Leaders Falter in Dresden
By GM Ian Rogers   
November 23, 2008
Photo FM Mike Klein
There’s no Dresden like a snowy Dresden as the Olympiad teams found out when they woke up on Saturday morning.

For many of the players, who had never before in their life seen snow, the sight of a white cover over the town was particularly magical and they wasted no time in doing what you were supposed to do when confronted with snow – create a snowman at the front of their hotel.

Back at the Dresden Congress Centre, the match that most pundits had thought would decide the team gold – Russia v Ukraine – was upstaged by the battle between the tournament leaders – defending Olympic champions Armenia and unfancied Israel.

Armenia had the first bad match of the event, and were always losing after Gelfand ground down Aronian. Sargissian gained some honour by beating Avrukh but a 1.5-2.5 loss was enough to put Israel into the lead and leave Armenia tied with the winner of Russia v Ukraine.

The Russia v Ukraine match was a terrific contest, worthy of the top two seeds, and one which could have gone either way.

On top board Kramnik and Ivanchuk fought out a ding-dong struggle which could have ended in Kramnik’s favor until time trouble left Ivanchuk winning a piece. That was not the end of the story, however, as Kramnik whipped up so much counterplay that Ivanchuk had to find a superb defence – allowing Kramnik to queen with check – to hold the game.

Position after 41...Bf7

At first sight Kramnik has overextended but he found


and now it was Ivanchuk’s turn to descend into a deep think.

The obvious 42...a1(Q)+ 43.Bxa1 Nxa1 loses spectacularly to 44.Rc8+!! Rxc8 45.Ne7+ and the b pawn will queen, so Ivanchuk sues for peace.

42..Bxd5! 43.exd5 Na5! 44.Rc5 Nb3 45.Rc6 Na5 46.Rc5 Nb3 47.Rb5!

Position after 47.Rb5

Now 47...a1(Q)+ 48.Bxa1 Nxa1 49.b7 Kf7 50.Rb1! Nc2 51.Rc1! might be tricky for Black but why defend a tricky endgame when you can give your opponent a queen with check and thereby force a draw?

47...Rc8!! 48.b7 Rxc3 49.b8Q+ Kh7 50.Rxb3

White has nothing better.

50...a1Q+ 51.Rb1 Rc1+ 52.Rxc1 Qxc1+ 53.Kf2 Qd2+ 54.Kf1 Qd1+ Draw

In the end, Ukraine’s small margin of victory was an unlikely win by Efimenko over the strongest ever board four Morozevich after Morozevich’s over-optimistic play was severely punished. Even after 5 hours it seemed that Grischuk might even the score but Eljanov held a R v R, f and h pawn endgame to secure the victory which put Russia out of the running for gold.

The US’s remarkable 3.5-0.5 win over India has given them a small medal chance although they still trail teams such as England, China and Serbia by a match point.

Sasikiran, being strategically outplayed, had given up a pawn and now tried to regain it. Tactical retribution from Kamsky is immediate…


Position after 32.Rxf6

 32...Ba4!! 33.Rb3

Hopeless, but 33.Bb3 Rxe4 34.Rxf7 Rxb3!! is hardly better.

33...Rb4 34.Rxf7 Bxb3 35.axb3 Kxf7 36.Kg1 Rxc4 0-1

“Let them know that we will fight until the finish,” said Varuzhan Akobian, enjoying the hospitality of the Norwegians at the Saturday night party to promote Tromso’s bid for the 2104 Chess Olympiad. “Gata has won the last two and can win against anybody and Yury and I are OK on fourth board. If we win our last two matches we have a chance.”

In the Women’s Olympiad, an increasingly shaky China had seen a pack of rivals, including the US, gather just half a match point behind the long-time leaders.

Sure enough, on Saturday disaster struck when China were convincingly beaten 1.5-2.5 by unfancied Serbia, catapulting Serbia into the lead alongside Ukraine, who  demolished Romania 3-1 and Poland, who ended the US’ golden run with a 3-1 win.

The US match hung on the board four game which turned from winning for Katerina Rohonyan to losing in a few random moves.  Anna Zatonskih was close to victory but allowed a series of tactical tricks which earned a draw. Meanwhile, Irina Krush became too optimistic and soon found herself in a bad endgame.

Black to Move

Krush, Black, could force an immediate draw with 25…Nxc7 26.Rxc7 Rxd4 but misjudged her chances and tried


However after

26.Bb8! a6 27.Rc5! Nf6 28.d5!

White was well on top and Krush was never allowed back into the game.

28...Rd8 29.Be5 b6 30.Rc6 Nd7 31.Bc7 Ra8 32.Bxb6 Nxb6 33.Rxb6 f5 34.d6 Bf7 35.Bxf7 Kxf7 36.Kf1 Ke6 37.Rb7 Kxd6 38.Rxg7 h5 39.Rg5 Ke5 40.Rxh5 Rc8 41.g4 Rc1+ 42.Kg2 Rc2 43.Rxf5+ Kd4 44.Kg3 Rxb2 45.Ra5 1-0

The US, with a relatively soft pairing against Uzbekhistan coming up on Sunday, can still dream of earning the bronze.

However favourite China’s chances for gold are almost gone since they have to overcome the strong Georgians tomorrow as well as hoping that their rivals falter. The battle between the top players in the China v Georgia match should be something to relish; the two best performers of the Women’s Olympiad, veteran former World Champion Maya Chiburdanidze and China’s teenage star Hou Yifan will meet for only the second time.

Off the board, players continued to be forfeited for being a few seconds late while the FIDE Rules Commission voted narrowly to extend this rule to all events, unless organisers opt out.

Fortunately, this rule is unlikely to be passed by the General Assembly and a more sensible 15 minute forfeit time introduced. Today the team captains were presented with a survey, offering them the choice of 0 or 15 minutes for a forfeit time. I did not see a single completed form requesting 0 minutes.

Stories are also emerging that the zero forfeit rule is being erratically enforced. The Ukrainian women’s captain was ropable after two of his team’s Mongolian opponents turned up three minutes late and the arbiter declined to forfeit them saying “Have a heart!” He was still complaining when one of the late players, Batkhuyag Mongontuul, beat highly rated Katerina Lahno. However no official protest was entered since the Ukraine won the match 3-1; in an Olympiad using match points, lodging an appeal to secure an extra game point hardly seemed worth the effort.

Over recent days the chess politicians have been busy discussing serious matters such as the home of the 2012 Olympiad (Montenegro and Turkey are the candidates) and whether the en passant rule should apply to other pieces (rejected).

There is no FIDE election this year but nonetheless FIDE President Kirsan Iljumzhinov was glad-handing the press during today’s whirlwind tour of the Olympiad venue. Iljumzhinov was injured in a car accident recently and missed the Olympiad opening ceremony (as he had missed the opening and closing of the Bonn World Championship) but his appearance in Dresden today scotched any rumours that he was becoming chess’ Kim Jong Il.

The Olympiad continues at 9 AM EST on Sunday and the final round will be played on Tuesday at 4 AM EST. Can the US pull off the sort of finish which gave the Open team bronze in Torino 2006? Stay tuned.