For Immediate Release :: 26 November 2020
The Upset Watch
By: Arena International Master Sean J. Manross & Bear the Chess Husky
The fifth round of the FIDE Online Olympiad for Persons with Disabilities played host to more than a half-dozen upsets. At the team level, Poland – 1 has been stopped dead in their tracks; indeed, in the wake of the disastrous crushing at the hands of Philippines – 1, the second seed Poland – 2, has eclipsed their comrades on the Polish top team. Also failing to regain their momentum, on the other end of the spectrum, was the anchor, India – 4. The captain of India – 4, K. Marimuthu, also stalled, ending his upset streak. Yet, as Russia begins to separate itself from the herd down the stretch, there are still hungry competitors on their tail.
Arguably, the most important upset of the fifth round belongs to the anchor player of Poland – 2, Emilia Tryjanska (1425), who flagged WIM Anto Jennitha (2001) of India – 1. If the Polish upset was eclipsed in importance, it was also second in quality to the beautiful draw between the captain of Ukraine – 3, International Master Igor Yarmonov (2391), and Van Quan Nguyen (1783), the leader of Team Vietnam. Nguyen managed to trap Yarmonov in a perpetual check net, bringing home a crucial half-point against a far stronger team and preventing a 3-1 routing. In a similar set of circumstances, Ana Vuljanic (1581) of Team Croatia held on to a critical draw against expert Andras Paal (2060), turning a team draw against Hungary into an overall win. Because Paal disdained the opportunity to gamble on fighting for a potential win and settled for a draw by repetition, Vuljanic might have been robbed of an even bigger upset.
Romania – 1 would have swept through India – 3, if it had not been for a major upset on the anchor board, in which Vivek Watpade (1344) caught Ciprian-Iulian Strete (1782) in a Queen trap, when the Romanian greedily snatched a poisoned-pawn, on move 21. Although Romania’s top squad was deprived of a full sweep in round five, Russia – 2 would not be denied the same. In a critical upset, Polina Taranenko (1445) defended Russia’s pride as the dominant chess superpower of the world by handily defeating Huseyin Sahin (1788) of Turkey – 1. With a beautiful finishing move of 39…Nh1!, Taranenko guaranteed checkmate on move 40. Accordingly, this spectacular game, which guaranteed Russia’s 4-0 victory of Turkey, may be a candidate for a tournament brilliancy prize.
Perhaps, the greatest upset of the tournament was not, by any means, the most lopsided. Cuba’s status as the rising chess hegemon of South America was challenged by Ecuador, in the fifth round. On board 1, International Master Pedro Morales (2332) could not manage to convert a win against Christopher Lionel Garzon Zapatanga (1697), despite a valiant positional exchange sacrifice, in a deadlocked position. Cuba’s bad luck only got worse, as on board 3, master-strength Raul Leonardo Lavigne Lopez (2229) suffered the tournaments nastiest upset, against Andres Nevarez Castro (1250), blowing an easily won position through poor time management.
Round five’s final upset may have been its most aesthetically pleasing, as well as the day’s highest quality competition, from the purely-athletic standpoint. Although rated over 500 points lower than his opponent, Kyrgyzstan’s Toktobek Bolotov (1448) stayed neck-and-neck with expert Gavril Draghici Flutur (2072), of Team Spain, over the course of a 73 move game. Forcing the game into the deep waters of a Queen & pawns ending, Bolotov managed to simplify into a drawn position with King & three pawns vs King & three pawns, reaching the corner in time to prevent his opponent from converting his edge of a single, outside, passed pawn. Essentially, Bolotov’s personal upset is responsible for converting a close match into a decisive victory for Team Kyrgyzstan, by the score of 3-1 over the Spaniards.
As we enter the final two rounds of play, the question which looms large over the tournament is whether or not anyone can prevent Russia from, once again, running away with a clear domination of a world championship. Win or lose, join Bear the Chess Husky, right here tomorrow, as we continue to keep a vigilant eye on The Upset Watch!