The 2014 Tromso  Chess Olympiad is over with Russia winning the Women’s Olympiad and, very surprisingly, China emerging victorious in the Open Olympiad.  They have certainly come a long way since China first entered an international teams event at Auckland in 1977.  I played their top player then and he was only rated about 2400 – now their team has 2700 and 2600 rated grandmasters who lost only one game in the entire event!   Perhaps there is an argument that communism produces good chess players?

Australia did very well, finishing in 31st place (seeded 60th) tying with countries such as England, Norway and Germany.  Actually we drew 2-2 with Germany in the last round thanks to a fine win by Australian Champion Max Illingworth however our team hero was 13-year-old Anton Smirnov.   Anton was undefeated on 7.5/9 and gained 44 rating points which sees him closing in on the 2400 target to allow him to qualify for the IM title.  He was a bit lucky in one game but comfortably drew with his two grandmaster opponents, including his 2612 German opponent in the crucial last round.  Congratulations to Anton and all the team.  If they all keep improving Australia will have a very strong team next time, particularly if our best player Zhao is available to play also.

The Olympiad of course provides a feast of games, both good and bad, which are all still available to view on the Olympiad website, so we chess coaches  have heaps of new material for our students.  Last week I showed my “super squad” a few positions form the Olympiad and I have another fist full for them today.  There is however one position which stands out to me as a great puzzle.  It’s hard, very hard, and if any readers can work out the solution I shall be very impressed.  It was too hard for Max Illingworth who achieved the diagrammed position (as Black) below.  Max has a piece and two pawns (including a strong passed pawn) for a rook and has been on the verge of winning for about 20 moves.  Unfortunately he just can’t seem to get his pieces co-ordinated in the right places to break down White’s defences.  Perhaps you can help him?  Black to play and win!

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