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Russia Beat USA to Become Fide Online Chess Olympiad Champions

In a hotly contested final, Russia overcame the stiff challenge from the USA to win the Fide Online Chess Olympiad 2-0 (3.5-2.5; 3.5-2.5).
Aleksandra Kosteniuk of Russia at the Fide Online Chess Olympiad final vs USA

Aleksandra Kosteniuk of Russia played brilliantly against Irina Krush of the USA (the match of the tournament according to many experts) to earn her side a crucial victory in the second round of the final (Pic: Chess.com).

Russia beat the USA 2-0 to become the champions of the elite division at the second Fide Online chess Olympiad on Wednesday. 

In the first round, Vladislav Artemiev and Alexandra Goryachkina won the first two games for Russia while Alexandra Kosteniuk, Polina Shuvalova and Daniil Dubov played a draw, and Andrei Esipenko was defeated. Russia continued its dominance in the second round with Kosteniuk and Leia Garifullina winning their matches. Dubov, Vladislav Artemiev and Ekaterina Lagno played a draw while Esipenko was defeated yet again, but that did not matter in the final outcome.

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A total of 40 teams took part in the second edition of the Olympiad. India, the 2020 joint winners with Russia and led by Viswanathan Anand and Koneru Humpy, reached the semifinals before bowing out to the USA via tiebreak. 

The games were played with a time control of 15 minutes with the addition of 5 seconds for each move. In the quarterfinals, Russia defeated the Hungarian team, and in the semifinals they beat the Chinese team.

In the first round of the final, there were some heated battles. Even though Russia started as favourites, it was never going to be easy for the defending champions. On the first board, Jeffery Xiong had the white pieces against Dubov, who played the now famous "Dubov Tarrasch."

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Things got exciting when the American took a risk and won a pawn on the queenside, putting pressure on Dubov against XIong's king. He sacrificed a piece a few moves later. Xiong, however, declined the sacrifice, traded queens, and held the endgame, taking it to a draw. 

On board two, Artemiev won a great positional game against Ray Robson, snatching a pawn early on and slowly converting it into a winning position. 

Awonder Liang scored a point against Andrey Esipenko on board three. There were times when Black was close to making a draw, but White went on to win. 

In the two female boards, Kosteniuk drew Nazi Paikidze, while Shuvalova drew Thalia Cervantes.

And on the last board, Alexandra Goryachkina scored a full point with Black against Irina Krush, earning Russia a 3.5-2.5 win in the round.

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The second round began with promises of an even tighter contest. The teams exchanged wins on board 3 and 4. Liang outplayed Esipenko, and Kosteniuk beat Krush with an astonishing attack, which online commentators termed as a possible candidate for the game of the year.

Dubov got a terrific position with White in the opening against Xiong, won a pawn, and piled on the pressure. Xiong defended perfectly though and managed to save the game. At this point, the scores were tied 1.5-1.5.

Meanwhile on board two, Dariusz Swiercz was calling the shots against Artemiev, winning a pawn. But defense prevailed and  Artemiev managed a draw with Black. 2.2 the score.

The remaining games ended shortly after -- a draw between GM Kateryna Lagno and Anna Zatonskih on board 5, while on the last board, Leya Garifullina outplayed Cervantes, earning Russia the decisive advantage in the round.

Russia won the round 3.5-2.5, and the final 2-0.

(With inputs from Chess.com)

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