The U.S. team continues its march in the 2011
World Team Championship. Held in Ningbo, China this year, the World Team brings
together some of the best chess-playing countries in four-board
Round two saw the U.S. face one of the best teams
in the event - Armenia. With such strong players as world number three Levon
Aronian, even team captain John Donaldson expressed some concern. When
discussing the lineup, Donaldson said, "I consult with the coaches and the
players each night before determining who to play the next day, but ultimately
I make the final call. If we make a bad decision, it ultimately rests on my
The match was a nail-biter, as out-of-form Alex
Onischuk, who earned a gold medal in the same event last year, quickly obtained
a much worse position against Sergey Movsesian. Resigning on move 41, and
Shulman drawing with Vladimir Akopian earlier on board three, all hopes were
left on board four Yasser Seirawan and board one Gata Kamsky.
As the clocks ticked ever lower, Seirawan was only
able to draw Gabriel Sargissian, which left all eyes on Kamsky.
With a clearly winning position just before time
control, Kamsky played the inaccurate 38. Rxf3, which seemed to breathe new
life into Aronian. As the dust cleared, and the players entered the second time
control, Kamsky had to "win the game again", according to coach Ben Finegold.
And win the game he did. Kamsky played a Queen and
Pawn endgame flawlessly and secured a full point, allowing the U.S. team to
draw Armenia. Robert Hess, who is the alternate for the American team, could be
seen intently watching the final moves. "It's so difficult when you are sitting
on the sidelines, unable to influence the outcome. I'm just happy Kamsky was
able to win and we drew the match."
Round three was another rollercoaster as the
Americans played Egypt. Ranked last in the event, the Egyptians came to fight.
Kamsky made a quick draw with the black pieces against 2007 World Junior
Champion GM Ahmed Adly.
Bassem Amin, playing on board two against
Onischuk, opted for a Nimzo Indian, which quickly morphed into a Benoni-like
structure where black was very passive. The usual Onischuk shone through and
won the game in convincing style. During the postmortem, Onischuk said, "I
think he had some chances earlier to complicate the game, but it was a
difficult position. Once I played 28. f4, white should be winning."
Then disaster nearly struck on board four; Robert Hess,
playing the young Samy Shoker, was shocked by 19.... 0-0-0. "I just didn't
consider that he could castle queenside in this position. It was like a bolt of
electricity when he castled." However, Hess was able to keep the wheels on the
bus and opted for a positional queen for rook and bishop sacrifice.
"Objectively he is losing, but it's still a game", said coach Varuzhan Akobian
during the game. And a game it was, when Hess was able to put up maximum
resistance, his opponent erred badly just before time control and the tables
were turned. The clocks were stopped on move 49 and Hess came out the victor.
"I just put too much pressure on myself", said Hess after the game. "I expected
us to crush Egypt and I really wanted to add to that."
Ben Finegold annotates
that game along with Kamsky's win over World #3 Levon Aronian, below.
One of the last games to finish was Yasser Seirawan's
win over Essam El Gindy. The gruff-looking El Gindy may not seem at home at a chess board, but looks can be deceiving. He put up a
real fight and attacked with such ferocity that any result was possible.
queens were traded," opined Seirawan, "I felt much better. He was throwing
everything at me - queen, rooks, knight and pawns!" Seirawan could be seen
analyzing with El Gindy and most of the Egyptian team after the result was in,
and it was clear the Egyptians had a real sense of admiration for their foe.
Despite the great performance in round three,
there was no happy ending for round four. "We knew China would be a tough
team," said Finegold, "but it looked like the whole American team was out of
Kamsky pressed hard in a Queen's Gambit Accepted,
but was only able to draw Wang Hao. After 31 moves, Kamsky missed a chance to
keep his extra pawn with 32. Ra6 and instead the peace treaty was signed after
Wang Yue played the Catalan against Onischuk and
obtained a normal opening advantage, but the position became critical when the
American dropped a pawn on the eighteenth move. Despite his strong resistance,
Onischuk succumbed on move 29 and the Americans were behind.
Shulman, who hasn't seemed to get much with white
this tournament, had trouble completing his development, and despite an extra
pawn, couldn't find the right plan; he resigned on move 31.
Seirawan seemed to get what he wanted from the
opening, but seeing his teammates in trouble, went all out for the win. He
entered a complicated tactical skirmish around move 27, but the resulting
position saw him down a rook for two pawns. He struggled on for another 30
moves, but the result was no longer in question; Seirawan resigned on move 61.
"It was an incredibly disappointing match", said
Hess. "I don't know what to tell you; it was awful. We were outprepared,
outplayed, and nothing went right."
With the mood somber, the Americans enter round
five tomorrow, where they will face India before the rest day. One consolation
for the U.S. team was the number of upsets today. Russia lost 3-1 to Azerbaijan
and Hungary defeated Ukraine. Can the Americans reproduce their stellar
performance from last year? "When you have even the best teams being upset",
said Finegold, "anything is possible."
Annotations by GM Ben Finegold
Hess,Robert L (2609) - Shoker,Samy
World Teams Ningbo CHN (3), 19.07.2011
1.e4 d6 2.d4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.Be3 a6 5.a4
Nd7 6.Nf3 b6 7.Bc4 e6 8.h4
Black's setup is odd, but Shoker always
plays g6 stuff, and this was in Robert's pre-game prep with Var. In a previous
game, Shoker played 8...h5? and was quickly losing. Here he improves.
8...h6 9.h5 g5 10.Qd3?! Qe7 11.d5?!
