Magnus Carlsen could do nothing to stop the USA cruising to a 3:1 victory over Norway in Round 9 of the Baku Olympiad. Ukraine beat India to stay level on points, but the Americans have better tiebreaks and will relish their upcoming clash with Georgia – the inimitable Baadur Jobava can only play on one board! Russia impressed against Azerbaijan to stay in the hunt if their rivals stumble, while in the women’s section China are the team to beat after they scored a hard-fought win over the USA.
Jan Gustafsson is back for the final three rounds of the Olympiad, and his recap of Round 9 includes analysis of all the key games, with special attention given to Baadur Jobava’s victory over Richard Rapport. Here’s a teaser of that:
Don’t miss the video recap:
In this report we’ll go through the action and highlight a few games not mentioned by Jan.
The last time Caruana played Carlsen at the Olympiad he was leading Italy into a match that was too close to call. Magnus played the Scandinavian Defence (1.e4 d5) and went on to win, as Norway triumphed 3:1. Two years later and all that remained the same was the scoreline and the Scandinavian. Caruana held with ease, and his US teammates, who all outrated their opponents by over 100 points, safely did the business.
Caruana talked afterwards about how different it was to play for the 2nd favourites… and how Italy seemed to be doing better without him!
The match outcome was in little doubt as soon as Sam Shankland got the upper hand against Frode Urkedal, with Sam explaining afterwards that his opponent had little experience playing 1.e4 and wasn’t ready to handle the complexities of the Najdorf position that arose. 16.g3? was much too slow, and you didn’t need to be a strategic chess mastermind to realise that something had gone badly wrong for White:
The final moves were played fast by both players, who had no doubt already chalked up the score in their minds. Shankland talked about the game and tournament afterwards, including dropping a hint that he wasn’t that pleased with the process by which he’d acquired such stellar teammates:
Hikaru Nakamura handed Jon Ludvig Hammer a comparable beating…
…and it was only Wesley So who showed any mercy, choosing not to play on in a somewhat better position against young Aryan Tari.
Ukraine couldn’t match that show of raw firepower, but a tricky endgame win for Anton Korobov over Sethuraman was enough to defeat the impressive Indian team and remain level with the USA.
Russia’s “reward” for that success was a tough clash with India, with Russia knowing they need two wins in the final two rounds to keep any gold medal hopes alive. On paper the leaders have a much easier task against the other teams on 14 points, since the US take on 20th seeds Georgia and Ukraine have 17th seeds the Czech Republic. Jobava’s brilliant win (again, see Jan’s video!) over Rapport was instrumental in Georgia’s win over Hungary, while for the second day in a row it was a single win for Viktor Laznicka that gave the Czech Republic a win over the Netherlands.
There are 14 teams three points back, who might still have an outside chance of a bronze medal, including Iran and England.
Iran started the tournament as 46th seeds and are currently in 9th place, but it’s testimony to how impressive their youth development program seems to be that it’s hard to class that as a real surprise. 13-year-old Alireza Firouzja has been tipped for the very top for some time now, but earlier this year he played a match against 16-year-old Parham Maghsoodloo, and got crushed.
Since then Maghsoodloo has been in phenomenal form, including starring in an Iran vs. the World match in July with an unbeaten +6 (the final game not visible was a draw against Baku commentator Evgeny Miroshnichenko):
He’s also unbeaten in Baku, but the punch line to this story of star youngsters is that it was yet another teenager, 17-year-old Shahin Lorparizangeneh, who made his mark in the match against England. He took advantage of Luke McShane’s inevitable time trouble to deliver a killer blow with 38.Qg6!
There’s no defence to the threat of Re8+, with an exchange of queens simply setting up a mating net. There followed: 38…Nf8 39.Re8 Re7 40.Bxe7 resigns
That win was eventually balanced out by Gawain Jones outplaying Firouzja in an ending, but even if the kids can’t win this year we’re witnessing the birth of a new chess powerhouse. The curiosity will be to see just which of them proves to be the greatest talent.
In other news...
IM Wei Ming Kevin Goh found 31.Qxc6!! If Black had played 30…h6 instead then 31…Rxc6 32.Rxd5 Qc7 would have been winning for Black. Without that king “luft”, though, 33.Rd8# is double check and mate. Duda tried playing on with 31…Qf8, but though he reached a pawn ending with almost equal material it was dead lost.
The Open standings with two rounds to go look as follows:
In the women’s section, perhaps too late for some of their medal chances, the top five seeds China, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia and India all won their matches, with sixth seeds USA losing the key match of the day to China. It was a very tense affair, in which the US players had chances, but a win for women’s world no. 2 Ju Wenjun over Nazi Paikidze was enough for China.
It’s not a foregone conclusion yet, though. Poland are only a point behind with better tiebreaks, and play China next. The Polish team has had mixed fortunes on the top two boards, but an incredible run on the lower boards. Karina Szczepkowska-Horowska has 5 wins, 2 draws, Klaudia Kulon has 7 wins, 2 draws, and 18-year-old Mariola Wozniak has 5 wins in 5 games. The latter was on top form as Poland swept aside Israel 3.5:0.5:
Mariola saw a little combination: 18.e5! (it’s vital to undermine the c5-knight first) 18…dxe5 19.b4! Rxb4 20.Nd1 Rb5 21.Qxa5 Rxa5 22.Rxc5 and White was up a piece – in fact soon it became two pieces, though resignation only came on move 43.
The other potential obstacle in China’s path is that they still haven’t played Russia, so we might get a thriller in the final round – if Russia can overcome the underperforming Georgia first.
The standings at the top of the women’s section look as follows:
You can rewatch the Round 9 commentary below:
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