The logic indicated that this Chess Olympiad in Batumi (Georgia) was going to be a transition for Spain in the absolute competition, due to four important losses. But, despite starting as 24th, it ranks 6th out of 185 countries in the absence of four rounds; today faces Germany, 16th in the initial ranking. A huge surprise is that the Russians need little less than a miracle to get on the podium.
Without Paco Vallejo (angry with the Spanish Treasury), Alexei Shirov (bureaucratic problems when changing from the Latvian Federation to the Spanish Federation), Iván Salgado (sick) and Miguel Illescas (semiretired), one had to be very optimistic to predict a brilliant result the absolute Spanish team. In addition, the strict and mathematical selection criteria of the Spanish Federation have left out the promising Jaime Santos, 22 years old.
Of the five Spanish players, the youngest is the first board, David Antón, 23 years old. The others go from 33: Manuel Pérez Candelario (born in 1983), Josep Manuel López (1980), Renier Vazquez (1979) and José Carlos Ibarra (1985). So far they are taking advantage of their experience, led by Captain Jordi Magem.
Winning Germany would be a clear signal that Spain can become one of the great positive surprises of the Olympiad. All their rivals are so far theoretically inferior except for Ukraine, one of the favorites to get on the podium. But it is no less true that, in chess, it is increasingly difficult to subdue an inferior opponent by the great collective improvement of defensive technique, as well as the preparation of the openings. Therefore, the bulging victories of the Spaniards throughout the first seven rounds draw attention: Wales (4-0), Dominican Republic (3,5-0,5), Moldova (2-2), Serbia (3 , 5-0.5), Switzerland (2.5-1.5), Algeria (3.5-0.5). Anton (5 points in 7 games), Candelario (5 in 6) and López (5 in 6) are performing well above expectations; Vazquez (2 in 4) and Ibarra (3.5 in 5) just a little below.
Russia is already close to disaster. Yesterday tied with Serbia (2-2); who failed this time was Jakovenko, defeated by a rival with almost 300 points less on the world list, Nénezic. The Russians are now in an incredible 16th place, three points behind those who share the leadership: Azerbaijan, Poland and the USA. Even if they won the last four games, their tie-breaker ratio will probably be bad to get on the podium.
The Russians have it only a little better: thirteenth, three points behind Armenia and two of their three major rivals: China, Ukraine and Georgia. The Spaniards, tenth on the initial list, are in the 26th place after prevailing in the 7th round to Australia (3-1) and today have a good opportunity to approach their normal performance, against Egypt.
All results and classifications, here.