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Tromsø Olympiad 2014 - Scottish Women
What a fantastic result, well done everybody.
Sat Aug 9 – Round 7 – K-factors

Bo. 52 Scotland (SCO) Rtg - 37 Slovenia (SLO) Rtg 1 : 3
19.1 GM Arakhamia-Grant, Ketevan 2394 - WGM Srebrnic, Ana 2251 1 - 0
19.2 WFM Bamber, Elaine 2077 - WGM Krivec, Jana 2259 0 - 1
19.3 Roy, Ali 1913 - WFM Kolaric, Spela 2043 0 - 1
19.4 WFM Groves, Carey 2027 - WFM Unuk, Laura 2221 0 - 1

I’m continuing to discover changes to FIDE’s regulations from 1 July 2014. (Is there a useful summary of changes published anywhere?) As well as draw by 5-fold repetition without requiring to claim and requirements for trainers to be licensed, I notice that there is a 75 move rule. It is the same as the 50 move but without either side needing to claim. I wonder how many times that one will be invoked?
Slovenia’s 15 year old board 4 gained an enormous 84 points over the month of July. Immediate concerns that she is the next Polgar subside when her results are checked. Some games are on K factor of 15 but others use 40! To explain the new Ks:

K is the development coefficient.
K = 40 for a player new to the rating list until he has completed events with at least 30 games
K = 20 as long as a player's rating remains under 2400.
K = 10 once a player's published rating has reached 2400 and remains at that level subsequently, even if the rating drops below 2400.
K = 40 for all players until their 18th birthday, as long as their rating remains under 2300

The new regulations will mean greater movement in ratings especially for newly rated players and improving juniors.

Ali goes for it early in a Sicilian Kan with f4. Our silicon friends shake their heads disapprovingly but it creates a tactical mess with Black’s king is stuck on e8. Difficult for humans to work out what is going on but perhaps Ali needed to sacrifice a further pawn with e6 to keep Black’s king in the centre. It escaped to the queenside and Ali’s king came under heavy fire.

Elaine’s WGM opponent has a reputation for liking theoretical lines so Sicilian with 3...Qd8 seemed a reasonable choice. If another recommendation was needed then Magnus had tried it the previous round. However playing ...Bg7 and ...Bxh6 on successive moves lost time and made it difficult for the king to find a safe haven. Elaine wasn’t allowed to get going today.

Carey’s Benko gave her typical dark squared counterplay for the pawn. Recovering the pawn with ...Bxc3 and ...Rxa4 was a double edged decision that needed a dynamic follow-up. Carey missed White’s c4 idea and the weak dark squares and backward d-pawn became significant factors. She fought on an exchange down until White found a zugzwang idea that forced the loss of a pawn and resignation.

Once again Keti was last to finish. Perhaps this was to be expected after the huge amount of time consumed by both sides around moves 3 to 5 in a Bishop’s opening. The Slovenian fell asleep on move 3 and awoke after at least 30 minutes. Keti needs no encouragement to think and caught the same bug. The problem with this approach is that once the time is gone you have to rely on 30 second increments. I’m relieved I’m not watching with a computer running in the background as the evaluation shoots up and down in time trouble. Not good for the health of any Scottish fans watching but Keti eventually secured the point when her monster d-pawn won a knight.
Sun Aug 10 – Round 8 –We wiz robbed
Bo. 31 Italy (ITA) Rtg - 52 Scotland (SCO) Rtg 2½:1½
23.1 IM Zimina, Olga 2327 - GM Arakhamia-Grant, Ketevan 2394 ½ - ½
23.2 IM Sedina, Elena 2291 - Roy, Ali 1913 1 - 0
23.3 WFM Gueci, Tea 2074 - WFM Groves, Carey 2027 1 - 0
23.4 WFM Messina, Roberta 2042 - WFM Durno, Joy 1862 0 - 1

It is a surprise to find our reward for a loss to Slovenia is to be paired against our highest seeded opponents so far, Italy. In principle pairings are on a top v bottom half basis for each score group with teams ranked by match points then game points becomes a little complicated. More details at <!-- m --><a class="postlink" href=""> ... egulations</a><!-- m -->

A late change of board order is necessary after Elaine has a difficult night’s sleep but the team isn’t fazed. Carey decides on a switch from the Modern to the Scandinavian, not out of respect to our hosts, just to set her young opponent fresh problems at the board. The game becomes a struggle for light squares and space but the Italian manages to seize control.

