India, Ukraine and the Netherlands lead the Baku Olympiad Open section after five rounds, with the day of the Bermuda Party starting with a feast of attacking chess. The first eight matches all finished decisively, with India stunning hosts Azerbaijan with wins with the black pieces for Harikrishna and Vidit. Ukraine and the Netherlands needed only a single win, plus some grit on the other boards. In the women’s section Hou Yifan came back in style while Russia and Ukraine both looked imposing as they set up a clash of the leaders in Round 6.
IM Nikolas Lubbe takes a whistle-stop tour of all the action in Round 5 in the following video:
Let’s first look at the leaders:
The Indian team came in to the Olympiad as 9th seeds, once again facing the world’s best players without their obvious leader, Vishy Anand. That was no reason for low ambitions, though, since India still have the image fresh in their minds of picking up bronze medals on the podium in Tromso in 2014. Since then the team has been boosted by two players you might class as slow-developers.
Harikrishna is only at the age of 30 beginning to develop into a supertournament regular, with his current live rating of 2754.8 putting him within a dozen points of the world’s top 10. Vidit, meanwhile, became a grandmaster at the now modest age of 18, but at 21 he’s pushing on towards 2700.
The Indian team had swept through the tournament so far:
But their Round 5 opponents Azerbaijan were another matter entirely. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Arkadiy Naiditsch were both on 4/4 and would have the white pieces in the match, while the only potential liability seemed to be Teimour Radjabov, who was looking a little rusty after a year with very little competitive chess. A close match the Indian team would be delighted to draw? That’s not how it panned out!
Naiditsch (perhaps armed with some tips from his friend and team coach Etienne Bacrot), tried to get Vidit out of book immediately by responding to 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 with 3.g3, an offbeat speciality of Russian Grandmaster Vadim Zvjaginsev. If Vidit was shaken, he didn’t show it, and was soon simply better. The move of the game was perhaps a simple but devastating idea:
26...b4! cut the white queen off from the action and allowed the black queen to saunter into the enemy camp via c3. Naiditsch was soon in zugzwang and ultimately couldn’t parry both mating threats on the kingside and the march of a passed pawn on the queenside – yes, that b-pawn again!
That meant 5/5 for Vidit – with the chess24 app suggesting his performance rating is pretty decent...
The game between Mamedyarov and Harikrishna on top board was a wild affair, with the players trading blow for blow in a razor-sharp position. The defining moment, though, was a positional exchange sacrifice:
18…Rd5!! That sent Mamedyarov into a 17-minute think until he decided to throw in 19.Qg4 but then take the material next move. Black had full compensation, but perhaps no more, and it seemed Shakhriyar was doing well until the pressure got to him – under no compulsion, he gave back the exchange, but found his position hopeless only a handful of moves later.
That spectacular victory contrasted with the utter professionalism of Ukraine. After the fifth seeds beat top seeds Russia the day before they went on to beat third seeds China. Yuriy Kryvoruchko got an early grip against Yu Yangyi and never let go, while Eljanov and Ponomariov on top boards held firm to ensure that win was enough for victory. Volokitin and Wei Yi had some fun on the bottom board, investing a puzzling amount of thought into a crazy but known position.
For the Netherlands, meanwhile, Benjamin Bok won a game that he described afterwards as “just a huge mess”. Belarus’ Kirill Stupak seemed busted early on with his king liable to be overrun in the middle of the board, but then at one stage he might have consolidated and simply found himself a rook up. It wasn’t to be, though, and the best option is to watch Benjamin himself explain what happened – fast forward to 05:16:18 when he goes through the game with Anna Rudolf (or watch the whole of the day’s live commentary):
Erwin L’Ami got a quick draw, Loek van Wely got a slow draw, and Anish Giri… well, he got a draw, but let’s say it wasn’t the most convincing one he’s ever played.
