Reports Aug 6, 2022 | 11:29 PMby Colin McGourty

Chennai Olympiad 8: Gukesh crushes Caruana

Gukesh beat Fabiano Caruana as India 2 crushed top seeds USA 3:1 in Round 8 of the Chennai Olympiad. That’s 8 wins in 8 games for 16-year-old Gukesh, who’s now world no. 20 and Indian no. 2 on the live rating list, while Fabiano crashed out of the Top 10. With 3 rounds to go Armenia remain the team to beat, however, as they kept the sole lead by defeating the Indian 1st team.

Gukesh defeated Caruana as India 2 crushed the US top seeds | photo: Stev Bonhage, FIDE

The rise of an incredible new generation of chess players continued in Round 8 of the Chennai Olympiad as not just India 2 but also the young stars of Uzbekistan and Iran also won.

The most stunning match, however, was the most anticipated: top seeds USA against the young stars of India 2.

The scoreline, if anything, flatters the USA. Nihal Sarin was low on time but close to winning in the final position where he took a draw against Levon Aronian, while Praggnanandhaa also had Wesley So on the ropes.

In fact it was the man of the moment, Gukesh, who was in some trouble out of the opening.

He later commented at a press conference:

It was a pleasure to play against such a great player. I just took it as a learning experience. In the opening I was I think outplayed, but I didn’t panic, because I still looked at it as an opportunity for me to prove to myself that I can play any position with the strongest opponents.

Fabiano has looked a shadow of his usual self in Chennai, just as he did at the end of the Candidates, and he failed to press his advantage. 

Gukesh noted 24.b4?! gave him counterplay, and with 28…a5! it was clear he was starting to turn the tables.

This escalated fast, and a few moves later Caruana was losing. His only hope was to confuse matters in the run-up to the time control, but his active play only made things worse, and Gukesh had no fear of allowing some checks in exchange for total dominance.

In a team competition you’re reluctant to resign, but Gukesh soon put Caruana out of his misery.

45…Qxe4! was a fitting final move. If White recaptures with 46.Rxe4 then 46…Ra1+ is mate-in-3. Fabiano resigned.

Gukesh is having a stunning debut, with a performance that is almost unprecedented on the top board of the Olympiad.

The question of whether he would keep a rating above 2700 by the end of the Olympiad has fast faded away, as he’s reached the Top 20 and leapfrogged both Vidit and Harikrishna to become the Indian no. 2, behind only Vishy Anand.

Fabiano Caruana, meanwhile, last found himself outside the Top 10 on an official rating list 9 years ago, in March 2013. The loss to Gukesh followed losses to Nodirbek Abdusattorov and Gabriel Sargissian, and saw him plunge to world no. 14. He in fact ended the day as world no. 13, but not for a reason that gave him any joy — his teammate Leinier Dominguez also lost to fall below him.

The USA all-stars had been struggling in Chennai and finally crashed to defeat | photo: Lennart Ootes, FIDE

Dominguez, on 5/6, had been the most successful player on the US team, but he found himself in an incredibly double-edged position against another 16-year-old, Raunak Sadhwani. The clock was in Black’s favour, but Raunak found the key move.

After 20 minutes’ thought he correctly went for the sacrifice 21.Nbd4! exd4 22.Bxd4, and a long forced sequence followed that he was able to end with the quiet sting in the tail 29.Rb5!

Dominguez fought back well and was close to making a draw, but perhaps he was influenced by the situation in Caruana-Gukesh, which meant he could only save the match with a win. 

40…Nd5? was a disastrous 40th move, and after 41.Qe5+! White was completely winning.

The knight is pinned to the queen on a5, and will soon be pinned along the d-file too. Raunak went on to score a brilliant bounce-back win after his loss the round before.

India-2's victory over the USA saw Peter Svidler talking of a "changing of the guard", while Peter Leko summed up "the future of chess is in very, very good hands!"

Vincent Keymer managed to resist Nodirbek Abdusattorov's stare, but it wasn't enough to save the match | photo: Stev Bonhage, FIDE

India 2 were joined on 14/16 points by their fellow young stars from Uzbekistan, who defeated Germany 2.5:1.5 with a win for 20-year-old Nodirbek Yakubboev over Matthias Bluebaum.

Nodirbek broke the potential fortress with the beautifully efficient 45.Qe2 Re8 and then manoeuvring the bishop to e7 with 46.Be5, 47.Bf6, 48.Be7 so the e6-pawn could no longer be defended. 

That meant Vincent Keymer’s escape against Nodirbek Abdusattorov couldn’t rescue the match for Germany.

Sargissian-Harikrishna was one of the last games to finish | photo: Stev Bonhage, FIDE

It seemed India 2 and Uzbekistan might join Armenia in a 3-way tie for the lead, since Armenia-India looked destined to end with all games drawn. That was to underestimate Gabriel Sargissian, however, who won another clutch game for his team by gaining an advantage and then just patiently playing on until his opponent cracked.

Gabriel had the two bishops and eventually one slip was all it took for Harikrishna to find himself resigning on move 102.

That means Armenia, who play Uzbekistan in Round 9, are still the sole leaders.

In Round 9 they’ll face Azerbaijan, who rested Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in Round 8 and needed a stroke of luck at the end to defeat Kazakhstan.

The other teams on 13 points are Netherlands and Iran, who meet in Round 9. Iran had Pouya Idani’s win over Matthieu Cornette to thank for defeating France, while the Netherlands, who brushed Hungary aside 3:1, look like dark horses to the win the Olympiad.

With the exception of Erwin l’Ami they’ve all gained rating in Chennai, with Anish Giri performing at 2882 on board 1, second only to Gukesh — a 100% score breaks the performance calculation, but just for the record Gukesh’s is currently 3366!

Team Norway have struggled in Chennai, but life is good! | photo: Stev Bonhage, FIDE

3rd on that list is Magnus Carlsen (2845), but after four wins in a row he was held to a draw by Slovakia’s Jergus Pechac in Round 8. 

A curiosity was that it was a game between the last two winners of the Gligoric Trophy for Fair Play. Magnus won the 2020 edition after sacrificing his queen on move 4 to make up for a disconnect loss for Ding Liren, while Jergus won the 2021 trophy for offering Boris Gelfand a draw after he’d mouse-slipped away his queen in a World Cup qualifier.

Norway were held to a draw, while elsewhere England’s medal hopes were kept alive by a 7th win for David Howell.

After six wins in a row Conor Murphy made a draw, but there was no reason for regret — it helped Ireland to an upset 3:1 win over Austria.

Vaishali was under pressure, but made the draw that saw India avoid match defeat | photo: Lennart Ootes

In the Women’s section top seeds India continued to look impressive, despite dropping a first match point against 2nd seeds Ukraine. All games were drawn, with Vaishali needing to dig deep to hold on against Anna Ushenina.  

That result allowed Georgia, who India have already beaten, to move within a point of the leaders after a 3.5:0.5 win over Armenia. Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Ukraine, Bulgaria and Poland are two points behind the leaders, with Oliwia Kiolbasa keeping pace with Gukesh.

It’s Poland who take on India in Round 9, while Georgia face Ukraine. Meanwhile in the Open section we may get Gukesh-Mamedyarov, as India 2 take on Azerbaijan.

Don’t miss live commentary from Peter Leko & Peter Svidler from 15:00 IST (11:30 CEST): Open, Women.

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