11...Ngf6 12.dxe6 fxe6 13.e5 Nxe5
14.Nxe5 dxe5 15.0-0-0 Bb7 16.f3 Qf7?! 17.Qd2
Bc6 18.a5?! 18...b5 19.Bd3
When Robert played 18.a5, he thought he
was doing well here. He completely forgot black could castle queenside!
19...0-0-0 20.Kb1 e4! 21.fxe4 Nxe4
22.Nxe4 Bxe4 23.Bxe4!?
Although engines do not like this
scacrifice, Robert thought it was his best chance.
23...Rxd2 24.Rxd2 Qf6?!
24...Qe7 Threatening Qb4 should give
black a winning advantage.
25.Bd4 Qe7 26.Bxg7 Qxg7 27.Re1 Qf6
Both sides were in time trouble here,
but Robert has good chances to hold now.
29.Bc6 Re7 30.Re5 Qf4 31.Bd5 Qd2 32.g4
Kd7? 33.Bb3 c5? 34.c3! Kc7??
Black makes many errors in time
trouble, but this is too much.
35.Rxc5+ Kb8 36.Rce5
Now black is fighting to draw, but with
so many weak pawns, it is an uphill task.
36...Qd3+ 37.Bc2 Qg3 38.R1e4 Qg1+
The losing move. Black can still fight
40.Rxe6 Rxe6 41.Rxe6 Qf7 42.Bb3 Qf4?
42...Qf8 43.Rxa6 is a better try.
43.Rxh6 Qxg4 44.Rh8+ Kb7 45.h6 b4 46.h7
Qh5 47.cxb4 Qh6 48.Bd5+ Kc7 49.Ra8 1-0
Kamsky,Gata (2741) - Aronian,Levon
World Teams Ningbo CHN (2), 18.07.2011
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6
5.0-0 Be7 6.d3
Most Super-GMs try to avoid the
Marshall (especially against Aronian). This is one such way.
6...b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.a4 b4 9.Bg5
This is new at the top level.
Previously, 9.a5 or 9.Nbd2 were played. Aronian has faced both moves before,
and Kamsky also has had this position with black. Kamsky said he thought the
Bc1 was not doing so much, so he might as well get it developed quickly.
9...0-0 10.Nbd2 h6 11.Bh4 Rb8 12.Re1
Na5 13.Ba2 c5 14.Nc4 Nc6
Kamsky expected trades with 14...Nxc4
15.Bxc4 Be6 with near equality. Gata thought 14..Nc6 signalled Levon's
intentions to play for a win.
15.Ne3 Be6 16.Bxf6 Bxf6 17.Bc4 Qc8
I was surprised by this move, but Gata
thought if black could play g6, Bg7, Kh8, f5 that Levon would have the edge. So
he attempts to stop that plan.
18...Ne7 19.g3 g6 20.Kg2 Bh3+ 21.Kh2
Bd7 22.Rg1 Bg7 23.h5! Kh8 24.Rg2 f5?
A terrible move. This shows just how
aggressive Levon felt this game. 25.Nh4!
Gata has pressure on all of
black's weak white squares.
25...Bc6 26.hxg6 f4 27.Nd5 Nxd5 28.Bxd5
Bxd5 29.exd5 c4
White has a big advantage, but Aronian
does his best to confuse the issue.
30.g4! f3 31.Rg3 b3?
32.c3! Rf4 33.Nf5 cxd3? 34.Qxd3 e4 35.Qe3 Rxf5 36.gxf5 Qxf5
38.Kg1! Qxd5 (38...Re7 39.c4 h5
38...Be5+ 39.Rg3 Qxg6?!
39...Bxg3+ 40.fxg3 Kg7=
40.Kg2 Bxg3 41.fxg3 Kg8 42.Rf1 Rf8?
43.Rxf8+ Kxf8 44.Qf4+ Ke8 45.Kf2
Now Levon will be tortured, since he
has so many weak pawns.
45...h5 46.Ke3 Kd7 47.a5 Kc8 48.Kd4 Kc7
49.Qxe4 Qxg3 50.Qh7+ Kd8 51.Qh8+ Kc7 52.Qxh5 Qf2+ 53.Kc4 Qc5+
53...Qxb2 54.Qf7+ Kd8 55.Qf6+ Ke8
56.Qe6+ Kf8 57.Qxd6+ Kg7 58.Qc7+ Kf6 59.Qb6+ Ke5 60.Qe6+ (60.Qxb3 Qxb3+
61.Kxb3 Kxd5 62.Kb4 Also wins) 60...Kf4 61.d6+-
54.Kxb3 Qb5+ 55.Kc2 Qa4+ 56.Kd2 Qxa5
57.Qf7+ Kb6 58.Qg8 Qb5?
58...Qa4 is better, but white would
likely win in any case. Now the rest is easy --- for Gata!
59.b4! Kc7 60.Qf7+ Kd8 61.Qf6+ Kc7
62.Qe7+ Kc8 63.Qxd6 Qf1 64.Qe6+ Kb7 65.Qe4 Qf2+ 66.Kd3 Qa2 67.Qf3 Qb1+ 68.Kd4
Qg6 69.Kc4 Kc7 70.Qd3 Qg1 71.Kb3 Qa1 72.c4 a5 73.Qh7+ Kd8 74.Qg8+ Kc7 75.d6+
Kxd6 76.Qd5+ Ke7 77.bxa5 Qb1+ 78.Ka4 Kf6 79.a6 Kg6 80.Ka5 1-0