- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Olympiad is the moveable feast on the chess menu, a massive biennial team competition that attracts entrants from virtually every country across the globe. There’s so much chess going on — and so much focus on what the Big Boys and Big Girls are doing on the top-seeded boards, that it’s easy to overlook some impressive chess played lower down the ratings chart.

Take, for example, the performance of Vietnam’s Open team in the just-concluded 43rd Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia. As we wrote here last week, the top-seeded U.S. team — which took the gold two years ago — had to settle for silver behind China. But the Vietnamese, ranked 27th at the start of the event, cracked the Top 10 with a fine 6-1-4 match score, finishing a best-ever seventh ahead of such traditional powerhouses as Armenia, Ukraine and France.

GM Le Quang Liem has long been his country’s best and best-known player, but Vietnam’s success owes much to GM Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son, who was an undefeated 8½-1½ and won a second straight individual Olympiad gold. A nice example of Nguyen’s play can be seen from his Round 3 win over Bangladeshi GM Ziaur Rahman, which we pick up from the diagrammed position.

With both sides trying to attack the king, Nguyen as Black has just played 24…a4-a3, and White’s next move opens the floodgates: 25. Bc3?! (Ba1! Bxf4 [the idea 25…Rb2 is met now by 26. Qc3! Rxa2 27. Nxe6 h6 28. Rb5! Nc7 29. Nxf8 Nxb5 30. cxb5] 26. Rb5, and White is better) Rb2! 26. Bxb2 axb2+ 27. Kb1 (Qxb2?? Ba3 is the point) Qxd4 28. f5 (White tries to keep the attack alive, but this just opens the position to Nguyen’s benefit) d5! 29. Re1 Bc5 30. Qc3 Qh4 31. Rg3 Bd4 32. Qa3 Qxh2, and White’s pieces are scattered while Black’s circle in for the kill.

In a strong attacking position, Nguyen clinches the point by “falling” for a White trap: 33. c5 Qxd2 (Qxg3?? 34. Bc4+ Kh8 35. Qxg3) 34. Rh1 Qf4 35. Rf3?! (relying on the same trick, but this time it doesn’t quite work out) Qxf3! 36. Bc4+ Qd5 37. Bxd5+ Nxd5 38. c6 (with three minor pieces for the queen and a monster pawn on b2, Black is winning) Nec7 39. Qh3 h6 40. Qg2 (a3 Rf6 41. a4 Rxc6) Rxf5, and White resigns at the time control facing 41. Qc2 (the threat is 41…Rf2 42. Qg4 Nc3 mate) Nb5 42. Qb3 Kh7! 43. a4 (Qxb5 Nc3+) Nbc3+ 44. Kxb2 Rf2+ 45. Ka3 Bc5+ and wins.

For some more lower-board excitement, check out the Round 9 slugfest between Croatian GM Hrvoje Stevic and Austrian GM Valentin Dragnev. It’s a sharp Scotch Game line in which White gives up his queen for two rooks on 17. Be3 Bb4!? 18. Qxb8+ Ke7 19. Qxh8 (Qa7 Bxc3+ 20. Kf1 Bb4 21. b8=Q Rxb8 22. Qxb8 Qe4, threatening 23…Bc4 mate) Qxh8 20. 0-0-0 Bxc3 21. Rxd5! (and not 21. bxc3?? Qxc3+ 22. Kb1 Be4+ 23. Rd3 Bxd3 mate) Bxb2+, with a wild position.

After 22. Kb1, Black could have kept the game alive with 22…Qb8! 23. Rd3 (Bg5+ Bf6 24. Bxf6+ Kxf6 25. Rxd7 Qxb7+ 26. Ka1 Qb6 and Black is better) Qxb7 24. Rb3 Qa6 25. Kxb2 Qe2+ 26. Ka1 d6, with a complex, unbalanced ending in store. But on the game’s 22…Ba3? 23. Bd4! (Re5+? Qxe5 24. b8=Q Qe4+ 25. Ka1 Qe5+ 26. Kb1 Qe4+ with a perpetual) Qb8 24. Re1+ Kf8 25. Rxd7, Black’s king is in a mating net.

The finale: 25…Qxb7+ 26. Ka1 Qb8 27. Bf6! (threatening a deadly rook check on d8) Bb4 28. Re2 Qb5 29. Bg7+ and Black resigned ahead of 29…Kg8 30. Re8+ Bf8 31. Rxf8 mate.

World champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway is getting in one last public tune-up before next month’s title match with American challenger GM Fabiano Caruana. He’s holding down top board for the Norwegian Valerenga Sjakklubb team in the current European Club Cup championship in Porto Carras, Greece, and had a win and two draws in his first three games.

Stevic-Dragnev, 43rd Chess Olympiad, Batumi, Georgia, October 2018

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nxc6 bxc6 6. e5 Qe7 7. Qe2 Nd5 8. c4 Nb6 9. Nc3 Ba6 10. Qe4 g6 11. c5 Bxf1 12. cxb6 f5 13. b7 Rb8 14. Qe3 Bxg2 15. Rg1 Bd5 16. Qxa7 Qxe5+ 17. Be3 Bb4 18. Qxb8+ Ke7 19. Qxh8 Qxh8 20. O-O-O Bxc3 21. Rxd5 Bxb2+ 22. Kb1 Ba3 23. Bd4 Qb8 24. Re1+ Kf8 25. Rxd7 Qxb7+ 26. Ka1 Qb8 27. Bf6 Bb4 28. Re2 Qb5 29. Bg7+ Kg8 30. Re8+ Bf8 31. Rxf8 mate.

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email [email protected].

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