The key encounter in round 7 of the Olympiad was between the top two Russian men’s teams, with the “veterans” prevailing thanks, once again, to Sergey Karjakin. Meanwhile, the emotional roller-coaster of Radek Wojtaszek’s win against Hikaru Nakamura was captured in live commentary by Mateusz Bartel, the fifth member of the Polish team.
In his report on round 7 Yury Vasiliev drew on comments from Evgeny Bareev, Ilya Levitov (in charge of the Russian Chess Federation) and Sergey Karjakin. Bareev explained, “it was clear that the loser would be unlikely to challenge for victory in the tournament”, and the pre-match pressure was captured by Levitov:
Both teams travelled to the game in the one bus. During the whole journey from the Yugorskaya Dolina hotel to the tennis centre where the games are being played (a trip lasting about 10 minutes), there was total silence: not a word was spoken. The tension was so great you could physically feel it…
As it turned out, despite good positions on all boards, it was only a win on board four by Karjakin that separated the teams. When Vasiliev mentions that Karjakin’s 5.5/6 debut for the Russian team is comparable to his brilliant debut for the Ukraine, the young grandmaster responds:
To be honest, I didn’t expect it! I thought that Russia-1 is very strong, which meant that it was possible to make draws and someone else would definitely win in each match.
But it turned out that your colleagues make draws, while in every match you have to win?
(laughs) Well, for the moment I’m coping… But nevertheless I’ve got faith in them. I think they’ll do more… After all it’s not possible to go the whole tournament only with wins…
Karjakin was also interviewed by the official tournament website (in English). Meanwhile, Bareev gives an insight into the team tactics (the “Hungarian variation” probably refers to the tactics Hungary used to inflict the Russian team’s only defeat so far):
We’ve been trying to give Sergey Karjakin the white pieces, using the “Hungarian variation”. When winning the match is the main aim then it’s suitable. And Sergey beat Tomashevsky. Kramnik used an opening nuance to which Nepomniachtchi replied very quickly, trying to show it hadn’t bothered him, but in so doing he missed the chance to fight for an edge. The position immediately became equal. As the ex-World Champion told me, although he was a little better he didn’t see any chances of playing for a win. Grischuk, playing white against Alekseev, asked me for permission to force a draw, and I didn’t object as I couldn’t see how Alexander could strengthen his position. And finally, Peter Svidler. After the game I spoke to him in a raised voice, as it seemed to me that he could have played for a win. But Peter explained that he had played for a win, but he’d simply overlooked something his opponent did.
Karjakin once more rescued us…
Yes, unfortunately it’s not really working out for us on the other boards. But the main thing is that we won the match.
Ukraine also won. It seems that in the coming rounds we’ll have to meet Ivanchuk’s team.
If you’re fighting for gold then you can’t avoid a match with Ukraine.
Russia-1 is now playing Ukraine as I type… Among many dramatic games one which stood out was Wojtaszek’s win against Nakamura, as the unbeaten Polish men’s team drew 2-2 with the USA. Radek Wojtaszek’s rise has been meteoric since seconding Anand in Sofia. After the match, in an interview for the Polish “Mat” chess magazine, he mentioned that he was “quietly counting on managing to reach 2700 as soon as possible”. Since then his rating has risen from the 2660s to over 2720 on the live rating list.
However, the game with Nakamura was far from easy, with a win for Wojtaszek looking a very unlikely outcome at one point. Just how unlikely was captured vividly by Mateusz Bartel, the fifth member of the Polish team and the editor-in-chief of “Mat”, who commentated on the round for his magazine (the commentary, also on today’s round, can be found here). Below I’ve given the comments that referred to Nakamura-Wojtaszek:
11:10 This is Mateusz Bartel greeting you from Khanty-Mansiysk. Today the men have a tough match against the USA, and one which will say a lot about the Polish team’s chances. It seems as though the match will be decided on boards 1 and 4. If Radek gets a draw with Nakamura, while Kamil [Miltoń] manages to squeeze out Shulman, then we can win – draws for Bartosz [Soćko] and Bartek [Macieja] are very likely. The women should defeat Indonesia, although it’s not that clear – the Asian team is made up of young, unpredictable players.
11:15 It seems to me that the preparation has gone better for the Americans. Radek had a lot of lines to prepare, as Nakamura plays literally everything. The variation on the chess board unfortunately isn’t one of the main positions from the Pole’s preparation. Therefore he has to think at the board…
11:40 Nakamura has made the new move 13. Rac1. It doesn’t look like a prepared novelty and it’s not too dangerous.
12:05 After an hour’s play the match is looking like being very even. On boards 1 and 3 the Americans stand better, but without concrete advantages…
12:36 Radek Wojtaszek is playing patiently and carefully – any other play in his position would lead to a rapid defeat. Nakamura will no doubt sharpen things up, the only question is when.
13:00 After two hours the situation is looking a little worse. A draw at this point seems like the height of our ambitions. Radek stands worse, maybe only a little, but he’ll still have to fight hard for a half point…
13:15 …Radek’s opponent is having a long think. Probably there’s some diabolic plan being born in his creative head. Let’s hope it’s not too good.
13:34 …Radek’s waiting to see what his rival does.
13:55 Kamil has already drawn. On boards 3 and 4 we’ve made a whole point less than “my plan”. In order to win the match Radek and Bartosz would have to win, but let’s be clear about it – at this moment we’re dreaming of a draw.
14:00 It’s not going to be a great day for Polish chess. […] After the draw on board two Nakamura could offer a draw which Radek “would be forced” to accept – in such a position you can only lose. It’s looking like the first defeat for the Polish team.
14:23 Although it seemed as though everything was lost, the battle’s still on! Nakamura, instead of “fixing” a draw has started to play strangely and now Radek can take a pawn (CORRECTION – HE’S ALREADY TAKEN IT). The computers are merciless – Radek’s close to winning. Everything will be decided in the next few moves – the game’s entered mutual time trouble, and Nakamura has significantly less time!
14:32 A win for our ace is in touching distance. After the powerful 33…Ng4! Radek already has two extra pawns!
14:43 It’s a shame you can’t see this…! Unfortunately, neither can I. The broadcast’s frozen! At the moment when Radek had to make his 40th move… Did he make it?
14:58 With some reluctance the broadcast’s resumed. Radek’s position is completely won, Bartosz is drawing. 2-2, the third draw for the Polish team, seems to be a matter of minutes away.
15:25 Radek’s position, with two extra pawns, remains won. However, in order to get the point he needs to make a series of accurate moves – white can quietly count on getting an ending with R+B v B. Of course, we hope that Radek will win without any trouble…
16:30 The Polish team matches have come to an end. Both the women (unluckily) and the men (probably luckily) have drawn their matches. For a second time the men’s skin has been saved by Radek Wojtaszek, who has probably forgotten about his bad game against Sokolov. Today’s win (with black) against Nakamura confirms the great class of the Pole! Bravo!
Of course, the commentary is unashamedly partisan, but nevertheless an accurate representation of how the game went. Hikaru Nakamura himself wrote on his Twitter account:
Overpressed and blew a completely winning position. Oh well, such things happen in team events.
It does seem as though in the game 22. Nxe6! would have given white a completely winning attack, though it’s not the sort of move you can make lightly. Sergey Shipov’s analysis of the game (from 25:25 in this video, in Russian) began with 29. Ba2?, though by that stage Shipov couldn’t see any way for Nakamura to break through, despite the activity of the white pieces. He was very impressed by Wojtaszek’s combination with 33…Ng4.
Game viewer by Chess Tempo