Elsewhere there was entertainment wherever you looked. Jobava beat Vallejo as Georgia pulled out a crushing 3.5:0.5 win over Spain, Nepomniachtchi scored his 5th win in a row to help Russia defeat Egypt, while 18-year-old Duda also got a hugely impressive 5th win against Moldova’s Iordachescu, though his team Poland could only draw.
That was more than Dominguez could say after he beat Bareev but saw Cuba lose to Canada on the remaining three boards. MVL knew the same bitter-sweet feeling, as he got a first win after three draws but couldn’t stop France losing to Paraguay. Carlsen's win over Luc Winants did, though, help Norway to beat Belgium, with Magnus getting the job done without the need to sacrifice any pawns... he should be safe from the irate farmers for now:
The most significant match, though, was the USA’s 3:1 victory over Serbia, which meant the unbeaten US 2nd seeds are now ahead of Russia and China in the standings before they take on Ukraine after the rest day.
There was a classy win for So, the US team’s now traditional one player gets into real trouble but salvages a draw (it was Caruana’s turn), and an easy-as-you-like miniature win for Hikaru Nakamura over Robert Markus:
22.Nxg6!! was game over, since 22…Nxg6 runs into 23.Qg3. White will get back the knight and, to put it mildly, the attack isn’t over.
Funnily enough, that wasn’t the day’s only debacle involving a knight on g6:
Richard Rapport’s sense of danger must have deserted him since, despite having Alexei Shirov sitting opposite, he went for the “trick” 17…Ng6?? 18.Nxg6 Qf6, threatening mate on f2. Alas, after 19.Qf1! it was all but game over – 19…Qxg6 20.e5! is ugly, though not much uglier than what happened in the game.
You have to feel for 20-year-old Rapport. His second loss in Baku cost him 6 rating points and a team loss to Latvia, but that wasn’t all - his new wife Jovana walked into an exquisite combination from Anna Muzychuk:
Her sister Mariya also won so that both the women and the men’s Ukrainian teams now lead going in to the rest day. Their next opponents will be Russia, who scored a thumping 3.5:0.5 win over Kazakhstan. Alexandra Kosteniuk set the tone when she caught 16-year-old prodigy Zhansaya Abdumalik out with a familiar trick on top board – you can see that at the very start of Nikolas’ video at the start of this article.
Girya and Gunina did the rest, with the latter adding some spice to the occasion by taking a 1 hour 4 minute (!) think on move 16, then playing most of her remaining moves at breakneck speed.
Hou Yifan returned to winning ways after her already famous loss the day before, and if you’re going to get over a bad result this is the way to do it!
11.Nd5!! cxd5 12.exd5! Bxb5 and a second piece was gone, but after 13.Nxe5 it was clear that the rook on e1, eyeing the black queen and king, meant trouble ahead for Olga Zimina. The Italian player managed to stumble on to move 24, but it was hopeless, and China went on to win the match 3:1.
There was lots more that went on, but since it’s our last opportunity let’s turn again to Phiona Mutesi, “Queen of Katwe”, whose Uganda were playing Tunisia on table 57. After an eventful game it looked as though Amen Miladi might finally be getting the upper-hand with Black…
But it turns out that was the last mistake, as Phiona unleashed 36.f5!! Bxb1 37.fxe6 Nxe6 38.Rxf7+ Kg8 39.Rf6! and after 39…Rxe2 40.Nxe6 Black resigned with mate inevitable.
If Uganda had arrived when planned Phiona was hoping to play more games, but 2/2 isn’t bad, and she’s got other business to attend to:
The other 1500 or so players also had some business to attend to, since the night before the rest (recovery) day is the time for the Bermuda Party! What happens in the Bermuda Party stays in the Bermuda Party… though it seems not everyone got the memo:
The tournament continues on Thursday with no more rest days to the end, but don’t worry about what to do on Wednesday - we’ve got you covered! There’s triple Banter Blitz action (times in CEST, but if you go to the show you’ll see a countdown):
We respect your privacy and data protection guidelines. Some components of our site require cookies or local storage that handles personal information.