U.S. Team Arrives, Prepares for World Team Championship
By Tony Rich   
January 4, 2010
The World Team squad (a day before Nakamura arrived) L to R: GM Varuzhan Akobian, Team Captain IM John Donaldson, GM Robert Hess, GM Alexander Onischuk, GM Ray Robson and GM Yury Shulman. Photo Tony Rich for CCSCSL

This year's World Team Championship squad is sponsored by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. CCSCSL executive director Tony Rich reports and photographs from the scene.

BURSA, TURKEY -- What a long, strange trip it's been, and the real adventure is just getting started.

Despite inclement weather, traffic, and an extensive commute, the American team has made it to the World Team Championship, scheduled to be held in Bursa, Turkey from January 5-14. This ten-team, round-robin event promises to be full of excitement and top-level chess with teams from America, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Egypt, Greece, India, Israel, Russia and Turkey. The participants are being hosted at the five-star Almira Hotel, and the tournament is at the nearby Merlinos Congress Centre. The organizers have spared no expense, including free lodging, food and transportation for participants.
The Turkish Federation welcomed teams with an elaborate opening ceremony,  Photo Tony Rich for CCSCSL

Each team consists of four players, two alternates and a captain. As a young team with an above-average rating, the U.S. contingent is confident in their chances. GMs Hikaru Nakamura, Alex Onischuk, Yury Shulman, Varuzhan Akobian, Robert Hess and Ray Robson will be led into battle by IM John Donaldson.
GMs Ray Robson, Robert Hess and Varuzhan Akobian Photo Tony Rich for CCSCSL
Prior to arriving in Bursa, the U.S. team acclimated to the time difference by exploring the sights in Istanbul and seemed generally relaxed. With all of the individual events on the tournament calendars, it’s nice to see a team event and to feel the sense of comradery amongst the Americans. Whether wandering through the bazaars and spice markets or taking in the beautiful architecture, this team bonding experience may be the crucial factor for their success.

In the shuttle, traveling from Istanbul to Bursa on a wet, cool afternoon, Donaldson ensured the team’s comfort as they winded through town. Everyone discussed topics as varied as the beautiful mosques and Turkish history to opening novelties and current chess theory. A sitar softly wailed from the radio.

Ayasofya Mosque, Photo Tony Rich for CCSCSL

The opening ceremony took place on Monday morning, and various state and chess officials thanked each team and promised to make this a memorable experience for all. FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov welcomed the players and thanked the Turkish Chess Federation for their efforts in organizing this event. Turkish Chess Federation President Ali Nihat Yazici also said a few words of appreciation as teams, dignitaries and reporters observed.

Scattered throughout the ceremony were various displays of Turkish culture. One group of performers dressed in traditional warrior garb performed an intricate dance while clashing swords and shields. Another performance displayed Turkish men dressed in full regalia as they performed an Ottoman mehter piece, which for centuries accompanied the Ottoman army into battle.

The pinnacle performance of the ceremony came from a Turkish youth soccer team as they entered the hall juggling soccer balls amongst themselves while everyone watched with a keen eye.

The reason for the spectacle soon became apparent. The drawing of lots utilized these future soccer stars in a ingenious way; each youngster wore a green jersey over a white equivalent and team captains came forward, one at a time, to make a selection.

The athlete removed the outer jersey to reveal the pairing number for that team. When the dust had settled, the seeds were:

IM John Donaldson picked a lucky number nine for the USA pairing number Photo Tony Rich for CCSCSL

   1. Azerbaijan
   2. Turkey
   3. India
   4. Russia
   5. Egypt
   6. Israel
   7. Brazil
   8. Greece
   9. United States
  10. Armenia

Based on these seeds, round one parings are as follows:

















United States




















The Turkish team is made up of GM Kivanc Haznedaroglu (2497), IM Mert Erdogdu (2489), IM Mustafa Yilmaz (2468), IM Emre Can (2449), IM Baris Esen (2493) and FM Burak Firat (2392). While the U.S. team is slightly older, they out-rate their first-round opponents by more than 200 points!

Nakamura leads the team to prepare for battle,  Photo Tony Rich for CCSCSL

Stay tuned for updates on the World Team Championship as the U.S. team attempts to further solidify itself as a dominant force in the international chess scene.

You can watch the games live at the tournament website or check www.saintlouischessclub.org for exclusive game analysis by the CCSCSL's new GM-in-residence, Ben Finegold