After patiently supporting the team from the sidelines, Joy comes off the bench with maximum impact. Her Semi-Slav preparation produces a nice attacking position with bishops, queen and knight all pointing towards the Black king. Joy takes a knight on d7 which can’t be captured because of a beautiful Bxh7+ tactic and the crowd think it is all over. Jo threatens mate with Qxd3 and after ...f5 could win in great style by Nxf8 sacrificing the queen but gaining two rooks and knight. The moment passes but Joy continues to press before winning a rook ending slowly but surely. So everyone will return home with at least one win.

Keti switches sides in the Accelerated Dragon and quickly reaches an advantage with Black as well. White decides to sacrifice the exchange to change the character of the duel which is a wise choice. Still Keti can return the material in different ways but should aim to get a bishop rather than the knight. The position simplifies and, with a minute left on her clock, Keti is offered a draw. She decides to check with her captain – “Decide for yourself” – and then takes the draw. 1.5-1.5 all and an upset is on the cards.

Ali’s opponent Sedina is an experienced IM brought up in the Soviet (Ukraine) school of chess. Ali’s prep against the French goes well and Black consumes an hour searching for a good plan. Black seeks refuge in rook and knight ending though White isn’t troubled. It all comes down to playing on the increments with reduced material all on one side. Ali plays Rg6 and suddenly the door is shut by ...Ng4. Loss of material is unavoidable. It is a frustrating end to one of our best fights of the Olympiad.
Mon Aug 11 – Round 9 – King walks and equal endings

Bo. 48 Ecuador (ECU) Rtg - 52 Scotland (SCO) Rtg 1½:2½
33.1 WGM Heredia Serrano, Carla 2168 - GM Arakhamia-Grant, Ketevan 2394 0 - 1
33.2 WFM Bosch Garcia, Jacqueline 2173 - WFM Bamber, Elaine 2077 0 - 1
33.3 WFM Romero Echeverria, Abigail 2098 - Roy, Ali 1913 ½ - ½
33.4 WIM Moncayo Romero, Evelyn 2119 - WFM Durno, Joy 1862 1 - 0

Two matches losses in a row and we meet another team seeded above us. It is a reflection of how well the team is doing and is providing the strength of opposition which isn’t possible for round after round back in Scotland. Joy’s experienced WIM uses a Budapest Gambit (no previous games on the database) to nullify White preparation and goes straight for the jugular on the kingside. Having missed a tactic, Joy pragmatically decides to shed pawns and run with her king to the queenside. The cover there isn’t sufficient and a piece is lost in the crossfire. For a long time Ali looks as if she will win. The idea ...g5 to weaken White’s pawn formation is excellent and Ali’s pressure gains her a pawn. In time trouble Ali returns the pawn and there is nothing to play for in the bishop ending. At 0.5-1.5 down it is ominous: Keti and Elaine have both given back all or part of their advantage. Could it be Italy all over again?

Elaine’s Bishop opening generates another tactical melee with destroyed pawn formations. Pushing her g-pawn to g7 is a good plan especially when her king joins the action and wanders all the way up to e8 in the middlegame. Black sacrifices the exchange to head for a drawn B + a-pawn v R + a-pawn. The key point for Black is to ensure that the king can run back to c8 in time when the rook is returned to win the a5-pawn...and with ...Kf7 she blunders into a position where she can’t.

It is a familiar story with Keti deciding the team’s fate. Black is wearing her (lucky?) pork pie hat with an Ecuador badge and is clearly an excellent blitz player. Time and again she lets her clock run down to the last few seconds before making her move. However Keti tortures White for 6 hours: first in a better Q+R+B v Q+R+N middlegame then a better Q+R v Q+R ending. However White went for a drawn R+3 v R+2 (all on the same side) then a drawn R+2 v R+1 before spontaneously combusting on move 134 in a R+2 v R ending which the tablebases demonstrate is a draw.

Last in the hall once more I check the scoresheet carefully and sign for our match win. One of the team's best characteristics is fighting spirit and that really showed today. I’m amused later by Jon Speelman’s tale from one of the lower matches. The match arbiter is clearing up after the game is finished, counts the pieces and notices that the side that has lost is a piece up. He can’t believe his eyes or the signed scoresheets so he unilaterally changes the game result! A little while later he realises/is shown the error of his ways and has to frantically trot round to the technical panel to save his bacon...
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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