Online Olympiad: All set for the playoffs

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
8/24/2020 – The Top Division section of the FIDE Online Olympiad was played from Friday to Sunday this week. Three teams from each pool qualified either to the quarterfinals directly or to the preliminary stage. India, Azerbaijan, Russia and the United States are already in the quarterfinals while eight teams will fight for the remaining four spots in the first knockout stage of the playoffs. | Photos: Niki Riga / John Saunders

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Russia perfect, India beats China

Forty teams were divided in four groups and played a 9-round single round-robin from Friday to Sunday to determine which squads would move on to the final stage of the 2020 FIDE Online Olympiad. The winner from each group advanced directly to the quarterfinals while those placed second and third will play a preliminary knockout to fight for the remaining spots.

The time control for this event is 15 minutes for the game plus 5-second increments per move. Each team consists of six players, in a mixed format with a minimum of three female players and two junior players.

Specifically, each team must include:

  • at least 1 player U-20 (born in 2000 or later)
  • at least 2 women
  • at least 1 girl U-20 (born in 2000 or later)

The one team that obtained a perfect 18/18 score in the Top Division (each match win granted two points) was Russia, led by Alexander Grischuk and Ian Nepomniachtchi. India also impressed in Pool A, beating China in the last round to win the group and only conceding a draw against Mongolia due to Vidit Gujrathi and Humpy Koneru losing their games after a power failure led to their disconnections.

Pool B and Pool D were very hard-fought. In the end, Azerbaijan and United States won these groups and advanced directly to quarterfinals.

FIDE Online Olympiad

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The preliminary stage will be played on Thursday, August 27. The quarterfinals, semifinals and final will follow from August 28 to 30.

Pool A: India, China and Germany

No one would be surprised if either India or China end up winning this event, and both teams were placed in the same pool of the Top Division. In what might end up being a prelude to a potential final match (the teams were placed on opposite sides of the bracket), India defeated the current Olympic champions 4:2 in round nine, with wins by Praggnanandhaa and Deshmukh Divya on bottom boards.

The Indian team includes former world champion Vishy Anand on top board and an extremely strong U20 representative in Praggnanandhaa — the youngster scored 5 out of 5 this weekend. Meanwhile, the Chinese squad has Ding Liren and Wei Yi on top boards and two extremely strong female representatives in Hou Yifan and Ju Wenjun!

Third place went to a young German squad, which is lacking some of their highest-rated players. They finished ahead of Iran, whom they defeated in a closely contested matchup in round 2.

Final standings - Pool A

Rk. Team  TB1 
1 India 17
2 China 16
3 Germany 11
4 Iran 9
5 Mongolia 8
6 Georgia 8
7 Indonesia 8
8 Uzbekistan 7
9 Vietnam 6
10 Zimbabwe 0

Pool B: Azerbaijan, Hungary and Ukraine

This was clearly the most balanced group of the Top Division. In the end, Azerbaijan and Hungary obtained 14 match points and were followed by no fewer than three squads tied on 13 points. Despite losing their round-9 matchup against Kazakhstan, Ukraine obtained the most board points to reach the playoffs, with Kazakhstan and Spain finishing ½ and 1½ board points behind.

All three teams that reached the playoffs used all twelve players of their rosters during this section, while Spain went the other way, using almost the exact same lineup from start to finish. 

Exceptional individual performances were obtained by Rauf Mamedov (6/6, AZE), Kirill Schevchenko (6/6, UKR) and Sabrina Vega (7½/9, SPA).

Final standings - Pool B

Rk. Team  TB1 
1 Azerbaijan 14
2 Hungary 14
3 Ukraine 13
4 Kazakhstan 13
5 Spain 13
6 Netherlands 9
7 Slovakia 8
8 France 4
9 Norway 2
10 South Africa 0

Pool C: Russia, Bulgaria and Armenia

As mentioned above, Russia was the only team to win all their matches in the Top Division, barely conceding four individual losses in 54 games. The Russians presented an astounding lineup from top to bottom, with the likes of Andrey Esipenko (5/5), Valentina Gunina (3½/4) and Alexey Sarana (4/4) on bottom boards. With such an embarrassment of riches, it will be interesting to see who makes the team during the playoffs.

Given the strength of the remaining teams in the group, it is surprising to see Bulgaria getting second place despite the absence of Veselin Topalov. A key player in the Bulgarian team was former women’s world champion Antoaneta Stefanova, who obtained an undefeated 5½ out of 7 score.

Third place went to Armenia. Known for showing strong performances in team events, the Armenian squad obtained as many match points as Romania, after losing to Russia, Bulgaria and England.

Final standings - Pool C

Rk. Team  TB1 
1 Russia 18
2 Bulgaria 13
3 Armenia 12
4 Romania 12
5 Croatia 11
6 England 10
7 Turkey 7
8 Egypt 5
9 Morocco 2
10 Algeria 0

Pool D: USA, Greece and Poland

Led by Wesley So and Sam Shankland, the United States won six matches in a row on Days 1 and 2, but on Sunday they started with a loss against Poland and only drew Peru in the second encounter of the day. Nevertheless, a clear win over Canada in round 9 allowed them to secure first place and get a spot in the quarterfinals.

Greece had a stable performance throughout, losing only to the United States and drawing Argentina. Stavroula Tsolakidou and Nikolas Theodorou played all nine rounds and showed strong performances, scoring 6 and 7½ points respectively.

Poland finished in third place, barely ahead of Peru. In fact, Peru could have left the Polish team out of the playoffs had they defeated Argentina in round 9. 

Final standings - Pool D

Rk. Team  TB1 
1 United States of America 15
2 Greece 15
3 Poland 13
4 Peru 12
5 Italy 10
6 Canada 7
7 Brazil 5
8 Argentina 5
9 Cuba 5
10 Paraguay 3

“How India beat China” - Video analysis by Sagar Shah


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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.

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