Batumi Olympiad Round 1: Li Chao is the biggest casualty

by Sagar Shah
9/25/2018 – The first round of the Batumi Olympiad 2018 saw no upsets in the form of match score, but there were individual upsets where a Moroccan player was able to beat 2700+ Chinese GM Li Chao. Vassily Ivanchuk could not win his game and Sophie Milliet lost to a 1900 opponent. We bring you all the pictures from the venue as well as videos that give you the flavour of the environment. The tournament is just warming up with ten more rounds to go, but there is already so much going on! That's what Olympiads are all about, too many things happening at the same time!

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Top teams win their first round games

His legs were shaking under the table, he was clasping his hands. Mohamed-Mehdi Aithmidou had a winning position against the 2708 rated Chinese GM Li Chao. Mehdi himself is rated 2244. It was the first time he was playing a 2700 rated opponent. It was interesting to see this game as the Chinese player knew that he was losing, yet he had some final tricks up his sleeve. On the other hand, Mehdi looked very nervous from the outside, but deep within (as he confirmed after the game) he was calculating lines and making sure that none of the variations which he was calculating would end in a draw! The player from Morocco kept his cool and scored the biggest upset of round one by beating Li.


It was very surprising to see that Li Chao (black) did not take the pawn on b2 here which would have given him a clear advantage.


The most straightforward way to get the job done is to play Rxg7 and then start pushing your pawns down the board. But Mehdi was not able to find that. He gave a check on f7 and as the analysis of Surya Ganguly points out, Black can now make a draw after ...Ke5! which was played by Li Chao.


Instead of taking on d6, which is what Li did in the game, it was important to first give a check on a2, push the king to the last rank and then take the knight on d6. It is easy to miss such small finesses which affect the result in a big way.


Mehdi played his rook to c7, which leads to a draw. Instead, he should have played Rc8! and he is able to win the game. What is the difference between the two moves? Ganguly explains in his annotations below.


After the game we were able to get hold of Mohamed-Mehdi Aithmidou who spoke to us about his victory and the secret behind it!

The start of the first round at the Olympiad is always chaotic. No ones know how exactly to enter the tournament hall. The organizers have to maintain the high level of security and at the end of the day people have to wait and the round gets delayed. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The young Iranian team of Parham Maghsoodloo (right), Alireza Firouzja (centre) and Masoud Mosadeghpour feeling the heat while waiting outside the tournament hall | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The team that was worst affected by this security check was top seeds, USA. They came seven minutes late to the game because they weren't allowed inside the playing hall. 15 minutes was the walkover time and everyone was on the edge of their seats whether USA would lose by forfeit. Once they were on the board, they were simply ruthless.

The American stare! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Hikaru played an excellent game from the black side of the Nimzo-Indian which has been annotated by GM Surya Sekhar Ganguly. 


It is clear that White has overextended, but how to take advantage of the same? Hikaru found the chink in White's armour and struck out with the powerful move b5! After this it was clear that Black was just winning as not only c4 is hanging but also Qa5+ is very powerful in many lines.


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A lot of reporters had gathered near the Georgian board. What exactly was happening? | Photo: Amruta Mokal

It was simply fantastic that the President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili​ graced the event with his presence and made the opening move on top Georgian player Baadur Jobava's board | Photo: David Llada

Zurab Azmaiparashvili with the captains of two of the strongest teams at the Olympiad: John Donaldson from USA and Andrey Filatov from Russia | Photo: David Llada

Everyone was left in awe of the opening ceremony that took place at the Black Sea Arena on the 23rd of September. We spoke to Zurab Azmaiparashvili to know more about the efforts that went into making a show of such grand scale possible.

Azerbaijan has one of the strongest teams in the event. With Mamedyarov on board one, Radjabov on two followed by Naiditsch, Mamedov and Safarli, they are an extremely strong force to watch out for. They are the fourth seeds in the tournament. In the first round, they played against the team of IPCA (physically disabled). Although Azerbaijan won the match with a score of 3½-½, there was one moment in the match which surely bears mentioning.

Teimour Radjabov on board one essayed his favourite King's Indian setup against Yarmonov's London System | Photo: Amruta Mokal


White could have continued normally. But here Yarmonov judged accurately that the inclusion of moves h4 and h5 (from Black) were in his favour. And hence he went for the move h4! As allowing h4-h5 was too risky, Teimour himself played ...h5. But now White could always play f3-g4 to rip open Black's king position. 

White was much better in the game, but Radjabov was alert and claimed a three-fold repetition.

Radjabov claims a three-fold repetition | Photo: Amruta Mokal

For IPCA World Champion Igor Yarmonov and his wife, this was a dream come true! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Now that's true love! | Photo: Amruta Mokal


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Interview with Zambia board number one after he drew against GM Vassily Ivanchuk

Andrew Kayonde is an inspiring chess personality. He is not only an IM and the Zambian Champion, but he is also an accountant and practices chess every day in his busy schedule to move towards his aim of becoming a grandmaster.

In the first round of the World Chess Olympiad 2018, he managed to draw his game against none other than Vassily Ivanchuk. There are many 2700+ players in the world, but Ivanchuk comes under a completely different pedigree. We ask Andrew about the game, how he managed to draw and at the same time, we also talk to him about chess in Zambia and how he plans to take his game to the next level — the GM level.

Interview with David Navara about his first-round game at the Batumi Olympiad 2018 | Photo: Biel Chess Festival

David Navara is one of the nicest guys in the world of chess. He is well known for his excellent calculating abilities and imagination in chess. He is the top Czech player and has been in the 2730 Elo range for quite some time now. We talk to him about his first round and also about what should he be doing to reach 2800. David also tells us the difference that exists between his playing strength and Magnus Carlsen's strength.

