Games from Batumi

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Bobby Ang

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43rd Chess Olympiad (Open Division)
Batumi, Georgia
Sept. 23 — Oct. 6, 2018

Final Standings

Country/Points TB1 TB2

1. China 18/22 372.5 28.5

2. USA 18/22 360.5 29.0

3. Russia 18/22 354.5 29.0

4. Poland 17/22 390.0 28.0

5. England 17/22 340.0 27.5

6. India 16/22 388.0 29.0

7. Vietnam 16/22 379.5 30.5

8. Armenia 16/22 371.0 27.5

9. France 16/22 366.0 28.5

10. Ukraine 16/22 337.0 26.0

Total of 185 teams from 183 countries. Georgia as the host country was allowed to field 3 teams.

Time Control is 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, then 30 minutes play-to-finish, with 30 seconds added to your clock after every move starting move 1.

Individual Board Prizes:

Board 1. Gold: GM Ding Liren CHN 2804, 5.5/8. Silver: GM Fabiano Caruana USA 2827, 7.0/10. Bronze: GM Anish Giri NED 2780, 8.5/11.

Board 2. Gold: GM Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son VIE 2620, 8.5/10. Silver: GM Ian Nepomniachtchi RUS 2768, 7.5/10. Bronze: GM Teimour Radjabov AZE 2751, 7.0/10.

Board 3. Gold: GM Jorge Cori PER 2664, 7.5/8. Silver: GM Vladimir Kramnik RUS 2779, 6.5/9. Bronze: GM Kacper Piorun POL 2612, 6.5/9.

Board 4. Gold: GM Daniel Fridman GER 2591, 7.5/9. Silver: GM Bu Xiangzhi CHN 2712, 7.5/10, Bronze: GM Rauf Mamedov AZE 2699, 6.5/9.

Board 5. Gold: GM Anton Korobov UKR 2685, 6.5/8. Silver: GM Ilia Smirin ISR 2594, 7.5/9. Bronze: GM Christian Bauer FRA 2629, 7.0/9

Best Rating Performances (Rp):

1. GM Jorge Cori PER 2664, Rp 2925

2. GM Ding Liren CHN 2804, Rp 2873

3. GM Fabiano Caruana USA 2827, Rp 2859

All eyes were on Fabiano Caruana, board 1 of the USA, because of his coming world championship match with Magnus Carlsen next month in London. Would he be holding back his opening preparation? Would he be pulling his punches?

Answer to both questions is a big NO. Caruana was the leader of the United States team and fully aware of his responsibilities. He played 10 rounds out of 11, skipping only the first round when their opponent was Panama, one of the weaker teams. Over the course of 10 rounds Fabi defeated former world champion Vishy Anand, world championship challenger Boris Gelfand, GM Denis Kadric (BIH 2543) and the red-hot Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

Caruana, Fabiano (2827) — Anand, Viswanathan (2771) [E03]
43rd Olympiad 2018 Batumi GEO (4.1), 27.09.2018

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 d5 4.Bg2 dxc4 5.Qa4+ Nbd7 6.Qxc4 a6 7.Be3!?

A nice new idea, with the aim of preventing Black’s …c7–c5.

7…Bd6 8.Qc2 0–0 9.Nh3 e5 10.0–0 h6 11.dxe5 Nxe5 12.Nc3 Qe7 13.Rad1 Re8 14.Nf4 c6 15.Bd4 g5?!

Played after 15 minutes’ thought, and it turns out to be a bad move.

16.Nd3 Nxd3 17.Rxd3!

This has to be carefully calculated as ideas connected to Black’s Bf5 abound.


[17…Bf5? 18.Bxf6! Qxf6 19.Rxd6! Qxd6 20.Qxf5 White is clearly better]

18.Qd2 Bf5 19.e4 Bg6 20.f4!

Precisely the move that White’s 18.Qd2 was aiming for.


Black didn’t like 20…Bxd4+ 21.Rxd4 Rad8 22.e5 Nh5 23.f5 (23.Rd6 gxf4) 23…Rxd4 24.Qxd4 Bh7 but it is better than what he actually got.

21.Bxe5! Qxe5 22.gxf4 Qc5+ 23.Kh1 Nxe4 24.Nxe4 Rxe4

Capturing with the bishop loses: 24…Bxe4 25.Bxe4 Rxe4 26.Qg2+

25.Rg3! Rd4 26.Qe3! 1–0

Not 26.Qf2? because 26…Kh8 saves the piece. But now, after 26.Qe3! Kh8 (26…Kh7 27.f5 Bxf5 28.Rxf5 Qxf5 29.Qxd4) 27.f5 wins the bishop because the White queen has Qxh6+ in reserve]

At the conclusion of the Olympiad Caruana’s ELO rating has climbed up to 2832. This is only seven points behind reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen’s 2839. Anticipation for their match is climbing to a fever pitch as for the first time in a long while we have a match between, ratings-wise, the world no. 1 versus the world no. 2.

