After Rio - Even More Olympic Golds for the USA! Part 2

In the next round, however, the Americans could only manage four draws against the Czech Republic and, if anything, they were lucky to finish on level pegging as Nakamura was quite lost at one point. This was surely a disappointing result for the US, considering that their average rating was 138.75 less than their opponents. Nevertheless, the USA bounced back straight away with a 3-1 victory over Serbia.

Then there was a second Serbian blunder.

Hikaru Nakamura won two short games by exploiting bad blunders. Photo © Lana Afandiyeva

Hikaru Nakamura won two short games by exploiting bad blunders. Photo © Lana Afandiyeva

In the next round the US scored an impressive victory over the strong Ukrainian squad, weakened by the non-partcipation of Chucky Ivanchuk. Caruana was the only American to win, but that was all it took for them to collect the two match points.

Thanks to Fabiano Caruana, the USA defeated Ukraine in a crucial match. Photo credit: Baku Chess Olympiad

Thanks to Fabiano Caruana, the USA defeated Ukraine in a crucial match. Photo credit: Baku Chess Olympiad

The next round was a mirror image of the previous day — Fabiano Caruana drew against Pentala Harikrishna, but Hikaru Nakamura, Wesley So, and Sam Shankland each won their games on the lower boards.

This brought the Americans to their biggest test yet against Russia. Caruana came under pressure on board one from world title challenger Sergey Karjakin, but eventually drew. Nakamura did not do much to trouble former champion Vladimir Kramnik on board two, and Ray Robson lost an equal endgame against the redoubtable Alexander Grischuk. So it was all down to Wesley So, playing Black, to overcome Ian Nepomniachtchi, a none too easy task as up to this point the Russian had scored seven wins from seven games!

Wesley So took the board four gold medal with 8½/10. Photo credit: Baku Chess Olympiad 

Wesley So took the board four gold medal with 8½/10. Photo credit: Baku Chess Olympiad 

Let's give a special mention for Wesley So, who continued his excellent form after winning outright the mighty Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis. In the Olympiad he gained twelve rating points, despite already possessing a very high Elo of 2782. His performance was duly rewarded with a gold medal for the best overall result on board three, therefore making it a double gold for him in Baku.

Next up was the match against Norway, who eventually finished very strongly to gain fifth place, but this time it was to be a fairly comfortable 3-1 win for the US outfit. Caruana held Magnus Carlsen on top board, and Nakamura and Shankland beat Jon Ludvig Hammer and Frode Urkedal respectively.

In the penultimate round the Americans faced Georgia, and it was a surprisingly close match. Caruana was up against Baadur Jobava, who won individual gold for his stellar performance on board one, and held him to a draw with the black pieces. Meanwhile Nakamura had a "complete loss of objectivity and madness," resulting in him losing with White against Mikheil Mchedlishvili. However, So and Shankland turned it around on boards three and four to give the US team a 2½-1½ win. It was quite ironic because in 2012 they tweeted, "The cruel and harsh reality of playing in a team chess event is that you are only as good as your team-mates."

In the final round, the US were drawn against Canada, and though Eric Hansen defeated Shankland on bottom board, victories by So and Caruana clinched gold for Team USA.

This article was published in the 2016 September issue of British Chess Magazine (BCM) which began in 1881 and is the world's oldest chess magazine. Theo Slade, a new Orlando resident from Cornwall, England, is their youngest ever staff writer, starting when he was only 12 years old! Theo has been writing regularly for BCM for three years and has agreed to share his articles with the CFCC community.

This article was published in the 2016 September issue of British Chess Magazine (BCM) which began in 1881 and is the world's oldest chess magazine. Theo Slade, a new Orlando resident from Cornwall, England, is their youngest ever staff writer, starting when he was only 12 years old! Theo has been writing regularly for BCM for three years and has agreed to share his articles with the CFCC community.

The record books will show that America had therefore won their first Olympiad gold medal for forty years, but in fact it took quite a while to confirm their victory, because of the complexity of the tie-break. Whilst the method of tiebreak can, and I am sure was, fiercely debated long into the night, I believe that it is objectively the best system for open team events. It was just unfortunate that at the end of a fantastic tournament, chess fans all over the world had to wait for hours to find out who had actually won. Still, I don't suppose Team USA are complaining now!

Theo Slade of British Chess Magazine

The following article was published in the 2016 May issue of British Chess Magazine (BCM), which began in 1881 and is the world's oldest chess magazine. Theo Slade (2059), a new Orlando resident from Cornwall, England, is their youngest ever staff writer, starting when he was only 12 years old! Theo has been writing regularly for BCM for three years and has agreed to share his articles with the CFCC community. Photo by: Brendan O' Gorman