The Armenian men’s team has won the Olympiad for the third time in its history, edging out Russia on tiebreaks. The Russian women’s team also needed the help of tiebreaks to finish ahead of China and take Olympiad gold for the second time in a row.
by Evgeny Atarov in Istanbul
For the first time in many years three teams – China, Armenia and Russia – came into the final round on an equal number of points. The Chinese faced an encounter with the reigning champions Ukraine, Armenia were playing Hungary and the Russian team faced the European Champions Germany. However, determining the champions (and their tiebreaks) involved almost a third of the teams at the Olympiad…
Ultimately the Chinese didn’t manage to handle their nerves and lost a one-sided match to Ukraine – 1:3. On the top board Ivanchuk crushed Wang Hao, while Eljanov added a point by beating Bu Xiangzhi with Black on the 4th board. Russia also scored three points quite comfortably: draws on the two “black” boards for Grischuk and Jakovenko, and a clear edge which soon turned into two full points for the two “whites” – Kramnik and Karjakin.
At the point when Russia finished their match Armenia were leading 2:1 with one game remaining. Movsesian had repeated his heroics from the match against Russia by winning an utterly convincing game against Almasi, but if Polgar could beat Akopian the match would be tied. And if that happened Russia would be champions… However, it was hard to hold out any real hope, as the game had looked a dead draw for 60 moves before it finally ended on move 94. The real tension was in the realm of statistics! After Armenia won the match against Hungary they’d be level on match points with Russia, but who would have the better tiebreaks?
Even when Polgar finally shook hands with Akopian it wasn’t immediately clear who’d won the 2012 Olympiad… but after some frantic calculation the Armenians began to celebrate. They’d taken their third gold after victories in Turin 2006 and Dresden 2008. Their tiebreak edge over Russia was a mere 8.5 points – 397 against 388.5.
Third place went to the Ukrainians, who finished half a point behind the winners…
In the women’s tournament there were only two contenders for gold before the final round: Russia and China. The tiebreaks spoke in favour of the representatives of the Celestial Empire, but everything would be decided in the 11th round. The Chinese were playing Bulgaria, while Russia faced the Kazakhs, who had caused a sensation the day before by drawing against the favourites… This time, however, they fell short of creating a second sensation in a row.
The Russians demolished their opponents 4:0. Meanwhile, for the second match in a row Hou Yifan and co. looked unimpressive, barely managing to overcome not the strongest of opponents – 2.5:1.5. After the tiebreaks were calculated it became clear that Russia was first!
The Chinese took silver for a second time, while Ukraine took bronze.
Earlier WhyChess coverage of the 2012 Olympiad:
Armenia and Russia are Olympiad Champions!