Chennai R2: Zambia and Bulgaria score upsets

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
7/31/2022 – Most games favoured the favourites in round 2 of the Chess Olympiad, with a few exceptions. In the open section, Zambia and Bulgaria upset Denmark and Croatia respectively, while among the women, Ecuador got the better of Slovenia. World champion Magnus Carlsen made his debut, and outplayed Georg Meier in a balanced endgame to help Norway get a 4-0 win over Uruguay. | Pictured: Mohamed Emli Ramla (Dijibouti) | Photo: Mark Livshitz

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Carlsen joins the fray in style

A second round of, still, mostly lopsided matches was played on Saturday in Chennai. However, some of the teams already fielded their top players after allowing them to rest on opening day. Notably, Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana — who celebrated his 30th birthday — made their debuts for the Norwegian and US teams respectively.

While Caruana used a pragmatic approach, signing a safe draw with white against Paraguay’s Axel Bachmann, Carlsen worked extra hard until getting an on-brand victory over Uruguay’s Georg Meier. The world champion thus helped Norway score a 4-0 win over the South American squad now reinforced by the recently transferred Meier.

In the game, Carlsen gained a pawn just before entering a queen endgame. Engines showed zeros for quite a while, but commentators suspected the world champion was not going to stop trying, and that it was likely he would eventually succeed.

And they were right: it was a typical Carlsen endgame grind. As GM Karsten Müller shows in his analysis below, even when White gained a second extra pawn and had connected passers on the kingside, the 6-men tablebases evaluate the position as drawn. But precise defence is needed to keep the balance.


Chess Olympiad Chennai 2022

Norway vs Uruguay | Photo: Stev Bonhage

Upsets by Zambia and Bulgaria

To describe Bulgaria as an underdog does not sound quite right. However, this time around, the European country has not sent its highest-rated players to the Olympiad. According to the July official FIDE ratings list, Bulgaria’s number 10 is representing the country on top board, while an untitled 2272-rated player is fourth in the lineup.

The relatively low ratings did not prevent them from taking down the 15th seeds from Croatia by a convincing 3½-½ score. On board 3, Tsvetan Stoyanov (rated 2450) tactically outplayed Ante Brkic (2611) from the white side of a Sicilian.


31...Rf8 was a blunder, since it allowed 32.Rg5, as after 32...Rxf4 White has 33.Qe8+ Bf8 34.Qxe5, grabbing the initiative while keeping his extra exchange.

Chess Olympiad Chennai 2022

The playing hall | Photo: Madelene Belinki

Bulgaria is, notwithstanding, a traditional chess country. Zambia’s upset was, therefore, perhaps more surprising. The squad from the landlocked South-African nation defeated Denmark despite having a 200+ rating deficit on all four boards.

Olimpiu Di Luppi described it best.

Draws were seen on boards 1-3 while Nase Lungu (2216) scored the all-important victory, over Martin Haubro (2411), on the fourth board.


Black’s 31...Rd6 was not a great idea. Lungu quickly replied with 32.g5, and after a series of exchanges in the centre, the knight had a marvellous outpost on f6 to wreak havoc on Black’s camp. Haubro was checkmated seven moves later.

Zambia, Chess Olympiad

The women’s squad from Zambia | Photo: David Llada

More evenly matched encounters will be seen in round 3, with the favourites from the United States paired up against Georgia and the second seeds from India set to face Greece.

Find Sunday’s top pairings and more technical information at the end of this article.

Bulgaria vs Croatia and Zambia vs Denmark


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Ecuador’s women beat Slovenia

A larger number of upsets on individual boards were seen in the women’s section. However, the favourites mostly managed to win the matches against their lower-rated opponents. 

The one major surprise was seen on board 26, where Ecuador defeated the 26th seeds from Slovenia. Wins on boards 2 and 3 were enough for the South Americans to get their second consecutive victory, plus the right to face the 19th seeds from Israel in round 3.

On board 3, Slovenia’s Teja Vidic (2099), playing black, would have kept the game balanced against Josselyne Peñafiel (1804) had she swapped queens at the right time.


Although 56...Rg2+ is by no means losing, 56...Qxc4 was a better alternative for Black. After 57.Kd3 Qxc4+ 58.Rxc4 White had better prospects in the ensuing endgame. Peñafiel showed good technique until getting a 72-move victory.

Carla Heredia

Ecuador’s Carla Heredia | Photo: Lennart Ootes

In round 3 of the women’s tournament, the favourites from India will face England, while the second seeds from Ukraine will be paired against Slovakia.

Ecuador vs Slovenia


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Round 3 pairings - Open

Team Team Pts. MP Res. : Res. MP Pts. Team Team
IND India *) 4   :   4 Greece GRE
GEO Georgia 8 4   :   4 6 United States USA
ITA Italy 4   :   4 Norway NOR
ESP Spain 4   :   4 Brazil BRA
AUS Australia 4   :   4 7 Poland POL
AZE Azerbaijan 7 4   :   4 8 Argentina ARG
SWE Sweden 6 4   :   4 Netherlands NED
UKR Ukraine 8 4   :   4 8 Cuba CUB
AUT Austria 7 4   :   4 7 Germany GER
ENG England 7 4   :   4 Lithuania LTU
SUI Switzerland 7 4   :   4 8 India 2 IND
ARM Armenia 7 4   :   4 6 Egypt EGY
MNE Montenegro 8 4   :   4 Iran IRI
UZB Uzbekistan 8 4   :   4 Slovenia SLO
CHI Chile 4   :   4 France FRA

...96 boards

Round 3 pairings - Women

Team Team Pts. MP Res. : Res. MP Pts. Team Team
ENG England 7 4   :   4 India *) IND
UKR Ukraine 7 4   :   4 Slovakia SVK
CZE Czech Republic 6 4   :   4 Georgia GEO
POL Poland 4   :   4 6 Vietnam VIE
ITA Italy 4   :   4 8 France FRA
AZE Azerbaijan 8 4   :   4 7 Greece GRE
MGL Mongolia 8 4   :   4 7 United States USA
GER Germany 7 4   :   4 7 Switzerland SUI
EST Estonia 7 4   :   4 8 Armenia ARM
KAZ Kazakhstan 7 4   :   4 8 Peru PER
INA Indonesia 8 4   :   4 India 2 IND2
HUN Hungary 4   :   4 8 Colombia COL
SWE Sweden 8 4   :   4 8 Spain ESP
CUB Cuba 4   :   4 7 Australia AUS
BRA Brazil 8 4   :   4 Bulgaria BUL

...78 boards

*) This team is assigned to a fixed board.


Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.