For Immediate Release :: 27 November 2020
The Upset Watch
Rounds 6 & 7
By: Arena International Master Sean J. Manross & Bear the Chess Husky
As we round the corner into the second and final half of the FIDE Online Olympiad for Persons with Disabilities, rounds 6 & 7 proved themselves to be chalk-full of upsets. As expected, the frontrunner is historical hegemon, Russia – 1, with Ukraine – 1 hot on their tails, in clear second. Poland – 1, the original frontrunner, has managed to regain their stride and are battling for third against Russia – 2, with 5 points and a draw, plus a loss, each. A theme is emerging in which many of the striking upsets have come from the bottom two boards of the teams. Perhaps, the best example, indeed, is the strong showing of the aforementioned Russia – 2’s bottom boards.
The underappreciated anchors, Polina Taranenko (1445) and Maksim Ermakov (1611), respectively on boards 3 & 4 for Russia – 2, are a reminder that it takes victories on all four boards for a team to successfully win match points. In fact, statistically speaking, either one would be a stronger candidate for anchoring Russia – 1 than the current folks holding those jobs. On board 4, Ermakov has proven himself to be stronger than the mean average of his competition (as his rating implies), going 6-0 with a break in the third round. In the last three rounds, Taranenko - whose only loss was in the first round to American Pranav Shankar (1499) - has been an upset machine. Polina’s current hot-streak has seem her claim, in order, the scalps of Huseyin Sahin (1788) of Turkey – 1, Dorina Florea (1741) of Romania – 1, and, most impressively, Kumar Naveen (2035) of India – 1.
Round 6, undoubtedly, saw the biggest upset of the tournament. Bangladesh was en-route to sweeping to Georgia when the most unexpected of boards dominated an opponent over 900 points their senior! On board 1, Khorshed Alam (2065) should have had an easy route, as white, over the defenseless Leri Talikadze. This was not to be so as Talikadze played a super-solid Stonewall Defense and established a crushing kingside onslaught, by 22…Bf2! Maintaining an immaculate initiative, Talikadze compelled Alam to commit a blunder, on move 35, preventing what would have been an unrecoverable match blowout.
The other massive upset from round 6 was even more critical, from the teams-strategy standpoint. In the top match of the round, between Poland – 2 and Russia – 1, the Russky’s Svetlana Gerasimova (1916) blundered an easily-won Fischer endgame (with a bishop and extra pawn against a knight), against Emilia Tryjanska (1425), allowing the Poles to tie up a match which would have, otherwise, gone, dominantly, in the Russians’ favor.
In other board 4 action from round 6, Ecuador followed in the footsteps of Georgia as they staved off a total sweep at the hands of Poland – 1, by securing a seemingly-miraculous win on the bottom board. Esteban Jacome (1549) also relied on a Stonewall Dutch to anchor his team and to defeat Anna Stolarczyk (1909). Jacome drove the game to a simple endgame where white, essentially, lost an isolated pawn on the queenside and then was forced to give up the second rank, with fatal implications. Thanks to Jacome’s upset, Poland only managed to win 3-1.
In the bottom half of the tournament, the action was on the teams’ respective top boards. Notably, Ardian Muming (1431) of Malaysia defeated Gunnan Song (2145) of Canada, securing a major-upset match draw for his underdog team. Wrapping up round 6, Costa Rica also avoided getting swept by France thanks to an expected upset. Marco Cabrera Sosa (1364) prevailed in an extremely closed game when an impatient Georges Vasquez (1871) played a highly-speculative endgame sacrifice which, by any less diplomatic journalist, might be classified simply a blunder.
Round 7 saw fighting play, if a few fewer upsets. Russia – 2 (the second tier team from Russia, to be clear), stamped their nation’s global chess hegemony on this round. Indeed, Russia – 2 proved that the nationalistic chess prodigy, India, simply can’t field a team (at this point in time) which can question their northern neighbor’s dominance. On boards 3 & 4, respectively, the aforementioned Polina Taranenko (1445) and Maksim Ermakov (1611) both achieved huge upsets against Kumar Naveen (2035) and Anto Jennitha (2001), locking in a 3.5-.5 victory to humble the emergent chess superpower, in south Asia.
Further down the list of the tournament, relative underdog, Turkey – 1, unexpectedly drew their match with Ukraine – 2. An unfortunate blunder on move 25 by WIM Tatiana Baklanova (2213) allowed Suleyman Saltik (1639) to drive home an embarrassing win. Turkey’s good fortune would hold up at the basement of the tournament of standings, as Turkey – 4 crushed Zimbabwe, thanks to Sinan Ozalp (1549) on board 1, who trapped Tapiwa Gora’s (1929) queen, on move 19.
As we enter the second and final phase of play, the question which looms large over the tournament is whether Russia will stumble…or if, once again, the feared former Soviet Union will run away with a clear domination of another Olympic level event. Win or lose, join Bear the Chess Husky, right here tomorrow, as we continue to keep a vigilant eye on The Upset Watch!