It’s the ultimate team competition, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a little individual glory to be had at the just-concluded 42nd Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan.
The afterglow from the stirring U.S. victory, the first in the Open competition since 1976, was only enhanced by the gold medal GM Wesley So won on Board 3, scoring 8½ points in 10 games and the bronze medal claimed by American top board Fabiano Caruana. Caruana’s undefeated score of four wins and six draws was particularly impressive considering he was pitted against some of the strongest players in the world, including world champion Magnus Carlsen, throughout the event. Caruana also contributed two of the most timely wins for the victorious Americans, defeating GM Pavel Eljanov of the silver medal-winning Ukrainian team and taking a full point from GM Evgeny Bareev in the critical 11th and final round match against Canada.
Another medalist of note will be a very familiar name for longtime chess fans — GM Eugenio Torre of the Philippines, who racked up a stunning 2836 performance rating and the gold medal for third board with a record of nine wins and two draws. It was 40 years ago that Torre, then just 22 years old, became Asia’s first official grandmaster, a pioneer for the slew of Chinese, Indian and other East Asian GMs who now rank among the world’s very best male and female players.
He qualified for the world championship candidates’ cycle in 1982 and has held down top board for the Philippines a remarkable 18 times in past Olympiads. Even playing on Board 3 in Baku, Torre faced some very strong competition, scoring four wins and two draws against the six grandmasters he faced. He showed little sign of fatigue despite being one of the oldest players in the mammoth competition, winning his final five games.
One of his best efforts came against Spanish GM Ivan Salgado Lopez, the only victory for the Filipino squad in a 2½-1½ Round 8 loss. In a Trompowsky Attack, the early play looks balanced, but Black’s idea to pry open the h-file looks to be a waste of time after 16. Kxg2 Qd5+ 17. f3, when the seemingly logical 17…0-0-0!? puts the Black king in some discomfort after 18. Nf4 Qd7 19. Na5.
With Black’s counterplay blocked, the game turns on the fate of advanced White’s d-pawn, which disrupts Black’s game, but which also could become a weakness. Torre plays energetically to secure a clear edge after 19. a3 c5 20. d5! Qd7 (Bxb2? 21. Rb1 wins a piece) 21. d6 b5 22. Na5 Rab8 23. Rcd1 Rfd8 24. e4! (coming to the critical pawn’s aid in the nick of time) fxe4 25. Qxe4, threatening to fork Black’s rooks with 26. Nc6.
Falling just short now is the interesting 25…Bd4!? 26. Nc6 Qxd6, as White can play 27. b4! Re8 28. bxc5 Rxe4 29. cxd6 Rxe1 30. Rxe1 Bc3 31. Nxb8 Bxe1 32. Nxa6 and wins. But Salgado Lopez’ obsession with ousting the annoying d-pawn leaves him open to an even more painful shot.
There followed 25…Rb6?! 26. Nd5! Rxd6 (Rbb8 27. Ne7+ Kf8 [Kh7 28. Rh1+ Bh6 29. Qh4] 28. Qh4 Rb6 29. Qh7), and the next sequence is practically forced: 27. Ne7+ Kf8 28. Rxd6 Qxd6 29. Nb7 Qd2+ 30. Re2 Rd4 (see diagram; Black has apparently wriggled his way out of the fork, but Torre has another salvo prepared) 31. Nxg6+! Kg8 (fxg6 32. Qe8 mate) 32. Qe8+ Kh7 33. Rxd2 Rxd2+ 34. Kh3 fxg6 35. Qxb5, and though Black has a rook and minor piece for the lost queen, his disorganized position can’t be saved.
After 38. Qxa7 Re2 (c2 39. Ne6 Kh6 40. Qxg7+ Kh5 41. g4 mate) 39. Qc7 c2 40. Nd3, Black’s last hope, the passed c-pawn, will be corralled after 40…g5 41. Nb4 Kg8 42. Nxc2; Salgado Lopez resigned.
Torre-Salgado Lopez, 42nd Chess Olympiad, Baku, Azerbaijan
1. d4 Nf6 2. Bg5 g6 3. Bxf6 exf6 4. e3 Bg7 5. Ne2 f5 6. g3 d5 7. Bg2 c6 8. O-O h5 9. c4 dxc4 10. Na3 h4 11. Nxc4 hxg3 12. hxg3 Be6 13. Qd3 Bd5 14. Rfe1 Na6 15. Rac1 Bxg2 16. Kxg2 Qd5+ 17. f3 O-O 18. Nf4 Qb5 19. a3 c5 20. d5 Qd7 21. d6 b5 22. Na5 Rab8 23. Rcd1 Rfd8 24. e4 fxe4 25. Qxe4 Rb6 26. Nd5 Rxd6 27. Ne7+ Kf8 28. Rxd6 Qxd6 29. Nb7 Qd2+ 30. Re2 Rd4
31. Nxg6+ Kg8 32. Qe8+ Kh7 33. Rxd2 Rxd2+ 34. Kh3 fxg6 35. Qxb5 Rxb2 36. Qxa6 c4 37. Nc5 c3 38. Qxa7 Re2 39. Qc7 c2 40. Nd3 Black resigns.
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