Olympiad: USA makes q'finals despite So's first loss in 14 years

August 25, 2020

THE first four teams in the knockout quarterfinal phase of the Online Olympiad 2020 have been determined, with India, Azerbaijan, Russia and the United States booking their tickets after the upset-filled final day of competitions early Monday.

Two of the biggest surprises were India’s shocking 4-2 win over defending champion China in Group A; and the United States’ scrambling finish in Group D that saw super GM Wesley So suffer his first-ever Olympiad defeat as a member of the star-studded American team since 2014.

The 27-year-old So battled it out with former World Youth under-10 champion GM Jan Krzysztof Duda of Poland before losing in 47 moves of the English opening in the seventh round.

It was the first loss in the tournament for the Bacoor, Cavite-born Filipino champion, who is now playing the top board for the United States.

“It was a double-edged battle between Duda, who played white, and So,” said well-known chess journalist Ignacio Dee in his analysis for the social media group Chess Philippines.

“Wesley started with the Gruenfeld, but Duda turned it into the English with his 8. b3. An exchange sacrifice by Duda on his 23rd move brought So’s king out of the center. Double-edged na, lumusot pa ang atake ni Duda,” explained Dee.

It was also only the second defeat for So since making his debut as the youngest member of the Philippine team in 2006 Turin Olympiad.

So, then only 13, lost to GM Levente Vadja of Romania in 59 moves.

Overall, So had 11 wins, 24 draws and one loss in four straight Olympiad appearances for the Philippines in  2006 (Turin), 2008 (Dresden), 2010 (Khanty-Mansiysk) and 2012 (Istambul) before his transfer to the US in 2014.

In all, this is So’s seventh Olympiad.

So’s setback led to the United States’ 2.5-3.5 loss to Poland.

The USA also settled for a 3-3 draw with Peru with So drawing his match against GM Emilio Cordova in the eighth round before polishing off Canada, 5.5-.5 with So beating IM Nikolay Noritsyn.

Greece swept its last three matches against Paraguay (4-2), Italy (5-1) and Brazil (4-2) to catch the USA at the top.

Greece, however, settled for runner-up honor due to lower tiebreak score.

Poland also won all three matches on the last day of competitions to clinch third place.

After beating the USA, Poland  also won against Argentina (3.5-2.5), and  clobbered Cuba (5.5-.5).

In Group A,  India toppled China, 4-2, to emerge as the top team with eight wins and one draw.

India’s under-20 players made the big difference as GM R. Praggnanandhaa and WIM Deshmukh Divya won over GM Yan Liu and WGM Jiner Zhu, respectively.

The loss relegated China to the eight-team, two-game knockout qualifying phase.

Germany clinched third place and advanced to the play-off stage despite collapsing in the last two rounds against India and Uzbekistan.

Group B action was a lot closer.

Azerbaijan took first place with 14 points and an outright quarerfinals berth, while Hungary (14 points) and Ukraine (13 points) advanced to the playoffs.

Kazakhstan and Spain also finished with 13 points in a tie with Ukraine, but failed to advance due to inferior tiebreaks.

Led by GMs  Teimour Radjabov and Rauf Mamedov, Azerbaijan swept its last three assignments against  Spain (4-2), Norway (5.5-.5) and France (3.5-2.5) to finish with 14 points.

Hungary, bannered by GMs Tamas Banusz Hoangn Thanh Trang, also finished with  14 points following victories over Kazakhstan (3.5-2.5), and Norway (4-2).

Russia  was a clear champion  in Group B with 18 points after winning all its nine matches.

The Russians are five points ahead of second-placer Bulgaria, which wound up with 13 points on five wins, three draws and one loss.

Former champion Armenia and Romania tied for third and fourth places with 12, whiel Croatia came in fifth with 11 points.

The GM Levon Aronian-led Armenia took the third and last spot.

The moves:

2010 Online Olympiad

J. K. Duda (Poland) vs. W. So (USA)  1.c4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.g3 d5 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bg2 Bd6 6.b3 O-O 7.Bb2 Re8 8.O-O c6 9.d3 Bg4 10.Nbd2 Nbd7 11.Re1 Bxf3 12.Nxf3 Bb4 13.Rf1 Bd6 14.Qc2 Qe7 15.Nd4 Ba3 16.Nf5 Qf8 17.Bxa3 Qxa3 18.e4 Qc5 19.Qb2 dxe4 20.dxe4 g6 21.Nh6+ Kf8 22.Rad1 Qh5 23.Rxd7 Nxd7 24.Qh8+ Ke7 25.Qg7 Rf8 26.f4 Rae8 27.e5 Qe2 28.Rf2 Qe1+ 29.Bf1 Kd8 30.Nxf7+ Kc7 31.Re2 Qd1 32.Nd6 Rxe5 33.Rxe5 Qxd6 34.Qxh7 Qd4+ 35.Kg2 Qd2+ 36.Be2 g5 37.fxg5 Kb6 38.Re7 Nc5 39.Qg7 Rf5 40.g6 Qd5+ 41.Kh3 Rf2 42.Qe5 Qg2+ 43.Kg4 Nd7 44.Rxd7 Rxe2 45.Qc7+ Kc5 46.Qa5+ b5 47.Qa3+       1-0