What a round! The 6th round of the (41st) World Chess Olympiad being held in Tromso, Norway saw enthralling chess being played as teams stepped up their game. I decided to start with the Women’s Section as for some reason music is in my head and I can hear Queen Latifah and Monie Love rapping “Ooooh ladies first, ladies first….”! Perhaps the melodies in my head are due to the much-anticipated Team Kasparov’s Polar Fest set for August 9 at 8:00 pm. “Magic” is in the air!
The Chinese cemented their place at the top of the standings with their 6th straight win, a clinical 3-1 beating of Hungary with wins by the reigning Women’s World Champion GM Hou Yifan and GM Zhao Xue on boards 1 and 3, respectively. The other two games were drawn.
The defending champions, Russia, kept pace with the Chinese by defeating Serbia 3 ½ – ½, their three wins including one on the top board from GM Kateryna Lagno, the former Ukraine player continuing to do well for her new team. Lagno does not seem to be distracted by the attention brought by her much publicized and controversial transfer from Ukraine earlier in the year.
The Chinese women lead the standings on tie-breaks ahead of Russia although each is on 12 points. Poland is in clear third on 11 points. In the 7th round tomorrow the top two teams will face each other in a marquee match that could go a far way in deciding the gold medals. These games should attract a lot of attention. In the other top two pairings Poland will face France (10 points) and Hungary (10) battle Romania (10).
ROLLER-COASTER OLYMPIAD FOR WEST INDIANS – JAMAICA ACHIEVES FIRST TITLE!
Jamaica’s topsy-turvy Olympiad continued as the women’s team fought hard but were no match for the higher-ranked Paraguay, losing ½- 3 ½ .The silver lining in the dark cloud of defeat was Annesha Smith’s draw with the black pieces on board 4 to spare the losers’ blushes and register her 4th consecutive, undefeated game. Annesha’s performance (3 ½ points out of a possible 5) has guaranteed that she will leave Norway with at least the Woman Candidate Master (“WCM”) title. This positive development means that the Jamaicans will achieve one of their objectives early, namely gaining international titles.
Jamaica’s West Indian neighbours Barbados lost 1-3 to a tough Malta team but Trinidad & Tobago tasted success defeating Seychelles by the same scoreline. Tomorrow, Jamaica will face the Dominican Republic, Barbados will tackle Aruba and Trinidad & Tobago will have Macedonia.
REGGAE CHESS AMBASSADORS WIN AGAIN!
Jamaica’s men did well to defeat a tough Malawi team 2 ½ – 1 ½ after good victories from the form players CM Damion Davy and Ras Malaku Lorne on boards 1 and 2, respectively. The Jamaicans have now won 3 of their 6 matches moving up to 88th position and will face a combative Sri Lanka in the next round. The two teams drew in the final round of the 2012 Istanbul Olympiad.
Jamaica’s West Indian neighbours Barbados (#130) and Trinidad & Tobago (#144) faced stiff opposition and did not survive losing 1-3 to Angola and ½- 3 ½ to Japan, respectively. Barbados will have a much easier time in the next round against Gambia, while Trinidad will have an interesting time against Honduras. The Bahamas (#152) will press for more success against Guam after turning back Palau 2 ½ – 1 ½. Although Guyana (#136) lost 1-3 to Nigeria the team nonetheless tasted some success as Anthony Drayton upset IM Bunmi Olape on board 1! The Guyanese will face Namibia next.
A NUMBER OF TEAMS ARE ON A MISSION!
Azerbaijan continued to demonstrate that their occupancy of the top spot is no fluke as they dispatched an audacious Georgia 3 ½ – ½ with a key victory on board 1 from the rampaging GM Shakriyar Mamedyarov against the exciting (mercurial?) GM Baadur Jobava. Valuable supporting wins also came from GMs Rauf Mamedov and Eltaj Safarli on boards 3 and 4, respectively. The Azeris are playing with purpose and perhaps want to win the Olympiad in memory of their outstanding warrior, GM Vugar Gashimov of recent, blessed memory.
The Cubans, the Caribbean’s top players but perennial “bridesmaids”, have looked determined as if they are also on a mission. The “Havana Knights” dismantled Kazkhstan 3 ½ – ½ with wins from GMs Lazaro Bruzon, Yuniesky Quesada and Reynaldo Ortiz on boards 2-4, respectively.
Norwegian GM Magnus Carlsen, the World Champion and World’s highest rated player, displayed his magnificent class by issuing the precise commands to his pawns and pieces (all of which dutifully obeyed!) resulting in a convincing defeat of Italy’s supremo GM Fabiano Caruana in a spine-tingling top board clash of two of the world’s top three players. Wins by GMs Jon Ludvig Hammer and Kjetil Lie (who exorcised some demons!) rounded off an excellent 3-1 victory for the hosts. In the next round the Norwegians, climbing up the table to 18th, will face Germany.
Although former world champion GM Vladimir Kramnik lost to former FIDE KO Champion GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov on the top board, Russia rallied to beat Uzbekistan 2 ½ – 1 ½ through victories by GMs Alexander Grischuk and Ian Nepomniatchi. In other top ten match-ups Bulgaria and Serbia drew 2-2 as did France and Bosnia & Herzegovina.
Azerbaijan and Cuba are tied at the top on 11 points with 5 wins and a draw, the Europeans leading on tie-breaks. Russia, China, Serbia and the Netherlands come next each on 10 points with 4 wins and 2 draws.
In tomorrow’s major 7th round contests, Azerbaijan will match wits against Cuba in a clash of continents, Russia will face the Czech Republic and Serbia and China go head to head.