2016 Olympiad — Pre-Round 10 Predictions

by admin on September 11, 2016

The ninth round of the Chess Olympiad in Baku brought some clarity to the proceedings. On the men’s side, the U.S. team beat Norway, Ukraine beat India, and Russia crushed the home team, Azerbaijan. That leaves the troika of the U.S., Ukraine, and Russia on top of the standings with 16, 16, and 15 match points respectively. (A win counts for 2 points, a tie counts for 1.) Another troika (Georgia, Czech Republic, and India) is in pursuit with 14 points each. I think it’s highly likely that the gold, silver and bronze medalists will come from among those six countries.

We now enter an odd phase of the competition when the top teams have already played each other, so everything will come down to who can maintain their form against the pursuers, and which of the pursuers (if any) can pull off an upset. The matches for round 10 are: U.S. vs. Georgia; Ukraine vs. Czech Republic; and Russia vs. India.

I think that Georgia is a dangerous opponent for the U.S., and I give them the best chance of the three at pulling off an upset. Georgia’s first board, Baadur Jobava, is one of the most fearless and creative players in the world — just a little bit too inconsistent to compete at the very top level. But when he’s on his game, he can beat anyone. He has definitely been on his game at this tournament, scoring 7/8 so far with a performance rating of 3013. I think he might beat Fabiano Caruana. That would put pressure on the powerful middle of the U.S. lineup, #2 board Hikaru Nakamura and #3 board Wesley So. Nevertheless, I’m predicting a 2½-1½ U.S. victory.

The Czechs have a problem. No one on their team except Viktor Laznicka has actually won a game in the last four rounds. I think that streak will continue to a fifth round, and Ukraine will beat them 2½-1½. Finally, I think that Russia will continue its too-little-too-late charge and handle India easily, 3-1.

If my predictions are correct, then the gold, silver and bronze medals will be clinched by the three leaders with a round to go, and the only question will be who gets what color.

Warning: My predictions are most likely not correct. I am usually hilariously wrong.

Below the top six, there is a huge contingent of 14 teams (!) tied with 13 match points. They include some tremendous surprises: the #32 seed Vietnam, #34 seed Peru, #35 Moldova, #36 Italy, #46 Iran and #47 Chile. We’ll even get some Cinderella vs. Cinderella matchups, with Peru playing Chile for the championship of South America and Italy playing Moldova for the championship of well, I don’t know what. Italy already won the championship of I-Wish-Our-Best-Player-Hadn’t-Moved-to-the-United-States, by beating the Philippines in round five.

Over on the women’s side, the United States’ run of five straight victories came to an end today, with a 2½-1½ loss to China. The Chinese women are now in clear first with 16 points, and they will play against Poland, the only team with 15, tomorrow.

Poland is a real sleeper. Although they have a well-known player, GM Monika Socko, on board 1, the real secret of their success has been the performance of their lower boards. The lower you go, the better they have been. On board 3, Karina Szczepkowska-Horowska has scored 6/7 with a performance rating of 2573. On board 4, Klaudia Kolon has scored 8/9 (!) with a performance rating of 2556. And alternate Mariola Wozniak has merely been perfect, going 5/5 (!!) with a performance rating of 2838 (!!!).

Can the Poles really beat a Chinese team that has three GM’s and a WGM? No, but I’m going to predict a 2-2 tie that will leave both of them in good position to win medals.

Stay tuned!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Dan Schmidt September 11, 2016 at 11:57 am

One thing worth noting is that Russia has really good tiebreaks (clear first in both Sonneborn-Berger and game points). This means that if they manage to get into a tie for first (probably by going 2-0 while the US and Ukraine go 1.5-0.5 or worse), they are likely to take the gold, particularly since they’ll probably have extended their tiebreak lead by outperforming their rivals in the matches. So the US and Ukraine can’t coast to victory.


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