7 September 2020

Not all Problems are Overcome Even on Chess.com

Dmitry Kryakvin sums up the Online Olympiad play-off results

The way they covered the grandiose competition on the Internet deserves nothing but nice words.   They broadcast the FIDE Online Olympiad (in many languages, including Russian) on the FIDE channel, chess.com, and Match TV Igra.  As for the Russian-speaking audience, the organizers’ move, in my opinion, was nothing short of genius as they set to the task the Russian champion Evgeny Tomashevsky and a famous photojournalist Maria Emelianova. 

Indeed, every broadcast by Evgeny and Maria gives you many ready-to-use cliches, and dozens of memes on this topic have appeared in many groups dedicated to chess.  A big fan of the trivia game WWW, custodian of Yuri Razuvaev’s legacy, and one of the prominent intellectuals of modern chess on the one hand, and an assertive and energetic journalist on the other hand, made for a unique couple of commentators.  I remember Tomashevsky at some point politely asking with a smile, "Masha, would you rather have your pawn on a6 or a5 as Black in Giuco Piano?"  Emelianova's face betrayed confusion as if she were an unprepared student questioned during the state exams by a stern professor about the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism.  Kudos to Maria for coming back with an answer that none will find fault with, "As a matter of fact, I play the Sicilian!" 

TV and computer screens gathered a big audience (a turbulent chess boom in China and India is not something to neglect) to watch the quarterfinals, and there was some bad news in store for them, as it turned out later. 

Quarterfinals. First disconnect 

An incredibly exciting match India – Armenia ran into a nasty situation. In the first match, the founders of chess were leading with a 2.5:1.5 score. Sargsyan defeated Vantika, but, in turn, Vidit was stronger than Sargissian, and Harika took advantage of Mkrtchyan's error.  The battles continued in two games: Nihal Sarin tried to convert an extra pawn against Haik Martirosyan, and Humpy Koneru fought Elina Danielian in a complex but objectively drawn queen ending.

Sarin (India) – Martirosyan (Armenia)

69…Ke7? 70.Kg7, is bad since the winning method is quite simple in this case: 70…Bf3 (or 70…Bf5 71.Bd1 Bg6 72.Bg4 Ke8 73.Kf6+-) 71.Bc2 Be2 72.Bh7 Bf3 73.Bg8 Bh5 74.Bхf7! Bхf7 75.g6 Be8 76.Kh7 – Black is forced to give up the bishop, and the pawn ending is lost for him. 69…Kg8? 70.g6! Bхg6 71.Bхe6 is also underwhelming because the white pawn gets to d6, followed by the white king moving to f6. However, there is 69…Bf5! and 70.g6 is met with 70…fхg6 with a draw since there is no displacing the black bishop from the f5-h3 diagonal.

Haik's clock displayed 50 seconds – enough time for a talented grandmaster to tackle this magnitude problem, although there is no disregarding such factors as fatigue and nerves... And then, “connection lost” sign popped up near the Armenian grandmaster’s name, and in less than a minute the Indian team was celebrating a third victory. Meanwhile, Elina Danielian managed to take her opponent’s last pawn and the game – 3.5:2.5 in favor of India.

When the first match finished, a severe scandal broke out. The Armenian side claimed that chess.com was to blame for the connection failure, but this claim was not supported by the chief arbiter Alex Holowczak (an experienced arbiter born in 1990), famous in the chess world for seating apart of the adjacent pairs Shirov – Yu Yangyi and Karjakin – Dreev in the Grand Swiss on the Isle of Man because of repeating the same line up to move 20. Team Armenia filed a protest with the appeals committee, which went into a two-hour session. Meanwhile, the Russians and Hungarians joined the online platform. 

