Chess: Olympic gold for Uzbekistan – and also for England’s David Howell

The premier team chess competition, the 180-nation Chennai Olympiad, ended on Tuesday with Uzbekistan, aged 20 on average and ranked just 14th, edging gold after a battle with Armenia , a three-time winner, and the Indian teenagers, while the top-seeded United States finished outside the medals.

India’s Gukesh D, 16, and Uzbek’s Nodirbek Abdusattorov, 17, stood out as rising talents on their way to the world top. Gukesh won his first eight matches and won a gold medal in the individual draw.

Abdusattorov is already world champion in one-hour rapid chess, where he beat Magnus Carlsen.

David Howell, a former prodigy turned online commentator, won individual gold in table three with 7.5/8, a feat reminiscent of the glory days of the 1980s when England were No. former Soviet Union. England also had a great chance of securing a high position in the team table, but squandered it in the final round and finished 14th.

The big losers in Chennai were the United States, which in the absence of Russia (banned) and China (Covid and visa issues) were big favourites. The world’s top 10 players Fabiano Caruana and Levon Aronian were defeated by the energy of Asian teenagers. Round 8, when the United States lost 1-3 to India 2, felt like a retelling of the infamous 1945 radio game against the Soviet Union.

American chess strategy in recent years, orchestrated by FT player Rex Sinquefield and the world renowned St Louis Chess Club, has been to encourage established star players to transfer to the United States and thus build a team highly rated national. What happened in Chennai shows the limits of this approach. Ambitious and fearless Uzbek and Indian teenagers are the future of chess.

This dramatic play was significant for the gold medals. Indian Gukesh held on better but let slip then failed to bail out for the required draw. Abdusattorov fueled the tactical scrum and was rewarded with a fatal error of a knight.

Puzzle 2481

Fabiano Caruana vs Gukesh D, USA vs India, Chennai 2022. Black to move and win. How did the 16-year-old defeat the former world No. 2?

Click here for solution

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