Chennai R7: Armenia draws the US in dramatic match, keeps the lead

by André Schulz
8/6/2022 – Armenia defended its lead in the open section of the Chess Olympiad after drawing the favourites from the United States in round 7. The match was incredibly eventful, with Wesley So playing a brilliant sacrifice, Gabriel Sargissian upsetting Fabiano Caruana, and Sam Shankland losing after mistakenly touching his king. In the women’s section, India beat Azerbaijan to remain in the sole lead with a perfect score. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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A wild match

After six rounds, the participants at the 44th Chess Olympiad in Chennai were granted a rest day. On Friday, the tournament continued with the seventh of a total of eleven rounds.

Before the break, the Armenian team — without its former top player, Levon Aronian, who has transferred to the US federation — had defeated the in-form, youthful second team presented by India, and was thus the only team left with a perfect score. In sole second place was the United States, the heavy favourites to get the gold medal with their 2771 rating average.

The US had not really convinced in previous rounds, though. Paraguay, Israel and Iran were each beaten only by the smallest of margins, while Uzbekistan, led by an inspired Nodirbek Abdusattorov, had in fact managed to draw the Americans.

Thus, the top match in round 7 was Armenia against the US. Levon Aronian decided not to play against his compatriots and former colleagues.

Facing Wesley So, Hrant Melkumyan missed a decisive blow in what was actually a decent position, giving the USA an early lead. The refutation, which So found in a bit over a minute, was brilliant. It involved a magnificent tactical sequence of forcing checks.

 

Armenia’s top board Gabriel Sargissian levelled the score by beating none other than Fabiano Caruana. Peter Svidler, an 8-time Russian champion who is commentating for chess24, thus described Sargissian:

An absolute legend in team competitions!

Sam Shankland, Leinier Dominguez

Leinier Dominguez taking a look at Sam Shankland’s game | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Leinier Dominguez recovered team USA’s lead by beating Samvel Ter-Sahakyan. The Cuban-born grandmaster has been impressive in Chennai, scoring four wins and two draws for a 5/6 score despite having played four times with the black pieces.

Given these results, the outcome hinged on the game between Robert Hovhanissyan and Sam Shankland, which took a dramatic course. Hovhannissyan got an advantage early on; as the game progressed, Shankland managed to equalize; and finally, when the engines were showing a 0.00 evaluation, the American touched his king after anticipating his rival would give a check on the first rank.

Since Hovhanissyan had not actually given the check, Shankland realized he had no choice but to resign the game. The one legal king move would have lost on the spot! Final score: 2-2.

 

Black played 90...Qg2, but apparently Shankland anticipated 90...Qh1. The former US champion touched his king, when the only legal move would be 91.Kc1, which immediately loses to 91...Qb2+. The American could not believe what had just happened.

Armenia v United States

 

Select an entry from the list to switch between games

Five teams join the chasing group

The three Indias

All three Indian teams in the open were among the squads that entered the round with 10 points (1 point less than the US). India 2, with Gukesh on top board, had the best tiebreak store and was paired up against Cuba, while the other two Indian teams had to face each other. The Indian derby went to India 1, with an unchallenged 3-1. India 2 won clearly against Cuba by a 3½-½ score.

In the all-Indian match, Arjun Erigaisi defeated Abhijeet Gupta when the latter incorrectly liquidated into a queen ending.

 

31...Qb8 or 31...Re7 would have been better for Black. 31...Rxe5 proved to be fatal, since there followed 32.Qxe5 and now 32...d4 does not help Black to promote a queen as the white king is in time to prevent it.

Dommaraju Gukesh

On fire — India 2’s top board Dommaraju Gukesh | Photo: Lennart Ootes

India 1 v India 3 / India 2 v France

 

France draws, Germany wins

France is competing in Chennai with something resembling a B team — without Alireza Firouzja, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Etienne Bacrot nor Christian Bauer — but the team is still doing well. The Frenchmen solved all the easy tasks in the first three rounds with aplomb. Then they drew India and Poland before getting a narrow victory against Switzerland.

In round 7, France faced the Netherlands, who had lost in round 4 against Israel. Maxime Lagarde scored for France, while Benjamin Bok equalized for the Dutch squad.

Chess Olympiad Chennai 2022

The playing hall | Photo: Mark Livshitz

On board 4, the German team met Serbia. The Germans, ninth on the starting rank, had already suffered a defeat in round three, against Austria. Before the rest day, they scored a  somewhat lucky victory against Italy. Against Serbia, they had a rating edge on all boards.