The key issue was discussed among Arkady Dvorkovich (chairman), Sava Stoisavljevic – an arbiter from Serbia/WFM, and Mikhail Khodarkovsky – an International organizer from the United States. I would like to note that not so long-ago FIDE used to practice a good tradition of inviting on the appeals committee famous grandmasters of the past generation.  It would be a pity to let this tradition go.  It seems that it was at that moment (and later at the final as well) that the committee must have missed a wise and authoritative figure of Mikhail Krasenkow’s caliber, or any classical chess player of international importance for that matter.

The appeals committee was tackling a daunting task. Whose fault was the disconnection? The Armenian team demanded that game be resumed from the 2.5:2.5 score, but how to resume the game if Haik had probably found a draw in a calm atmosphere by that moment?  In the end, the appeal claim was denied. As a sign of protest, team Armenia did not show up for the second match, and team India advanced to the semifinals...

I will cite the sides' views on this issue, which were published on the Facebook page of FIDE General Director Emil Sutovsky and in an interview with Elina Danielian on the website chess-news.ru.

Emil Sutovsky, Chess.com denied their server’s malfunction and suspension of games.  You cannot resume the game after the disconnection. Firstly, the position could have been analyzed in the meanwhile. Secondly, the natural flow of the battle has been disrupted and players’ mindsets have changed. Thirdly, this will inevitably lead to unscrupulous disconnections and subsequent investigations every time similar incidents happen”.

Elina Danielian, “Those who were in Yerevan played in a large hall of our chess club. They kept at a distance and sat with their backs to each other. So, other players withdrew from the hall, leaving Haik and me alone. Having been playing the queen endgame with an extra pawn for quite a while already, I was close to winning, and I heard Haik talking over Zoom and reporting a problem. That is, he was reporting a connection problem to the Chess.com server over Zoom. I had already won and asked what happened. He replied, "my flag fell." All the while he was talking with the arbiter over Zoom.

By the way, it was not the first such case. The same thing had happened in the previous match with Greece. I had taken a screenshot of our connection bars, which shows a full connection. Had we suffered a disconnection, our second network would have taken over the lost connection automatically. The Chess.com server gave a negative reply to the IP change inquiry.

This is clearly a Chess.com server issue. Our Federation requested all data about website traffic when our match was underway. This request was denied for some unknown reasons. If everything is transparent and the problem is on our side, why refuse to provide such feedback?  Moreover, I say that if it had been a problem with our Internet, we would have duly recognized our defeat."

Other leaders of the Armenian team, Levon Aronian and Gabriel Sargissian, also voiced their protest publicly.

Chess.com website is one of the most popular servers at present. It develops dynamically and provides dozens of most appealing services, the already legendary "Puzzle Rush" being among them. There are numerous prize tournaments and various exciting competitions. The “What? Where? When?" version of the trivia game for chess players is in this autumn’s schedule. Chess.com is something to recommend to everyone, except that under heavy traffic (that the number of chess players and spectators on site can go off scale should come as no surprise) it fails from time to time. Some Title Tuesday tournaments were postponed or canceled; several grandmasters could never connect to the online European championship held the past spring. When the competition was in full swing, a warning message suddenly came up on my screen that read "after so many seconds, your game will be a forfeit over a disconnection!" However, Caissa took mercy on me that time around... That is why not a few organizers are now transferring their tournaments to the server of Chess.com's main competitor – Lichess.org.

The Armenian chess players’ and their fans’ message is clear. On the other hand, would not stones and bottles have flown in the committee’ direction from the opposite barricades if Nihal – Martirosyan had been allowed to resume or replay? Finally, I sincerely feel for those who have invested a huge amount of time and energy into the online Olympiad only to find themselves between a rock and a hard place instead of celebrating a grandiose chess festival.

However, I cannot but highlight the following:  If FIDE intends to continue organizing top competitions on the Internet, it certainly needs its own platform to take full responsibility for what happens there.  Such situations when players blame chess.com and the International Chess Federation struggles to find a subtle compromise between the strongest players and its online partner looks very strange indeed.  We are aware of the challenges that FIDE is up to, but this tournament has clearly exposed the soft points.

