Robson and Rich on the World Team: US in Clear Lead
By Tony Rich and GM Ray Robson   
January 11, 2010
lead2.jpg
Round seven of the World Team Championship, Photo Tony Rich of CCSCSL

BURSA, TURKEY -- The United States stands in clear first after round seven of the World Team Championship.

On a crucial must-win day, the Americans demonstrated true grit in their path to victory over Greece. The Greek team, with surprise victories over Russia and Armenia, are dangerous rivals capable of upsetting any team. The victory was by the smallest margin at 2.5-1.5 and was not decided until the last moment.

Board one presented an interesting battle between Hikaru Nakamura and Vasilios Kotronias.  Nakamura chose an offbeat line of the Petroff defense and quickly landed in a passive position with few prospects. Kotronias played accurately, but slowly, and as move 40 approached, the Greek found himself low on time. True to his style, Nakamura kept things complicated and after the dust settled, was up a whole rook. Kotronias resigned on move 44 and the U.S. won the match.

Kotronias,Vasilios - Nakamura,Hikaru [C42]
World Team Championship, 11.01.2010
[Ray Robson]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6!?
An unexpected opening choice by Hikaru as he is not known for playing the Petroff.
3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Nd6!?

after6...nd6.jpg
This move isn't usual but it has become somewhat more popular the last few years. Also, it was probably a good idea not to play the main lines because Kotronias is known for his theoretical knowledge and has even written a book about the Petroff!
7.Bf4
7.0-0 is more often played but this move just transposes.
7...Be7 8.0-0 0-0 9.Re1
Kotronias actually played this position in three games against Skembris in 1995, so he certainly knows something about this position. Skembris played 9...Be6 all three times, but Hikaru chooses a different plan.
9...c6
White may have slightly more active pieces but Black is very solid and doesn't have any real weaknesses.
10.Nbd2 Be6 11.c3 Nd7 12.Qc2 h6 13.Nf1 Re8 14.Ng3 Bf8
after14bf8.jpg
15.Re2
 White is trying to double rooks on the e-file but now Black has the opportunity to exchange rooks. 15.h3 should definitely be considered to stop Black  from playing Bg4.
15...Bg4 16.Rxe8 Nxe8 17.Ne5 Be6 18.Re1 Nef6
after18nef6.jpg
18...Nxe5 looks more logical, but I think Hikaru was probably worried about 19.dxe5. Now Black has to be careful not to allow f4-f5, and White looks better.
19.Ng6!
A little tactic winning the two bishops.
19...Qb6 20.Nxf8 Nxf8
Fortunately for Black his position is still solid and the position is not open enough for the bishops to dominate.
21.h3 Re8 22.Re5 N8d7 23.Re2 Nf8 24.Re5 N8d7 25.Re3
I think Kotronias probably repeated just to gain time on the clock, or else he was trying to make a psychological impression on Hikaru by declining the draw.
25...Qa5 26.a3 Nf8
There is not much for Black to do so he just sits tight.
27.Be5 Qd8 28.f4
White  has a very pleasant position and will at least be able to make Black defend accurately for a long time.
28...Bd7 29.Qf2
after19qf2.jpg
29...N6h7?
This allows the White  knight into h5 where it forces weaknesses on Black's kingside. Even if White  cannot do anything immediate he can always leave the knight on h5 because taking it would leave Black's king too exposed.
30.Nh5!
Kotronias takes his chance.
30...g6 31.Qg3 f5
Black wants to play Kf7, trying to hold everything together on the kingside.
32.c4!
Now White  is creating another weakness on d5.
32...Kf7 33.cxd5 cxd5
after33cd.jpg
34.Be2?
A natural move in time trouble, but not the strongest. Kotronias was down to about 3 minutes here. 34.Qf3! was stronger. Black will never be able to take White's knight on h5 while White  can calmly improve his position.
34...Ne6 35.Qf3 Bc6 36.Kh2 Qb6 37.Ng3!?
Suddenly right before the time control the position starts heating up.
37...Nxd4 38.Qf2 Nc2
38...Nxe2 39.Nxe2 White has good compensation here because of his dominating dark-squared bishop and his control of the d4-square.
39.Nxf5
The only move to justify his previous decisions.
39...Nxe3
after39ne3.jpg
39...gxf5?? loses to 40.Bh5+
40.Nxh6+??
All of a sudden on the last move of the time control Kotronias goes berserk. 40.Nxe3 was the natural move, which would have given White  good compensation for the exchange.
40...Kf8 41.Qg3
According to the official website Kotronias thought for about 25 minutes before making this move, leaving him only five minutes for the rest of the game! I'm sure White  realized his attack was unsound and now he had to create the best practical chances to survive. 41.f5? fails to 41...Ng4+ 42.Nxg4 Qxf2 43.Nxf2 (43.Bd6+ Kg8 44.Nxf2 Rxe2) 43...Rxe5.
41...Bd7 42.Bc3
42.Bd3 may have been a relatively better chance.
 42...Nf5
Hikaru decides to just simplify. Also completely winning was 42...d4.
 43.Nxf5 Bxf5 44.Bf3 d4
FinalNaka.jpg
White resigned. This win by Hikaru won the match against Greece and its importance can't be underestimated.  
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GMs Hikaru Nakamura and Alexander Onischuk, Photo Tony Rich of CCSCSL


