44th Chess Olympiad
The opening ceremony of the 2022 Chess Olympiad in Chennai was scheduled for 19.00 on Thursday 28th July, which by a strange coincidence was when that of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham was set to occur, though a difference in time zones meant they would not be synchronous. One wonders if there were any athletic chess-players around the world who had to decide which of the two events they would participate in!
The playing schedule is as follows. Rounds start at 15.00 hrs local time, which is 4½ hours ahead of BST, and hence is 10.30 a.m. in the UK.
Time control: 40 moves in 90 minutes and thereafter a further 30 minutes, all with a 30-second increment per move from move 1.
--- Round-by-Round Result Summary ---
Round 11 (09/08/2022), played while the webmaster was sunbathing at the summit of the Little Orme in Llandudno (hence the delay in reporting), saw both England teams come second in their matches.
The England Open team thus finished 11th to 24th equal on match points, and more precisely 14th applying the tie-break system which was one of the numerous variants of Sonneborn-Berger, while the England Women’s team finished 21st to 34th on game points and 32 on tie-break.
Round 10 (08/08/2022) saw England paired against Italy in the Open section, and against Canada in the Women’s section. Both teams won.
In Round 9 (07/08/2022) England Open team was paired against Argentina, who had a game-point total of 23, slightly more than England’s 20½, both teams being on 11 match points out of 16. The England Women’s team had similarly roughly equal opponents in Germany, who had 21½ game points to England’s 20, both being on 12 match points.
In the Open match, Michael Adams scored a relatively uneventful draw. Luke McShane’s game looked for a while as though neither side was making headway, then his queen managed to get behind his opponent’s position, and things got lively, culminating in a win for England. Gawain Jones’s game similarly got lively as he managed to pick of some pawns leaving him with very dangerous connected passed pawns. His opponent at the end had been hoping both sides would be queening a pawn, but Jones queened first and was able to prevent his opponent’s pawn queening, so winning the game. Ravi Haria’s game was the last to finish, and did so by repetition in an ending of K + R + B + 2P versus K + 2R +P.
Click here to play through Luke J McShane 1-0 Leandro Krysa on screen.
Click here to play through Leonardo Tristan 0-1 Gawain C B Jones on screen.
The England Women’s team fared less well, being somewhat outrated. Though Jovanka Houska drew, the other three players lost.
In the Open match, Michael Adams went a pawn up but ended up, as White, with his only pawn at a7 and his rook at a8, and his opponent gave a useful lessen in how to draw this position, illustrating why rooks belong behind passed pawns (especially rook’s pawns). Luke McShane and his opponent provided a nice illustration of why opposite-coloured bishops tend to draw in the general case. Ravi Haria and his opponent illustrated a draw with material imbalance, specifically B + N versus R, with the rook having an extra pawn, and the bishop not being able to infiltrate the enemy position. Only David Howell offered any guidance on how to win! At move 35 he sacrificed a rook for knight and pawn to engineer a winning attack.
In the Women’s match, Jovanka Houska, got the better of her opponent in a complicated middle game. Katarzyna Toma’s opponent slipped up by removing her queen from the defence of her king with 42. … Qg5-d2, allowing a neat knight manoeuvre exploiting mate threats to win material and hence the game. Lan Yao was less fortunate, and slowly got ground down to the point where her queen was too far away from her king to adequately defend against mate threats. Zoe Varney gave up a rook and pawn for bishop plus knight and eventually picked off pawns making it look as though she might win the ending, but had to make do with the “moral victory” of a drawn final position of K + B versus bare K.
So, both England teams won. Click on the following links to play through games on screen: (Use “back” to return to this screen.)
In Round 7 (05/08/2022), the England Open team had only a slight edge over with Brazil, with an average rating of 2625 to Brazil’s 2562.5. The England Women’s team had a greater edge over the Denmark team, all of whose members’ first names started with “E”.
In the Open match, Adams had a steady draw, while McShane played a game where both sides had pawn weaknesses, and it was the Brazilian who harvested more pawns, helped by the fact that McShane’s chosen opening involved gambiting a pawn up front. That Black had at times two or three multiply isolated e-pawns was not a significant drawback in the end. Ravi Haria’s reached an ending of K + R + N + 2P versus K + R + B + 4P, slightly mitigated by 2 of the 4 pawns being doubled, and resigned when his opponent was either going to queen a pawn or win a piece. Howell went a pawn ahead, and in the ending had K + R + B + 3P versus K + R + N + 2P, Howell’s extra pawn being an outside passed a-pawn whose queening square was the same colour as his bishop, which tends to help. The advance of the pawn won material. Near the end, the Brazilian player underpromoted his h-pawn knight to a knight in the hope of drawing with K + N versus K + R, but Howell demonstrated easily enough that the knight was lost and with it the game. So, England lost the match.
