China has won its second Olympiad (the first was in 2014) half a century after its government banned chess for ten years, for better tiebreaker than the US and Russia, whose bronze tastes like failure because it has only faced three of the ten first series heads. China also triumphs in women's competition, for the fifth time, followed by Ukraine and Georgia. The Spanish Ana Matnadze gets the individual bronze on the third board.
Chess, in its universal variant, was very minor in China, much less popular than Chinese chess (xiangqi) and go, which had many millions of practitioners. Shortly before the end of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), some preclear and influential mind in Beijing understood that prohibiting the music of Beethoven or international chess as "Western" was meaningless. The change of rudder was radical: the government decided to stimulate the transfer of the greatest possible number of Chinese chess players to the international, and bet in the first place to promote female chess: only fifteen years later, in 1991, Xie Jun was the first champion of the Chinese world.
Then came the great investment in male chess that crystallized in 2014 with gold at the Olympiad in Tromsö (Norway), and nine Chinese among the hundred best in the world. In this Batumi Olympiad, China started as third seed, after USA and Russia, but their triumph is little surprising because the team is very compact: it is possible that one of the five fails, but it is very unlikely that the laps are two . In fact, Yi Wei, number one sub 20 of the world, the great Chinese hope to be world champion in the medium term, has played well below his level, but his four teammates have covered the hole. Above all, Liren Ding in the first board, who has also taken the individual gold, and Xiangzi Bu in the third, with Yangzi Yu and Chao Li serving well as second and substitute, respectively.
In addition to the good general game and a strong team spirit, China has been lucky in the results of the last round. His tie-break coefficient (called Sonnenborn-Berger, and basically depends, with certain mathematical adjustments, on the points obtained by the rivals of the tied in the eleven rounds) after the penultimate era clearly better than the US. That is why the American captain John Donaldson, entered with an open smile in the press room after the draw with China. But his manual calculations already indicated that things were looking bad because the rivals of the Chinese were scoring the last day much more than those of the USA.
The triumph of the Chinese has a special merit because they have achieved without the participation of who, without possible discussion, is the best player in the world, Yifán Hou, almost withdrawn from chess provisionally to study a university career in the United Kingdom. But the squad is as compact as men's, to the point that they have allowed themselves to leave other very strong players (of the best 40 in the world) at home to bring Mo Zhai, 22, who is not even among the first hundred, to accompany the current champion, Wenjun Ju, and three other players: Yang Shen (28th in the world), Qiang Huang (29th) and Tingjie Le (18th).
Spain has achieved a normal performance in the absolute competition, if you take into account their four casualties (Vallejo, Shirov, Salgado and Illescas): started as 24th and finished 25th, of 185, after drawing (2-2) with Georgia in the last round. David Antón and Manuel Pérez Candelario have acted clearly above their mathematical expectations on the first two boards. And Josep López, Renier Vázquez and José Carlos Ibarra at their usual level.
The Spaniards, in the 14th place, have been very close to achieving a brilliant result as a team. They tied in the penultimate round a match that seemed won against Kazakhstan, and have closed the Olympiad with another draw, against Poland, despite the defeat of Ana Matnadze, who thus loses the individual gold and must settle for the bronze, which joins the Tromso 2014 silver and the European bronze of 2017. Marta García and Yudania Hernández won, and Sabrina Vega also lost; Monica Calzetta rested.
The Russian delegation, outside the podium in the women's competition and with a bronze very justito in the absolute thanks to its arreón in the last rounds, will return very sorry to Moscow, where Vladimir Putin hoped to celebrate at least one gold and another medal. That is why he visited both teams during his Sochi rally and chartered a private plane to transfer them to Batumi. In addition, with the election of former Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvórkovich as the new president of the International Chess Federation (FIDE), the joy would have been complete.
The greatest contrast of the Russians was Tian Hongwei, in charge of the international relations of the Chinese Federation, usually very discreet and discreet, shouting for joy in the press room when both golds were official. Your job, and that of the rest of the delegation, is fully guaranteed. In contrast, Russian technicians, coaches and managers face the prospect of being defenestrated.
All results and classifications, here.