Matthias Bluebaum and Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu drew. Dmitrij Kollars was on the winning side with an extra pawn in a queen plus minor piece endgame, while Vincent Keymer had an extra queen against Aleksandar Indjic, but the lady was only good enough to fight for a draw in the endgame, as she was facing a strong bishop pair and passed pawns.

Kollars won his game and Keymer held the draw, giving Germany a 2½-1½ victory.

Vincent Keymar, Matthias Bluebaum

Vincent Keymer and Matthias Bluebaum | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan also joined the chasing group, as they obtained wins over Peru and Spain respectively. Although Kazakhstan’s 2½-1½ victory over the Spaniard is considered to be an upset rating-wise, the result is not that surprising given how well the Kazakh squad has been playing throughout the event.

All games from matches mentioned in this section

 

India’s women keep on winning

The host country is also represented by three teams in the Women’s Olympiad. India 1 is the rating favourite since Russia and China are not competing. After six rounds, the Indians led the field with six wins, followed by Azerbaijan and Romania, both only one point behind.

In the top match against Azerbaijan, the Indian women had to deal with their first individual loss in the whole tournament, as Humpy Koneru let go of a big advantage against Gunay Mammadzada and ended up losing the game. However, Vaishali and Tania Shachdev won their games to give India a valuable 2½-1½ victory.

 

A rook ending with 3 v 4 pawns on the same side is a draw. However, the defender must play correctly to save the point. 64.Rg8 is the correct way to defend here, but White blundered with 64.Re8. Vaishali seized her opportunity by playing 64...f5 65.Rg8 Kh3, and it was all over for White, since Black could safely invade with the king.

Humpy Koneru, Harika Dronavalli

Humpy Koneru and an 8-month pregnant Harika Dronavalli | Photo: Stev Bonhage

India v Azerbaijan / Georgia v Romania / Ukraine v Netherlands

 

Round 8 pairings - Open

Team Team Pts. MP Res. : Res. MP Pts. Team Team
ARM Armenia 19½ 13   :   12 20 India *) IND
USA United States of America 18 12   :   12 22½ India 2 IND
GER Germany 19 12   :   12 23 Uzbekistan UZB
KAZ Kazakhstan 20 12   :   11 19½ Azerbaijan AZE
NED Netherlands 20½ 11   :   11 20 Hungary HUN
IRI Iran 19½ 11   :   11 20 France FRA
UKR Ukraine 19½ 10   :   11 19 Brazil BRA
IND3 India 3 18 10   :   10 16 Peru PER
LTU Lithuania 17½ 10   :   10 19 Croatia CRO
SLO Slovenia 18½ 10   :   10 20½ Czech Republic CZE
CHI Chile 18½ 10   :   10 19 Romania ROU
CAN Canada 17½ 10   :   10 20 Turkey TUR
SRB Serbia 17 10   :   10 17½ Iceland ISL
PHI Philippines 18 10   :   10 19½ Greece GRE
MDA Moldova 18½ 10   :   10 19½ Italy ITA

...96 boards

Round 8 pairings - Women

Team Team Pts. MP Res. : Res. MP Pts. Team Team
IND India *) 21 14   :   12 21 Ukraine UKR
GEO Georgia 18½ 12   :   12 22½ Armenia ARM
IND3 India 3 18½ 11   :   11 21½ Poland POL
ROU Romania 18 11   :   11 20 Azerbaijan AZE
KAZ Kazakhstan 18½ 11   :   11 17 Slovakia SVK
BUL Bulgaria 20½ 11   :   11 20½ Greece GRE
MGL Mongolia 20 11   :   10 18½ Hungary HUN
USA United States of America 20 10   :   10 17½ Czech Republic CZE
VIE Vietnam 17½ 10   :   10 19 Germany GER
ESP Spain 21 10   :   10 18½ Italy ITA
NED Netherlands 17 10   :   10 19½ Peru PER
SRB Serbia 17 10   :   10 21 Indonesia INA
SWE Sweden 19½ 10   :   10 18½ Israel ISR
IRI Iran 19 10   :   10 17½ England ENG
CRO Croatia 16½ 10   :   9 17½ India 2 IND2

...78 boards

*) This team is assigned to a fixed board.



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André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.
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