American Olympiad Ends on High Note
By FM Mike Klein   
September 9, 2012
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GM Ray Robson, Photo Tony Rich of STL Chess Club
The American teams already had an underpromotion in Istanbul, why not throw in a triangulation and a zugzwang to close out the tournament? Both U.S. teams won their 11th and final round of the 40th Chess Olympiad in Istanbul today. Backed by wins from GM Gata Kamsky and GM Ray Robson on the even-numbered boards, the men squeaked by Poland 2.5-1.5. The women saved several lost positions and won two others to defeat Israel 3-1.

Unfortunately for the men’s squad, they did not receive any help today, as Russia beat Germany and Armenia toppled Hungary. Russia and Armenia finish tied with 19 match points. Calculations are now being done to see who will win gold. Ukraine beat China to leapfrog into third place for bronze. With tiebreaks still a tossup, the U.S. team will finish in either fourth or fifth place, tied with China on 17 points (equaling their highest total in an 11-round Olympiad). They will be left just off the podium but in a good position to possibly earn a spot at the 2013 World Team Championships. 

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Bronze medalist Gata Kamsky, Photo Tony Rich of STL Chess Club

Finishing first was GM Alex Onischuk, who had another worse rook-and-pawn ending to defend. He did so with relative ease. Kamsky, who earlier in the game had to walk his king to d3 in the middlegame, survived an unpredictable game to win another rook and bishop endgame.  He played all 11 games in Istanbul and earned a bronze medal on board two. Nakamura finished just out of medals in fourth place for board one.

GM Hikaru Nakamura suffered his first loss of the event, leaving everything on the young shoulders of Robson.
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The American squad crowds around to watch Robson's endgame, Photo Mike Klein

With the crowd swelling and all his teammates looking on, Robson repeated the position a few times in a winning rook-and-pawn endgame. Chess fans with long memories may recall GM Yury Shulman doing the same against GM Zahar Efimenko in the critical last U.S. game in Dresden, 2008. Though he gave his teammates reason to wonder, like Shulman, Robson eventually took his king on a circuitous sojourn to secure the h-pawn’s advance and the match win. On the way, he triangulated his king to win the opposition, as if the moment needed more drama.



This victory left the US in fifth place (behind China on tiebreaks), with Armenia earning gold. Nakamura tweeted @GMHikaru: "I carried our team through the Olympiad and today, they carried me. Robson winning today bodes well for our future."

The women’s team finished strong, thanks to wins by WGM Rusudan Goletiani and IM Anna Zatonskih.
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The women's team watches Zatonskih's game conclude, Photo Mike Klein

IM Irina Krush saved a bad endgame to finish the tournament undefeated. But due to the lesser ratings of her opposition, she will finish just outside the individual medals for board two. WGM Tatev Abrahamyan went from a worse opening position to a winning endgame before finally securing a draw after all the pawns left the board.

Goletiani’s final moves completely hemmed in all of black’s forces before a zugzwang was created.


The U.S. women began the round in 17th and the win leaves them with 15 match points, and tied for 7th (tenth on tiebreak.)
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Rusudan Goletiani, Coach Melik Khachiyan and Anna Zatonskih, Photo Tony Rich of STL Chess Club

More Olympiad coverage coming to CLO: Photos from the closing ceremony, a piece on Istanbul food and culture and a FIDE Congress wrap-up by USCF President Ruth Haring. Also look forward to FM Mike Klein's Chess Life Magazine story on the Olympiad.