Chess Olympiad, group C: Unstoppable Russia
The Russian team is cruising through Pool C. They started the day with two clean sweeps: 6-0 against Algeria and 6-0 against Morocco. In the 6th round they had to face much tougher opponent, England, but nevertheless the Russian players adapted quickly to this sudden increase in the level of their rivals, and achieved a convincing victory by 5-1. Luke McShane and Jovanka Houska drew against Grischuk and Lagno, respectively, but Russia claimed the victory in the remaining four boards.
With these results, Russia reaches the last day of competition with a 2-point gap over Armenia, who seems to be the only team that is able to keep pace with them. Today the Armenians won their three matches with high scores: they beat Croatia by 4½-1½ (despite Aronian’s defeat against Ante Brkic), and then Algeria and Morocco by 6-0.
Romania is third, tied with England, but they are yet to play against Russia. This will happen in the 9th and last round, and it could be a decisive match in the eventuality of Armenia winning against Russia.
England, led by the seven-time British Champion Michael Adams, is having a pretty decent result so far. They won four matches, but unfortunately they went down in flames against Russia and Croatia, scoring just 1 point.
The Croatians were the sensation in the first day of play, but today they lost two matches and only managed to draw against Bulgaria.
Round 5 will also be remembered for a great display of sportsmanship by the Russian team. Morocco failed to provide the line up on time, and when that happens the team is supposed to play with their six starting players. However, Morocco’s second board was not available today, so Russia would have won automatically by default in that board. Default time passed, but Artemiev rejected the idea of being given the point without playing. So the arbiters managed to get him the game he was due to play (had Morocco submitted the team list in time) against the first reserve Nassim Zrikem.
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 Chess.com 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.