Team USA has suffered their first setback at the 2018 Chess Olympiad, losing in the 9th round to Poland 2.5 to 1.5. This is the United States’ first loss at this year’s Olympiad, and the timing could not be worse with only two rounds remaining. America will more than likely need to win their final two matches to win their second straight Olympiad.
It was a match of missed chances for the Americans, as they were unable to convert on better positions. Fabiano Caruana played against young Polish phenom Jan-Krzysztof Duda, and despite being up a bishop in an endgame, Caruana was unable to win the game, settling on a draw in 118 moves. Wesley So was a pawn-up in an opposite color bishop endgame, but the game was drawn as well in 88 moves against Radoslaw Wojtaszek. Hikaru Nakamura has been in terrible form recently, as evident by his recent draws against lower-rated opposition and ended up losing the game for Team USA this round against Kacper Piorun. Sam Shankland could not convert a pawn-up rook endgame against Jacek Tomczak, and their match was drawn in 51 moves. This was Team USA’s first loss in a Chess Olympiad since 2014.
Poland has been the surprise team at the 43rd Olympiad. Originally seeded eleventh, with an average rating of 2669, not many expected this Polish team to contend but wins over the United States, Russia, France, and Ukraine has vaulted them to the top of the standings with 16 points (7 wins, 2 draws, 0 losses).
After this upset loss, the United States stand in second place with 15 points out of a possible 18 points. They share second place with China, Armenia, and England. A point behind them are Russia, France, Croatia, and Germany. All these teams still have a chance to win Gold at the Olympiad and the final two rounds will be exciting to watch.