Magnus Carlsen was held to a draw by Daniele Vocaturo as Italy won on the bottom two boards to defeat Norway in Round 3 of the Chennai Olympiad. Austria shocked Germany 2.5:1.5, while Ukraine only scraped a draw against Cuba. In the women’s section Mongolia and Estonia beat the USA and Armenia. All six Indian teams still have a perfect match score, with India 2 top after winning every game so far.
As expected, we got our first upsets in the top matches of the Chess Olympiad in Round 3.
The biggest casualties were 3rd seeds Norway, whose ranking is, of course, largely based on their board one being the highest rated player of all time, Magnus Carlsen. “If you can neutralise their top scorer, then it’s really something!” said Italy’s Captain, Loek van Wely.
Daniele Vocaturo managed to do that, commenting, “I suffered a bit, but somehow I managed to keep solid and hold the draw”. If anything there was some chance Magnus would over-push at the end, but when Lorenzo Lodici and Francesco Sonis both won their games the match was won, so that there was no real reason for Magnus to go all-in.
The other top team to lose were 9th seeds Germany, who fell to the 33rd seeds, and just the opponents they wouldn’t want to lose to, Austria.
Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu went for a sacrificial attack that just didn’t work against Felix Blohberger, and Rasmus Svane’s win eventually proved in vain when Dmitrij Kollars lost a complex struggle to Dominik Horvath.
8th seeds Ukraine were close to defeat against 32nd seeds Cuba after Yasser Quesada defeated Anton Korobov on top board while Isan Ortiz missed a win on the fateful 41st move and then couldn’t convert an extra pawn despite playing on until move 116.
That allowed Kirill Shevchenko to be the hero in a 107-move game that ended when Luis Quesada had seen enough and was sure his opponent would be able to mate with bishop and knight!
Elsewhere the favourites won, with Anish Giri, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Jan-Krzysztof Duda scoring big wins in their first game of this Olympiad for the Netherlands, Azerbaijan and Poland.
Jan-Krzysztof delivered perhaps the day’s most brutal blow, after young Australian Anton Smirnov had spent 17 minutes on 26.Ne2?, completely overlooking that the g2-pawn could be taken.
After 26…Qxg2+! the only legal move is 27.Bxg2, but then 27…Nxe2+ picks up the white queen on c3 with a fork. Black would be a full piece up, so Anton resigned.
Top seeds USA scored what was ultimately a smooth win over Georgia, though a match involving Baadur Jobava is seldom smooth. His opening choices didn’t exactly meet with the Peter stamp of approval.
Fabiano Caruana felt the same, but as he explained:
I thought I was much better out of the opening, but it was very complicated and I must have misplayed it because at some point my advantage completely disappeared.
Fabi even briefly seemed in trouble, but he made a draw, as did Leinier Dominguez with the black pieces, and then Levon Aronian and Sam Shankland went on to nurse small advantages with the white pieces into convincing victories. A professional performance.
The same can be said for India, who never looked in trouble as Harikrishna scored a thumping win on top board. Hari was as modest as ever.
I prepared with the Indian team helpers and today I can’t tell you until which point but basically the idea was shown to me in the morning.
The attacking flourish was all his own, however, beginning with 24.Bxh6!
After 24…gxh6 25.Nf6+ Kg7 26.Qg4+ Kh8 27.Qf4 Kg7 he found a fine finish.
28.Bxd5! The trick after 28…exd5 would not be to play the immediate 29.Qf5?!, when 29…Rxc1! and later Rh8 puts up resistance, but e.g. 29.Qg4+ Kh8 30.Qf5, when there’s no defence.
In the game we saw 28…Bd3 29.Nh5+! Kh7 30.Be4+! and Dimitrios Mastrovasilis resigned, since the knight coming to f6 and threatening checkmate will force Black to give up his queen.
Arjun Erigaisi also won as India cruised to a 3:1 win, but once again India 2 stole some of the limelight as their young stars defeated Switzerland 4:0. That was a little flattering, given Praggnanandhaa had been in dire trouble against Yannick Pelletier.
Pragg, who was interviewed together with his both individual and team coach Ramesh, summed up:
I think I was lost after move 25 or something. Throughout the game I was suffering, and probably at some point he just has some forced win, but I think at the end I managed to escape. I think at the end it was a draw, but he lost on time, which was unfortunate. I’m not happy with the way I played today.
India 2 are the only team in either section of the Olympiad with a perfect 12/12 board points, but what matters first of all are match points, and in that regard all six Indian teams have a perfect 6/6 (it’s 2 points for a match win, 1 for a draw).
India 3’s 3:1 win over Iceland included an absolutely insane draw between Helgi Gretarsson and Abhimanyu Puranik.
Our commentators couldn’t believe there wasn’t a forced mate for somebody, and in fact in the play that followed the computer did announce mate-in-10 for Puranik at one point, but overall the draw was a fair result.
In total 20 teams in the Open section still have a perfect match score, including Armenia, who flirted with disaster against Egypt before eventually scraping a win. 117.g4! would have been a beautiful way for Abdelrahman Hesham to make an individual and team draw, but it wasn’t played, and Robert Hovhannisyan went on to win.
The women’s section saw 8 months pregnant Harika Dronavalli make her Chennai Olympiad debut as India scored a 3:1 win over England that was less smooth than the scoreline suggests.
The top six seeds all won, though Georgia would have drawn against the Czech Republic if not for a great save by Meri Arabidze after Anna Koubova played 46…g5? in a winning position.
The only drawing move was the one Meri played, 47.g4!, and after 47…hxg4 48.h5! it turned out the h-pawn gave White just enough play to hold a draw.
The big upsets of the round were Estonia defeating Armenia, after Elina Danielian completely misplayed a winning position against Mai Narva, and Mongolia taking down 7th seeds USA.
Monday’s Round 4 of the Olympiad promises more intense action, with the young stars of Uzbekistan taking on the might of the USA. 17-year-old Nodirbek Abdusattorov and 16-year-old Javokhir Sindarov are both on 3/3.
The Indian teams all face interesting challenges, with India 1 taking on France, India 2 facing Norway’s conquerors Italy, and India 3 meeting an impressive looking Spanish team.
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