Wesley So won a third game in a row while Jorden van Foreest self-destructed as the USA beat the Netherlands 3:1 in the biggest match-up so far in Batumi. That sets up a mouth-watering clash in Round 4 with India, for whom Vishy Anand was again on target. Ding Liren and Vladimir Kramnik won on their first appearances for China and Russia in this Olympiad, with the top 11 seeds claiming maximum match points so far. There was no sensation this time in the women’s section, but India and Poland were held to surprise draws by Serbia and Turkey.
You can replay all the open games from Round 3 using the selector below:
And here’s the live commentary from IM Sopiko Guramishvili and GM Ivan Sokolov:
All eyes were on Netherlands-USA at the start of Round 3 of the 2018 Olympiad in Batumi, with Giri-Caruana on top board the first truly heavyweight pairing of the tournament. Predictably, however, Fabiano played to neutralise the opponents’ most dangerous player, claiming a 32-move Berlin draw. Hikaru Nakamura also played super-solidly with Black on Board 3. Loek van Wely devoted two videos of his series Loek’s Endgame Strategy to “exhausting your opponent”, but playing on until a draw was agreed only on move 62 seemed more about keeping his teammates (and captain?) company.
It’s not clear if Jorden van Foreest will be enjoying the company of his teammates too much after how his game ended…
Black is slightly worse, but Sam Shankland would have had to work very hard with White to try and make his advantage count. He didn’t need to, though, since in what seemed a sudden rush of blood to the head Jorden played the losing “trick” 37.Bb2?? 38.Bxb2 Nc4+ 39.Ke2! Nxb2 40.Bb3! and that, essentially, was that. The knight isn’t exactly trapped, but if it goes to c4 the pawn ending after minor pieces are exchanged is lost. It was just as simple a win for White in the game after Jorden sacrificed the knight on a4.
That removed all pressure from Wesley So, who until that point had seemed to have the whole weight of American expectations on his shoulders.
It’s three Whites, three wins so far for Wesley, and this was his best yet. He’d already sacrificed the c5-pawn when he gave up another on move 18 for positional domination:
18.d6! was an inspired choice, and after 16…Qxd6 19.Nc4 Qc6 20.Rfd1 Nf8!? 21.Rd5 White was already better. Wesley went on to win to a great game.
Most of the top names had begun playing in Round 2, and for instance Vishy Anand went on to score a second win in a row in Round 3. His opponent, Canada’s Eric Hansen, was unprepared for 3…g6 in the Ruy Lopez, and was disappointed with how the whole day went:
There are few players more lethal in a good position, though, and Vishy’s play at the end was sadistic perfection:
30…Be4! 31.Ra1 Bd3! 32.Ne3 Covering the gaping hole at e2, but only to run into… 32…Qb6! 33.Re1 R5e6!, and with Bd4 to follow the pinned knight on e3 is toast. With 30 seconds left on his clock, White resigned.
Round 3 saw Ding Liren make his debut for China at this Olympiad, and despite a scare at the end when the kings were placed on the wrong squares to indicate the result, his unbeaten run most emphatically didn’t come to an end!
China won that match against Peru 3:1, but 23-year-old Jorge Cori picked up the scalp of 19-year-old Wei Yi. The Chinese prodigy doesn’t fall often, but when he does it tends to be with an almighty crash:
Vladimir Kramnik was the other big debutant, and he did it on Board 3, behind Sergey Karjakin and Ian Nepomniachtchi. Putting the 43-year-old former World Champion and still Russian no. 1 on 3rd board is a lot more logical than it seems at first sight, since for a few years now the veteran has been the most aggressive player at the very top of world chess. Combined with his encyclopaedic opening knowledge (his 9…Re8 had Georgian IM Irakli Beradze out of book), it’s a powerful combination that could lead to a big score on a lower board.
Kramnik said afterwards that his opponent’s 15.Nf4?! was “strange”, while after 15.Ng3 he’d have had “a pleasant position, but no more than that” (15.Bxh7!? probably used up a lot of the 25 minutes Irakli spent here):
15…g5! was the start of an attack that ended with brutal elegance:
That proved a crucial win, since the other three boards ended in draws, with Ian Nepomniachtchi spoiling what looked like his third win in a row.
When talking about debuts, we could perhaps mention another, since for the first time for the Polish team Jan-Krzysztof Duda found himself on 1st board ahead of Radek Wojtaszek. That didn’t work out so well for the 20-year-old, who finally decided this position was the one to resign in as Black against Portuguese Grandmaster Luis Galego:
That had no major consequences for Poland, though, since Wojtaszek and Kamil Dragun won to set up a big Round 4 clash against Russia.
