2022 Chess Olympiad: Round #1

LET THE GAMES BEGIN!

The top board (Zimbabwe-India) was surrounded by dignitaries and a sea of photographers
as they await the ceremonial move.
Photos by Stev Bonhage.

2022 Chess Olympiad: Round #1

Friday, 29 July 2022

In the first round, IM David Silva of Angola was on the verge of the biggest upset in African history. He was up against Levon Aronian, the Armenian Grandmaster who famously switched federations to represent the U.S.A. Aronian’s American debut will not be a memorable one. In the end, he had to take a draw in a completely losing position. This can be considered an “upset” of sorts, but Africans are looking for more.

Angola was all the rave with their beautiful shirts against the U.S.
Photo by Lennart Ootes

Maria Emelianova of chess.com made an interesting observation:

Most will understand that Aronian has a penchant for garish outfits and has an adventurous taste in fashion. In fact, one wonders if Aronian offered a jersey swap after the game! Nevertheless, this game almost ruined his debut. There is still something strange about seeing Aronian and Leinier Dominguez playing for the U.S. Anyway…

The game started in a Rossolimo Sicilian but took a weird turn with white’s maneuver of 5.Bd3 and 6.Bc2. On move 18, white played Bd5 and Aronian uncorked 18…Rxd5!? which equalized. The idea is to get pressure on the diagonal and prepare f5. There were mistakes exchanged in the middlegame and white held the advantage until the end. In fact, when a draw was agreed white was +3. This led many to wonder why Silva settled for a draw.

After 42…Bf8, Silva offered a draw here with a decisive advantage.

Longtime national player for Angola, International Master Eugenio Campos wrote a very eloquent post on his Facebook page about the game and perhaps why Silva offered a draw. The was reason was that since Angola was already losing 3-0, then he agreed to a draw after they reached move 42.

Being a team competition, when the compatriots, Master Fide Domingos Junior, on the first board, Wanderson Dias, second, and MI Sérgio Miguel, third already had the defeat as inevitable, MI David Silva accepted the draw, as the point of honour for Angola, although it was in a winning position.

The Grand Master, in the “post-mortem” analyses, said he did not believe that David Silva’s link was only 2315, since he showed much more, something that is understandable because Angolans play few international tournaments with quality to evolve.

~IM Eugenio Campos on Silva-Aronian

Let’s take a look:


Any More Upsets?

During an Olympiad tournament, the story of the first round is generally about individual upsets. Since the favorites are expected to go 4-0 then there is nothing to report. However, most Olympiads usually have a story of a 300-400 point scalp by some obscure player in a country where tournaments are few.

At the 2016 Chess Olympiad, Sudan actually had a team upset as the African nation held Bulgaria to a 2-2 draw. The first board saw the Sudanese player FM Abubaker Tagelsir (2216) brutally checkmate Bulgarian Grandmaster Momchil Nikolov (2585). In more recent years, teams from smaller nations have been taking points from strong players. There was one prominent error on chess24 that had Emar Edwards of Barbados (1928) beating GM Jonathan Westerberg of Sweden (2476). Apparently, the lower boards were mixed up. FM Malaku Lorne of Jamaica (2079) played to a draw with GM Maxime LaGarde (2631)!

Anthony Drayton of Guyana (1928) won his game against Andorran IM, Jordi Fluvia Poyatos (2451) for a 500-point mauling. In this game, black opted for a slow Modern Defense and was punished with his king still stuck on e8. Black tried to close up the position, but the Guyanese player sacrificed a piece! Black soon came under fierce attack and tried to give the piece back, but it was too late. Black’s king died a miserable death on d8. Ouch.

Anthony Drayton of Guyana

Favorites go through... most of them

Cynthia Awino Obondo of Kenya scored a 700-point upset
Photo by James Mwangi

Apart from the few upsets, much of the first round went as expected. The women’s section had a couple of rating upsets including Cynthia Obondo from Kenya (1439) defeating Alessia-Mihaela Ciolacu from Romania (2163). That is more than 700 Elo points! How does something like this happen? In Africa, there are few international tournaments, so ratings are often depressed. There is no pool of strong players to get rating points from. At the Olympiad, you will see players from small nations feasting on highly-fancied opponents.

Daaim Shabazz

Daaim Shabazz is the founder of The Chess Drum, while serving as a tenured faculty member of Global Business & Marketing at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, USA. He holds a B.S. Computer Science from Chicago State University, an MBA in Marketing and a Ph.D. in International Affairs & Development, both from Clark Atlanta University. He has served the journalist community for more than 30 years and still competes in tournaments occasionally.

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