Saturday, August 9

Team USA Clawing Into Contention

Harbor of Tromsø with hills in background. Credit: Truong

As the 2014 Chess Olympiad in Tromsø, Norway begins its second week, the tension mounts both on and off the boards.  Teams from roughly 170 nations traveled to this remote locale north of the Arctic Circle despite sporadic flight delays, visa hassles and even threats of terrorism.  The host city has drawn positive reviews, especially for the beautiful scenery amidst water and mountains.  A few complaints included the FIDE zero-tolerance rule at the start of rounds and the use of portable toilets instead of more permanent facilities  For fans back home, the live coverage seems quite thorough.
World #2 Aronian plays white vs #1 Carlsen. Credit: Truong
After 7 rounds, a clear leader has emerged in both sections.  In the Open division, Azerbaijan (13 MP) defeated Cuba (11 MP) and moved 1 match point ahead of China (12 MP) and three other teams.  One big surprise is the Czech Republic (12 MP), which stunned top rated Russia (10 MP).  In the Women division, defending champion Russia (14 MP) knocked off top rated China (12 MP) to establish a 2 match point advantage over three teams.

Open Leaders (after Round 7)
  • 1st with 13 MP = Azerbaijan
  • 2nd-5th with 12 MP = China, Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Romania
  • 6th-14th with 11 MP = France, Cuba, Armenia, India, Ukraine, Hungary Poland, Germany and USA
  • 15th-27th with 10 MP = Netherlands, Russia, Israel and others
Women Leaders (after Round 7)
  • 1st with 14 MP = Russia
  • 2nd-4th with 12 MP = China, Hungary and Poland
  • 5th-11th with 11 MP = France, Georgia, USA, Indonesia, Ukraine, Armenia and Colombia
  • 12th-22nd with 10 MP = Germany, India, Iran, Romania and others

The American delegation has seen ups and downs during the first seven rounds.  Both the men and women have won five matches.  However, each squad lost in third round (the men to Holland, the women to top rated China) and have since drawn an additional match, for a total of 11 match points out of a possible 14.  The men find themselves in 14th place, ahead of top ranked Russia, but the women stand in 7th place thanks to superior tiebreaks.  With four rounds to go, Team USA remains in contention for the medals, but must finish very strong.  No doubt 17 or 18 match points will be necessary for a spot on the podium, leaving almost zero room for error. 

Trivia from Tromsø
FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov
  1. Open division stats: 172 teams from 167 countries.
  2. Women division stats: 134 teams from 129 countries.  
  3. Americans GM Sam Shankland and WGM Sabina Foisor are two out of only four players (from more than 1500) remaining with a 100% score after 7 rounds!
  4. Shortest win: 1.d4 g5 2.e4 f6 3.Qh5#  Seriously! (Zimbabwe vs Togo women, Round 4)
  5. Longest game: 139 moves (Vachier-Lagrave vs Jobava, 1-0, Round 7)
  6. Reigning World Champs (Magnus Carlsen and Hou Yifan) both lost in Round 7!
    13th World Champion Garry Kasparov
  7. The greatest social gathering at each Olympiad is the Bermuda party.  Chess photographer David Llada tweeted: “This was, with little doubt, the worst Bermuda party ever. Still, it was better than the average party.”
  8. The election of FIDE President occurs on Monday 8/11.  Western European countries and USA support ex-champion Garry Kasparov, but incumbent Kirsan Ilyumzhinov remains entrenched after nearly 20 years in power.  Who will win?  Stay tuned!
  9. Weather: Sunny with low 46 / high 64.  Sunset 10:17pm.  Sunrise 3:24am.

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