China spring historic surprise with gold medals at Tromso Olympiad
The Guardian, Friday 15 August 2014 11.17 EDT
China’s gold medals at the 174-nation Tromso Olympiad were a historic moment. Its team halved with the top seeds Russia and Ukraine but beat their other main rivals in an emphatic triumph. Yu Yangyi, 20, was their individual star. His 9.5 points total was the highest of any Olympiad player, he won the third board gold medal and he advanced his world rating to the elite 2700 level.
The national game is xiangqi (Chinese chess) and Beijing began to foster the global version only in the 1970s. Now China, already with the individual world women’s champion in Hou Yifan and the men’s Olympiad gold, is sure to step up its quest to find a challenger to the world champion, Magnus Carlsen.
Scores in tiebreak order were China 19/22, Hungary 17, India 17, Russia 17, Azerbaijan 17. The United States finished 14th and England 28th.
This column forecast a Chinese success on 17 July, since the country now has five GMs (the number for an Olympiad team) with 2700+ elite ratings in the world top 40. In the event, only two of this quintet played in Tromso as Beijing’s selectors preferred two lower-ranked junior talents.
Their bold decision proved spot on. Putting hungry young stars on the lower boards is a proven Olympiad formula used by the US gold medallists in the 1930s and by the USSR in the 1950s. Yu Yangyi and Wei Yi, 15, scored several crucial wins in key matches.
In contrast, the once all-conquering Russians had a dreadful time in Tromso as their form crisis of the last few years deepened further. Top board and ex-world champion Vlad Kramnik made several blunders, and Russia’s other world top-20 GMs also shipped vital points. They rallied in the last few rounds but were denied the bronze medals by India’s late surge. India’s was a splendid performance for a team seeded only 19th and playing without ex-world champion Vishy Anand.
England had a mixed result. Michael Adams was in fine form and won the top board silver medal with 6.5/9, behind Bulgaria’s Veselin Topalov but ahead of Carlsen. David Howell (7.5/10) and Matthew Sadler (7/10) were strong on the bottom boards.
The downside for England was that Gawain Jones (4.5/10) had a rare offkey event, while Nigel Short scored only 1.5/5. Short will be 50 next year and spent much energy as an aide and spokesman for Garry Kasparov’s ill-fated campaign for Fide president.
More here: http://www.theguardian.com