Home Page Chess Life Online 2008 November Rested Squads Resume Action
|Rested Squads Resume Action|
|By FM Mike Klein|
|November 19, 2008|
It could be moving day for the Americans at the 38th Chess Olympiad. The 4-1-0 women (8 points, with two points awarded for a match win) will have their hands full with 16th-seed Romania, a team that will employ an IM and three WGMs. The Americans will again go with their top-four lineup as they play on board four, their highest placement so far.
The 3-1-1 men on are 7/10 and they face a tough Cuban foursome today. Team Captain IM John Donaldson will also use his top four players as their level of competition seesaws once again; in their last four matches they have gone from playing seeds 86 to 4 to 129 to now Cuba at 16.
“This is really a critical round,” Donaldson said, “a win here could set us right.” Both coaches must sense the moment as the top eight Americans are all in action today, just as they were in round four.
Many grumblings about the strange pairings have been heard at post-round press conferences.
"I grew up in the United States," said GM Hikaru Nakamura, "and having played a lot of Swisses, I'm sort of used to this system. In an event as prestigious as the Olympiad, it's a little unfortunate." He explained that he wanted to play tougher teams regularly. "To play against Hong Kong, it wasn't a good feeling," Nakamura said.
Slovakian GM Sergei Movsesjan concurred. "The pairing system is a bit strange to me," he said. "It happens sometimes that the strongest team in the (score) group plays the weakest team. I don't understand this."
The tournament took a rest yesterday after the Bermuda Party stretched late into Monday night and Tuesday morning. Somnambulant chess players could be seen waking late and touring the Altstadt (old town) on their day off. Prior to that, the men’s team dispatched Hong Kong, who actually is led by a woman on its top board. In their only 4-0 sweep, first to finish for once was GM Varuzhan Akobian, whose attack was crude but no less effective.
John Donaldson is busy with FIDE duties today, so Akobian is the acting captain for the round. Today is also Var's birthday. When asked what his plans for the evening were, he said, "Hopefully we can celebrate with a win first."
The women’s team also won round five without too much trouble. After their disappointing loss to Israel in round two, they have an unbeaten game record of 8-0-4 and their 3-1 score over Norway has vaulted three team members into the top-25 individual performances thus far. WGM Rusudan Goletiani is 4-0-1 with a 2584 performance rating (19th) and IM Irina Krush and WGM Anna Zatonskih have identical records and performance ratings (3-0-1, 2562, 21st). Top-seed Russian and 3rd-seed China are the only other women’s team to have three players in the top 25. In team standings, the U.S. is tied for third, with ten other teams in the peloton.
"It is more or less a tradition that American teams start slow,” said Women’s Team Coach and Olympiad veteran GM Gregory Kaidanov. “We always have jet lag. The tournament is long and there is still time to recover. It is extremely important to remain positive. We have a great team.”
In the international action, Russia, Armenia, Germany, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and England all stand on 9/10 in the open. They are closely followed by ten nations with 8/10 and 15 more that are a point farther back, including the U.S.
Players will come off the free day with titanic clashes like number one Russia against the usually-underperforming England. Number two Ukraine faces the local heroes of Germany's first team, while defending champion Armenia will play the three 2700s of Azerbaijan.
This follows a dramatic round five in which Germany held off Russia with four draws, the last of which comprising a difficult pawn-down rook ending that GM Jan Gustafsson ably defended against GM Alexander Morozevich (though he dismissed praise following the game).
Armenia got by the Netherlands 2.5-1.5 and Ukraine beat Hungary by the same score, though by the narrowest margin - they needed top board GM Vassily Ivanchuk to grind out a 127-move victory over GM Peter Leko in a rook-and-bishop versus rook endgame.
China did not impress with its narrow win over Scotland (2.5-1.5), but 16-year-old Italian-American GM Fabiano Caruana followed up on his round four crush of legendary GM Viktor Korchnoi with a win as Black against GM Michael Adams (though England still triumphed over Italy 2.5-1.5).
GM Valentin Iotov of Bulgaria is the only player in the open division with a perfect 5-0.
China remains all alone in the women's division. Their thrashing of Poland gives five straight wins and a perfect 10/10. Hungary is the only team on 9/10 and the two nations will meet in round six. Following the round five press conference, several top players said they expected Chinese women to win the event.
English IM Dagne Ciuksyte is the lone woman who is five for five.
Mike Klein is reporting for CLO and Chess Life Magazine from Dresden. Check out his in-depth articles, Let the Games Begin in Dresden , USA Stumbles in Round Two and USA Almost Perfect in Round Three. He's also using his sabbatical from his Charlotte chess coaching business to travel the world-and blog about it.