Russia defeated the US to face India for the Gold at Online Chess Olympiad

Susan Polgar

Match 2

RUS-USA Kosteniuk, Alexandra Zatonskih, Anna 1-0
RUS-USA Nepomniachtchi, Ian Shankland, Samuel 1-0
RUS-USA Shuvalova, Polina Wang, Annie 1-0
RUS-USA So, Wesley Grischuk, Alexander 1-0
RUS-USA Xiong, Jeffery Esipenko, Andrey 1-0
RUS-USA Yip, Carissa Goryachkina, Aleksandra 1-0

Match 1

RUS-USA Abrahamyan, Tatev Kosteniuk, Alexandra 0-1
RUS-USA Esipenko, Andrey Xiong, Jeffery ½-½
RUS-USA Goryachkina, Aleksandra Zatonskih, Anna 1-0
RUS-USA Grischuk, Alexander So, Wesley ½-½
RUS-USA Shankland, Samuel Dubov, Daniil ½-½
RUS-USA Wang, Annie Shuvalova, Polina 1-0

Online Chess Olympiad: Russia beats the USA, moves into the final

India is the last obstacle between Russia and the gold medal. Russia has not won a Chess Olympiad since 2002.

The final will take place tomorrow Sunday, August 30, at 11:00 UTC (14:00 in Moscow, 16:30 in Delhi)

Russia moves into the final of the first Online Chess Olympiad, after a very tight match against the USA. The Russian team won the first round by the minimum margin (3½-2½), then drew the second match (3-3) to seal their pass to the final. In general, Russia seemed to have the match situation under control for most of the time, but both matches could have gone either way during the time scrambles, as the narrow score shows.

The first match was decided by the results among the female players, where all three boards reached a decisive outcome. Goryachkina played aggressively with White against Zatonskih, castling long and launching a pawn avalanche on the kingside. At the right moment, the young Russian star traded her initiative for an extra pawn in a rook ending, that she converted flawlessly. Kosteniuk outplayed Tatev Abrahamyan in a very fine attacking game with black. Annie Wang scored the only victory for the American team, as she inflicted Polina Shuvalova her first defeat in the event: Wang came out of the opening with better development and the pair of bishops, and soon she was one pawn up.

The game between Grischuk and Wesley So was a very solid and almost irrelevant affair, and in the two other games, both teams made important concessions: Esipenko was much better against Xiong, but 29.Kf1 was an inaccuracy that blew away his advantage, and he had to settle for a draw. On the other hand, Shankland played a fantastic game against Daniil Dubov and he got a winning endgame, but he blundered when he was already very close to promoting his passed c-pawn. Somehow, Samuel missed an easy move, 62.Bf4+, that would have won on the spot.

The second match was a fight to the death, where not a single draw was signed, and yet it ended in a tie as both teams scored three victories each. In a do-or-die situation, Wesley So showed his best play and defeated Alexander Grischuk in a very interesting game,  imbalanced in terms of structure and material. Shankland, with Black, played and ambitious and risky move, 13...Ke7, leaving his King in the center. Black looked just fine, but Nepo maneuvered to open some columns for his heavy pieces, and when he finally did the relatively exposed Black King fell in a deadly trap.

Goaryachkina played a Caro–Kann, but the resulting position was as sharp as if she had played a Sicilian. It was a double-edged game with plenty of complications, but White had the upper hand and, when the dust settled, Carissa Yip was two pawns up in a simple endgame. In the sixth board, Polina Shuvalova was slightly worse in her game against Annie Wang, but the American player suddenly collapsed and allowed the white Knight to came out from the corner and destroy Black's position. Esipenko achieved a clear advantage (almost decisive at some point), but probably he should have solved hist back rank problems with 29...Re8 before going for the kill. He didn't do so and, as a result, Jeffery Xiong found some ingenious tricks that not only allowed him to save the game, but gave him the full point. 

The hero of the day for the Russian team was Alexandra Kosteniuk. The Queen of Russian Chess scored her second win of the day, and both victories were decisive: the first one allowed Russia to win the match, and the second one secured the draw that allowed Russia to move into the Final against India. 

This event is FIDE’s response to the postponement of the “traditional” Chess Olympiad, which was planned to take place between Moscow and Khanty-Mansiysk (Russia) in August, 2020. Involving more than 3,000 participants, the event was rescheduled to 2021, shortly after the IOC had also announced the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games.

With the support of Gazprom as General Partner, the government of the Ugra region as Official Partner, and Chess.com as the playing platform, the first FIDE Online Olympiad is the latest example of how chess has adapted to the coronavirus crisis. Despite having to cancel all official events played over the board -including flagship competitions like the Candidates Tournament and the World Championship match-, chess has thrived during the global lockdown.

Official website for the Olympiad:

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