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CHINA has signalled a new era in the world of international chess by winning the gold medal convincingly in this year's Olympiad.

The Chinese team went undefeated and finished with 19 points, a full two points ahead of its nearest competitors. In an event that featured 177 teams from every corner of the world, the Chinese conceded just three match draws, to Russia, Ukraine and the Netherlands.

And if chess fans have never heard of China's Yu Yangyi, they had better start paying attention now. He scored an amazing 9.5 points out of 11 rounds for a 2912 performance rating, the best individual result in the tournament.

Yangyi is just 20 years-old and played third board for the Chinese. He became the country's 29th grandmaster when he was 15.

Silver and bronze medals at the Olympiad were also surprises. Hungary took second place on tiebreak, followed by the team from India which played without five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand.

The Olympiad favourite Russia came fourth on tibebreak, followed by Azerbaijan. The U.S. was in 14th position, and perennial powerhouses Ukraine and Armenia also turned in disappointing performances.

World champion Magnus Carlsen, playing in his home country, had a less than stellar result. He seemed unsure of himself at times, and finished with six points out of nine for a performance rating of 2799, well below his pre-tournament rating of 2877.

At times, it appeared the Canadian squad was heading for a solid result. They drew the U.S. and Israel in successive matches, and battled hard against England.

But a last round draw with the Philippines meant they couldn't rise further in the standings, and they finished 54th, even though they were ranked 37th coming into the event.

Anton Kovalyov was Canada's top board and a solid performer, scoring seven points out of 11. Canada's newest grandmaster, Eric Hansen, couldn't get untracked and finished with five out of nine. Bator Sambuev had six out of 10, Aman Hambleton had 3.5 out of seven and Leonid Gerzhoy had two out of seven.

With so many games from players around the world, the Olympiad usually has a little bit of everything. One game was decided in three moves. Others lasted more than 100 moves. Tragically, one player from Seychelles died during a game, and another player from Uzbekistan was found dead in his hotel room. No foul play was suspected in either death.

Also notable was Judit Polgar's decision at the Olympiad to announce her retirement from competitive chess. She is the strongest female player in history, and she rounded out her career in Norway with 4.5 out of six to help her team to a remarkable silver medal.

The last major piece of business at the Olympiad was the election of FIDE president, determining who would lead the world chess federation into the future. Incumbent Kirsan Ilyumzhinov beat back a vigorous challenge from former world champion Gary Kasparov to retain his presidency.


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This week's problem: White to move and mate in three (Vallejo). Solution to last problem: White mates with 1.Qa1.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 23, 2014 D18

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