After five rounds, Ukraine in Spain has been anything but plain. After three rounds they hadn't given up a single draw. Board one Ivanchuk had four wins from four games. Then they beat top seed and arch-rival Russia thanks to Ivanchuk's spectacular win over Morozevich with black. With a fifth-round draw against #3 seed Israel behind them, it looks like the Spanish sun is shining on the sons of Kiev.
There's no way to know if their fine weather will continue for another nine rounds. That's a lot of chess to play and the Russians haven't missed the gold since the USSR finished behind Hungary back in 1978. The last USSR teams had Ukrainians, Belorussians, and Estonians, so giving Russia the Soviet streak is a little dubious.
Along with tradition, the current Russian squad has a 40 Elo point advantage over the Ukrainians. Old Mister Elo has a nasty way of raining on underdog parades. Not only that, but they've been playing without second board Peter Svidler, who has been off in Brissago helping Vladimir Kramnik defend his title. He should be back any day now, hardly good news for the other teams in Calvià.
The organization and food have received very positive reviews from the players. The only real complaint we've heard is how cramped the playing conditions are, as the photo below shows. The chief arbiter has had to forcibly eject players after they finish their games, so they can't watch their teammates in action.
Packed in like Spanish olives. Photo by Paul Truong
Comebacks in the Olympiad are unpredictable because the scoring is based on board points, not match points. The results pages at the official site are a little confusing because their software is designed for the more common match scoring system, with board points as a tiebreaker. In the Olympiad you can narrowly lose several matches and still finish ahead of an undefeated team if you score big against other teams. So Russia's loss to Ukraine by one point can be easily made up if they crush, say, Cuba in round 11.
Standings after round 5
1 Ukraine 16.5
Full standings below
1 China 14.0
The Azerbaijan junior team is the early surprise, if you can call it that. 17-year-old Teimour Radjabov leads a squad that looks more likely to be staying up all night playing Nintendo than preparing for a match on the top boards. Youthful exuberance is not to be underestimated in an event with only one rest day.
At the other end of the age spectrum we have the US team, with only one player under 30. Put it this way, when that Soviet team finished in second place back in 1978, none of the Azerbaijani players had been born yet. Current American reserve Boris Gulko was playing board four for the Soviets!
Onischuk, Shabalov, and Goldin of Team America. Paul Truong
France is staying in the hunt despite missing their top two players, Lautier and Bacrot. Lautier is en route from Switzerland, where he was directing the Kramnik-Leko match. He'll pop in to take over board one duties. Bacrot would be top board but is not participating. Another Brissago refugee, Spain's Miguel Illescas, was working in his role as Kramnik's second and is on his way to Calvià hold down board three. Ivan Sokolov and Nigel Short, the board twos of Netherlands and England, are playing in the Hoogeveen tournament for a few more days. Bulgaria is doing well despite missing their number one, Veselin Topalov.
Russia vs Ukraine. Morozevich (center) had his pieces adjusted by Ivanchuk. Paul Truong
Over on the ladies' side of the aisle the favorites are also doing well. Top-seeded China stepped out to a big lead with a 3-0 whitewash of England in round five while Ukraine and Russia battled to a draw. China has yet to lose a game, giving up just two draws out of 15 games. Xie Jun is showing little rust and has a perfect 3/3 score.
Third seeded USA hasn't been able to break out of the pack. Susan Polgar's return to international play is off to a slow start. She won her first game and has drawn the four after that. Newcomer Anna Zatonskih has picked up the slack, scoring 4.5/5. The Georgian powerhouse is also running in low gear, although legend Maia Chiburdanidze and new star Nana Dzagnidze are in fine form on the top boards.
Polgar drew with Kosteniuk in US-Russia. Paul Truong
Vishy Anand has scored 2/3 for India. Here he faces the USA's Onischuk. Vijay Kumar
Hey, we can play here! Israel in the house: Gelfand, Sutovsky, Smirin. Paul Truong
The only presence of the USSR in Calvià. Sebag and Skripchenko of France. Paul Truong
The top-ranked player in Calvià with the Spanish press. Paul Truong
Two former women's world champs: Chiburdanidze and Polgar. Kumar and Truong
Former women's champ Xie Jun of China and Alexandra Kosteniuk. Vijay Kumar
Alisa Maric of Serbia and Montenegro and Kateryna Lahno of Ukraine. Vijay Kumar
Young Volokitin drew former FIDE champ Khalifman in the Ukraine-Russia battle. Paul Truong
Along with all the point counting and player watching, they are playing some chess in Calvià. With so many hundreds of games it takes us all night to sort through and find the highlights for you. Here are a few of the most important and/or most entertaining ones from the first rounds.
