U.S. Clinches a Medal! (2016 Olympiad)

by admin on September 12, 2016

Surprisingly, my predictions yesterday were not too far off the mark. In the penultimate round of the 2016 Olympiad, the U.S. and Ukraine both “took care of business” as I predicted. However, I was slightly wrong about Russia. I predicted that they would beat India, but in fact they only tied. That leaves the standings as follows:

  1. United States – 18 match points
  2. Ukraine – 18
  3. Russia – 16
  4. Canada, India, Norway, Slovenia, England, Peru, Italy – 15

So the first thing to point out is that the U.S. and Ukraine have both clinched medals. However, if either of those teams should lose and Russia should win, it’s very likely that Russia would win the tiebreaks. So in fact, Russia still has an outside shot at gold. (But both Ukraine and the U.S. would have to lose.) Russia could probably clinch bronze with a draw, because of their vast lead on tiebreaks against any other team. If Russia loses, of course, then the race for bronze is wide open. Canada has the inside track because they have very good tiebreaks… but on the other hand, they have the toughest opponent out of the seven teams who are tied for fourth.

Let’s take a look at the pairings, shall we?

Board 1: United States versus Canada.

Wow-wee! Who would have thought before the Olympiad that the U.S. and Canada would play on board one in the last round? I hadn’t mentioned it earlier, but Canada has had a sensational tournament. They lost to Ukraine and England by the slimmest margin (1½-2½) and they tied Vietnam, but they have been absolutely killing everyone else. They have three 4-0 victories on their resume and a 3½-½. Their real stud has been Eric Hansen, who has gone 8 out of 10 on fourth board. He has had exactly the same kind of breakout tournament that Sam Shankland did in the last Olympiad for the U.S. Thanks to all these great performances, they are actually tied with the U.S. and Russia in game points (as opposed to match points), with 29. In previous years — specifically, before 2008 — they would be tied with the U.S. and Russia for first. Now, they are just hoping for bronze.

I think the one weak link for Canada is board one. Evgeny Bareev is a strong GM for sure, but board one is a really tough assignment and he has only managed 4½ out of 9. I’ll go out on a limb and say that for the U.S. to win, Fabiano Caruana has to beat Bareev. I don’t feel good about Shankland-Hansen on board four. Yesterday’s hero versus today’s hero. I think Hansen wins. So then it comes down to the middle of the lineup, where I think So beats Lesiege with White, while Nakamura holds Kovalyov to a draw as Black. U.S. wins if Caruana wins, draws if Caruana draws.

Board 2: Ukraine vs. Slovenia.

From the championship of North America, we now turn to the championship of Central Europe. I think that Ukraine has certainly drawn an easier opponent for the final round than the U.S. did. Slovenia has Alexander Beliavsky on board one, and then nobody you’ve heard of on the other boards. But one of those nobodies, Luka Lenic on board two, has had a great tournament with 7½ out of 10. If he can somehow upset Ruslan Ponomariov, then this match could be interesting. Otherwise, forget it — easy win for Ukraine.

Board 3: Russia vs. Italy.

Tough luck for Italy. Unless they can persuade the U.S. to give Fabiano Caruana back, they’re not going to beat Russia. But a draw is a possibility, if the Russians just want to clinch their bronze medals and get out of town. (This could happen if they see that the U.S. and Ukraine are going to win their matches.)

Other Interesting Matches

As I’ve already mentioned, we have the championships of North America and Central Europe going on. Board 4 is the championship of the Caspian Sea: Azerbaijan versus Turkmenistan. Yes, it’s 160 miles from Turkmenistan to Baku by boat. In fact, Turkmenistan is one of four teams at the Olympiad that could have sailed to Baku. Can you name the other three?

Board 8, Greece versus Hungary, is interesting because Greece is trying to become the only team other than the U.S. to go undefeated. Amazingly, through 10 rounds they have won four matches and tied six. In an individual competition this would not be surprising at all, but in a team competition with four boards, it’s much trickier to tie a match.

Yet another matchup between neighbors occurs on board 34: Nicaragua against Costa Rica, for the championship of Central America. Costa Rica is another of those countries, along with Italy and the Philippines, that lost its best player to the U.S. According to ratings, Costa Rica should win this one easily, but they have been underperforming in this tournament (all five players have lost rating points), so they may be discouraged by now.


The women’s tournament, unlike the men’s, comes down to a matchup of the two top teams in the final round: China (18 match points) vs. Russia (16 points). As you can see, China has draw odds: if the match is tied, they win first place. However, if Russia wins, they take the gold medal. (Russia’s tiebreaks are already better than the Chinese, and a win over China can only help them.)

Six teams are fighting for the bronze: Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, Bulgaria, India, and the United States. To get bronze, I think the U.S. women will have to beat India and then hope that Hungary-Poland and Ukraine-Bulgaria are both ties. It’s a long shot, but at least it’s nice to go into the last round with a mathematical chance at winning a medal.

That’s all for now! Stay tuned tomorrow for the final results.


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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Roman Parparov September 12, 2016 at 4:05 pm

Bearing in mind the World Cup of Hockey starts in a few days, the US vs Canada match is well-timed!


Dan Schmidt September 12, 2016 at 5:09 pm

“I’ll go out on a limb and say that for the U.S. to win, Fabiano Caruana has to beat Bareev.” That’s a pretty long limb! I know Hansen has been having a great tournament, and the US has two blacks on boards 2 through 4, but on those three boards the US outrates Canada by an average of 185 points. I think it’s possible that they’ll go 2-1.


Dan Schmidt September 13, 2016 at 3:07 am

although I have to give you some credit for getting all four boards correct 🙂


Roman Parparov September 12, 2016 at 5:14 pm

Also, the slap in the face for the petty politicians of the national federations, the low encounter between Bulgaria and Israel is to determine who was screwed more by the administration. Both teams lack three top players in their lineups (Cheparinov, Georgiev and Delchev vs. Gelfand, Smirin and Sutovsky) due to conflicts between the players and the respective federations.


admin September 12, 2016 at 7:10 pm

Good point! I think that the “real” Bulgarian team ought to get together with the “real” Israeli team in a pub somewhere and play a match, just to spite the politicians.


Roman Parparov September 13, 2016 at 10:41 am

Meanwhile, Bulgaria got kicked out of European Chess Union due to claims of financial and personal mismanagement.


Kassy September 13, 2016 at 9:08 am

What player on the American team is from Costa Rica?
Caruana-natural born American
Nakamura-natural born Japanese in US since age 2
So_Filipino in US since 18
Robson-US born
Shankland-US born


Roman Parparov September 13, 2016 at 10:00 am

That’s Alejandro Ramirez, he’s not on the team, but he left CRC for the greener fields of USA.


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