On board two, the game between Alexander Onischuk and Ioannis Papaioannou was the first to finish and resulted in a draw.

Onischuk,Alexander - Papaioannou,Ioannis [E20]
World Team Championship, 11.01.2010
[Ray Robson]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Nf3 c5 5.g3 0-0 6.Bg2 d6
after6d6oni.jpg
A somewhat unusual setup. The main line is 6...cxd4 7.Nxd4 d5 8.cxd5 Nxd5.
7.dxc5
I'm not sure if this is a new move or not, but it probably makes sense because it leads to a position that is in Alex's style.
7...Bxc3+
7...Ne4 8.0-0 (8.cxd6!? Nxc3 9.Qb3 Nd5+ (9...Nxa2+ 10.Bd2 Qxd6 11.Rxa2 Bxd2+ 12.Nxd2 Nc6 13.Ne4²) 10.Kf1 Bxd6 11.cxd5 Na6 I believe Black   has reasonable compensation for the pawn.) 8...Nxc3 9.bxc3 Bxc5 (9...Bxc3 10.Rb1 dxc5 11.Qc2 with compensation for the pawn.) 10.Rb1 Here White  has weak doubled c-pawns but in compensation he has pressure on the b7 pawn. I guess the position is about equal.
8.bxc3 dxc5 9.Qxd8 Rxd8 10.Ne5
Alex is transferring his knight to d3 so that it can pressure the c5 pawn.
10...Nfd7 11.Nd3 Nc6 12.Be3 Na5
after12...na5.jpg
Black doesn't have to worry so much about losing a pawn in these types of structures because White 's c-pawns are so weak.
13.Nxc5 Nxc5 14.Bxc5 Bd7
Now Black just wants to exchange the light squared bishops after which he should be fine, or so I thought. Alex thought that if he played 18.Kc2 he would definitely be better. I guess that in this position it would be wiser to trust him.
15.0-0-0 Bc6 16.Bxc6 Nxc6 17.Be3
17.Bd6 Rd7 18.Rd3 Rad8 19.Rhd1 f6 20.c5 e5 and White will find it hard to make progress.
17...f6
after17f6.jpg
18.Rd3?
Alex simply missed Black's next move. 18.Kc2 Kf7 is still not easy for White to progress. (18...Na5 19.Rxd8+ Rxd8 20.Rb1 Rd6 21.Bxa7 Nxc4 22.Rd1 leads to a great endgame for White .
18...Ne5!
Now Black forces c5 and has an easy time holding the draw.
19.Rxd8+ Rxd8 20.Rd1
20.Bxa7 Ra8
20...Rxd1+ 21.Kxd1 a6 22.c5 Nc6
after22nc6oni.jpg
There is no way for White  to break through on the queenside where he has an extra pawn. Possibly the game would have been agreed drawn here if there had not been the 30 move drawing rule.
23.Kd2 Kf7 24.Kd3 e5 25.Bc1 Ke6 26.e4 g6 27.Bd2 Kd7 28.Kc4 Ke6 29.Kd3 Kd7 30.Kc4 Ke6
Draw agreed.