The French continued their impressive progress with a 3.5:0.5 victory over Algeria, with a draw for Laurent Fressinet the only thing preventing them having a perfect 12/12 wins so far. Hence the daily tweet:
It was far from as easy as it looks, though. Saad Beloudah had been doing ok against Christian Bauer until he blundered into a slightly unusual variation of a common tactic:
27...Re1+!, with Bxd4+ to follow was winning a piece.
The main curiosity, though, was that Maxime Vachier-Lagrave ended up in real trouble playing against his beloved Najdorf. You don’t get to the top 5 without being resourceful, though, and the French no. 1 employed various sacrifices until he found himself a pawn up in a rook ending. It was still drawn, though, all the way until move 54:
54…Ra3! is the only move to draw, with 55.f6 met by 55…Ra6! 56.Kf5 Rxf6+! Perhaps Bilel had seen that line, or he simply panicked, because instead he played 54…Rxf5+?? immediately, and after 55.Kxf5 Kd3 56.Kf4 he resigned. White picks up the pawn before it queens.
We mentioned at the start that the top 11 seeds have all won their 3 matches so far, but in the case of 9th seeds England that required some heroism and luck against Brazil in Round 3. The top two boards were drawn, David Howell seemed to be in a dead drawn ending against Luis Supi and Gawain Jones was dead lost against Krikor Mekhitarian on the last board. The question was whether England could somehow scrape a draw, but instead Howell squeezed out a win and, in an epic 117-move game, Jones finally held on to give the England team a 2.5:1.5 victory. It was emotional, though, with Mekhitarian missing a win as late as move 109!
We’ve been saying for a long time now that we need to keep our eye on the 23rd seeds from Iran, since their teenage stars are still underrated. In Round 3 they all won to take down the higher-seeded Belarus, with World Junior Champion Parham Maghsoodloo now live-rated 2688.2 after beating Vladislav Kovalev on top board. 15-year-old Alireza Firouzja’s win over Alexei Fedorov was the highlight of the match, however. What about this for a position to reach on move 40!
Fedorov would have been close to winning after 40.Bc3!, but his 40.Bb6? would also be a winning move if not for the reply 40…Be5!!
Suddenly it’s Black who’s winning – 41.fxe5 of course runs into 41…Rxg3, and White had nothing better than 42.Qe2. Play continued 42…Bf6 42.Nh5 d3! 43.Qa2 Qe4! 44.Ba5 Rxg2! 45.Rxg2 Rxg2 46.Nf6 Qf3! White resigned:
As on any Olympiad day there’s too much else you could cover. Peter Leko redeemed himself by bouncing back to beat Rustam Kasimdzhanov and give Hungary a narrow victory over Uzbekistan. Other top teams to win narrowly were Armenia, for whom Hrant Melkumyan this time got the only win over Turkey, and Ukraine, whose star players Ivanchuk, Eljanov and Ponomariov only have one win between them in 6 games. Luckily Anton Korobov is on fire on bottom board with 3/3, and his win over Cristian Chirila gave Ukraine victory over Romania in Round 3.
After the shock defeat for top seeds Russia in the previous round it was a relatively quiet day in the women’s section. Russia began their comeback with a 4:0 win over Malaysia, and will have taken some comfort from minor failures from some of their rivals. 12 women’s teams have a perfect 6/6 match points, but that no longer includes India and Poland.
We wrote of India a day ago that, “With Humpy Koneru and Harika Dronavalli on the top boards they’ll be targeting only a podium finish”. That remains true, but the problem was illustrated in Round 3, where the top two won against Serbia but on the remaining two boards Adela Velikic and Teodora Injac beat Karavade Eesha and Padmini Rout. Poland were held by Turkey after Ekaterina Atalik beat Jolanta Zawadzka on top board.
One player making her debut in the women’s section was Ju Wenjun, and she helped China to a 3.5:0.5 win over Cuba. Lisandra Ordaz seemed to be doing ok, until 46.Kh2? allowed a dramatic conclusion:
46…Rxd4!! 47.exd4 e3! (the only winning move) 48.fxe3 Qa2+ 49.Kg1 Qg2# Kudos to Lisandra for allowing the mate.
India-Poland is the most interesting match in Round 4 in the women’s section, but India’s match in the open section, USA-India, beats it! With other clashes including Poland-Russia and Azerbaijan-England this is going to be the round the Olympiad really gets going:
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