A well-known grandmaster, trainer, and anti-cheating crusader Konstantin Landa spoke well on this topic: “The Armenia – India match incident deserves special mention. Technical specialists will have no problems determining the side to blame for the connection lost, but for some reason, they stubbornly refuse to come to a common conclusion. Meanwhile, the Chess.com people generally managed to get away with it, as I see from the information available. And all this taking place at the quarterfinals stage of the tournament!  This is not the way to go. FIDE definitely needs its own game server to operate."

Alas, the situation’s followup in the final was extremely sad.  

While the appeal investigation was underway, the Russians knocked out the Hungarians. In the first match, Alexander Motylev's trainees literally whitewashed the opponent 5:1 (Gal – Shuvalova 0:1, Gara – Kosteniuk 0:1, Goryachkina – Hoang 1:0, Nepomniachtchi – Erdos 1:0), but in the return match the Hungarians got together to give a decisive battle.

V. Gunina (Russia) – T. Gara (Hungary)

23.Ne4 gives white a strong initiative, and this is precisely Gunina’s type of position! However, there followed a suicidal 23.Nf3?! Qe8 24.h4?? gхh4 25.Qf4 Rg6! 26.Kh2 Qf8 27.Rg1 Qхf4 28.Bхf4 Rf8 – the Russian player’s forces are bound hand and foot, and material losses are inevitable.

Petra Papp defeated Ekaterina Lagno in a lengthy ending battle, but the Russians escaped the match loss and an unpredictable Armageddon that could have followed. Polina Shuvalova confidently defeated Dorina Demeter, and Ian Nepomniachtchi outplayed Tamas Banusz.

T. Banusz (Hungary) – I. Nepomniachtchi (Russia) 

Black has active pieces for the missing pawn, a powerful passed pawn – White should be on the lookout. 28.Rb3 Rc4 29.Kf1 intending 29…Qd2 30.Qxd2 cxd2 31.Ke2, might be too subtle to find, but much easier is 28.Rc1 or 28.Re1 Rb4 29.Re3. However, with only six minutes on his clock, Banusz carelessly played

28.g3? Rb4! 29.Kf1

29.Rxb4 Qxb4 30.Kg2 Qb2, loses the game, so the Hungarian grandmaster drives his king towards the black pawn, which becomes incredibly dangerous.

29...Rb2 30.Rxb2 cxb2 31.Ke2 h5 (was even tougher 31...f5!) 32.a3

On 32.a4, 32…Qb4 is unpleasant, but even here Ian restored material balance with a series of checks.

32...Qb6 33.Qb1 Qa6+ 34.Kd2 Qxa3 35.Kc2

35.e5 was the last opportunity, and now White had to give up his entire kingside for the b2-pawn.

35...Qc5+ 36.Kxb2 Qxf2+ 37.Kc3 Qxg3+ 38.Kd4 Qxh4 39.Qb8+ Kg7 40.Ke3 Qg5+ 41.Kd3 h4 42.e5 h3 White resigned.

Other quarterfinals kept spectators on the edge of their seats. In the battle between Poland and Azerbaijan, the rivals exchanged blows, and the semifinals was being decided in the “game of death”.

Although Poland won the first match with a 4:2 score, it was not a rosy start when Azerbaijan took the lead by scoring on the girls' board first.

A. Sliwicka (Poland) – K. Balajayeva (Azerbaijan)

13.Qf3?? g5!, and White drops a piece  the bishop’s retreat is resolutely refuted by 14…Bg4.

Jan-Krzysztof Duda gradually outplayed Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, and team Azerbaijan suffered two more painful defeats.  Gulnar Mammadova blundered a move order in her sacrifices against Karina Cyfka to get zero instead of victory. Rauf Mamedov’s loss in an uncompromising struggle was yet another failure.

