DIVISION 3: DAY 2 ROUND-UP
The second day in Division 3 divided all the pools into two big categories – in some pools the circle of potential candidates for the spots at the next stage shaped up, whereas in the others even six rounds down the road virtually all the teams still have a chance to qualify for Division 2. Everything will be decided today but in the meantime let’s looks back at the key Saturday events.
Singapore finally showed its strength. The most balanced team in this pool went through the second day without a hitch – after whitewashing Hong Kong, Singapore beat Malaysia and Albania in the key matches with the same score 4:2. Singapore emerged on top and basically secured its spot in the next date. Despite losing to its main competitor Albania also should progress into Division 2.
As for the third spot, it is still wide open. Most likely its fate will be decided in the last round match Malaysia – Monaco. Since Ireland lost to both main rivals, it has just a slim chance to qualify. The Monegasques unexpectedly lost two very important match points against South Korea, but late at night, the Fair Play Panel (FFP) disqualified one the South Korean players and Monaco got these two points back.
Unfortunately, Syria lost the momentum it had picked up on the first day. One of the reasons might be the absence of one of its key players Manar Khalil.
Unfortunately, this micro-tournament is marred by various non-chess problems. Team Nigeria withdrew from the event due to serious discrepancies between the players and the local federation. Another African team Angola is pestered by the internet disconnections. As a result, neither of Angolan players managed to finish his or her game in the match with Chinese Taipei.
An unpleasant incident happened in the top-3. After six rounds Portugal had a commanding lead but one of its players got disqualified. After the FFP’s decision, the team lost three match points and fell back to the third position, whereas team IPCA moved atop the standings. Portugal (despite disqualification) and Scotland seem to be the main candidates for two remaining qualifying spots, although Sri Lanka and Tadjikistan are still capable of springing a surprise.
It was crunch time for Belgium and the team mobilized its best players – GM Bart Michiels got into action on the second day. Overall, the plan worked out – the victories over Lebanon and Jordan and a draw with Thailand propelled Belgium to the top position and pretty much secured a spot in Division 2. When playing in the higher division the team will have to solve the problem of its second women’s board though.
There are six (!) contenders for the other two spots with Jordan and Thailand being slightly ahead of the pack. The tournament situation is so complicated and unpredictable, that any of these six teams can advance to the next stage. The commentators of the official stream are rooting for the underdog, team Thailand, which could have settled all the issues if it wasn't for an accident in the match with Jordan:
Prin Laohawirapap – Malek Saif
In this double-edged position 14-year old up and coming Thai Prin Laohawirapap ventured upon a breakthrough in the center 29.e5?!. Malek Saif erroneously reacted – 29...bxa4? (29...fxe5 was necessary) 30. Bxc6! bxc6 31. Rxc6+ Kd8 and White could have wrapped things up with 32.Rc8+! Rxc8 33.Qxa5+, but the Thai player went astray – 32. exd6?! Qd7 33. bxa4?? Rxa4 34. Qb6+ Ke8 35. Qe3+ Kf8 and Black’s king escaped; White resigned a few moves later.
Even an overwhelming favorite of the entire Division 3, team Denmark might not survive in this “group of death”. On Saturday the Danes threw a rising star GM Jonas Bjerre into the fray on a junior board but failed to enlist their best women. Bjerre crushed his opponents, but the absence of the best women translated into four defeats in the key encounters with Venezuela and Bolivia and two lost matches.
Bolivia doesn’t look invincible, but the team has won all the matches so far (there is no other team like that in Division 3) and is bound to qualify. Chile also should advance – this team has a very balanced lineup and a deep bench. Suffice it to say that twelve players Chilean players have already participated in the event.
Venezuela occupies the third position, but it will be a major challenge for this team to hold its ground after a devastating defeat 1:5 in the match with Chile. Despite its Saturday’s collapse, Denmark should solve all its problems and advance to the next stage.
If bets on Online Olympiad had been accepted, bookmakers would have earned huge money in this pool. Any given match looks like a thriller with an unpredictable outcome; there are neither favorites nor underdogs, only Suriname fell behind but this team was very unlucky on several occasions.
Suffice it to say that in Round 4 the leader, Mexico lost to Honduras, the team that was lagging behind all the competitors after the first day. What is more, Honduras scored a well-deserved victory. Then Honduras drew with Costa-Rica and had a great chance to join the leaders but lost the final match of the day against the Dominican Republic.
Christopher Guzman – Nahun Gavarrete
FM Nahun Gavarrete could have won several times, but even in this position, it is hard to imagine that anything can go wrong for Black. After all, he has an extra pawn and good winning chances. However, a knee-jerk 34...Ba6?? sprang a trap – 35. Qd8+ Kh7 36. g5! Qg6 37. h4! and Black has no defense against Bh3-f5. Christopher Guzman prevailed and handed the victory to the Dominican Republic.
Dominicana moved up to the fourth place, Honduras is just ninth again but both teams have a shot for a spot in the top-3. Costa-Rica and Mexico are out of reach, but climbing to the third place is a feasible task for both squads.
On Sunday at 08:00 UTC, Division 3 enters the final stage. Let’s hope that all 15 teams advancing to a prestigious Division 2 will be determined over the chessboard, rather than by the FFP team which did a great job on Saturday.