Roughly two-thirds of the (41st) World Chess Olympiad being held in Tromso, Norway have gone and it is clear that (pardon the pun!) the players have stepped up their game! After the smoke had cleared in yesterday’s 7th round action Russia’s women team had taken a huge step towards defending their title with an emphatic 3-1 victory over the favourites China. In the top board game GM Kateryna Lagno continued to prove her weight in gold for her new federation by using the white pieces to great effect to hand the reigning Women’s World Champion GM Hou Yifan her first defeat of the tournament. Another victory by WGM Olga Girya on board 4 backed by two draws sealed the deal.
The Russians are now on 14 points and have placed one hand on the winners’ trophy, leading by two clear points ahead of China, Hungary and Poland, each on 12 points. In the 8th round tomorrow Russia will face Hungary (10), China must try to recover against Poland and France and the USA (each on 11 points) will clash.
JAMAICA FIGHTS BACK!
Although Jamaica’s Women’s champion 14 year-old WFM Rachel Miller won her game, Jamaica fell behind 1-2 to a determined Dominican Republic team. The West Indians were rescued by WIM Deborah Richards-Porter who won on the top board to secure a 2-2 draw. In the 8th round Jamaica will face Sri Lanka, a curious repeat of the fixture between the Open/Men’s teams from the same countries in the 7th round!
JAMAICA’S MEN BRING HOME MORE TITLES!
Jamaica’s “Reggae Chess Ambassadors” fought gallantly but lost 1 ½ – 2 ½ to a tough Sri Lanka team. Ras Malaku Lorne continued to show that he is “solid as a rock”, drawing on board 2 while Brandon Wilson won the sole game for the Jamaicans on board 4. With Lorne scoring 3 ½ points from seven games and Wilson scoring 3 ½ points from 5 games, it appears that the Jamaicans have qualified for the “Candidate Master” title. This would mean three new titles for the country so far including Annesha Smith’s accomplishment in the Women’s section. Jamaica will face an unpredictable Ivory Coast team in the 8th round.
Barbados beat Gambia 3 ½ – ½ and will next face Liechtenstein. Trinidad & Tobago overcame Honduras 2 ½ – 1 ½ thanks to 15 year-old CM Joshua Johnson’s sole victory of the match. The “Soca Chess Warriors” will battle Syria tomorrow. Bahamas lost to Guam 1-3 and will try to win against Tanzania tomorrow.
AZERBAIJAN AGAIN VICTORIOUS!
Although on the top board Cuba’s GM Leinier Dominguez handed Azerbaijan’s GM Shakriyar Mamedyarov his first defeat of the event, Capablanca’s men succumbed 1 ½ – 2 ½ to the Azeris due to victories by GMs Teimour Radjabov (over GM Lazaro Bruzon) and Gadir Guseinov (over GM Reynaldo Ortiz) on boards 2 and 4, respectively.
In what must be considered a major upset the Czech Republic humbled a Kramnik-less Russia 3-1 with victories by GMs David Navara and Viktor Laznicka over GMs Alexander Grischuk and Peter Svidler, respectively, on the top 2 boards. This painful loss leaves Russia’s chances of gaining top honours (for the first time since Chess legend Garry Kasparov led them to their last Olympiad victory in 2002 in Bled, Slovenia) hanging by a thread as they are stuck on 10 points and have been passed by a number of potential title contenders.
The World Champion Norwegian GM Magnus Carlsen suffered a shock defeat with the white pieces to the German supremo GM Arkadij Naiditsch in the only decisive game as Germany won 2 ½ – 1 ½ against Norway. This defeat for the Norwegians has put a major dent in their hopes of medaling on home soil.
Azerbaijan are in the clear lead on 13 points followed by China, Czech Republic and Bulgaria all on 12 points. The tournament is wide open with the gold, silver and bronze medals still up for grabs. Key round 8 matches that will have a bearing on deciding the ultimate winners are: China-Azerbaijan; Romania (12) – Czech Republic; Ukraine (11) – Bulgaria; France (11) – Poland (11); Germany (11) – Cuba (11) and India (11) – Armenia (11).