U.S. chess team wins Olympiad gold, Alabama tournament winners
By Michael Ciamarra
on October 02, 2016 at 9:00 AM, updated October 02, 2016 at 1:48 PM
When the American team departed for Baku expectations were high. When all was said and done, the 2016 American Olympiad chess team made history. The all-star U.S. team won first place to take home the gold medal and bragging rights of elbowing out several of the world’s top chess countries.
The 42nd World Chess Olympiad was held in Baku, Azerbaijan Sept. 1-13. The Olympiad hosted more than 1,600 players from 180 countries.
The five-member U.S. team showcased our nation’s top players: Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana, ranked third in the world and current U.S. Champion; GM Hikaru Nakamura ranked sixth in the world and four-time U.S. Champion; GM Wesley So, world’s number 7; GM Sam Shankland and GM Ray Robson as reserve.
Wesley So, 22 years-old, won the individual Gold medal for a superb performance on the U.S. team’s third board. Fabiano Caruana, 24, earned a bronze medal for his undefeated performance on board one.
“I’m feeling very proud right now,” said Caruana in a statement released by the United States Chess Federation. “It was a great honor for me to lead the team as U.S. Champion with such talented teammates. To be part of such a historic win illuminates the renaissance of American chess, and just how far the game has come in recent years. It is truly a career high that will be difficult to surpass.”
It was not a sure thing that the American team would capture the Olympiad gold. In the eleventh and final round of the tournament, the U.S. defeated the Canadian team to finish with a total of 20 match points. Ukraine also had 20 match points, but the U.S. team prevailed in the tiebreaks formula calculation. The American team had defeated Ukraine in round six with one win and three draws and that was a factor in resolving the tiebreaks.
Ukraine took the silver and the top-rated Russian team was awarded the bronze. The emerging chess powerhouse nation of India finished in fourth place.
The Women’s Olympiad was held concurrently and won by China. The U.S. team came in sixth. The U.S. Women’s Team included: Irina Krush, Anna Zatonskih, Katerina Nemcova, Nazi Paikidze-Barnes and current U.S. Women’s Chess Champion, and Sabina Foisor (check out her excellent series of YouTube chess videos for players of all levels.)
The U.S. dominated the world chess Olympiads in the 1930s winning outright first place four times. It was in 1976 when the U.S. last won the Olympiad. Held in Israel, the 1976 event was marred by Cold War politics and no Soviet bloc or Middle Eastern countries participated.
The 2016 American team was supported by the U.S. Chess Federation, the Kasparov Chess Foundation and the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. Grandmasters Wesley So and Ray Robson are alumni of the of the prestigious Webster University chess training program.