a small material advantage, but he has a firm grip on the middle of the board. Black's exposed king seriously limits his counterplay.
Teams are bunched tightly at the top after Round 9:
13 teams, including pre-tournament favorites Russia, are a point back on 13 - full standings for both men and women can be found here.
There are two other teams that are playing well over their heads. Argentina are seeded 35th, but could have joined the tie for third place with a win today - but four draws against India, while a good result, makes both of them outsiders for any kind of medal. 29th ranked Serbia continue to impress, and pulled off a 2-2 upset of defending champions and fourth seeded Armenia. The loss of a match point puts a serious dent to any kind of medal hopes for these teams, which must be terribly painful for Olympiad specialists Armenia.
Levon Aronian said afterwards that the Armenian team was "like a locomotive" and struggles when they meet strong teams early on as they did this time round:
US GM Sam Shankland's long winning streak came to an end against German acquisition Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu, but Shankland is presumably still content with his 7.5/8 score. Less satisfyingly for him, Germany's board two, Georg Meier, made Gata Kamsky's tournament even worse. Meier, who is studying in the USA, turned an advantage into an instant win after a tactical oversight from Gata. The match was still finely balanced, and Varuzhan Akobian leveled the scores with a win over Daniel Fridman, but the split decision likely means the end of the medals race for both sides.
Norway 1 had a rollercoaster day against Turkey, with Magnus Carlsen being unusually reckless, coming under serious attack before emerging from mutual time trouble with a very promising ending. Turkey took the lead with GM Emre Can beating Simen Agdestein on board two, and the world champion’s eventual win on board one only evened the score, since Norwegian GM Leif Erlend Johannessen was unable to turn an extra pawn into a tangible advantage in a queen ending. Another disappointing result for the ambitious home side.
Norway 2 steadily notched up half points against Russia, working their way up the match boards. After teenager Aryan Tari drew Ian Nepomniachtchi, Torbjørn Ringdal Hansen held Sergei Karjakin with the black pieces on board three, and Frode Elsness neutralized Peter Svidler on two, but young Norwegian champion Frode Urkedal could not repeat the upset he produced against the Ukraine. Top Russian Alexander Grischuk capped a strong performance with a neat tactical finish to give the top seeds a narrow 2.5-1.5 victory.
Norway’s first women’s team are now overperforming, lying in
25th place (=15-25th) after nine rounds, and ranked just 38th. Consecutive
2.5-1.5 wins over Turkey and Estonia have earned them a shot at 22nd seeds
Azerbaijan in round ten.
Norway 1 in the Open section were hoping for a top ten placing in front of a home crowd, but they will have to finish with a real flourish to achieve this. Today’s 2-2 draw against 22nd seeded Turkey leaves them in 26th place (=21-36th).
Tomorrow's Round 10 is already the penultimate round, and sees France-China and Ukraine-Azerbaijan in the Open event. All eyes are likely to be fixed, however, on the battle between first and second seeds Russia and Ukraine in the Women's section - a match that of course has more than pure chess interest. Full team pairings are here.
Don't miss live commentary with Jan Gustafsson, Lawrence Trent and Einar Gausel from 2pm CEST!
Golden ticket update: IM Belouadah Saad (Algeria, 2320) and WGM Katerina Nemcova (USA, 2315) were today's winners of a free ticket to the Qatar Masters Open.
You can download and enjoy our free PDF bulletin, including GM Einar Gausel's "Blunders, upsets and knockouts" section and now the interim as well as the final report, by clicking the link below: