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U.S. Wins Dramatic Match Over Russia to Tie For Lead Print E-mail
By FM Mike Klein   
September 6, 2012

After five hours of play in the ninth round of the 40th Chess Olympiad, three of the four boards in the U.S. – Russia match were still being fought, and two were still very much in doubt. Almost all at once, the Americans won both of the games that were still in limbo, clinching victory 2.5-1.5. Nakamura had only one way to beat GM Vladimir Kramnik, and he found it right away.

The match win is only the second time in history that the U.S. men have bested an independent Russian squad in a team competition (the other was Turin, 2006). Russia went in to the round two match points clear of the field. The two teams are now level at 15 match points, and are joined by Armenia and China, who both won today.

After a placid draw on board three by GM Alexander Onischuk and GM Sergey Karjakin, the other three games stretched several more hours into the endgame. The crowd swelled to watch the board one action – even Garry Kasparov hovered around the roped-off area to see the compelling drama.

Kamsky in round nine of the Olympiad, Photo Mike Klein

GM Gata Kamsky had an extra pawn against GM Alexander Grischuk, but with all remaining pawns on the same side, his winning chances looked slim. Grischuk eventually settled for a rook-and-bishop versus rook ending, but he began the defense playing only on increment and with his king already in a constricting spot. Though still technically drawn, before getting close to 50 moves, Grischuk fatally erred with 61. Re7 (61. Rf8+ would have held). A precise Kamsky pounced right away.

Grischuk and Kramnik in round eight, Photo Tony Rich for STL Chess Club
After the win, Nakamura, still battling, had time to give a brief pat on the back to his teammate. GM Ray Robson, who had been hanging on in a worse position, decided it was time to capitulate to GM Dmitry Jakovenko. That left Nakamura’s game to decide the match. The roller-coaster of emotions was on display for him as he squandered much but not all of his middlegame advantage. A wild endgame arose whereby Nakamura was running out of pawns. His final pawn finally hit paydirt, but because of the discovered check looming on f3, he had to get a knight for the necessary check.

GM Varuzhan Akobian, who sat this round but was following everything, said, “I didn’t get it. The computer said plus four and I didn’t understand. Then I said, ‘Oh yeah, he can get a knight!” The unique pawnless ending of two knights and bishop versus opposite-color bishop is winning, as Nakamura proved easily. He even left the black f-pawn on the board, perhaps out of habit when you may be left with only knights. It did not come close to necessary – Kramnik’s king was already in the “wrong corner”.

After the win, handshakes were offered all around. Nakamura could not immediately join the celebration or answer questions. Right after signing his scoresheet, he was approached by officials (he had barely risen from his chair) who had paperwork in front of them and asked for a sample, presumably urine, for drug testing. Nakamura then exited the playing hall with two officials and Captain John Donaldson.

This win also slides Nakamura ahead of Kramnik in the live chess ratings to #4, a new high for him.

“We just did good today, but I don’t want to talk about chances,” Kamsky said. 
The team will have another tough test tomorrow. They will play China on board one. Meanwhile, Russia will face Argentina.

In the women’s section, both the team’s and IM Irina Krush’s winning streaks ended today. Ukraine won 3-1 thanks to wins on boards one and four. Krush and WGM Sabina Foisor both drew to salvage the single point. The women will face Mongolia in the penultimate round.

The official site for live games and standings is www.chessolympiadistanbul.com (also bookmark the chessresults Olympiad page).

November - Chess Life Online 2012

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