Reports Aug 8, 2022 | 11:34 PMby Colin McGourty

Chennai Olympiad 10: Gukesh despair as Uzbekistan escape

Gukesh has been the star of the Chennai Olympiad and was about to beat Nodirbek Abdusattorov, move to a staggering 9.5/10, and give India 2 the co-lead before the final round. Instead he crashed to defeat, and it’s Uzbekistan who lead with Armenia, who defeated Azerbaijan 3:1.

Sheer despair for Gukesh as he loses to Abdusattorov | photo: Lennart Ootes, FIDE

The penultimate round of the 2022 Chess Olympiad in Chennai featured huge drama, with the teams jostling to set up a medal chance in the final round.

Nowhere was the drama more intense than in India 2 vs. Uzbekistan, the clash between the teen sensations of the Chennai Olympiad. 

The interest and pressure on Praggnanandhaa and the other young India stars is immense | photo: Lennart Ootes, FIDE

The one “adult” board saw Jakhongir Vakhidov and Adhiban make a wild draw…

…while Yakkuboev-Nihal Sarin was a relatively quiet one. On the other boards, however, it was all going India 2’s way.

In the battle of the 16-year-olds, Javokhir Sindarov grabbed a poisoned pawn, but kept on fighting, forcing Praggnanandhaa to find some difficult moves.

31.Re1!, threatening Bc4 or Bg4 and an attack on the pinned e5-rook, was the only move to keep an edge, since 31.Rc1 would have been met by 31…Bc4!

Eventually Pragg managed to steer the game to an endgame that was winning, but very tricky to play!

It was very close — and must have influenced the players on the remaining board — but eventually Pragg clinched a win in 77 moves.

Praggnanandhaa finally ground out a win against Sindarov | photo: Lennart Ootes, FIDE

It had seemed that win was certain to give India 2 match victory, since another 16-year-old, Gukesh, had outplayed Nodirbek Abdusattorov and gained a completely winning position.

The first hint that things might not be so straightforward, however, came when here Gukesh failed to play 28.Qh5!, defending the e5-knight and threatening Rd7, which wins almost on the spot.

The problem for Gukesh, perhaps, was that there were so many good options, and his much slower approach with 28.Qg3 was also good. Gradually, however, Nodirbek came back into the game, until approaching move 50 White’s advantage had gone.

Ivan Sokolov, coach of Uzbekistan, and Ramesh, coach of India B, share in the agony and ecstasy of their players | photo: Lennart Ootes, FIDE

It was perhaps time for Gukesh to switch to playing for a draw, which would also have won the match — but firstly, it’s hard to change gear, and secondly, there was still doubt over the outcome of Pragg’s game.    

Add in time trouble, immense pressure and great resourceful from World Rapid Champion Nodirbek Abdusattorov, and everything was set for the joy and despair that followed. On move 72, in an already difficult position, Gukesh spent a little over a minute to play 72.Nf3?

Gukesh makes the losing move | photo: Lennart Ootes, FIDE

He realised too late that he’d fallen victim to the most basic tactic in chess — a fork of two pieces. 72…Qb7+ gave check and won the f3-knight, with Gukesh’s recognition of what he’d done in the most important game of his life captured for all to see on video.

The Olympiad is far from over, India 2 are just one point off the leaders and Gukesh is still leading the race to win individual gold on Board 1 with a 2893 performance compared to Abdusattorov (and Giri’s) 2815, but seeing the positives will take time.

Abdusattorov's win was huge for the Uzbekistan team | photo: Lennart Ootes, FIDE

That meant Uzbekistan remained in the lead, a point ahead of India 2, but they were caught by Armenia, who continued their phenomenal Olympiad by defeating local rivals Azerbaijan. The match went like a dream from the moment Shakhriyar Mamedyarov blitzed out 16.Qc2? and was hit by 16…b3!

Shakh fought on to move 67, but couldn’t prevent the logical outcome of the game.

Gabriel Sargissian has now beaten Caruana, Harikrishna and Mamedyarov in the space of 4 games | photo: Lennart Ootes, FIDE

Robert Hovhannisyan continued his excellent tournament by beating Nijat Abasov to give Armenia a 3:1 victory.

Gabriel Sargissian commented of the team’s performance:

This was a surprise for all the chess world, but also for us, because we are playing without Levon Aronian and somehow we won all the important games. We never expected this, and for us already it’s a very good result. It doesn’t matter tomorrow what will happen.

