Chess Olympiad: Azerbaijan, Hungary, and Ukraine advance to the play-offs

The most hard-fought and balanced group of the top division was decided by tie-breaks, as the top half of the table ended very tightly packed with five teams within 1-point of the leader. Azerbaijan, with 14 points, took the first place thanks to having scored an impressive 37 board points out of 54 games.

Hungary (14) and Ukraine (13) claimed second and third place respectively, and they advance to the playoff, while top-placed Azerbaijan is seeded directly into Quarter-finals.

Kazakhstan and Spain, also with 13 points, had a worse tie-break thank Ukraine, so they are out of the Olympiad. Sadly, the event says goodbye to Alexei Shirov, who emerged as one of the stars of the competition scoring 13/15 and exhibiting his characteristic dynamic style.

With such a close finish, there was emotion until the very last minute. But actually, the most decisive clashes happened in the first round of the day, the 7th, when the top teams had to face each other: Azerbaijan defeated Spain (4-2), Ukraine won against the Netherlands (4½-1½) and Hungary defeated Kazakhstan (3½-2½). In the end, these three teams would be the ones to advance to the next stage.

Ukraine was the top-seeded team in this group, despite the absence of Eljanov and the Muzychuk sisters, but they struggled a little and a last-round defeat against Kazakhstan was not the best possible ending. Ivanchuk did not play for the team in any of the day 3 matches, and it is not known whether he will be part of the line-up for the play-offs.

This event is FIDE’s response to the postponement of the “traditional” Chess Olympiad, which was planned to take place between Moscow and Khanty-Mansiysk (Russia) in August, 2020. Involving more than 3,000 participants, the event was rescheduled to 2021, shortly after the IOC had also announced the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games.

With the support of Gazprom as General Partner, the government of the Ugra region as Official Partner, and as the playing platform, the first FIDE Online Olympiad is the latest example of how chess has adapted to the coronavirus crisis. Despite having to cancel all official events played over the board -including flagship competitions like the Candidates Tournament and the World Championship match-, chess has thrived during the global lockdown.

Official website for the Olympiad: