Russian first team captain Evgeny Bareev, not a man to mince his words, gave a refreshingly blunt assessment of the first day’s play at the Olympiad. The Russian press also included some excellent photo reports, with Vladimir Barsky’s description of his “chess flight” particularly memorable.
Bareev gave his assessment of the Russian first team’s 3.5:0.5 win against Ireland to Yury Vasiliev of Sport Express:
The team arrived in Khanty-Mansiysk after a long summer break. Only Malakhov had played a lot, while Grischuk and Karjakin hadn’t had much practice. Therefore they had to warm up, to check what condition they were in, so both chose very solid openings as white, to use their class to outplay their less experienced opponents without taking risks. It went better for Karjakin while Grischuk’s game turned into a seesaw: first he had an edge, then there was equality, then again a slight advantage, though it was probably closer to a draw.
Malakhov, as I said, had on the other hand played too much, and during the game he gambled a little, making quite impulsive decisions. His opponent was too weak a player, and he could get away with it. But of course in the rounds to come someone might not let you off. Initially Vladimir had a very promising position, but then he made a serious positional mistake and allowed the Irish player to dramatically improve his position, sacrificing the exchange. But eventually Malakhov’s opponent made a blunder and that was the end of it.
As for Svidler, with him you never know what condition he’s in, because he drifts around the playing hall managing to have a look at all the other games. At first it looked as though he was running around too much and his position didn’t inspire optimism: he even lost a pawn. But, on the other hand, Svidler is Svidler: he sees better and can evaluate the position further. Peter’s opponent was totally put off both by the moves on the board and around the board, and at some point he began to hang all sorts of material… The game, which had initially struck me as dangerous and unclear, was the first to end.
Overall, for the first round, it was quite typical: our opponents were frankly weak, we could get away with things as in any case the match would be won. We didn’t set an overall goal of having to win 4:0, as match points are taken into account first, and everything will be decided in the face-to-face encounters with our rivals.
It’s perhaps worth adding that despite the unconvincing opening Malakhov finished his game against Colm Daly in very fine style – see this analysis by Vasily Lebedev at Crestbook. The words are in Russian, but the chess shines through! He also described the later stages of Karjakin’s win.
Vasiliev produced a photo report on the opening ceremony for ChessPro, which is well worth a look. Vladimir Barsky did something similar for the Russian Chess Federation website, including photos of the amazing “yurt-shaped” hotel the team are staying in, and this description of the flight to Khanty-Mansiysk:
I must admit, I’ve never before had the chance to fly on a “chess” plane. The Boeing 757 was boarded by 220 passengers, and they were all heading for the Olympiad. To the right of the author of these lines was Grandmaster Vladimir Tukmakov, to the left, Grandmaster Sergey Karjakin and Grandmaster Eduardas Rozentalis, in front Grandmasters Pavel Eljanov and Alexander Moiseenko, and they were all together reading the latest issue of 64 with Ruslan Ponomariov in a pink shirt on the cover. An incredible feeling! While there was also Ruslan himself, but he wasn’t reading and seemed to be asleep, as was Peter Svidler: at the back of the aircraft the Ukrainian girls had organized a lighthearted battle of Mafia. On board were two male and two female Russian teams, as well as Ukraine, USA, Lithuania… Suddenly I came up with a strange idea – to calculate the average rating of the airplane. It’s true that it was slightly spoiled by the teams of Jamaica and Nigeria, the plane crew and a series of unidentified teams and FIDE officials, but even the journalists were almost all grandmasters: Elya Mirzoeva, Yana Melnikov, Sergey Zagrebelny. No doubt all considered you’ve have ended up with a minimum of 2250-2300.
Barsky includes a couple of brief interviews (one with Kramnik), but it’s perhaps worth just adding the response of Ian Nepomniachtchi (first board on the second team) to a question about prizes (if they e.g. come first they get $50,000 each):
The team only gets paid if you end up in the top 3. Does that put you under stress?
We don’t have a great weight of responsibility on our shoulders as after all we’re not the first team, but the second. To a degree we can play for fun. If we get into the top 3 it’ll be great, if not, then what can you do? Naturally, we’ll do everything we can to win a medal.