“Congrats to all the winners, now it's time to recover and get some energy for future events!”
Anish on Olympiad 2014 with his game analyses
Chess Olympiad is the biggest chess festival imaginable, attracting chess fans with its quality and quantity, with almost all the top players present and over 160 countries taking part. Happening once every two years, this year it was organized in the Northern Norway, in the lovely town of Tromso located beyond the Arctic Circle.
For the third consecutive Olympiad I was a member of the Dutch team and while debuting back in 2010 on board 4, lately I tend to enjoy my position on the top board. My teammates this time were the evergreen Loek Van Wely, solid Erwin L'Ami, even more solid Sergei Tiviakov, who is finally back in business in the team events, and my friend Robin van Kampen, who is slowly but surely establishing himself in the Dutch national team. The squad was headed by the experienced trainer Vladimir Tukmakov from Ukraine, who has won two Olympic gold medals as coach of the Ukrainian team.
Although there had been many complaints about the organization, our team was pleasantly surprised upon arrival. Having no seat on our boarding pass we finally got seated, the Dutch board 1 lost his passport yet another time, but found it back pretty quickly and the luggage too, arrived well on time. Unfortunately, it later turned out that the luggage was lost for many of our colleagues, but our delegation was amongst the lucky ones not to experience any problem of such sort. The hotel room was obviously not too big, but having played in the Stavanger tournament already, I knew well in advance what Norwegian style was about. The buffet was splendid, however, with all possible variations of salmon and various other items. In fact we went to a restaurant on our own just once and even that time it was a sushi bar and so yours truly didn't spend a single day without the delicious Norwegian salmon.
There were also complaints about the playing venue and mostly the portable toilets. The venue was not made of gold or diamonds, but was spacious enough. While generally I am very sensitive to heat, I personally didn't experience any issues this time, though I did hear many people complaining. As for the toilet problem, it was not ideal, but I wonder what other solution could be there for an event which contains a thousand of nervous people who are constantly drinking water. So, overall everything was fine, but as you can see, people in need of excuses had wide choice to choose from and would be backed by some of their colleagues, and journalists.
Before getting down to chess business, I would like to express my condolences to the families and friends of the two players, Kurt Meier from Seychelles and Alisher Anrakulov from Uzbekistan (playing for the ICCD), who passed away so suddenly and tragically on the last day of the Olympiad.
Our team is known for its shaky start, but this time we confidently won the first two matches with 4-0, against Andorra and Colombia. I had the hardest task, playing two Grandmasters, but with some luck I managed to overcome both my opponents De La Riva and Matamoros.
Already in the third round we suddenly got paired against the powerful team of USA. Hikaru Nakamura had some trouble arriving in Tromso, but managed to arrive just in time for the first important match for his team. He played rather unconvincingly in the opening as white and we quickly split the point. Van Wely didn't manage to survive the opening of Onischuk and we were down 1.5-0.5 with L'Ami and Van Kampen pushing against Kamsky (!) and Var Akobian respectively. At the end of the day, Erwin marched to an amazing victory (one of the many as it later turned out) and Robin too eventually converted his bishop pair and so we finished with the ecstatic 2.5-1.5.
The spirits were high and the next match too, against Israel, things were looking good. Eventually in the time trouble some crazy things happened and at the end the matched ended in 2-2 after I won my game against Boris Gelfand and Tiviakov didn't use his chances against Maxim Rodshtein and lost the game.
Our next match with China ended with 2-2 after 4 draws (though Loek was on the edge at some point). Later on it will turn out that that was a major accomplishment, as the Chinese were unstoppable in this event.
The next match we were paired with Iran. Being the favourites on paper we confidently (on paper too) won the match with 3-1. Myself I was being in some danger with Elshan Moradiabadi after being too ambitious at some point with the white pieces, but I switched gears on time and secured the draw when things started getting out of hand. Crazy stuff was happening in the game of Robin, but after all it ended well.
This was the peak of our tournament. The next match something inexplicable happened. Our match with Bulgaria was heading toward 0-4 at some point, when Loek and Sergei both collapsed. At the end we saved two draws on first two boards and the score was 1-3. With all respect to the strong team of Bulgaria, this was definitely not the result, we were hoping for, being over 100 points higher rated on boards 3 and 4. The Bulgarian squad was doing very well in general, having a 'striker' on board 3, in face of Valentin Iotov, who was on fire at the beginning of the event, winning all of his games, beating amongst others Sergei Karjakin. Board 1 of Bulgaria, the ex-world champion Veselin Topalov was in good shape too and eventually won the individual gold medal.
We came back against Brazil with 3.5-0.5. I beat Fier, but the game Mekhitarian-L'Ami 0-1 was the brilliant one and it's hard to resist not to have another look at it.
Game Analysis: K.Mekhitarian - E. L'Ami (Click here to view the game analysis in Chessbase viewer)
This meant we ended up playing the last round with no high stakes. Nevertheless, we rolled over Paraguay with a convincing 4-0. Even Loek, who was struggling with his form, managed to play a good game from the beginning till the end. Myself, in order to stay in the race for the individual medal, I had to win with Black against Axel Bachmann, who recently had a very good period, pumping up his rating up to 2640. In hindsight it was good choice of opening.
Game Analysis: A. Bachmann - A. Giri (Click here to view the game analysis in Chessbase viewer)
Eventually it was good end of the tournament, although the 12th place for our team was a clear disappointment, especially considering our high expectations after a good start. Myself I managed to get the bronze medal on the 1st board finishing behind Topalov and Adams, who both showed incredible results.
The winners in the men section were the Chinese, who no doubt played the best chess throughout the whole tournament. The silver was taken by Hungary, the solid team headed by Peter Leko. In fact during the event there has been a rumour which unfortunately turned out to be true- the legendary Judit Polgar has announced her retirement after the Olympiad! The bronze was taken by the young team of Indians, who kept fighting till the end and rose from the ashes right onto the podium.
In the women section the winner was once again Russia who managed to beat the Chinese, who took the silver and the bronze went to Ukraine.
Congrats to all the winners, now it's time to recover and get some energy for future events! For me that will be the Spanish Team Championship in Linares followed by European Club Cup in Bilbao!
Official Website Olympiad 2014