R. Wojtaszek (Poland) – R. Mamedov (Azerbaijan)



This blow seems decisive as after 30.gxf3 Bxc5 White cannot defend the king and the knight on b6.

30.Rh8 Qxc5?

You do not feel like playing 30...Rd3! 31.Qg8 + Kf6 in a team game, but it was winning.  


Being in terrible time trouble, Radoslaw took the rook, missing the draw after 31.Qg8+ Kf6 32.Qd8+.  


Once again, Rauf did not dare to venture into the open with 31...Qxb6! 32.e5 Kh6 33.Qg8 Kg5! with a substantial edge.


32.Kh1 Bxh3 33.Qg8+ Kf6 34.Qd8+ Be7 35.Qd4+ is more precise, but Wojtaszek gave his opponent yet another chance.  


With flags hanging, 32...f6! defies easy finding, but the black king is safe, and his queen threatens to come crushing on f2 and h3 pawns.

33.Rg8+ Kh6 34.Qf4+ Qg5 35.Qxg5+ Kxg5

The game transposed into a problematic ending, where Black has sufficient compensation for the exchange.

36.Kg2 Kh4 37.Rb8 Bxh3+ 38.Kg1 Be6 39.Rxb7 Bc5 40.Nd7 Bd4?

Instead of this careless move, 40...Bd6 gives equality. Now the knight has time to do away with the h7-pawn and come back!

41.Nf8 Ba2 42.Nxh7 c5 43.Kg2

Now, in the case of a pawn march 43...c4 44.Rxf7 c3 45.Rc7 Bb3 46.Nf8 Kh5 (or 46...Kg5 47.Kf1 c2 48.Rxc2 Bxc2 49.Ne6+) 47.f4! c2 48.Rh7+ Kg4 49.Nxg6 c1Q 50.Rh4# this turns out to be a real study!   Therefore, Mamedov chose 43…g5 44.Nf8 g4 45.Nd7, but White confidently converted his material advantage.

In the return match, Azerbaijan went on a rampage with 4.5:1.5! Vugar Asadli knocked out Szymon Gumularz in 20 moves, and then the match intrigue was over as Mamedov took nice revenge, and his partners followed in Rauf's footsteps.

The drawing of lots paired female players in the Armageddon. Team Poland chose Monica Socko, and Azerbaijan – Gunay Mammadzade. Monica had the white pieces.

In the opening, Socko developed pressure and retained an extra minute (3 vs. 2), but then Mammadzade wriggled out of a fix, and both White's positional and time advantage melted away.  Monica blundered the rook in an ending with three pawns, a rook, and a minor piece for each side, but Gunay missed the opportunity. A "game of death" gives female players a hard time. The opponents took much time for each move and fought with anguish written on their faces.

M. Socko (Poland) – G. Mammadzade (Azerbaijan)


White’s clock displays 11 seconds, and Black’s  21. Of course, in the duels between premove-skilled masters it is a truckload of time, but we are talking about women.

57.Rf5+ Kg6 58.Be4 Kh6

Gunay could have exchanged the bishop with 58...Nc3+ and send her team to the semifinals.

59.Rf7 Ra2+?

Black is again safe after 59...Nc3+.

60.Ke3 Ra3+

The Polish GM’s clock displayed 8 seconds, and let me remind you that time increment beginning with move 60 was not added as per tournament regulations. 

Had Mammadzade played 60...Re2+!? 61.Kxe2 Nc3+ 62.Kd3 Nxe4 63.Kxe4 Kg6, would Socko have been in time to deliver checkmate?

61.Kd4 Nc3 62.Rh7# With only two seconds on the clock! What a tragedy for Azerbaijan, which projected an overall better impression in this matchup.

Exhausted by the battle with China, Ukraine could not keep the Americans at bay.  The USA won the first match 4.5:1.5. Vassily Ivanchuk lost to Wesley So, followed by two more failures on women’s boards.  In the second matchup, Inna Gaponenko defeated Tatev Abrahamyan, but the forces were unequal – 4:2 in favor of the USA. 

