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Tromsø Olympiad 2014 - Scottish Women
Tue Aug 12 – Round 10 – 20:20 hindsight

Bo. 52 Scotland (SCO) Rtg - 41 Bosnia & Herzegovina (BIH) Rtg 0 : 4
27.1 GM Arakhamia-Grant, Ketevan 2394 - WFM Dimitrijevic, Aleksandra 2293 0 - 1
27.2 WFM Bamber, Elaine 2077 - WIM Boric, Elena 2196 0 - 1
27.3 Roy, Ali 1913 - WFM Dengler, Dijana 2070 0 - 1
27.4 WFM Groves, Carey 2027 - Jacimovic, Sara 2032 0 - 1

At the end of round nine we are sitting, exactly as seeded, in 52nd place and another country with “chess culture” awaits us in the crucial run-in. Bosnia has a mix of improving young players and experienced titled players. The match starts well with some familiar positions from preparation. Ali obtains play against the centre and backward e-pawn in a French against an experienced WFM. However too many pieces become sidelined on the a-file and Black uses the extra time to infiltrate on the c- and e-files with her rooks. Capturing on b5 with the queen before Be3 was possible but doing so later on allows a crushing exchange sacrifice on f3. Carey is looking comfortable with her pieces sitting on the first three ranks ready to expand against White’s Maroczy set-up. Black has to work out which of ...b5 , ...f5 or...d5 is the correct break. When ...d5 does come, White is well placed to meet it and secures and advanced passed d-pawn. Carey strikes out on the queenside but the newly qualified WFM finds mate on the kingside with a clever bishop sacrifice.

Keti’s opponent plays multiple off-beat lines to avoid getting caught in the opening and today tries 3...Nc6 in the French. Keti embarks on a king hunt and crashed through. Perhaps simplest was 28.Qxe6 restoring material parity but with Black’s king hopelessly exposed. Instead Keti played for mate and in desperation her opponent tried one last trick in time trouble. With the computer showing that Black can resign after 35.Rf2, Keti instead checks with her queen and the win disappears to a draw. Shocked by this turn of events and with the clock ticking towards zero Keti is unable to work out how to save the game.

A Norse saga could be written about Elaine’s game today, the decisions made before and the tragic outcome. Noticing that her opponent repeatedly pays the Worrall Attack, I suggest consulting Andrew “Play The Ruy Lopez” Greet who wrote the key book on this line. He suggests a good line for Black and Elaine is well prepared when 5.Qe2 appears on the board. Mixing lines she strikes out with an early ...d5 “a la Marshall” but it is ill founded and with 11.Bb3 White could trap Elaine’s queen! Instead she settles for the pawn advantage. Apparently nerveless Elaine fights on with great dynamism although each time she is about to get well on top she hands a chance to her opponent e.g. leaving a rook en prise or taking a pawn that allows White’s rook to get active. Approaching the time control she sacrifices a second exchange and this time it appears there is no escape. Our hopes are raised when the prospect of a fortress appears in the B v R ending. Sadly it is not to be and the team loses 0-4.

Elaine would have made a WIM norm today with a draw and would have retained an outside WGM norm chance in the last round with a win (but also a team win) so this is a difficult result to bear. The full impact is only known at dinner when we discover we are paired against much lower rated Sri Lanka. Their highest rated player is under 1800 (lower than the 1950 she needs to beat) and it sinks in that Elaine can no longer make the WIM norm she deserved. It is the low point of the Olympiad for the whole women's squad. If our bottom four players had faced Bosnia and Bosnia avoided dropping their board one, then Elaine would have achieved the WIM norm (which counts as a 20 game norm because of the Olympiad) even with a loss. I'm not a fan of annotating by result but, with hindsight, a different path could and perhaps should have been followed to ensure the norm.

Over in the open team Andrew Greet similarly suffers when he first can’t achieve the GM norm (also a 20 game norm so would have been his last although with 2500 rating still to be achieved) in the Japan match when his opponent is too low rated and then his loss prevents any chance of a last round shot. A cruel, cruel day and the free day can’t come quick enough.

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