The first day in Division 4 evidenced that holding the Online Olympiad, the first in chess history was a great idea. The event resonates all around the world (so far primarily in the countries whose teams are playing) discovering many new names. Although GMs have not entered the fight yet, there are plenty of interesting games in Division 4 that can impress even sophisticated and finicky chess fans.
In this round-up, we can’t go deep into chess twists and turns and focus primarily on the results.
Things have taken an unexpected turn from the very start in this pool. The triumphants of Base Division, Myanmar and Brunei Darussalam, stepped in the competition as rating-favorites. It was clear that it wouldn't be as easy as among the teams consisting of inexperienced chess players, but no one could predict the scenario of the first three rounds.
Myanmar suffered a defeat in the very first match - Thailand was simply better. 14-year old Thai Prin Laohawirapap launched a crushing attack:
Prin Laohawirapap - Han Thiha Sai
White fired 10.f5! b4? 11.fxe6 bxc3 12. exf7+! Kf8 13.Nf4!, and Black already could have resigned since 13...Kxf7 is met with an instructive checkmate 14.Ne6+! Kxe6 15.Qg4+ Ke5 16.Qf4+ Ke6 17.Bh3#. Black opted for 13...Qb6, but after 14.Qg4+ there is no defense against a check on e6 followed by checkmate.
After Myanmar managed to level the score - 2.5:2.5, everything was at stake on the first board in the game between FM Thanadon Kulpruethanon (Thailand) and Wynn Zaw Htun (Myanmar). The Thai has silently offered a draw by repetition twice, but his higher-rated opponents turned it down, despite an inferior position. It is hard to argue with chess logic – the Thai player eventually prevailed and supplied the winning point to his team.
Maynmar failed to recovers from this defeat, played two next matches way below its level, and ended the day with just 1 point out of 6 and just a slim chance to get into the top-3. Thailand, Hong Kong, and Kenya are leading the field, although Hong Kong has just seventh average rating in Pool A.
It’s going to be very interesting to watch the matches in this unpredictable pool today – will favorites on paper prove their presumed strength?
Unlike Pool A, here the preview (link!) by the official website of the Online Olympiad was much more prescient. Syria experienced no real problems and topped the standings. Given that this team forfeited two points, its dominance impresses even more. Team Malta (second-best average rating) is on the second position, but its tournament future doesn't look trouble-free as it already lost one match point in the encounter with Pakistan. Team Pakistan became a real “hell-raiser” in this group - Pakistani chess players, many of whom don’t even have FIDE rating, proved that their success in Base Division was no coincidence.
Pakistan could have been in the top-3 if not an accident that happened on the first board in Round 3 match against Mozambique.
Yousuf Azeem Makhdoomi - Donaldo Paiva
Yousuf Azeem Makhdoomi (fearless_king2 at chess.com) is launching a final assault: 21.Rxe6! fxe6 22.Bxg6! His more experienced opponent Donaldo Paiva put up stubborn resistance but the game was rolling to the inevitable result.
Virtually any move wins, but White blundered his queen - 56.Qf8? Rxe6+ 57.Bxe6 Qxf8. White’s position is winning anyway - 57. с7 Qg7+, and here instead of an obvious 58.Kd6 White opted for an inexplicable 58.Kd5 and after 58...Qxc7 capitulated. Harrowing disappointment!
Nevertheless, Pakistan along with Namibia, Qatar, and Mozambique still have a chance for one of the qualifying spots.
There are no sensational results in this group – Nigeria and Lebanon won all their matches and moved atop the standings. Team Nigeria had some unexpected problems in the very first match with Ethiopia, which it won only by a minimal margin. In any case, we will probably talk about these teams again when covering Division 3.
As for Mauritania, we have to tip a hat to this squad here and now, as the chessplayers from this country became real stars of the first day. Team Mauritania qualified from Base Division taking fourth place in their pool; only three players have FIDE rating. Nevertheless, Mauritania won all three matches, sensationally beating Oman 5:1 and Sudan 3.5:2.5. The victory over Sudan headed by IM Omar Eltigani is particularly impressive as all the players in this team have FIDE rating. The captain and leader of Mauritania FM Sidi Boidiya and its strongest woman Mine Hemam are the main attacking force of this team. Mine had shown the best result on her board in Base Division and won all her three games in Division 4.
If Mauritania loses momentum, then Ethiopia and Lesotho may have a chance to advance to the next stage. As for Sudan, after a disastrous start, it will be very hard for this team to catch up with the leaders.
There is a surprise hero in this pool – not many expected such a great start from team Palestine that won all three matches, whitewashing their opponents twice and topped the leaderboard. To be fair it is worth mentioning that in two matches Palestine faced weak opposition, whereas its third opponent, Haiti, as we already know, is prone to unexpected breakdowns. Still, Palestine has a very good chance to progress to Division 3.
The other favorites – Angola, Surinam, and Puerto-Rico – already played each other. Only Angola came out of these encounters unscathed but not without incredible luck. In the match with Surinam the Angolan women-players scored 1.5 points with Black in the positions pictured below:
Catherine Kaslan – Jemimo Paulo
Virtually any move wins, but 35.Re7 wrap things up immediately.
Alexandra Kaslan – Ednasia Junior
After 57.Rh6 Black has no other options but to resign.
Angola ended up winning the match 3.5:2.5.
It looks like these four above-mentioned teams are fighting for three spots in Division 3, but who knows, maybe Haiti will repeat the trick it pulled out in Base Division where after a poor start the team roared back.
The tournament fortune assembled a motley line-up in this pool. Sierra-Leone had huge connection problems, whereas team Bahamas lost all the games.
On the other end of the spectrum is Honduras, which seems to be a clear favorite and will hardly concede its top spot. Most likely Trinidad and Tobago, Nicaragua, and Jamaica will contest for second and third positions. Two latter teams already clashed in an exciting match which ended 3:3 with no draws.
As we already mentioned, this pool features many good women players - Zuzana Kovacova (Bermuda) and Rachel Miller (Jamaica) have won all their games so far. Thamara Sagastegui, one of the main stars in Base Divison suffered her first defeat at hands of Miller.
The competition in all pools resumes today with Rounds 4,5 and 6 scheduled to be played.