The Hristos Banikas - Yury Shulman game on board three was also decided peacefully without much trouble.
YuryR7.jpg
GM Yury Shulman Photo Tony Rich of CCSCSL


Banikas,Hristos - Shulman,Yury [D46]
World Team Championship, 11.01.2010
[Ray Robson]

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c6 4.e3 Nf6 5.Nf3 Nbd7 6.Qc2 Bd6 7.Bd3
When playing 1.d4 Banikas almost always plays either 7.Bd3 or 7.Be2, so it was not hard to predict this variation.
7...0-0 8.0-0 e5
aftere5Yury.jpg
Yury doesn't usually play this variation but I have a lot of experience in this line so I helped him prepare this.
9.cxd5 cxd5 10.e4
This is the main line. Now play goes into a forced variation. 10.Nb5 Bb8 11.dxe5 Nxe5 12.Nxe5 Bxe5 is okay for Black.
10...dxe4 11.Nxe4 Nxe4 12.Bxe4 h6 13.Be3 exd4 14.Bh7+
14bh7.jpg
The point of this check will be seen about five moves from now. 14.Bxd4 Nf6 15.Rfe1!? is a new idea that Varuzhan used against me at the 2009 US Championship. Although I lost that game, Black   should have some improvements.
14...Kh8 15.Bxd4 Nf6 16.Bf5 Qa5 17.Bxc8 Rfxc8
In many variations Black's a-pawn could be hanging, so Black has to keep his rook on a8.
18.Qb3 Qd5 19.Rfd1
19.Bxf6 Qxb3 20.Bxg7+ The point of 14.Bh7+. 20...Kxg7 21.axb3 is the main line, but Black   is supposed to have enough compensation for the pawn.
19...Qxb3 20.axb3 Rd8
after20rd8yury.jpg
Yury isn't afraid of Bxf6 as normally Black shouldn't have any problems in these structures.
21.Bxf6
21.Bxa7 Bxh2+! 22.Kxh2 Rxd1 23.Rxd1 Rxa7=
 21...gxf6 22.Kf1 a6
Now Black can bring his a8 rook into the game.
23.Rac1 Kg7 24.Rd4 Be5
Black doesn't have any advantage keeping the bishop vs. knight so he decides to trade pieces.
25.Rb4 Rd7 26.Nxe5 fxe5
This rook endgame is approximately equal. The b4-rook is exerting some pressure on the b7-pawn but Black   can easily make up for that with counterplay on the d-file.
27.Rb6 Rad8 28.g4 Rd4 29.Rc4 R8d7 30.Rxd4 Rxd4
FinalYury.jpg
Both sides have made 30 moves and a draw was agreed. [30...Rxd4 31.h3 Rd2 32.Rxb7 Rxb2]

Board four, on the other hand, saw Varuzhan Akobian under pressure after missing the much stronger 14. Qxd8. Halkias played actively and tried to convert the full point, but Akobian's stalwart defense ensured the draw. When asked if he saw the queen exchange, Akobian said, "Of course! Trade queens, easy win. I don't know what I was thinking. After 16. Qd6 I completely missed 16... Nd3+."

Akobian,Varuzhan - Halkias,Stelios [E37]
World Team Championship, 11.01.2010
[Ray Robson]
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 d5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.Qxc3 Ne4
Other main moves are 6...0-0 and; 6...dxc4.
7.Qc2 e5!?
e5Akobian.jpg
Halkias chooses a sharp variation. The more popular and less exciting move 7...c5 leads to positions where Black has good chances to equalize.
8.cxd5 Bf5
Halkias continues to choose the most sharp continuations. 8...Qxd5 is also possible but would lead to calmer positions. For example: 9.f3 Nd6 10.dxe5 Qxe5 11.e4 and White  has chances for a slight advantage.
9.Qa4+ Nd7
This position is extremely complicated and I can't really tell what is happening! Varuzhan decides to play solidly on his next move instead of risking g4!?.
10.Nf3
10.g4!? Qh4 (10...Nxf2 11.gxf5 (11.Kxf2 Qh4+=) 11...Nxh1 12.dxe5 0-0 13.Nf3+-) 11.Be3 Qxg4 12.Nf3 this position could be better for White, but it is quite understandable that Varuzhan didn't want to go in for this line.
10...0-0 11.dxe5 c6
A logical move, which was also played by Motlev. Black is trying to open up the position to take advantage of White's undeveloped pieces.
12.Qd1
12.dxc6 Ndc5 13.Qc2 Qd5 14.b4 Rad8! shows that White  has to be careful. 15.Be3 (15.bxc5? Nc3! 16.Qd2 Qxc5) 15...Nb3 16.Rb1 Nc3! 17.Qxc3 Bxb1 18.Nd2 Nxd2 19.Bxd2 bxc6 20.f3 Rfe8 21.Bf4 with an unclear position.
12...Re8 13.dxc6
Both sides have used a lot of time in the opening and are down to about 20 minutes each.
13...Ndc5?

