Team USA has become the sole leader of the 2018 Chess Olympiad after eight completed rounds, defeating a tough Azerbaijan team by a score of 2.5 to 1.5. United States will take a one-point lead into the final three rounds, and will be the team to beat, as their bid to become back-to-back Chess Olympiad Champs continues.
Fabiano Caruana is playing the best chess of his young and illustrious career, proving time and again that he is ready for his World Championship Match against Magnus Carlsen. Caruana won on the first board, this time against fellow 2800-rated competitor Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. After a great start to this year’s Olympiad, Wesley So had his first disappointing result, losing his match against Teimour Radjabov. Hikaru Nakamura drew for the sixth consecutive game against Arkadij Naiditsch. Sam Shankland was the hero for the Americans in this round, converting a rook endgame with two extra pawns to give Americans the important victory.
The closest competitor to America is a young Poland team that has surprised many, as they currently sit in second place alone with 14 points (six wins and two draws) after a 2-2 draw with Armenia in round seven. Team USA and Poland will play in round nine in the most important match-up of the 2018 Chess Olympiad so far.
There are seven countries that are in a tie for third with 13 points, and they include Azerbaijan, China, India, Armenia, Germany, France, and England. Six other countries, including Russia, have 12 points and are not out of this competition just yet. With such a close leaderboard, it will most likely take the final round to determine this year’s winner.