India wins U16 Olympiad in Gyor

by Mihail Marin
12/23/2014 – The U16 Olympiad finished with drama. Before the last round the Iranians led the field and winning against Hungary would have given them gold. But they lost and finished third. Now India secured gold by beating Turkey convincingly. Russia won against Ukraine to take silver. Mihail Marin sends a final report with pictures and an interview with Judit Polgar.

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India's last round triumph

After eight rounds it looked as if many teams could hope for getting a medal, and even the fight for the first place remained open. Iran and India were sharing the lead with 14 points, trailed by Russia with 13 points, Romania with 12 points and four other teams with 11 points.

The picture changed abruptly after the ninth round. India and Russia defeated Romania and Germany with 2,5-1,5 while Iran disposed of Poland 1 with the severe 3,5-0,5. These results maintained the situation of the first three teams, but created a gap of three points between third placed Russia and the rest of the field. In other words, the medals were reserved already for these three teams, but only the tenth and last round was to decide their final distribution.

We had the cups, we knew the teams, but did not know yet how they would shuffle.
In the background there are packs with chess video DVDs, offered by Chessbase to the medallists.

On paper Iran was the favourite. They had not only shown fantastic form over the previous two rounds (7,5 points out of the 8 possible) but also had a crushing advantage (five points) in the game points classification, which was going to be used as a tie-break.

The only thing Iran needed for winning the Olympiad was a match victory by the smallest margin 2,5-1,5 against Hungary 1. But for the experienced Iranian captain, IM Sheykh Harandi, who had accompanied the youth team on six previous occasions, this was a déjà vu. "The match is not going too well", Harandi confessed to me after a few hours, "it may happen like two years ago in Istanbul when we entered the last round as leaders but dropped on the second place."

A puzzling picture of Ahmad Asgarizadeh in the beginning of the round.
Was he immersed in deep concentration or assaulted by presentiments?

Iran lost by 2,5 - 1,5 and finished on the third place since India and Russia won against Turkey and Ukraine, respectively.

The Iranian team

The Iranian players had a great tournament. They all won rating points and three of them got individual board medals. There is no shadow of sorrow nor regret on their faces. Harandi took this relative disappointment philosophically: "Maybe it is better this way. Had we won the Olympiad. the expectation in our country would have been raised up and in the future any other medal would have been considered a failure."

After a hesitating tournament "middlegame" Hungary provoked the tournament's biggest upset. Their last round win over the leaders allowed them finishing in the immediate neighbourhoodof the podium, on a honourable fourth place.

The Hungarian prodigies, captained by Olympic medallist Jozsef Pinter and flanked by two rook pawns.

Aleksandra Goryachkina

Russia had two solid players on the top boards (David Paravyan and Aleksandra Goryachkina) and two punchers on the third and the fourth (Maxim Vavulin and Aleksey Saruna). But in the seventh round Goryachkina forgot about safety and carried out such a spectacular sacrificial attack that the jury awarded it with a beauty prize even if the game was not specifically submitted to the contest. And what a bright smile she gave us!

Wissen ist Matt!

Russia's board four Aleksey Sarana obtained the highest rating performance of the whole tournament - 2685. Quite logically so, since even on the podium he cannot keep his eyes and hands away from the Chessbase DVDs!

India owes this success mainly to the two mega-scorers on the second and third board,
Murali Karthikeyan (8/10) and Arvindh Chithambaram (8/9).
In the background - the Indian girl Monnisha who only played three games.

Over the past 3 decades I had the occasion to play with several Indian prodigies, starting with a boy named Anand and including the actual captain of the under 16 team Grandmaster Ramesh Ramachandran. Always interested in the Indian chess phenomena, I was glad to take the first interview of the newly crowned champions:

Apart from the team awards, there were medals for the players with the best rating performance on each board.

Aleksandra Goryachkina of Russia stayed one step away from the second board's podium, but won the gold medal for girls.

The podium was not the only area of high ambitions, which can be inferred from the high percentage of last round decisive games.

Match number five opposed Romania to Canada, another team captained by a Romanian - Grandmaster Gergely Szabo. Both teams did the best to improve their position in the classification but all the games eventually ended in draws. This result yielded Canada an honourable 5th place, while the Romanians had to content themselves with the 8th place due to an inferior tie-break.

Judit Polgar's retirement after the Tromso Olympiad left millions of chess fans nostalgic for what can be safely considered a whole era. But Judit's love for the chess World has remained unchanged. On the day of round eight she visited the tournament, handed in the brilliancy awards and played the first move on the top board of the top match.

"Now that I retired I can afford playing 1.d4!"

Judit was accompanied by two other Hungarian Olympic glories. The three of them are part of the narrow circle suggestively named The Immortals and limited to 21 members.

Dr. Tamas Farago (l.), Water Polo Olympic Champion in Montreal 1976 and Dr. Csaba Hegedus, Wrestling Olympic Champion in Munich 1972 rooting together with Judit for the Hungarian youth team during the match with Romania. Later they concealed a press conference enjoying a large audience.

Right after the conference I was lucky to be allowed making a short interview with the best female player ever.

A wonderful tournament has ended... Time has come to throw a last look at the scene of the drama in ten acts and invite you to watch the last four video diaries:

Pictures: Anita Janosek and Tamas Ambrus, courtesy of the official site


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GM Mihail Marin, born in 1965, has several times been Romanian champion, played in 12 Olympiads (earning an individual bronze medal in 1988) and first made the leap over the Elo barrier of 2600 in 2001. Marin possesses a rare gift for a grandmaster — he is able to explain in readily comprehensible terms the ideas behind moves, variations and positions. This ability is there for all to admire in his contributions to ChessBase Magazine.


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