A. Wang (USA) – N. Shpanko (Ukraine)

Either 46… Kf8 or the bishop retreat from d5 gives the draw, but there followed 46…a4? 47.Bc4!, and White wins the pawn endgame.  Keeping in mind that the online Olympiad featured rapid time control, one should go easy on participants’ errors and blunders.

In the semifinals, India faced Poland, and Russia – the United States! 

Semifinal. Fighting to the last bullet

The Russia - USA contest is always in the limelight whether it comes to chess or anything else for that matter. It’s a pity that the rival team did without Caruana and Nakamura this time, but it was nonetheless not a youth squad that had once gone down 0:4 to the host team at the World Team Championship in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia.

Russia dominated the first match – two Alexandras, Goryachkina and Kosteniuk, confidently took points in the battles with Anna Zatonskih and Tatev Abrahamyan. Alas, Andrei Esipenko failed to convert significant edge against Jeffrey Xiong, and the Americans immediately stepped up - Annie Wang defeated Polina Shuvalova in a lengthy ending, and Shankland was an inch away from knocking out Daniil Dubov.  

S. Shankland (USA) – D. Dubov (Russia)  

41.с4! is an immediate winner with the inevitable 41.Re7#. However, even after  41.Re7+ Kd5 42.Bхd4 White should convert. However, with flags hanging, Dubov attacked the c-pawn, which Shankland did not defend, and this resulted in an immediate draw.

The tension in the return match surpassed everything that the online Olympiad had seen as players scored in each game! The US team was advancing on all fronts - Xiong defeated Esipenko, Yip defeated Goryachkina, and So defeated Grischuk.  At some point, Masha Emelianova whispered in frustration, "Armageddon...". However, there came a moment when Evgeny Tomashevsky happily announced the final score to the fans: "3:3!" Shuvalova took revenge for her previous loss, and Nepomniachtchi quickly squeezed Shankland's position, who was obviously discouraged by the first game result, and Kosteniuk again showed her exceptional qualities of a team performer.

A. Kosteniuk (Russia) – A. Zatonskih (USA)

After 45...Ng6, the fate of the final ticket would have most likely been decided in the “game of death” since the black knight lands on f4 with a likely draw.  


Alexandra's eyes flashed with excitement, and it seemed as if she had made her next move in no time at all.  

46.Bh5! Kf5 47.Kd3 Ke5

With the knight paralyzed, Black cannot escape: 47...Kg5 48.Be8.

48.b4 a5 49.a3 Kd5 50.f4 axb4 51.axb4 Ke6 52.Kxd4 Kf5 53.Ke3 Kf6 54.b5 Black resigned. What a victory! If you have time, do not miss the Russia - USA match and watch it in a recorded format.  

Alexander Grischuk

The clash between India and Poland, after all, did not do without Armageddon. The European team opened the score in the series, taking the upper hand 4:2. Wojtaszek outplayed Vidit, Duda outplayed Anand as Black in a classical style, although not without luck.

A. Sliwicka (Poland) – D. Divya (India)

Black is a extra up, and 24...Bc3 looks good, however ...

24...Re8? 25.Qb5! (double attack) 25…Qe3+ 26.Bf2 Qc3? 27.Qxe8#.

The start of the return match was extremely discouraging for team Poland – Gajewski and Socko did not make out of the opening against Vidit and Koneru, respectively. However, a ray of hope shined when a junior player Janik confidently knocked out Praggnanandhaa himself. Nevertheless, it was all over before long because Cyfka could not keep a draw against Dronavalli, and board one of team Poland also suffered a failure. 4.5:1.5 in favor of India.

J.-K. Duda (Poland) – V. Anand (India)

Could White break through after 56.Kf2 Bd3 57.g6 Bf5? We never found out the answer to this question since Duda lashed out with 56.g6??

Even now, Black has a draw in the queen ending by perpetual check: 56...Rxe1 57.gxh7 Rxc1 58.h8Q Rg1+ 59.Kxg1 c1Q+ 60.Kg2 Qc2+ 61.Kg3 Qd3+, but the reality turned out to be even more overwhelming.  

56...Bxg6! 57.Kf2

57.hxg6 Rxe1 loses immediately.

57...Bxh5 58.Bb2 Bg4 59.Rg1 Bf5 60.Re1 Kd5 and it took Black a couple of moves to destroy the most important reserve of white pawns, travel to b3 with the king, and win the game.

The outcome of Armageddon was predetermined by the unsuccessful for team Poland “coin toss” that fell on women. This time Monica Socko was faced off with Humpy Koneru, rated 200 points higher in blitz. Socko fought to the last bullet and continued fighting even when the opponent was a queen up, but victory went to the favorite anyway.

As a result, in the opinion of many experts, the two most balanced teams reached the finals who had scorers among men, women, and junior players. The Russia – India final aroused great interest in both countries – both official commentators and dozens of popular streamers put it in their limelight. Who will win?  They rated team Russia as a very slight favorite only.


Final. Along the Lines of the Unlimited Match

“The final match begins. No words will describe what is going on in India.  David Llada, FIDE responsible for PR and cooperation with journalists, has given a dozen interviews this morning. The broadcast in India shows 37 thousand fans even before the start of the match. People are chanting the national anthem, and the feeling of a big event is in the air.  In Russia, the match is shown on Match TV, and Arkady Dvorkovich is a guest of the studio today!" – Emil Sutovsky delighted the audience of Facebook in the morning.

Indeed, encouraged by a huge army of fans, the number of which reached 67 thousand, the Indian national team developed pressure in the first half of the confrontation.  And what about the Russian fans? The most popular channel of Sergei Shipov gathered about 7 thousand spectators, Ilya Levitov and his guests had a lot of visitors, while many others watched the broadcast on MATCH TV.

The chat rooms were literally bursting with comments from the Anand team's fans when chessbomb evaluated the Koneru – Lagno position as +55, which, in fact, was a quick checkmate. However, in the time trouble, Humpy faltered, and Katya, on the contrary, came up with all the only moves, and it was a draw!

Kateryna Lagno

In the return match, the initiative already belonged to the Russians. Goryachkina, who had replaced her teammate, started grueling Koneru from the very opening, and Esipenko gave Nihal Sarin a hard time and drove him into severe time pressure.  Only Polina Shuvalova's position looked suspicious – Moscow's native was about to come under a dangerous attack. Vidit – Dubov, Nepomniachtchi – Anand, and Dronavalli – Kosteniuk ended in relatively calm draws.

At this moment... it is already team India that disconnects from the Internet.  Has it also happened to their opponents? “I had a disconnection problem in one game, but within 30 seconds I switched from home Wi-Fi to mobile Internet, and the problem disappeared, so it did not affect the outcome of the game” (P. Shuvalova).

Koneru resumed the game with a loss of time, but her position remained consistently difficult, and Goryachkina brought the game to victory in a technical manner!  

A. Goryachkina (Russia) – H. Koneru (India)



After 30...a5! Black is passive, but very solid. This error allows Goryachkina to break through the defenses.

31.a5! bxa5 32.Rxc5 Rd8 33.Rd5 (33.Qc4! invades the 7th rank and wins immediately) 33...a4 34.bxa4 Qxa4 35.d7 Re7 36.g3 a5

Correct is 36...Qc6 with chances to organize a stubborn defense.  Black must keep White's passed pawn under control and cannot help their own pawn. 

37.Rd6 Qa2 38.Qc3 Qf7 (38...a4 39.Qa5) 39.Qc7 Qf8 40.Qxa5, and White won.

Aleksandra Goryachkina and Valentina Gunina

Meanwhile, Nihal and Divya’s clock registered overstepping the time limit. 4.5:1.5, and the victory of the Russian national team?    No, India files a claim, of course.  Arkady Dvorkovich, as a Russian, withdraws himself from the appeals committee, and there remain only two members there.  Their opinions divided, and the Appeals Committee simply could not come to a unanimous decision!

However, FIDE president’s father, a famous arbiter Vladimir Dvorkovich, insisted as many as 50 years ago at the All-union "Belaya Ladya" that such a body should include precisely 5 people, representing Moscow, Leningrad and the republics of the USSR. If two board members represent the conflicting teams, they are counted out, and three remain.  This practice has survived to this day. And the question arises: it was possible to assemble a full-fledged Appeals Committee for such an important event as the online Olympiad, wasn’t it?

The final decision remained with the FIDE President, and it was the hardest of choices between worse and the worst. In the life of each FIDE Presidents there comes a moment that determines or changes the chess history. What was Max Euwe's mindset when, pressed by the Soviets before his second presidential election, he kicked out from the Olympiad the countries accused of apartheid? What events remained behind the scenes at the moment when Florencio Campomanes stopped the unlimited Karpov – Kasparov match? Has Kirsan Ilyumzhinov ever regretted having stripped the world champion title of Susan Polgar, who was at the end of maternity leave, and not allowing her to defend her title against Xie Jun?

After a long thought, Arkady Dvorkovich declared teams as joint-winners!  However, this compromise stirred a real storm on the World Wide Web. Given below is some feedback from the opinion exchanges on Facebook and Twitter. 

“Why not give out a gold medal to all national teams without playing at all?”(A. Kosteniuk).  

“So, what is the difference between India’s and Armenia’s cases? A game of chess on the chess.com server is a client-server connection. All players are clients, initiating a link to the chess.com servers. It does not matter if it's through a browser or an app since all answers come from the servers. 

FIDE cannot take responsibility for the Internet quality of each player in each country.  What happened with Armenia was one player's client application’s failure to connect to the server. Simultaneously, all other players’ connections were adequate, and the server platforms did not register any malfunctions.  To investigate each such case individually will definitely defy FIDE or chess.com’s capabilities. Besides, this is a huge goldmine for potential cheating. Who is to blame for the lost connection? Then, how to go about such cases, I wonder? Therefore, when Chess.com confirmed no failures on their part, we had no other choice.   

What happened yesterday is not a client but a server problem.

Chess.com, like thousands of other popular platforms on the Internet, operates via the American Content Delivery Network CloudFlare. Ironically, CloudFlare, which is supposed to speed up web applications, provide reliability and protect against DDoS attacks, was unavailable yesterday.

Here is the official analysis of the situation in English.  


Everything happened due to the outage that their provider CenturyLink suffered over the BGP protocol failure.

That is, the problem had nothing to do with individual players, not with Russia, not with India, not with Europe, and not with the Chescom himself, but at the other end of the connection, i.e. with access to chess.com servers via the CloudFlare CDN. There is an official confirmation of this from service providers backed up by expert findings.

In this case, with overall unstable access to the platform on which the game is being played, FIDE is obliged to make an appropriate decision. I would like to highlight once again that this is a choice between many evils, and you may consider our decision incorrect, but the difference between the Armenia and India’s cases is quite significant”(E. Sutovsky).

“The optimal solution is to give gold to a team that has won 0 games in two matches and lost the only completed winning game in the match? In any case, thanks for giving medals to us, too. All that remains is to hand over the "silver" to Armenia as no one has received it yet.

It was a failure because this show hardly qualifies as Olympiad. This is a professional sport and not a friendly match Cup. You name it Olympiad. If so, please be so kind as not to count the member countries and Twitter followers to figure out if it's a failure or not. Any major sporting event without a winner is a failure. As a Russian national team member, I say we are all disappointed with the final decision. We really thought there could be only one "gold". 

Once again, I want to emphasize that no one asked the Russian players if they wanted to consider any alternative solution. I can only speak for myself, but my impression, based on our exchange of opinions during the pause, is such that we would have rather preferred to replay two games instead of accepting such a ridiculous decision” (D. Dubov).

Daniil Dubov


“Double gold” devalues ​​the sporting aspect of the tournament. Double standards in a disconnect situation look too indecent and inconsistent. The icing on the cake is to inform “worried readers” (aka Indian streamers and spectators) about the good news (this is when Emil Sutovsky joined the Indian broadcast – ed.)” (I. Nepomniachtchi).   

“I remembered a similar thing happening in the qualification group match between Bulgaria and Indonesia. The score was, 1-1 and Indonesia lost all other games because a nasty storm hit Indonesia, and most of the country lost the Internet. Only Antoaneta Stefanova had finished her game because her opponent was playing from the United States. So, my question is, why is it different? Is it a force majeure or something that escapes me?" (I. Cheparinov).   

Vladislav Artemiev

For fairness' sake, let's look at the positions in the suspended encounters Esipenko – Nihal and Divya – Shuvalova, where "by default" they decided that the first game should be a draw, and the second one was winning for the Indian junior.

A. Esipenko (Russia) – N. Sarin (India)

But not for the engine, it seems that Black is simply about to drop a pawn. At least, passionately rooting for Andrey, I believed during the game that from a practical point of view it was almost a point. Bad for Black is 25...Nf6 26.Rxd8 Rxd8 27.Bxc6 bxc6 28.Rxf5 Rd2 29.Nc3 Rc2 30.Rc5 or 25...Kf6 26.Rexd5, and after 25...Ne7 26.Rde1 Rhe8 27.Nc5 harvest gathering begins.

However, the iron mind, this impartial defender, shows a brilliant idea 25...Nb4! 26.Rxd8 (26.Rde1 Rhe8 27.Bxc6 Rxe5 28.Rxe5 Kf6 is a transposition of moves) 26...Rxd8 27.Bxc6 Kf6!! – and Black retains material balance.

Sarin's clock displayed a little over 20 seconds. Could an Indian talent solve such a puzzle? “In the finished games, the score was 2.5 by 1.5 in favor of Russia, but in the two remaining games team India had one won and one objectively equal positions (even though the path to equality was yet to be found)” (E. Sutovsky).

Alexander Motylev, Andrey Esipenko and Vladislav Artemiev

The claim of Divya having a winning position caused a big clash between Emil and Polina Shuvalova's coach, grandmaster Sergei Zagrebelny.

D. Divya (India) – P. Shuvalova (Russia)

Black has no counterplay, and the engine’s evaluation of more than +2.5 is to the point, but could White actually convert this edge? We have already seen some examples above, especially on girls' boards. 

Despite many arguments, the historians will write the following: The 2020 Online Olympiad: 1-2. Russia, India. Here are the individual results of the Russian players: A. Grischuk with 4 out of 7 points; I. Nepomniachtchi – 7 out of 9; K. Lagno – 3 out of 6; A. Goryachkina – 7 out of 8, A. Esipenko – 7 out of 9; P. Shuvalova – 8.5 out of 11; D. Dubov – 5 out of 7; V. Artemiev – 5 out of 7; A. Kosteniuk – 7.5 out of 10, V. Gunina – 3.5 out of 5, A. Sarana – 5 out of 6; M. Potapova – 3 out of 4. 

Congratulations to our well-knit and strong-willed team!

Russian national team and its coaching staff 

Who knows what might happen next with the pandemic still around? Right now, we hope that a universal vaccination campaign is going to work out, but until that moment the borders remain shut. The International Chess Federation will surely organize more competitions online. With this in mind, I would like to wish them new and bright, but at the same time, deeply conceived and verified ideas!

See you next time!

Pictures by E. Kublashvili