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42nd Chess Olympiad – Baku – 2016 Round 1: Amr El Jawich saved the honor.


42nd Chess Olympiad – Baku – 2016

Round 1: Amr El Jawich saved the honor.

After a splendid opening ceremony, it was time to start the serious work. As the experienced players and captains know, the first round is a round of psychology: for the stronger team, it is a warming round, for the weaker one, it is how to avoid being crashed, and motivated by the opportunity to meet a legend and how much they can resist. The captain of each team must know all the intrigues of this grandiose encounter, and coordinates with the coach for the players’ preparation accordingly.

Seeded as 105th, Lebanon has to face the strong Croatian team, seeded as just 18th! 4 Grand Masters with just a 2584  Elo player on the 4th board. I think you got the message.

Playing with the black pieces, Fadi was faced the GM Palac (2623). I expected the Petroff from his side, but his opponent played very aggressively the opening stage. By curiosity I checked Palac’s games against the Petroff, and he played nearly always short castling, a somewhat slow and maneuvering game. But here, unfortunately, he changed his style. Castling long by both side gave Fadi some defensive resources, even with his lack of space. But with every exchange, Palac was improving his pieces, forcing Fadi to seek salvation in endgame, but with a pawn less and a dominating white’s dark square bishop versus a defensive black knight. After some tactical exchanges of a rook of each side, the white h-pawn was unstoppable.

The game on board 2 is a different story. Amr, having White, was facing the GM Stevic (2608). The Keres attack adopted by Amr was faced by the solid h6 line. Then suddenly, came 7..e5 8 Nf5 g6? (my evaluation). May be Stevic was mixing his moves with the Pirenlyi line, when Amr profited from the imprecise move order of his opponent, reacted in a good way, and obtained a nice advantage. Facing the option if keeping the queens on the board or exchanging them, Amr preferred the later one, dispersing his advantage (instead he could play Qb3, attacking b7, and threatening the huge Nd5 which could increase significantly his advantage, and possibly his score). The endgame was treated somewhat lightly by the Lebanese champion, letting his opponent snatch a pawn. The presence of opposite color bishop and his queen side pawn majority were noticed immediately by Amr, forcing a liquidation to a drawn pawn endgame.

Facing the highly experienced GM Kozul (2622) was possibly the most delicate task among the players of the Lebanese team. Antoine Kassis preparation must be of high quality to face the d4-player who possesses a high sense of positional motifs. Kassis is well known for his theoretical preparation, so a Benoni was on the agenda. The Na6 line was well played and a good arm against the structure adopted by Kozul, but suddenly, Antoine played 12..Nd7?! Why he relinquished the control of the e4-square? Why not continuing with the same plan on the queen side (Nb4, a6, b5)? I don’t have any idea. Instead, he embarked on a debious maneuver with his queen on the king side, to be faced with a lot of intermediate moves and maneuvers, forcing him to exchange queens with undeveloped queen side. The loss of several pawns, and the game, was inevitable.

I understand that Elie Asmar wants to make a strong, or at least acceptable, debut in his first Olympiad. This alone must pushed him to prepare too hard for his first game, especially against a GM opponent, Brkic (2584). May be he was relying on the element of surprise when he chose to play the Nimzo-Larsen attack. Brkic faced this opening before in one game, and he lost. I don’t know what was Elie’s feeling when Brkic played 4..f6, heading to the Saemish formation from Black side. The plan adopted by Elie, sacrificing a pawn in Benko style, to disturb the pawn formation of Black on the queen side, didn’t lead anywhere. A strong center, an extra pawn, no counter play with queens off the board, all this gave Brkic a technical winning endgame. It is interesting, from technical point of view, to know if Elie noticed that Brkic played the Saemish with White by himself.

I am sure that the coach and captain of the team GM Aleksander  Lupa will try his best to prepare the players for the forthcoming rounds.

May be the surprise of this round was the 2:2 result between Bulgaria and Sudan!

Click here to download the games of the Lebanese team.

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