Chess Olympiad: Armenia draw U.S. in R7, keep the lead

Chess Olympiad: Armenia draw U.S. in R7, keep the lead

PanARMENIAN.Net - Armenia defended its lead in the open section of the Chess Olympiad after drawing the favourites from the United States in round 7, Chessbase reports.

The match was incredibly eventful, with Wesley So playing a brilliant sacrifice, Gabriel Sargissian upsetting Fabiano Caruana, and Sam Shankland losing after mistakenly touching his king.

After six rounds, the participants at the 44th Chess Olympiad in Chennai were granted a rest day. On Friday, August 5, the tournament continued with the seventh of a total of eleven rounds.

Before the break, the Armenian team — without its former top player, Levon Aronian, who has transferred to the US federation — had defeated the in-form, youthful second team presented by India, and was thus the only team left with a perfect score. In sole second place was the United States, the heavy favourites to get the gold medal with their 2771 rating average.

The US had not really convinced in previous rounds, though. Paraguay, Israel and Iran were each beaten only by the smallest of margins, while Uzbekistan, led by an inspired Nodirbek Abdusattorov, had in fact managed to draw the Americans.

Thus, the top match in round 7 was Armenia against the US. Levon Aronian decided not to play against his compatriots and former colleagues.

Facing Wesley So, Hrant Melkumyan missed a decisive blow in what was actually a decent position, giving the USA an early lead. The refutation, which So found in a bit over a minute, was brilliant. It involved a magnificent tactical sequence of forcing checks.

Armenia’s top board Gabriel Sargissian levelled the score by beating none other than Fabiano Caruana. Peter Svidler, an 8-time Russian champion who is commentating for chess24, thus described Sargissian: "An absolute legend in team competitions!"

Leinier Dominguez recovered team USA’s lead by beating Samvel Ter-Sahakyan. The Cuban-born grandmaster has been impressive in Chennai, scoring four wins and two draws for a 5/6 score despite having played four times with the black pieces.

Given these results, the outcome hinged on the game between Robert Hovhanissyan and Sam Shankland, which took a dramatic course. Hovhannissyan got an advantage early on; as the game progressed, Shankland managed to equalize; and finally, when the engines were showing a 0.00 evaluation, the American touched his king after anticipating his rival would give a check on the first rank.

Since Hovhanissyan had not actually given the check, Shankland realized he had no choice but to resign the game. The one legal king move would have lost on the spot! Final score: 2-2.

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