2016 Baku Rd11: US wins historic gold! China wins Women's
Song and video that embody the Olympic spirit
The suspense was killing everyone: would the US close the deal and conclude its brilliant campaign with the oh-so-coveted gold?
The start of the round presented significant mismatches on all the top boards, whether the US, Ukraine, or Russia. In a way the tournament was going full circle: after starting with mismatches in the first rounds until only the leaders were left to fight each other, now the leaders had already done battle among themselves and weaker teams were what were left.
Board one was the United States of course, facing an astonishingly successful Canada. Canada has certainly had a few grandmasters over the years, but as a team they aren’t the ones you expect to be positioning themselves for a possible medal at the end of the Olympiad, and yet that was precisely what was going on as they entered the last round at a tentative fourth place on tiebreak. Obviously a medal meant scoring against the US, but the chance, however slim, was there.
The action started with Evgeny Bareev against Fabiano Caruana (photo by E. Kublashvili)
The team was bolstered by the arrival of former Russian GM Evgeny Bareev, who played first board, and while it was not he who had done the heavy scoring to reach this point, he took on all the biggest guns of rival teams and was a stalwart rock on board one, playing all eleven rounds. His challenge now was to find a way to hold Fabiano Caruana.
Fabiano was everything one could hope for in the US team. He did more than just neutralize the top boards of rival teams, such as Magnus Carlsen no less, he scored crucial points when needed the most. The last round was just such an instance as he defeated Bareev in the quickest game of the match.
Anton Kovalyov was one of Canada's stars, a word that fully applies (photo by Paul Truong)
Board two was 24-year-old Anton Kovalyov, who has already made waves in Baku before, when he somehow survived not one, but two elite matches in the World Cup. In fact, he had been so shocked, he had been forced to change his flight arrangements as he had booked a flight home the day of the first round, expecting to be eliminated just as soon. Now, in the Olympiad, the young talent enjoyed a rush of form that was hard to believe, and finished on 8.0/10 with a 2852 performance.
Hikaru Nakamura was a true soldier and played all eleven rounds (photo by David Llada)
Playing for the US was Hikaru Nakamura, also scoring when needed, but who had suffered a minor setback in round ten, when ill, he lost to Georgian GM Mchedlishvili. Hikaru did not back down, and played all eleven rounds, and opted to keep it simple and contain Kovalyov and drew.
Board three for Canada was 40-year-old GM Alexandre Lesiege, rated 2512, and who also did his duty and then some with a 2585 performance, but his opponent was a sizzling hot Wesley So.
Wesley had recently won the elite Sinquefield Cup, and brought all that confidence and form to the Olympiad and more. He soundly defeated Lesiege, scoring 8.5/10 in total with a 2896 performance as well as a gold medal for board three. (photo by David Llada)