Gold for China at the Chess Olympics in Tromsö

The 41st edition of the FIDE’s Chess Olympics was hosted by the Norwegian city Tromsö from August 1st through 14th. Stage of the spectacle were the Mack Halls, a set of former brewery buildings.

Chess Olympics

The event achieved a new attendance record: 172 teams competed in the open tournament, another 134 teams in the women’s category. Nine countries were represented in the competition – for the first time in its history. Bhutan, Ivory Coast, Guam, Lesotho, Oman, the Solomon’s, Saudi-Arabia, Swaziland, and Tanzania. The Russian team with an average ELO of 2773 points, and the Chinese team with an average ELO of 2549 points were rated favorites in the women’s division.

The participants played eleven rounds in Swiss Tournament System. Thinking time amounted to 90 minuted per 40 moves, plus 30 minutes for the rest of the duel. Also, 30 seconds per move from the beginning of the match.

Prior to the start of the tournament, the organizational setup of the Chess Olympics made the headlines, as the event’s budget lacked 15 million NOK (approximately 1.8 million EUR) for properly financing the expected expenses. Moreover, many teams complained about difficulties in visa procedures; as there are only few Norwegian embassies, many participants were forced to travel abroad to apply for a visa and to have their personal data entered into a visa data base.

When the organizing committee then dismissed several teams from participation due to belated submitting of squad lists, the scandal was final. In the end of July, the FIDE president Iljumischov managed to pressure the committee into allowing all teams attendance at the tournament.

The competition itself had much suspense to offer.

The high rankings were hardly fought for and until the very last round the final outcome was uncertain. Almost every round bore surprises. Nobody would have thought that Qatar would prevail over the higher-rated team from Greece with a 2.5:1.5 score, or that Arkadij Naiditsch would be able to force chess prodigy Magnus Carlsen into admitting defeat. This happened in the 7th round which led Germany to the victory over Norway at 2.5:1.5 points. Serbia’s team was another great surprise – the number 29 in seeding list won against England (3:1) in the 8th round. These are only a few of the many highlights of the Chess Olympics.

For the first time, Yangyi Yu helped the Chinese team take the lead of the overall rankings by winning over Eltaj Safarli in the 8th round. In the 9th round, however, France was equal in score with China and they shared the lead. At the same time, Azerbaijan missed to leap to the overall lead through a 2:2 against Rumania.

In a suspenseful 10th round, China prevailed over France and advanced to tournament favorite. Hungary followed in 2nd place, only one point short, with eight further teams narrowly behind. India was the first team to prevail over Germany at the tournament.

With the 3:1 victory of China over Poland in the 11th round, the Asian team managed to obtain the gold medal at the Chess Olympics for the very first time, even though they left behind three of their 2700+ players. Obviously, China is by now choosing its top-class players from such large talent pool that they can easily be successful without the two strongest players behind Liren Ding. Another interesting thing was the combination of generations at the Chinese team: While grandmaster Ni Hua (born in 1983) was the only player over thirty years old, his team colleague Wei Yi is not only half his age. Yi just recently celebrated his 15th birthday and is therefore the youngest grandmaster of the world at this time.

The first 20 ranks as follows:

Rank
Team No + = Points
1 China 11 8 3 0 19
2 Hungary 11 7 3 1 17
3 India 11 7 3 1 17
4 Russia 11 7 3 1 17
5 Azerbaijan 11 7 3 1 17
6 Ukraine 11 6 4 1 16
7 Cuba 11 7 2 2 16
8 Armenia 11 6 4 1 16
9 Israel 11 7 2 2 16
10 Spain 11 7 2 2 16
11 Belarus 11 7 2 2 16
12 Netherlands 11 6 3 2 15
13 France 11 7 1 3 15
14 United States of America 11 6 3 2 15
15 Poland 11 7 1 3 15
16 Serbia 11 6 3 2 15
17 Uzbekistan 11 7 1 3 15
18 Argentina 11 7 1 3 15
19 Peru 11 7 1 3 15
20 Romania 11 6 3 2 15

The women’s category was clearly dominated by the Russian team which unsurprisingly won the gold medal the third time in a row. With 20 points in the score account the Russians stayed two whole points ahead of the runner-up.

 The first 20 ranks of women:

Rank Team No. + = Points
1 Russia 11 10 0 1 20
2 China 11 8 2 1 18
3 Ukraine 11 8 2 1 18
4 Georgia 11 8 1 2 17
5 Armenia 11 8 1 2 17
6 Kazakhstan 11 8 1 2 17
7 Poland 11 7 2 2 16
8 United States of America 11 7 2 2 16
9 Germany 11 8 0 3 16
10 India 11 6 3 2 15
11 Romania 11 7 1 3 15
12 France 11 7 1 3 15
13 Spain 11 6 3 2 15
14 Bulgaria 11 7 1 3 15
15 Netherlands 11 7 1 3 15
16 Mongolia 11 7 1 3 15
17 Slovakia 11 7 1 3 15
18 Lithuania 11 7 1 3 15
19 Vietnam 11 6 2 3 14
20 Iran 11 6 2 3 14