By Tuesday, September 14th, we only had the four strongest teams left at the FIDE Online Olympics 2021: China, Russia, India and the USA. It was a really exciting semi-final and what happened didn’t let the spectators down!
Russia beat China in a two-round match and didn’t have to play the tiebreaks, while the US-India game was much more turbulent. In the end, the USA prevailed and ensured an exciting final between Russia and the USA.
Let’s dive right in and see how that happened!
You can find the knockout games of the FIDE Online Olympiad on our live event platform: On match days, expert comments are made available on Chess.com/TV.
Live coverage of the semi-finals. Check out all of the live coverage at youtube.com/chess.
In the first seminal there was a confrontation between two of the best teams in the world (the second one too!) – Russia and China. The paths of the teams here were quite different: Russia dominated throughout the tournament, won all nine games and won the quarter-finals without a tie-break. All the players seem to be in fantastic shape.
It was a slightly more difficult journey for China as they lost two games in their league playoffs. However, even though they finished second behind Kazakhstan, there was no doubt that they would continue to qualify and on Monday the 13th they showed great chess against Poland.
The first game today ended with a win for Russia with 3.5-2.5 points. In particular, the top boards draw (GM Daniil Dubov draw GM Ding Liren, GM Yu Yangyi, GM Vladislav Artemiev and GM Hou Yifan, GM Alexandra Goryachkina). As we can see, this is a fantastic competition: on a female board, the world’s best player who is now somewhat retired, versus what a lot of people think will be the world’s best player in the years to come; this is the case with every board!
However, it was on the last three boards that the game was decided. GM Andrey Esipenko outplayed Wang Shixu, this year’s world champion GM Alexandra Kosteniuk beat the women’s world champion GM Ju Wenjun and although WIM Ning Kaiyu scored a win against IM Polina Shuvalova, Russia has already won the game.
In the second game, China couldn’t come back: Russia won again, this time 4-2, eliminated China from the tournament and advanced to the finals.
There were even fewer draws in this encounter: there were no winners in two games, while four ultimately led to a decisive result: Dubov defeated Ding, Yifan outpaced Goryachkina, Kosteniuk and Esipenko scored victories against Wenjun and Zhihang.
So after its very convincing victory, Russia stamped its ticket for the finals. The whole team is doing great and playing great chess, but Russia’s fans should thank Esipenko and Kosteniuk as they both won both rounds today.
It is very impressive to see how Esipenko never let go of a small advantage that he had, even if that advantage sometimes only seemed psychological and eventually led to the opponent collapsing under pressure.
The second India-USA semi-final match was very dramatic. In the first round India scored a massive win with a very impressive score of 5-1. Two games were drawn, but four players gave India the full point: Specifically, GM Viswanathan Anand outplayed GM Jeffery Xiong, GM Pentala Harikrishna defeated GM Dariusz Swiercz, GM Harika Dronavalli scored a win against IM Anna Zatonskih and on the last board, WGM R. Vaishali turned out to be stronger than WGM Thalia Cervantes Landeiro.
With such strong teams competing against each other, scores like 5-1 are rare, so it must have been very difficult for the American team to come back in the next must-win round.
But they did! In round two, Xiong managed to hit back against Anand and win his game in a very convincing position (see notes below). On board two we saw new players: GM Vidit Gujrathi versus GM Ray Robson, and the latter won his game. Additionally, GM Awonder Liang trumped another well-known child prodigy, GM Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, and although Drovanalli scored a full point against IM Nazi Paikidze, it was not enough. 4-2 for the US! And as for the audience, they have tiebreaks to enjoy.
In the tiebreaks there was one change on board one and two of the Indian team: Anand did not play. Instead, top boards Harikrishna and GM Baskaran Adhiban represented their country. Unfortunately, this move did not go well for India as their two top boards lost. Xiong beat Harikrishna and Robson outplayed Adhiban. In addition, GM Irina Krush won her game against GM Humpy Koneru and Cervantes outplayed Vaishali on the last board.
Although India also scored a win, the final score was 4.5-1.5 for the American team and so they will face Russia in the final on Wednesday September 15th.
It was a fascinating day of the Online Olympics and hopefully you will enjoy the excitement and action of the finals even more!
ALL SEMI-FINAL GAMES
The FIDE Online Olympics, a major online chess event for national teams, runs from August 20th to September 15th on the Chess.com server. More than 1,000 participants and 153 teams from around the world play.
Each team consists of six players, including at least two women, at least one player under 20 years of age and at least one player under 20 years of age. The time control for all games is 15 minutes for the game and a five second increment per move starting with the first move.