Update! (Feb 21, 05:30 UTC)
Pairings for 1st FIDE Online World Corporate Chess Championship Quarterfinals (Feb 21, 15:00 UTC):
SBER – ERG
Sberbank Trade Union – Emphie Solutions
Grenke Bank – Anahuac
Morgan Stanley (HUN) – PT Pelabuhan Tanjung Priok
Those who like sensations are likely to be disappointed by the outcome in most of the Eastern pools, but the good thing about chess is that the strongest players have plenty of opportunities to prove their superiority, whereas some accidental results rarely change the course of events.
The fight for first place ended already in Round 4 after SBER whitewashed RIVC-Pulkovo. In Rounds 5 and 6 SBER didn't concede even a half-point to their rivals either, although in the final round Maria Komyagina, playing on the fourth board was down 3 (!) pawns in a rook endgame. The main favourite finished the group stage with a record score of 22½ out of 24. The RIVC-Pulkovo had bad luck with the draw as in any other pool this team would have been a strong candidate for first place and qualifying for playoffs.
It all came down to the confrontation between Grenke Bank and Yandex in this pool. The teams advanced on parallel courses and eventually clashed in Round 5. Grenke Bank won by a minimal margin - Georg Meier held Yandex's IT specialist Dmitry Jakovenko to a draw on the first board, while Alina Kashlinskaya and Hanna Marie Klek scored victories on the second and third boards secured a playoff berth for the German team. Yandex chess players were so upset by this defeat that they also lost the last round match. As a result, Samsung Electronics (POL) which stayed below the radar throughout the event finished second. A strong performance by VOZP (CZE) and Khareba (GEO) is also noteworthy.
The battle for the top spot in East C resembled desperate attempts of the wind to topple a mountain by attacking it from different directions. The Morgan Stanley (HUN) team acted as this mountain. Every round one of the pursuers came close to the Hungarian financiers, but they were thrown back after head-to-head matches time and again. Anish Giri and his Optiver teammates made the final attempt to rob Morgan Stanley of the quarterfinal spot - unfortunately only the Dutch team's leader managed to deliver in this battle. The Hungarian team won all their matches, claiming first place in the pool 2½ ahead of Gazprom (second place).
In the East D pool, Sberbank Trade Union was unstoppable and deservedly took the qualification spot. The international squad of GM Anton Korobov (UKR), FM Evgenij Kretov (RUS), FM Fedor Myshakov (UKR), and WFM Elena Homyakova (BLR) won all the matches and dropped just 4½ game points on the way to the quarterfinals. The pool winners started eliminating their rivals on day one, crushing Paypal (BUL) and did not stop on day two, defeating Slav Group and Dassault Systemes.
With just two rounds to go, it looked like CSOB (CZE) was bound to win the East E pool, given that the rating favourites BCG Gamma were not living up to expectations. CSOB topped the standings throughout the event up to the point of squaring off against ERG (KAZ) which obviously had another agenda. Originally seeded #3, the team headed by GM Anuar Ismagambetov started the tournament with a draw in the very first round but gradually gained momentum and crushed the leaders in the penultimate-round match. In Round 6, the Kazakhstani players consolidated their position by defeating Gordic 3:1, leaving CSOB 1½ game points behind.
The East F pool turned into a race between the rating favourites Emphie Solutions (POL) and State Bank of Mongolia. The two teams faced off in Round 4 but did not determine the winner. GM Batchuluun Tsegmid on the first board and WFM Munkhzul Davaakhuu on board four won their games for the Mongolian team (they went on to win all their games in the tournament). The Polish team bounced back on boards two and three with the victory of rating underdog Wojciech Reza over IM Batkhuyag Munguntuul being especially valuable.
Entering the final round, Emphie Solutions trailed State Bank of Mongolia by one point. Poles managed to make the most of their match, whitewashing Czech National Bank 4:0. State Bank of Mongolia had an arguably tougher opponent, RFSO Lokomotiv (RUS) headed by IM Polina Shuvalova. Putting a much weaker player on board two to score points on boards three and four was a strategy that worked well for the Mongolian team as long as IM Batkhuyag Munguntuul would sweep through the field on board three, but this did not work out in the end. The Mongolians conceded 1½ precious game points in the last round match (a defeat on board two and a draw on board three) and let Emphie Solutions leapfrog them by a mere half-point!
After the main favourites of Pool West A Microsoft Redmond (USA) and Anahuac (MEX) drew their match in Round 3, it became clear that one mistake, made by one of the leaders in the encounters with less strong teams would be decisive. Unfortunately, Microsoft messed up not just a single game, but the entire match – in Round 5 the team lost to Goldman Sachs 1:3, with their leader Francesco Rambaldi simply leaving his queen en prize as a result of some kind of hallucination. After that defeat, it was all in the hands of the Mexican team. Anahuac did not miss this opportunity and punched the ticket into the playoff.
Unlike West A, in West B the key match between the leaders American Express (USA) and PT Pelabuhan Tanjung Priok (INA) was played on the second day, in Round 4. Alas, it was a lopsided battle – the Indonesian team was much stronger. As a result, the fate of a spot in the quarterfinals was sealed with two rounds to go.
The winners played some nice games, although Ali Muhammad Lutfi, the leader of PT Pelabuhan Tanjung Priok acted as a co-author in the most spectacular one. Facing Ali Muhammad Lutfi, Janusz Kudelka played the game of his life.
Janusz KudelkaJanusz Kudelka – Ali Muhammad Lutfi
White is carrying out a frenzied attack but had the opponent interposed with his bishop on the previous move (20…Bf6), the soundness of sacrifices would have been in question. However, after 20…Nf6 everything fell into place:
21. Rxd6!! exd6 22. exf6 Rc7 23. Qxe6 Qd7 24. fxg7+ Kxg7 25. Qf6+ Kg8 26. Qf8# 1-0
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