Anish Giri tweeted that the weak link in the USA team is GM Samuel Shankland, perhaps influenced by the reigning USA champion’s loss to Israel’s Emil Sutovsky. But Shankland turned around and showed that he was no weak link – he scored the decisive win in their victory over Azerbaijan (round 8) and Armenia (round 10).

Surprisingly enough the real weak link was Hikaru Nakamura. The top point-maker of previous Olympiads was surprisingly unable to pull in the wins in Batumi. After a round 1 win over a 2300+ player he had six straight draws and then lost to Poland’s Kacper Piorun in round 9. He was unceremoniously benched in round 10 and then came back in round 11 to draw with Bu Xiangzhi. It looks like his confidence had been affected. At one point during his game with Bu the Chinese GM offered to bring on complications with a pawn sacrifice. Nakamura usually accepts these gifts because he knows he can outplay anyone in tactics. However, he uncharacteristically turned down the pawn and later on had to defend an inferior position.

Wesley So started well with 6/7 but then he lost to Azerbaijan’s Teimour Radjabov in round 8 and could not win another game.

This was more or less the same story as the USA’s performance in the Olympiad. A powerful start to go into the lead and then a nice win over their co-leader Azerbaijan in round 8. At this point many of us thought that the championship is in the bag for the Americans, and apparently they thought so to – but then came a sputtering finish with a loss (1.5-2.5 to Poland), a narrow victory over Armenia 2.5-1.5, then a fight less draw with China 2-2.

Here is one of Wesley’s wins in his “hot” phase.

So, Wesley (2776) — Bosiocic, Marin (2600) [B92]
43rd Olympiad 2018 Batumi GEO (7.2), 01.10.2018

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.Be2 Be7 9.h4!?

A new move in this position, but h4 and/or g4 pawn thrusts in the opening are nowadays very common.

9…h5 10.Nd5 Bxd5 11.exd5 Nbd7 12.c4 g6 13.g3 b6 14.Nd2 a5 15.f4!?

Still the same enterprising play. Wesley opens up the f-file and really pushes through with his attack there.

15…Qc8 16.0–0 Nc5 17.Kg2 Ra7 18.Qc2 Bd8?

Wesley’s aggressive play has discombobulated Black who plays unnecessarily passively. He could have countered with 18…exf4 19.Rxf4 Nfd7 20.Raf1 f5 and nothing is clear yet.

19.f5! Rg8 20.fxg6 Rxg6 21.Rf5 b5 22.Raf1 Rc7 23.Bxh5 Nxh5 24.Rxh5 Rg8 25.Qh7 Qg4 26.Rg5! Rxg5 27.Bxg5 1–0

[27.Bxg5 Kd7 (27…Bxg5 28.Qg8+ Kd7 29.Rxf7+ Be7 30.Qxg4+) 28.Bxd8 Kxd8 29.Qh8+ Ke7 30.Qf6+ Ke8 31.Qxd6 Qd7 32.Qxe5+ Qe7 33.Qd4 with an easy win]

GM Ian Nepomniachtchi won the very strong Dortmund Chess Meeting last July and brought his good form with him to Batumi. He scored 7.5/10, with five wins and five draws. Nepom plays fast, attacks hard, and is usually the first game to finish. In the crucial last round match Russia vs France for example he scored the decisive match win (all other games were drawn) and won the brilliancy prize for the round while the other games were still in the opening phase!

Nepomniachtchi, Ian (2768) — Bacrot, Etienne (2678) [A13]
43rd Olympiad 2018 Batumi GEO (11.2), 05.10.2018

The early starting time for the last round (11 am instead of the usual 3 pm) seemed to affect GM Etienne Bacrot, who apparently had not yet woken up!

1.Nf3 d5 2.e3 Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.Nc3 Be7 5.b3 0–0 6.Bb2 c5 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.h4!?

A new move and one that the Russian team studied in a training camp before the Olympiad. This is one of those “b3 secret weapons” that everyone is trying out these days.

8…b6 9.Qb1 h6 10.g4 Bb7 11.Rh3 Nd7 12.g5 h5 13.Bd3 Nb4 14.Bh7+ Kh8 15.Be4 Nd5 16.Ne2 f5?


The losing move. 16…Bd6 is simple and good. At this point Nepom said that he calculated everything to the end, which is an impressive feat considering that a review of game times show that he took only 1 minute on his next move!

17.gxf6 N7xf6 18.Ng5! Nxe4 19.Qxe4 Bxg5 20.hxg5 Nf4

[20…Qxg5 21.Rg3 followed by taking on g7]

21.Qxb7 Nd3+

[21…Nxh3 22.Qxg7#]

22.Kf1 Nxb2 23.Rxh5+ Kg8 24.g6! 1–0

White’s threat is 25.Rh8+ Kxh8 26.Qh1+ Kg8 27.Qh7 mate.


Bobby Ang is a founding member of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and its first Executive Director. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA), he taught accounting in the University of Santo Tomas for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.