akobianafterndc5.jpg
13...bxc6 was simple and leaves Black   with some compensation. 14.e3  White  will still remain up a pawn and will complete his development.
14.Be3?!
14.Qxd8 Raxd8 15.c7 Rd7 16.Be3 should be winning for White.
14...Qe7 15.Bxc5?
A big mistake, letting Black back into the game.Varuzhan must have been getting nervous at this point because he had only about 15 minutes remaining. 15.Qc2 looks good for White .
15...Nxc5 16.Qd6
afterqd6.jpg
16...Nd3+!
Perhaps Varuzhan missed Nd3+ and that is why he played Bxc5.
17.Kd2 Nxf2
A smart choice, as 17...Qxd6 allows 18.exd6 Nxf2 19.c7 even though Black   may still be okay after either Nh1 or Ne4+. 19...Ne4+ (19...Nxh1 20.Ke1! followed by g3.) 20.Ke1 Nxd6 21.Rd1 Black   still has to be careful in this position.
18.Qxe7 Rxe7 19.Rg1 Ng4
19...bxc6 allows 20.Ke3! Ng4+ 21.Kf4 when White  is threatening h3.
20.h3 Rd8+
20...Nxe5 21.Nxe5 Rxe5 22.cxb7 Rd8+ 23.Ke1 White remains up a pawn here after Black wins b7 so he still has chances to win.
21.Ke1 Ne3 22.Rc1 bxc6 23.Rxc6 Rb7 24.b4
after24b4var.jpg
24.g4 Bg6 25.Kf2 Nd1+ 26.Kg3 was a better idea but by now both sides had about five minutes left to make move 40. The point is that now Black will only get one of White 's pawns.
24...Nc2+ 25.Kf2 Nxa3 26.e3 Rxb4 27.Nd4
It was at about this point that Kotronias played 40.Nxh6+.
27...Be4 28.Ra6
28.Rc7!?
28...Nc2 29.Rxa7 Nxd4 30.exd4 Rbxd4 31.Be2
This position should be drawn but now both players were under two minutes.
31...Bg6
31...R4d5 32.Bc4=
32.Rga1
finalakobian.jpg
In this equal position the game was agreed drawn

So the US match ended 2.5-1.5 while Russia fell behind with a draw against Armenia. Their match featured an epic 113-move confrontation on board four. Arman Pashikan, who reached a rook and bishop versus rook endgame against Vladimir Malakhov on move 64, battled for another 48 moves before conceding the draw.



These endgames are anything but simple to defend unless you're GM Josh Friedel, who "knows, simply by glancing at the position, which moves lose and which moves draw, as if he had access to a color-coded scroll which rolls out with each move." (From the Grandmaster House by Jesse Kraai). Apparently Malakhov has access to a similar scroll, as he was able to keep the balance.

The exact same endgame was reached on board three in the Egypt - India match, and the Egyptian player, Khaled Abdel Razik, lost to India's Geetha Narayanan Gopal in 122 moves. The loss proved costly as India topped Egypt 2.5-1.5.



In the upset special of the day, host country Turkey won its first match of the event with a surprising 2.5-1.5 victory over Israel. In other action, Brazil got crushed by Azerbaijan 3.5 - 0.5.

The drawn match between Russia and Armenia was key as it allowed the United States to move into sole possession of first place with matches against Armenia and Azerbaijan yet to come.

Tomorrow's showdown between Armenia and the U.S. will be the marquis match-up of round eight.

Watch the games live on the official website at 8 AM EST. For daily game analysis, see Ben's Blog on the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis website. See previous CLO reports: Nakamura's own annotations of his Gelfand scorcher, Opening Ceremony, Round 1 and Robson's Annotations of Round two.