England scored their finest win for many years on Friday at the 170-nation chess Olympiad in Baku, when they demolished China, the No3 seeds and reigning Olympiad champions, 3-1.
The former world title contenders and now veterans Michael Adams, 44, and Nigel Short, 51, made the winning points, Adams with a slow crush in a queen and rook endgame against Wang Yue and Short by brilliant in-depth defence against Li Chao. David Howell against Ding Liren and Luke McShane against Yu Yangyi both achieved good draws in complex games.
This shock victory puts England potentially in the silver medal position with four rounds to go. Rounds eight and nine (of 11) are this weekend. Games start at noon, and all the England games can be viewed free and live online with grandmaster and computer commentaries.
Earlier, England crashed 0.5-3.5 to the Netherlands but recovered strongly with wins against Indonesia, Canada, Vietnam and Chile.
The team’s high spots have been Adams’s calm, controlled and profound strategies, Gawain Jones’s brilliancy against Vietnam where he sacrificed his queen for bishop and knight in the style of the legendary Mikhail Tal, and Short’s Indian summer on bottom board, where he has outclassed most opponents and has 5/6.
The United States, widely predicted for the gold medals, defeated the previously unbeaten Indians 3.5-0.5 and now lead on 13 points out of 14, ahead of Russia, Ukraine, England, India, Georgia and Latvia on 12.
The world champion, Magnus Carlsen, underperformed at the last three Olympiads so came to Baku with ambitions for the individual top board gold medal. However, lower-ranked opponents looking for their hour of glory still give him problems and he conceded draws against Romania, Australia and the Philippines. Australia’s David Smerdon seriously considered starting with 1 d3 e5 2 d4, thus playing a Scandinavian 1 e4 d5 as White, but instead opted for another opening beloved of internet and club players, the c3 Sicilian 1 e4 c5 2 c3.
Smerdon followed up with an individual twist of castling queen’s side. It foxed the world champion, and near the end when Smerdon sacrificed a rook for an honourable draw by perpetual check he could instead have played 21 Bxh7+ with advantage for White.
David Smerdon v Magnus Carlsen
1 e4 c5 2 c3 d5 3 exd5 Qxd5 4 d4 Nf6 5 Nf3 e6 6 Na3 Qd8 7 Nc4 Be7 8 Be3 cxd4 9 Qxd4!? O-O 10 O-O-O!? Nd5 11 Qg4 Nxe3 12 fxe3 Qc7 13 Bd3 Nd7 14 Qf4 Qc5 15 b4 Qc6 16 Nd4 Qxg2 17 Rhg1 Qh3 18 Rg3 Qh4 19 Qxh4 Bxh4 20 Rh3 Bg5 21 Rg1?! h6 22 Rxg5 hxg5 23 Bh7+ Kh8 24 Bd3+ Kg8 25 Bh7+ Kh8 26 Bd3+ 0.5-0.5
3459 White needs to have his own rook away from h3 (where Rxh3 would give check) at the same time that the black rook is away from h6 (where hxg6 can be met by Rxg6). That accomplished, White won by 4 hxg6! Rxh2 5 g7.
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