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The semi-finals are served: India - USA and China - Russia

The Online Olympiad play-off quarter finals were held today online on the servers. Four extremely exciting matches, two of which had to be decided by the blitz tiebreaks.

Based on today’s results and the knockout stage brackets, the semi-finals – scheduled for tomorrow Tuesday, September 14th – will be: India vs United States and China vs Russia. It’s going to be very hard to predict the outcome of these duels: all four have extremely strong teams.

Quarter Final Duel I

The most exciting quarter-final match was Kazakhstan against the United States of America. The Americans were somewhat stronger on paper on boards one and two but the reverse could be said of boards three and four. The exception was on board six where Bibisara Assaubayeva (9/10!) clearly outrated her opponent Thalia Cervantes.

Kazakhstan took down the first match by 4-2 with important wins by junior Ramazan Zhalmakhanov on board five against Awonder Liang and a very important win by board one Rinat Jumabayev against Jeffery Xiong.

Although he is 200 rating points behind, Jumabayev recently eliminated world number 2 Fabiano Caruana from the World Cup: he is a very strong player.

One of their two losses in this match came on board two.

Denis Makhnev playing for Kazakhstan blundered with 19…0-0-0? and Swiercz rapidly went 20.Qxa6! forcing resignation. If 20…bxa6 21.Rb8 is mate!
USA came back in match two with a very close 3.5-2.5 win. Xiong got his revenge on board one and although Liang and Cervantes both lost again on boards five and six, Irina krush and Nazi Paikidze saved the day with wins on the female boards.

Both teams repeated their line-ups for the exciting tiebreak and USA prevailed by the narrowest of margins: final score of 4-2. A heart-breaking loss for Kazakstan, who have played fantastically all the tournament.

Quarter Final Duel II

The second match between India and Ukraine was extremely hard-fought and was ultimately decided for India in the blitz tie-breaks. The first match fell 4-2 to the side of the Indian squad thanks to wins on boards five and six.

Their main man (or kid!?) was Nihal Sarin, who has scored six out of six in the competition, including two decisive games today.

However, Ukraine bounced back in the second match winning by the shortest of margins (3.5-2.5) and forcing the tiebreaks. The most dramatic game, which gave Ukraine the possibility of forcing the blitz, was the 114 move win by Iulija Osmak against Humpy Koneru in a queen and pawn against queen endgame.

Finally, India advanced to semi-finals with a convincing 5-1 score in the tiebreak. They played much better in all the games but luck was also on their side: Platon Galperin on board five disconnected against Nihal Sarin on move ten and wasn’t able to resume the game.

(The Indian team after their nerve-wracking match against Ukraine. Photo: A. Mokal)

Quarter Final Duel III

Despite losing both of their matches by a very close 3.5-2.5 score, and thus being eliminated from the tournament, everyone would agree that Hungary put Russia to the test this afternoon in Duel III.

American GM Daniel Naroditsky, official commentator for the event, summed it up very nicely: "Hungary is going to keep their heads up high. They were significantly outrated, yet they had a lot of bright spots, for example Erdos beating Dubov and Gledura beating Artemiev, both with the black pieces. A very good effort by Hungary, but at the end, Russia is Russia.”

Online chess has its own dynamic and one of the worse things that can happen to you are “mouse slips”. Even world-class players suffer the fate every now and again: in the diagram, board one Daniil Dubov played 32.Rd6? and immediately resigned after his opponent replied with 32…Bxd6.

The brilliant young Russian was clearly intending 32.Rd7. He might have lost this endgame anyway but in any case there’s still a lot of work to do.

Russian’s female players are definitely in top form and are one of the reasons that the team is where it is. In the first match, Valentina Gunina won again and increased her personal performance to 6/6 while Alexandra Kosteniuk and Kateryna Lagno’s 2/2 in the second match allowed their team to advance to the semi-finals.

Quarter Final Duel IV

Due to time-zones, the first duel of the day to be played was Duel IV, between China and Poland. On paper, a very favourable match-up for the Chinese squad, out-rating heavily the Polish team by rating on most of the boards, most specially on boards three and four, where the two best female players dispute their games.

The first of the two matches was won clearly by China with a 4.5-1.5 score. Board one Ding Liren defeated Jan-Krzysztof Duda in a brilliant attacking game.

Black was already in big trouble after 17…Bxc3? instead of 17…hxg5 and after 21.Ng5! it was clear that Ding was going for Duda’s neck. In the following diagram, Black’s king is stranded in the centre and White is going for mate.

Ding Liren played the interference tactic 30.R1-b5!! winning on the spot as 30…axb5 31.Qxd5 is mate.

Poland’s luck didn’t improve much when Monica Socko’s mouse slip gave Ju Wenjun and easy win on board four.

Socko was obviously intending the exchange of rooks by 17.Rxe8 but she unfortunately released the piece on d8 and game over.

In the second match, Duda got his revenge on board one taking down Ding Liren in a long ending but the middle section of the encounter was all China. Yu Yangyi played a wonderful attacking game to defeat Radoslaw Wojtaszek on board two, while Hou Yifan (the best female player in the world) notched up her second straight win against Karina Cyfka.

On board four Poland changed players (enter Klaudia Kulon) but Ju Wenjun (9.5 out of 10 total score!!) scored again for a final 4-2 for China, who advance to semi-finals.

Pairings of the rounds, live games, PGN files and other useful information can be found on the FIDE Online Olympiad website. Please note that all results and standings remain provisional until the fair play panel submit its daily report.

This stage of the event will run from Monday, September 13th (Quarter-finals) to Wednesday, September 15th (Final). Each duel will consist of two matches, and in the event of a tie (each team wins one of the two matches, or both matches are drawn) the tie shall be broken with one 3/2 blitz match, followed by Armageddon if need be.

The games can be followed online on (Events) and also on FIDE’s own Youtube channel. Commentators for this stage are GM Daniel Naroditsky, WGM Jen Shahade, WGM Dina Belenkaya, WGM Keti Tsatsalashvili, IM David Pruess and James Canty III.

About the tournament:

Scheduled to take place from August 20th to September 15th, the 2021 FIDE Online Olympiad is a national teams event in which all federations affiliated to FIDE have the right to participate. Team’s consist of six players with a minimum of three female players and two junior players.

Played online on, the event features two main stages: the “Divisions stage”, and the Play-offs stage. All games are played with a 15 minutes + 5 seconds increment per move time control. The full schedule can be consulted here.


International Chess Federation (FIDE) as the hosting platform

Partners supporting the 2021 FIDE Online Olympiad:

the Shenzhen Longgang District Culture, Radio, Television, Tourism and Sports Bureau

the Shenzhen MSU-BIT University

Shenzhen Chess Academy

Shenzhen Pengcheng Chess Club

Shenzhen Longgang District People's Government

the Shenzhen Municipal Bureau of Culture, Radio, Television, Tourism and Sports