USA wins Online Chess Olympiad group D in spite of setbacks on final day

Susan Polgar

Chess Olympiad, Pool D: USA enters Quarter-finals, Greece and Poland advance to play-offs

One could say there are no big surprises in group D of the Online Chess Olympiad, as three of the top four teams according to the initial ranking took the top three spots: USA, Greece, and Poland. However, the way things unfolded was a bit unexpected.

The USA won its first six matches in succession, but the third day of play turned out to be much more difficult for them. First, they lost to Poland in the 8th round, and then they drew against Peru in the 9th. It was unthinkable that the USA could lose the first place, but all of a sudden Greece had caught them in the standings.

In the match with Poland, the leader of the American team Wesley So suffered his only defeat, against Jan-Krzysztof Duda. Then the veteran Monika Socko scored the second victory for her team, against the young prodigy Carissa Yip. Only Samuel Shankland managed to grab a full point for the US in this match.

Against Peru, Carissa suffered a second defeat in a row, while Jorge Cori took down Samuel Shankland. The USA only managed to get away with a 3-3 draw thanks to victories in the lower boards: Jeffery Xiong, on board 5, and Annie Wang, on board 6, saved the day for the Americans. After that, a clear victory in the last round against Canada (5½-½) was enough to secure the ticket to Quarter-Finals.

Meantime, Greece was in full flow. They had an easier schedule compared to their direct rivals, and their main task was to secure victory in the three matches, scoring as many board points as possible. Everything went according to the script: first they beat Paraguay (4-2), then Italy (5-1), and finally Brazil (4-2). This earned them a well-deserved second place, tied with the USA. The Greeks made a very good impression and they could be the biggest revelation in the playoffs.

Poland also won all three matches on the last day of play at the Top Division: apart from defeating the USA, they also won against Argentina (2½-3½), and then against Cuba (5½-½). Luck was definitely on their side in the last round, because the high score they achieved against Cuba was decisive, but Poland also benefited from Peru's failure. For some reason, Deysi Cori, who had scored 6 out of 7 for her team, didn't play in the last two rounds. As a result, Peru could not win the match against Argentina, and missing a very likely victory and a qualification spot.

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.

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