In the Women’s match, there came convincing-looking wins on boards 2, 3 and 4, but Houska was not faring so well on board 1, with K + Q + P versus K + Q + 2P, and nothing better to hope for than endless checking on an open board, which she nevertheless managed to achieve.
The Free Day (04/08/2022) did not stop publication of pairings for the next round, which afforded some scope for puns. England Open team was listed as meeting Brazil the following day in round 7. England, currently in 14th place, and Brazil, currently in 25th place, were both on 9 match points out of 12, but England had 115 games points to Brazil’s 89. The “Free Day” was likely to be a preparation day, as England needed to get back on track after a loss and a draw, and Brazils are hard nuts to crack! England Women’s team was paired against Denmark who were a game point up on England. Puns based on buttering up and bringing home the bacon suggest themselves.
The crunch top pairing was between leading team Armenia on 12 match points versus the second-place USA team on 11 match points. That was followed by 3rd-place team India 3 versus India 1. All three India Open teams were at this stage on 10 match points out of 12, which says a lot about the chess strength of India.
Norway at this point, in a display of synchronised team chess, were ranking 34th in both the Open and Women’s events. Reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen, who did not play in round 1, had scored 3½ points from 4 games, having conceded a draw in round 3 to Daniele Vocaturo of Italy. Click here to play through the game Vocaturo Daniele ½-½ Carlsen Magnus.
In the Open match, the top two England players drew. On board 3, David Howell’s opponent seemed to overlook that Howell’s 30th move threatened to win the exchange, and so the England player won the exchange and in due course won the game. On board 4, Gawain Jones developed an attack, but in so doing allowed his opponent’s outside passed a-pawn to romp down the board and become a queen, meaning Jones had to sacrifice a bishop to remove the new queen. Whether there was an oversight on the England player’s part or whether he thought his attack would win through is unclear. (Had he won, it would have been hailed as a brilliancy! Better luck next time!) So, England Open team recovered from their previous-round loss with only a draw, consequently slipping a bit in the ranking list.
In the women’s, match the two players with White lost, admittedly to stronger opponents, so that was no disgrace. That left the two players with Black needing to with to avoid the team losing the match. Katarzyna Toma has a bishop for 3 extra pawns, and the pawns won the day putting England 0-3 down and losing the match. That left Akshaya Kalaiyalahan playing to avoid a whitewash. She had K + Q + B + P versus K + Q, so England winning that remaining game was on the cards if those pesky checks from the opponent’s queen could be evaded and gradual progress made. By move 92 it looked like the England player was forcing the opposing king away from the pawn and allowing the pawn to reach the seventh rank under the protection of its queen, yet at this point a draw was agreed, which was confusing for the casual observer, even with time running low.
Round 5 (02/08/2022) saw England Open team, one of 5 teams each still on a 100% match score (see panel on left), paired against Armenia who were ranked 12th at the start. England’s Women’s team was one of 35 teams on 6 match points out of 8, and was paired against Lithuania - ranked 42nd at the start.
In the Open match, Howell went a pawn down but drew the resulting opposite-coloured bishop ending where all pawns were on the same side of the board, with no scope for fiddles. That was the first game to finish. Meanwhile Jones was similarly a pawn down, again with all pawns on the same side of the board, both with all rooks still on the board the Armenia player had better chances of engineering a win. McShane’s 26th move looked as though it would lose a pawn, but was perhaps designed to exploit his resulting passed c-pawn. Yes, he lost his pawn, but no, it did not lead to significant compensation, and he too was left hoping to draw while a pawn down. Adams meanwhile had reached a very equal middle-game position by move 30 and 3 moves later the draw was agreed. That left England boards 2 and 4 trying to draw, without instilling 100% confidence in the amateur on-looker. Gawain Jones did in fact draw, but Luke McShane lost. So, England Open team had score their first lost match.
In the Women’s match, there were draws on top and bottom boards. On board 3, the Lithuanian player “won” Black’s queen and a pawn for three minor pieces (2 of them bishops), and the England player showed how a greater number of pieces could outweigh the type of the pieces, especially perhaps against a weaker player, delivering mate in 40 moves (and she’d have won a rook had it not been mate!). Click here to play through Marija Sibajeva 0-1 Lan Yao on screen. Board 2 was last to finish, as a draw in a slightly superior England position.
