Bermuda may not have the strongest team in the 184-nation, Batumi Chess Olympiad in Georgia – far from it, they are seeded only 155th. But the team from the small British Overseas Territory in the North Atlantic Ocean is the most popular among the players, captains, journalists and visitors, by virtue of what has evolved now into a long-standing and hotly anticipated tradition: the Bermuda party!
It all started innocently enough as a small drinks party at the 1992 Manilla Olympiad, but now the Bermuda party has become “the” social highlight of each and every biennial Olympiad since then. And as the players let their hair down tonight by dancing and downing rum and tequila, this soiree – the brainchild of Nick Faulks and Nigel Freeman, a pair of enchanting ex-London City financiers – also signals that the Olympiad has reached its first rest-day after five demanding rounds of play.
And in the intervening two rounds since our last report, it’s been a case of good and bad news for Team USA.
In rounds four and five, USA beat India, 2.5-1.5, but was then held to a 2-2 draw by Israel, a minor setback for the defending champion’s as they look to retain the Hamilton-Russell Cup. But the good news has been the inspired form of Fabiano Caruana ahead of his November title match with Magnus Carlsen. In successive rounds, the US No.1 and world No.2 has impressively beaten the five-time ex-champion Vishy Anand and Boris Gelfand, the Indian’s former title-challenger. And now, Caruana is only nine points behind his Norwegian title-rival in the unofficial live ratings.
At the top, Azerbaijan, Czech Republic, Poland – who in round four sensationally beat perennial ex-champions Russia – and Ukraine are the only quartette left now on a perfect score of five wins and 10/10, and they lead the USA, China and Israel by a single point.
There is also good news for Team USA in the Women’s Olympiad, who scored back-to-back wins over Azerbaijan and Mongolia, and is now the only team left with five wins and thus in the sole lead with a perfect score of 10/10.
1-4. Azerbaijan, Poland, Czech Republic, Ukraine 10/10; 5-7. Israel, Germany, USA 9; 8-24. Netherlands, Bosnia & Herzegovina, India, Norway, Iran, FYROM, France, Turkey, Georgia 3, Russia, Croatia, Slovakia, China, Armenia, England, Egypt, Belarus 8.
1. USA 10/10; 2-7. Ukraine, Georgia 2, China, Georgia 1, Armenia 9
Photo: Fabiano Caruana is having his own ‘party’ with a brace of impressive, stand-out wins! | © David Lada / 43rd Batumi Olympiad
GM Fabiano Caruana – GM Viswanathan Anand
43rd Batumi Chess Olympiad, (4)
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 d5 4.Bg2 dxc4 5.Qa4+ Nbd7 6.Qxc4 a6 7.Be3!?N An early novelty in a popular line of the Catalan from Caruana! More usual is retreating the queen to c2 and playing Nf3 after Black plays …c5 – and this is a line that Anand likes to play, as witness Giri-Anand, Tata Steel 2018, which went 7.Qc2 c5 8.Nf3 b5 9.Ne5 Nd5 and an easy 20 move draw. But being knocked off his stride by not getting in his usual line, Anand stumbles head-on into a bad position. 7…Bd6 8.Qc2 0-0 9.Nh3!? Yet again, Caruana takes Anand off the beaten track, as the knight would normally develop on f3 in a Catalan – and all this just seems to bamboozle Anand. 9…e5 I think a more testing challenge of Caruana’s ‘freestyle Catalan’ is going for 9…Nb6 10.0-0 Nbd5 11.Bd2 Nb4!? 12.Bxb4 Bxb4 13.Rd1 c6 and look, long-term, to make use of the bishop-pair. The initial problem for Black, though, is, for now, it is a little awkward to develop the light-squared bishop with the pawns on e6 and c6 – and perhaps Anand over-worried about this. 10.0-0 h6 11.dxe5 Nxe5 12.Nc3 Qe7 There’s nothing in 12…Nc4, as after 13.Bd4 Be5 14.Bxe5 Nxe5 15.Nf4 White has the easier game with the better pieces and control of the d-file. 13.Rad1 Re8 Also a solid option is 13…Ng6 with the idea of stopping White from easily playing Nf4. 14.Nf4 c6 15.Bd4 g5?! This is a clear sign of frustration from Anand – and you could clearly see he had lost control of the position. But it is not an easy position, as White clearly has the better potential with the more mobile pieces. Caruana, I would imagine, had to be pleased with getting such a nice position against Anand without having put in too much effort. 16.Nd3 Nxd3 There are no easy answers here. Anand just has to suffer, because the alternative was 16…Bg4 17.f3! Bf5 18.e4 Bg6 19.Na4! and Black has troubles defending those big holes on b6 and c5. 17.Rxd3 Be5 In an ideal world, Anand would like to play 17…Bf5, but that backfires to 18.Bxf6 Qxf6 19.Rxd6 Qxd6 20.Qxf5 with White having a very big advantage. 18.Qd2 Bf5 19.e4 Bg6 20.f4! [see diagram] By now, Anand was probably regretting his self-harm by lashing out with 15…g5. 20…gxf4? The second mistake from Anand – and this one is costly. He had to try 20…Bxd4+ 21.Rxd4 Rad8 22.e5 Qc5 23.Rd1 and take his chances at defending from here. Again, White has a big space advantage – but there are good chances of Black saving the game. 21.Bxe5 Qxe5 22.gxf4 Qc5+ 23.Kh1 Nxe4 Anand has decided he may as well hang for a sheep as a lamb, not willing to willing to sit back and allow Caruana to simply play f5 with a near winning game. 24.Nxe4 Rxe4 25.Rg3 Rd4 26.Qe3 1-0 Anand resigns, arguably a little prematurely, but there is no easy answer to the coming f5 winning.