Russia’s highly rated team won gold in the 150-nation online Olympics last week, but the US silver medal team could argue they were moral winners. Without all of their top stars, the Americans were only narrowly beaten 7: 5 in an exciting final.
Russia defeated China earlier in the semifinals, while the USA, again the rating underdogs, eliminated India in a speed tie-break. These four countries are in a class of their own, the superpowers of world chess.
USA versus Russia / Soviet Union is a chess pairing with historic resonance that dates back to 1945, when the USSR team, led by Mikhail Botvinnik, scored a devastating 15.5-4.5 against a US team in the 1930s Had won four consecutive Olympiads years ago.
Later games also had unforgettable moments, such as Leipzig 1960, when rising stars Bobby Fischer and Mikhail Tal played a draw sharp French defense, Varna 1962 when Fischer was close to tears after mishandling a won final against Botvinnik, or Siegen 1970 when Boris Spassky won brilliantly against Fischer.
More recently, Yasser Seirawan defeated Garry Kasparov in Dubai 1986, while in Baku 2016 the USA won gold on the first four boards with Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, Wesley So and Sam Shankland.
Moving on to 2021, the Baku Quartet were all absent from this week’s gold medal match as the online Olympics clashed with the annual Champions Showdown in St. Louis, the date of which was Jan.
Would the missing quartet have made the difference? It is not clear. The dubbing of the games suggests that one or two of the Russians, confident of their paper superiority, took the game lightly. The U-20 board, where Awonder Liang won 2-0 against Andrey EsipenkoHe was the prime example when the player who defeated Magnus Carlsen at Wijk in 2021 made fundamental mistakes.
Russia was also superior in the women, although there was a definite turnaround in the semi-finals against China where the all-time number 2, Hou Yifan, defeated Aleksandra Goryachkina, Russia’s candidate for the next championship title. The most spectacular game of the game featured in this week’s puzzle was also featured on a women’s board.
Meanwhile, Magnus Carlsen made a dramatic late sprint and took the lead at Norway Chess in Stavanger just before the final lap on Friday. Stavanger’s unique scoring system awards three points for a classic win, while draws are instantly replayed as Armageddons, with 2.5 points being divided 1.5-1.
The bottom line was that Carlsen, who started slowly and lost to old rival Sergey Karjakin in an early round, was well behind leader Richard Rapport when the 25-year-old Hungarian played the tournament of his life and eventually finished 6th in the Live ratings. Then came the upswing of the world champion, which culminated with a typical endgame grind against rapport.
Alireza Firouzja, 18, won three games in a row towards the end with the significant result that both Rapport and Firouzja reached the world top 10 the live ratings, the first real newcomers in several years.
While Carlsen played at full throttle in the final rounds in Stavanger, his World Cup opponent, the Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi, played a more relaxed tournament, sometimes barely moving and saving energy for the $ 2 million, 14-game-month long showdown, which starts on November 24th in Dubai.
If Norway were Carlsen’s last tournament before the World Cup match, that would give two full months to prep and recharge, but that’s not it. Carlsen is named as the top board for his Norwegian club Offerspill in the European Club Cup which starts this weekend in Ohrid, North Macedonia.
He is also the for the $ 300,000 final Meltwater champions tour from September 25th, where he faces nine strong rivals in an all-play-all format. Nepomniachtchi was qualified for the tour final, but has since withdrawn.
Is Carlsen exaggerating himself too much? The answer will only be known in Dubai in two months.
3781: 1 Ng5! Qc7 (if Qxe2 2 Rxh7 mate) 2 Qe5 +! Rg7 3 Rd8 +! Qxd8 4 Rxh7 + Kg8 5 Qxg7 mate. The complete game is here.