Elsewhere, Rupert Jones, playing for his native Papua New Guinea (languishing at 183rd out of 188 teams), after losing his first three games and drawing his fourth, finally chalked up a win in a match against the Comoros, which is part of an archipelago of that name at the north end of the Mozambique Channel, between the northern tips of Mozambique and the island of Madagascar. Papua won 4-0, their first won match in this event. Click here to play through the game Jones Rupert 1-0 Nadjim Mohamed.
Round 4 (01/08/2022) was always likely to be the point when England Open team, as 10th ranked in a 184-teams Swiss event, was likely to start hitting seriously stiff opposition. This came in the form of 23rd-ranked Serbia. Though England outrated Serbia on all boards, the differences were minimal. On the other hand, England Women, having scored their first lost match in the previous round, had a relatively easier match, though from this point on the word “easy” ceases to be appropriate.
Contrary to the usual strategy of “win with White and draw with Black”, Adams and Howell won with Black while Jones drew with White. Adams’s opponent’s castled king’s position on the queen’s side got too weak. Adams notched up a few increments on the clock with two-fold repetitious checks before playing the winning moves. Howell’s opponent seemed to simply drop a pawn for no good reason at move 10. (Opening theory with which the writer is unacquainted, or a blunder?) That left McShane last to have his result chalked up. On the live games, McShane was credited with a 24-move win in a position where there had just been a series of repetitions, with McShane avoiding the three-fold occurrences which would permit a draw claim. Evidently the live game-recording stopped functioning, as the pgn file proved it to have been a 64-move win. (Click here to play through the full game.)
In the women’s match, Lan Yao benefitted from her opponent voluntarily, it seemed, giving up the exchange, while the Malaysian player on board 3 did not seem to be playing very carefully.
And, of course, the “Lionesses” (England Ladies football team) beat Germany 2-1 in the European Ladies Cup final.
In Round 3 (31/07/2022), the England Open team was paired against 35th-ranked Lithuania, and England Women was paired against top-ranked India 1, so the England Open team on paper could expect to win, but for the Women’s team to win would be a highly creditable “upset”.
Adams and Jones scored relatively uneventful draws, while Howell benefited from his opponent somewhat unbelievably sacrificing a knight for two pawns without a plausible follow-up. That left McShane with K+R+P versus K+R but no realistic hope of a win. Thus, England were still on 100%, but with much-reduced momentum.
In the Women’s match, Jovanka Houska was the first to finish with a steady draw. Lan Yao followed with another draw. At this stage Katarzyna Toma was a pawn down in the ending, but with queens still on things were not easy for her opponent, and a draw looked possible. Less promisingly, Akshaya Kalaiyalahan was two pawns down in a rook and minor piece ending, with her opponent conjuring up mate threats which proved too strong. That left board 2, where the India player had managed to make her outside passed a-pawn assume menacing proportions, and the England player resigned, so England Women had scored their first lost match, but without disgrace, as their opponents were favourites to eventually win.
In Round 2 (30/07/2022), in the Open, 10th-ranked England was paired against 56th-ranked Singapore, and in the Women’s event, 21st-ranked England was paired against 60th-ranked Bolivia, so two more match wins were on the cards. In the Open, England took draws with Black and won with White. Meanwhile England Women won with White and lost with one Black, but Zoe Varney won with Black to win by the same 3-1 score-line.
This left the England Open team as one of 45 still on a 100% match-point score, and the Women’s team as one of 40 still on 100%.
There was no longer a bye in the Open, as Rwanda had defaulted in round 1 against Scotland, and were “unpaired” in round 2. Thus, after things had settled, there were 184 Open teams and 158 Women’s teams, which gives a record total of teams in an Olympiad, doubtless brought about by curry-eating chess-players from around the world converging on the nominal place of origin of the Madras curry to sample the real thing.
In the Open, 185 of the entrants were evidently present, but there were apparent “no shows” from Pakistan, Côte d’Ivoire and Lesotho who were “unpaired” perhaps indicating they will not be participating at all, while Chad received a 2-0 bye which seems the equivalent of a prearranged half-point bye in a congress, suggesting the team was still en route. Similarly, 4 of the original 162 Women’s entrants were “unpaired”: Pakistan, Côte d’Ivoire and Lesotho as in the Open, and also Madagascar although the Madagascar Open team had made it.
Top teams tended not to field their top-rated players, so giving the reserves games. Thus, Magnus Carlsen did not play for Norway, and Michael Adams did not -play for England.
England teams’ results were as follows.