The Olympiad is heating up, as they have completed round seven today. So far the U.S. is delivering. The top seeds have six match victories with a lone drawn match versus Israel. The stars and stripes have received a bit of a break on the pairings in the last two rounds, beating Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia handily, 3.5-.5 and 3-1 respectively. With only four rounds, the Americans have still not faced Russia, China, and Azerbaijan (seeds 2-4), and the way things are shaping up, at least one of those teams may not be a problem.
The team is performing solidly as a whole, but most of the heavy lifting is being done at the top. Caruana notched three key wins in a row, including a win over Gelfand that salvaged a draw against Israel, and the following easy win over former World Champion Anand, making a rare appearance in the Olympiad:
Wesley So has five wins and two draws to start. I found his approach to today’s game most intriguing, with a surprise novelty in a very commonly played opening.
Caruana and So during Round 7 © David Lada
It looks like the toughest challenge will be Azerbaijan, led by a smoking hot Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. The Azeri top gun has already posted wins over Adams, Navara, and most notably, Levon Aronian in a mesmerizing game.
GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (AZE) © David Lada
Azerbaijan won their first six matches before being held to a tie by 11th seeded Poland, who also started with six match wins. If you watched Yermo’s live Olympiad recap, you know something about Poland’s unheralded Jacek Tomczak - that he defeated Kramnik to win the match with Russia - but you probably don’t know much else. I admit I was not familiar with the 28-year-old, but Tomczak is leading a charge on the bottom boards to support the better-known figures on one and two, Jan “Lucas” Duda and Radoslav Wojtaszek.
GM Jacek Tomczak (POL)
Tomczak bested French GM Christian Bauer in a complex skirmish to help win the match against 7th seeded France
The U.S. team faces a big challenge next against Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, Russia may be totally out of the picture after another surprise result, a tie match with Serbia. Marko Nenezic may sound like an NBA power forward, but he just defeated Jakovenko to square the match. With only four match wins against one loss and two ties, Russia may be feeling pressure after a pre-tournament meeting with Vladimir Putin. Fortunately, American players can play loosey-goosey knowing that their leader is not concerned about “grand chess masters.”
Russia is also bombing out of a wide-open women’s Olympiad. The U.S. had a share of the lead before dropping a tough one in round seven to Armenia.
Anna Zatonskih is getting a bit worn out on board one, dropping the last two games while Irina is Krushing it on board two with 5.5/6. But you have to take notice of the performance of alternate Jennifer Yu, who has racked up 6.6 points in seven rounds.
Jennifer Yu (USA) in Batumi
True, the opposition is weaker on board four, and some of the games are uneven, but points are points. Let’s have a look at Jennifer’s very professional win from the match with India.