Morozevich-Korchnoi, after 12...c6
The mighty Victor is leading the Swiss team but had a short day at the office here. White to play and win...
Poor Korchnoi sat at the board for 20 minutes contemplating this disaster. We doubt anyone was crazy enough to try and talk to him for the rest of the day.
Kozul-Adams, after 26.Re1
White is hoping to escape just a pawn down after 26...Qxe3 27.Nxe3, hitting the Black rook on c4. Adams has a better idea thanks to White's weak back rank.
26...Bxd5! 27.Qxe8+ Qxe8 28.Rxe8+ Kh7. The threat of mate with ..Rc1+ wins the Bf6. Adams smoothly won with his two pieces for a rook after 29.h3 gxf6.
Ivanchuk-Navara, after 20.Qxc3
The young Czech played an enterprising rook sacrifice and expected to get some compensation with the ..Qa1+ threat after 20.Qf2 d5 and ..f3.
Ivanchuk throws a spanner (monkey wrench to some of you) into the works taking a bishop for the rook and exposing the black king.
21.Rxg7! Kxg7 22.Rxe4 f3 23.Qe3 Qxe3 24.Rxe3 Black
is without counterplay and resigned on move 29.
Morozevich-Ivanchuk, after 13...fxe3
When creative geniuses like Moro and Chukky meet up you always expect some wild excitement. This time they didn't let us down, unless you're one of Morozevich's many fans.
Here the Russian played a move Tal would be proud of. At the very least it's hard to imagine many other players considering 14.Nc3!?!, leaving the Nf5 to its fate. Of course Ivanchuk wasn't going to let White control the chaos after 14...exf5 15.Nxd5 Nxe5 16.Rxf5. Instead both players ignored the knight for a while.
14...Rg8+ 15.Kh1 Qg5 16.Bf3 Nxe5 17.Qe2 Qxf5 18.Bxd5 Qh3.
After further insanity it looked like Moro passed up or
missed several chances for a perpetual check, only to fall into a mating
attack. Don't miss the full game on the replay page.
Boris Gelfand played a fantastic speculative sacrifice to drag the black king up the board.
16.Nxf7! [16.Bxd5 Be6] 16...Kxf7 [Giving up the queen with 16...Nxf4 was a depressing option.] 17.Bxd5+ Kg6 The only move. [17...Kf8?? 18.Qh5; 17...Be6?? 18.Qh5+]
18.Re5 Bf5? [18...h6 Better defense. 19.Qh5+ ( 19.Qc2+ Kf6 20.Bxc4) 19...Kh7± 20.Bf7 Ra6]
19.Rxf5!+- Kxf5 20.Qh5+ Bg5 [20...g5 21.Qxh7+ Kf6 ( 21...Kg4 22.f3#) 22.Qf7#] 21.Qxh7+ Kf6
[21...g6 22.Qh3+ Kf6 23.Bxg5+ Ke5 24.Bxd8 Kxd5+-]
22.Bxg5+ Kxg5 23.Bf7 [23.f4+ This leads to mate, but only Fritz can be 100% sure! Gelfand's move forces resignation quickly. 23...Kf6 24.Qh4+ Kf5 25.Qh5+ g5 26.Qh7+ Kg4 27.h3+ Kxg3 28.Qf5 Re1+ 29.Rxe1 Qd7 30.Qxg5+ Kxh3 31.Re3#]
23...Qd6 24.Qxg7+ Kf5 25.Bxe8 1-0 [25.Bxe8 Rxe8
26.Qf7+ Kg5 27.Qxe8+-]
Standings after round 5
1 Ukraine 16.5
11 Slovakia 13.5
1 China 14.0
13 England 9.5