DIVISSION 3: DAY 3 ROUND-UP
Intrigue remained till the last round in virtually all the pools of Division 3, but as it often happens, we saw the most unpredictable and breathtaking ending in the groups where things had been quiet over the first two days.
The script in this pool seemed quite trivial – Singapore and Albania would advance, whereas the third spot would be on the stake in the match between Malaysia and Monaco that recovered after a disastrous start. However, Ireland had its own agenda – not only football players from this country are known for their obstinacy and determination. Ireland was on a fire on Sunday. First, the players from Emerald Island unexpectedly beat Albania 4:2 (both Albanian IMs were defeated), then routed two underdogs and punched the second ticket to Division 2 after the leader, team Singapore.
On the contrary, Albania nearly missed its spot in Division 2 that seemed guaranteed. After losing to Ireland the team drew with Syria, but the competitors did not seize this opportunity – in Round 8 both Malaysia and Monaco suffered unexpected defeats. By winning the last-round match Albania secured the third place whereas Malaysia’s wiping out Monaco 5:1 did not help the Asian team.
The biggest surprise in this pool is Monaco’s setback. The Monegasques lacked strong young players whereas leaders turned in a patchy performance.
The surprises began from the very start of the final day in this pool. In Round 7 Sri Lanka prevailed over IPCA and took the lead. Unfortunately, the team stumbled in the match against Portugal. Isuru Alahakoon (White) playing for the island nation on second board lost the position below:
Isuru Alahakoon – Jose Guilherme Santos
As a result, Sri Lanka lost this decisive match by a minimal margin, then feeling upset got beaten by Botswana and finished just fifth.
As for Portugal, with this Round 8 victory, the team pretty much secured the first place in the final standings. Scotland scored three confident wins and came second. The third spot was at stake in the match Tajikistan – IPCA. The Tajik players badly needed a victory and they quickly pulled ahead 2:0, but failed to hold the lead – after IPCA won three games even a full point on the first board could not change anything for Tajikistan. Team IPCA will continue its quest in Division 2.
The situation took a dramatic turn in this group with the third team advancing to Division 2 only thanks to better tiebreaks after the first two spots were booked by the rating-favorites Belgium and Jordan.
Many thought that the third team to qualify had been determined in Round 8, when Thailand clobbered Kosovo 5.5:0.5. Prin Laohawirapap, a revelation of the event, carried out another brutal, although semi-correct attack. However, the team lacks experience and overall consistency. Indeed, in the last round match in which Thailand was OK with a draw, the Thai players started crumbling. It became clear soon enough, that Thailand would lose to Wales which meant that а victory over Lebanon would promote Zambia in Division 2.
The Zambians quickly earned three points, but did not manage to pull if off - Chitumbo Mwali, who had won all the games before that, blundered in a slightly inferior but drawing endgame, whereas on the first board we saw a real tragedy:
Richmond Phiri – Fadi Eid
Black has compensation that is sufficient for a draw but hardly more. However, IM Fadi Eid pushed for a win and played 39...Nb2? Had the leader of team Zambia Richmond Phiri found a spectacular 40.с5! we would have seen this interesting African team in the next stage. Unfortunately, he opted for 40.Bf3?? and after 40…Nxc4 White found himself in a hopeless position.
Zambia forfeited three points in the first two rounds and deserved better than fourth place, but it is really hard not to rejoice in Thailand’s success (the only team that managed to make all the way from Division 4 to Division 2). The upcoming encounters against grandmasters in Division 2 will be an invaluable experience for the Thai players.
The only intrigue remaining in this pool was Denmark’s fighting for the third qualifying spot. It looked like the Danes would advance smoothly thanks to weaker opponents in last rounds, but in reality, it came down to the wire in the end.
Denmark completed its mission by scoring three confident victories, but Venezuela’s win over an ex-leader Bolivia in Round 8, could have cast the Scandinavian team overboard. In order to take third place, Venezuela had to beat Uruguay in the last round match. In all fairness, Venezuela had no winning chances – the match ended 3:3 with one of the Uruguayan players losing on the clock in a winning position.
As a result, Denmark caught up with Venezuela on match points but overtook it on board points. Chile and Bolivia took first and second places respectively.
The situation in this pool seemed to be the most complicated but surprisingly enough the dust settled quickly. Mexico demolished the opponents in three matches and mounted to its “legit” first position. Costa-Rica also progressed into Division 2 although the team had to grind out points in all the final day matches.
Guatemala also scored three match victories and took third place, but did it by the skin of its teeth. In the match with Nicaragua, the Guatemalans had hopeless positions on almost all the boards, but fortune favored them on Sunday.
As a result, three highest-rated teams occupied three first places in this seemingly most unpredictable pool.
In conclusion, let’s have a look at the full list of the teams to advance in Division 2, which gets underway on August 14: