Baku Olympiad 2016 – Important Questions (+ Round 3)

My reader Peter Munro, to whom I am thankful, raised some very important and insightful question in the comments to my report from Round 2 so here I will go through them and try to answer them as best as I can.

Does the 0-4 result reflect the difference between strong amateurs and professionals? – While I wouldn’t call ourselves amateurs, our opponents are definitely hard-core professionals. If we take into account the amount of work they have put into preparations for this Olympiad and resources they had at their disposal, perhaps they deserved to beat us 0-4. The fact that the positions offered us good chances means little, missed chances are rued only by the losing team. It’s always difficult to assess these things as anything can happen in one game, but generally speaking it is expected of them to beat us heavily.

Or do your opponent simply play more regular competitions? – This is definitely true, not only they play regular competitions, they also play opposition of the highest level, thus getting accustomed to high-tension games and making moves of high quality. This is only one of the many advantages the elite has.

Or are they more motivated, being the home team? – They must be very motivated playing in front of their crowd, although I think motivation has little to do in the match against us – they would have done similarly even if they weren’t that motivated, simply the difference in class is too big.

Or do they get better sleep because they are staying at home or with relatives, in the case where they come from another city in Azerbaijan? – Actually they stay in a hotel, staying at home or with relatives is something to be avoided during a tournament. As much as you get support, the closest family is also a big distraction and this is detrimental during a tournament. This was a mistake Radjabov made in 2013 when he had a lot of friends and relatives with him in London during the Candidates tournament, he was distracted, played badly and finished last.

Or do they have a team of coaches on hand to assess the likely openings and preferred styles of their opponents? – Yes, this is definitely the case. With full governmental support and many training camps before the Olympiad they (and not only they, the other favourites like Russia, USA, China etc. also have teams of coaches and training sessions) get the best conditions one can imagine. Azerbaijan’s main coach and captain is GM Dreev and their other official helper is GM Bacrot.

Any thoughts as to why they were able to win when your team had good chances? – I touched upon the various topics that contributed to their big win above. Generally speaking they had everything better than us – quality, preparation, support, coaches, conditions. They were the better team and the question is more why we didn’t take our chances. Of all of the above explanations, I feel that the most important is that we simply have no experience playing such strong opposition. If we play strong players on a regular basis then this match would have been one of the many and it would have been a normal occurrence. And with normal occurrences it is likely to expect a normal result. As it is, we play these people perhaps once per year, so you cannot really expect to perform and take your chances in one single match.

Moving on from our loss, in Round 3 we came back with a vengeance and beat Pakistan 1-3. I think it should have been 0-4, but a win is a win, and without a loss too. It is due to inexperience that our young players drew from winning positions, but they will learn.

On board 1 Pancevski chose the Leningrad Dutch against IM Lodhi and it led to a heavy strategic battle. Pancevski likes this type of play and he’s very good at it. It takes a lot of energy and concentration to play well these difficult positions, but he was the better player and outplayed his opponent around the time-control. A fully deserved victory.

I won a good game too, after my opponent committed a known inaccuracy in the Alekhine Defence I got a better position, played solidly throughout and finished it off with a nice combination that resembled some of Alekhine’s combinations (quite fitting for the opening!) – the great champion also liked to play on the whole board, often combining attacks on various wings. Here I combined the attack on his king with a penetration along the c-file and double attacks on his rook and f8.

On board 3 Lazov quickly took over the initiative with black in an Exchange KID and obtained a winning position, but then allowed his opponent to save himself.

Similarly, Nikolovski won a pawn after nicely outplaying his FM opponent, but in time trouble wasn’t very precise.

Still, a victory without a loss is always pleasing and it is important that we were never in danger in the match. Of course, tomorrow we will get much tougher opponents, but for now we can enjoy our good day.

Alex Colovic
A professional player, coach and blogger. Grandmaster since 2013.
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