To the perennial question of what makes Armenia punch so far above their apparent weight in Olympiads, Gabriel had no secret to reveal, but did note they were all “very good friends”, adding, “maybe there are some teams with a not good atmosphere in their team”.

Levon Aronian’s new team USA came into the event as the huge favourites and at least kept themselves in with an outside chance of gold with a 3:1 win over Turkey. Fabiano Caruana returned to the Top 10…

…while Leinier Dominguez beat Vahap Sanal. Leinier said afterwards that the team’s position in the standings (5th) flattered them.

When you have several players out of shape it’s very difficult to perform well as a team, and obviously Fabiano is not in his best shape, and Levon is also not in his best shape. I think Wesley is probably the player that has performed most strongly, but even my games I have not done super-great. It has been at least solid, but it’s very difficult. You need, especially on the first boards, your star players like Levon and Fabiano to perform at least normally.

It was also a must-win round for other teams if they wanted a chance at medals. England defeated Italy 3:1, Germany beat Israel by the same scoreline, Spain defeated the Czech Republic 2.5:1.5 and the Indian 1st team overcame Iran despite Parham Maghsoodloo beating Harikrishna on the top board. Vidit and Narayanan got the wins required.

One team completely out of contention is 3rd seeds Norway, who lost to 48th seeds Moldova, with Magnus Carlsen held to a draw by Ivan Schitco.

That was the World Champion’s last game of the tournament as he’s chosen not to play the final round.

Magnus had some good moments personally, but Norway never got to challenge on the top boards | photo: Lennart Ootes, FIDE

The standings look as follows before the final round.

The pairings for the final round make many scenarios possible, but one thing that’s clear is that the minimum final score that could give a medal is 17 points, so only the first six matches are relevant for the podium.

It’s been an Olympiad where ratings have mattered little, which leaves a curiosity in the board pairings — in only one of the top 16 games, Sindarov (2629) vs. Bok (2616), does the team leading in the standings have a higher-rated player in a game. 

That makes almost any outcome possible on Tuesday, especially as the trailing teams have to win to have a chance of medals!

If rating favourites Germany, Spain, Netherlands and USA all won, the US team would take gold

The Women’s section has some more clarity, with a sole leader after Round 10.

Humpy Koneru led India to a thumping 3.5:0.5 win over Kazakhstan, going for an early sacrifice.

The curiosity was that 14.Nxf7! or a queen move such as 14.Qe2! might have been even stronger, but it didn’t matter.

That meant all eyes were on the other match between teams who started the day on the same points, Georgia-Poland. Maria Malicka (6.5/8) won a convincing game for Poland on the last board, and though it seemed Oliwia Kiolbasa was in trouble she ultimately came close to a 10th win in 10 games.

Oliwia leads the “race” for gold on Board 3 with a 2709 rating performance. Her closest rival? Anna Ushenina with a 2491 performance.

Oliwia commented afterwards, “it’s a bit surreal what is happening and I never expected that I could have 9/9”.

She put her success down to “amazing teammates”, and one of them, Monika Socko, came close to escaping against Nino Batsiashvili and winning the match. It wasn’t to be, however, and ultimately Monika lost on time in an already lost position.

Monika Socko concedes defeat against Nino Batsiashvili | photo: Lennart Ootes, FIDE

The draw in Georgia-Poland allowed Ukraine, who defeated Germany, and Azerbaijan, who crushed Armenia 4:0, to join them on 16 points. 

As in the open section, to have a chance of a medal a team will need to score at least 17 points, so that the relevant pairings are the following.

All three Indian teams, who all won in Round 10, are potentially in contention, but it’s the Indian 1st team who know that if they beat the USA they’ll win gold medals. A 2:2 tie might also suffice.

The last-round action should be unmissable, though since it starts 5 (five!) hours earlier than usual it might be missed by many. Peter Svidler for one feels that changing players schedules so drastically for the most important round is something that shouldn’t happen.

But this is where we are, so we hope you can find the time to join us!

Don’t miss all the action, with Peter Leko and Peter Svidler commentating live from 10:00 IST (06:30 CEST) on Tuesday: Open, Women.

See also:

Sort by Date Descending Date Descending Date Ascending Most Liked Receive updates

Comments 5

Guest 17542172979
Join chess24
  • Free, Quick & Easy

  • Be the first to comment!

Lost your password? We'll send you a link to reset it!

After submitting this form you'll receive an email with the reset password link. If you still can't access your account please contact our customer service.

Which features would you like to enable?

We respect your privacy and data protection guidelines. Some components of our site require cookies or local storage that handles personal information.

Show Options

Hide Options