Results of round 1 (Open)

Team Team Pts. MP Res. : Res. MP Pts. Team Team
USA United States of America 0 0 4 : 0 0 0 Panama PAN
UGA Uganda 0 0 0 : 4 0 0 Russia RUS
CHN China 0 0 3 : 1 0 0 Morocco MAR
IND India 0 0 : ½ 0 0 El Salvador ESA
ZAM Zambia 0 0 ½ : 0 0 Ukraine UKR
FRA France 0 0 4 : 0 0 0 Yemen YEM
JPN Japan 0 0 ½ : 0 0 Armenia ARM
ENG England 0 0 3 : 1 0 0 Angola ANG
BOL Bolivia 0 0 0 : 4 0 0 Israel ISR
POL Poland 0 0 4 : 0 0 0 Guatemala GUA

Complete results

Results of round 1 (Women)

Team Team Pts. MP Res. : Res. MP Pts. Team Team
CRC Costa Rica 0 0 ½ : 0 0 Russia RUS
UKR Ukraine 0 0 4 : 0 0 0 Monaco MNC
TJK Tajikistan 0 0 ½ : 0 0 China CHN
GEO1 Georgia 1 0 0 3 : 1 0 0 South Korea KOR
NZL New Zealand 0 0 0 : 4 0 0 India IND
FRA France 0 0 3 : 1 0 0 Albania ALB
GUA Guatemala 0 0 1 : 3 0 0 Poland POL
KAZ Kazakhstan 0 0 : ½ 0 0 Singapore SGP
USA United States of America 0 0 3 : 1 0 0 Uruguay URU
JOR Jordan 0 0 0 : 4 0 0 Azerbaijan AZE

Complete results

A few of the upsets that took place in the women's section were Maria Elena Rodriguez Arrieta drew against Russian board number one Aleksandra Goryachkina. Roza Eynula (2030) of South Korea was able to beat Lela Javakhishvili. Rozana Gjergji beat Sophie Milliet in a queen versus rook endgame. This was very nice to see that a 1900+ player could play this endgame with precision.


Sergey Karjakin has lost quite a bit of weight. When asked about it, he said, "It's not just about exercise, it is about what I eat!" | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Diversity abounds at the Olympiad | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Nona Gaprindashvili (right) won the World Championship title at the age of 20. She held it for a period of 17 years, then came Maia Chiburdanidze who beat her and stayed World Champion for 12 years! That picture has 29 years of World Champions in it. Can you give an apt caption to it? | Photo: Amruta Mokal

At the Expo Centre, at his stall, Arkadij Dvorkovich was having a great time playing against these two legends! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

People from Khanty Mansiysk are already here to invite you for the Olympiad in 2020 | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Nigel Short would be missing playing for England, but he is not complaining! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

In absence of Magnus Carlsen and Jon Ludvig Hammer, the onus is on Aryan Tari to hold the fort for Norway on board one | Photo: Amruta Mokal

German board number one: IM Elisabeth Paehtz | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Susan Polgar and Paul Truong — a power couple in the world of chess! | Photo: Niklesh Jain

The Olympiad chess expo is an exciting place for chess lovers all over the world. You have different shops and outlets selling innumerable chess ideas and products. Have a look at this video and soak in the atmosphere of the Batumi Chess Expo.

The huge first playing hall that has two rows of men's teams and two rows of women's teams | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Round 2 pairings (Open)

Team Team Pts. MP Res. : Res. MP Pts. Team Team
GEO3 Georgia 3 4 2   :   2 4 United States of America USA
RUS Russia 4 2   :   2 4 Ireland IRL
URU Uruguay 4 2   :   2 4 France FRA
ISR Israel 4 2   :   2 4 Costa Rica CRC
INA Indonesia 4 2   :   2 4 Poland POL
SCO Scotland 4 2   :   2 4 Netherlands NED
TJK Tajikistan 4 2   :   2 4 Czech Republic CZE
GER Germany 4 2   :   2 4 Myanmar MYA
CRO Croatia 4 2   :   2 4 Monaco MNC
JOR Jordan 4 2   :   2 4 Peru PER

Complete list

Round 2 pairings Women)

Team Team Pts. MP Res. : Res. MP Pts. Team Team
TKM Turkmenistan 4 2   :   2 4 Ukraine UKR
IND India 4 2   :   2 4 Venezuela VEN
GER Germany 4 2   :   2 4 Georgia 3 GEO3
AZE Azerbaijan 4 2   :   2 4 Belgium BEL
HUN Hungary 4 2   :   2 4 FYROM MKD
SWE Sweden 4 2   :   2 4 Georgia 2 GEO2
ESP Spain 4 2   :   2 4 Bangladesh BAN
ISL Iceland 4 2   :   2 4 Netherlands NED
MGL Mongolia 4 2   :   2 4 Bosnia & Herzegovina BIH
VIE Vietnam 4 2   :   2 4 ICCD ICCD

Complete list

Two of the games in this report have been annotated by GM Surya Sekhar Ganguly. He is six-time National Champion for India, Asian Champion and has been Anand's second in numerous World Championship matches.


Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder and CEO of ChessBase India, the biggest chess news portal in the country. His YouTube channel has over a million subscribers, and to date close to a billion views. ChessBase India is the sole distributor of ChessBase products in India and seven adjoining countries, where the software is available at a 60% discount. compared to International prices.


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