World Team Update: US Team on a Roll
By Tony Rich   
July 24, 2011
YasserChinalead.jpgThe U.S. team continues down the rocky road of the 2011 World Team Championship. Slotted to play India just before the rest day, hopes were high that a win would "put us back on track", according to team captain John Donaldson. "Everyone seemed back in form today. Let's hope this can continue for the rest of the tournament." said team coach Ben Finegold.

Yury Shulman faced Surya Ganguly on board three in a sharp Winawer French. He seemed surprised by the exchange sacrifice 22. Rxc6, but found the best moves and drew on move 40.



Gata Kamsky, playing Pentala Harikrishna with black, also drew. "Optically it looked like Harikrishna had a good position, but Kamsky defended accurately", according to Robert Hess.



The real stars of the day were Alex Onischuk and Hess, who each won against their Indian counterparts. Krishnan Sasikiran had an oddly placed rook for most of his game against Onischuk and was unable to hold. Onischuk later said that it wasn't that strange, but ultimately admitted that the rook was out of play for most of the game.



Hess' win was smooth sailing, as he won a pawn early in the game and converted his advantage into a successful mating attack. Playing the c3 Sicilian "for the first time in a while", said Hess, "took (Parimarjan) Negi out of his element. You have to keep them guessing."



The Americans entered the rest day on a high from their round five win against India. Some of the team opted to see the sights of the city, while others chose to explore the Ningbo Zoo. Everyone seemed to have fun feeding the bears and walking among the peacocks. Finegold quipped, "The only thing that would make this better is if it weren't 100 degrees outside!" Returning to the hotel in a jovial mood, the atmosphere quickly turned serious as preparations begun for Hungary in round six.

RestDay.jpg

Fielding a strong team with an average rating approaching 2700, the Hungarians upset Ukraine and Azerbaijan and crushed the Indians 3.5-1.5. A draw was considered a good result a priori, but victory was within reach during the round.

Kamsky faced world number 25 Peter Leko on board one. Despite his small edge from a Catalan Opening, Kamsky was unable to break Leko's defenses and they agreed to a draw on move 31. Seen analyzing the game afterwards, Leko seemed relieved at the result.



 "These positions are Kamsky's bread-and-butter. I wasn't happy to see Kamsky play the Catalan." said Leko during the post mortem.

Celebrating her 35th birthday, Judit Polgar was in for an unpleasant surprise, as Yasser Seirawan showed how dangerous he can be. Seirawan opted for a Qc2 Nimzo Indian defense, which he has played many times in his career. "He showed some real confidence against Judit," according to Kamsky; "Castling Queenside in that position is risky, but he really played well."



The game was quintessential Seirawan as he played against Judit's weak white squares. His strong positional bind, combined with a keen tactical eye (see 32. f6) resulted in a beautiful game. Peter Svidler and Alexander Grischuk both congratulated him in the lobby. "I thought you were slightly better once you were up the exchange, but then I realized you had an extra rook as well!" said Svidler, tongue-in-cheek, to Seirawan.

Earlier in the round, Hess had no problems obtaining equality against Csaba Balogh on board four. Playing a Berlin Defense, Hess later said, "It didn't seem like my opponent was familiar with the ideas in the Berlin, especially after I played the rare 10... b6. Alex (Onischuk) has played this and he helped me prepare before the game."



The Americans were winning the match 2-1, and Shulman, on board two, was playing a certain draw against Zoltan Almasi; hopes were high that the U.S. would win the match, which catapult them into a tie for third place. However, an under-the-weather Shulman faltered with the end zone in view. With just two minutes left around move 34, nerves seemed to get the better of him and Shulman dropped a critical pawn.



Almasi didn't have any trouble bagging the full point leaving the Americans disappointed at what seemed like a definite match point. "It was a really big miss," said Akobian. 

So the draw that seemed so sweet in the beginning left a bitter taste in the end. As the players entered the seventh round they seemed more determined than ever to defeat Azerbaijan. The Americans opted for the top-four lineup of Kamsky, Onischuk, Shulman and Seirawan.

First to exit the playing hall was Seirawan, who has been on fire in this event. His devastating win versus Shakhriyar Mamedyarov is his third from five rounds.



Seirawan is sporting a 2817 performance rating.

In a happy mood, Seirawan sat down with his coaches and fellow team member Hess to go over the game. On move two, Seirawan said, "I already feel like something went wrong for Shak", as Mamedyarov is known. Peter Leko even commented, "This is the way to show them when they show no respect", referring to Mamedyarov's dubious opening decision.

No sooner than Seirawan's analysis was coming to an end, Gata Kamsky came from the playing hall with an extra point. Gata congratulated Yasser on his win over a 2700+ player by saying, "You just killed an elite player - especially in the opening. What the heck was 2... f5?"

"Gata - show us something", said Seirawan.

Kamsky responded, "What? My game? Why?"

"Because I didn't see a darned thing!" came Yasser's witty response.  

Gata sat down and demonstrated his win versus Radjabov.



At one point, Kamsky said, "I was really confident at this point. He caught up with me on time and I played 19... f5. But he found this amazing resource and he just takes." After a flurry of moves and suggestions by Seirawan, Finegold and Hess, he reached another critical position and paused. "I played 24... Qb4 and he immediately smacked me with g4," he continued, "but then I got lucky with 25... Bd3." In fact, Kamsky could be seen shaking his head after 25. g4 and his teammates were concerned.

"I thought that maybe I should keep playing," Onischuk mentioned over dinner. "Gata didn't look happy and I began thinking that maybe I need to try and win." However, the wheels stayed on the bus, and despite severe time trouble for both players, Kamsky found some great resources and won his game.

Next to emerge was Onischuk, who played a solid draw against Vugar Gashimov. "Alex spent a lot of time preparing against Gashimov's Benoni," said Finegold. "Vugar had played 15... Ne5 previously, but the move in the game (15... Nb6) was a big improvement; the game was pretty equal throughout."



With the match victory clinched, there was a big sigh of relief, but team members waited anxiously hoping Shulman could hold a worse endgame against Rauf Mamedov. The game continued well into the evening, but after 96 moves, Shulman succumbed.



"Round 7 was an important victory," said Donaldson in the team meeting, "but we still have a lot of work to do. Let's take this one round at a time and focus on the task at hand." Currently tied for fourth place, tomorrow will be an important round for the Americans, who will face number-two Ukraine (behind Armenia and tied with China). The U.S. forces crushed Ukraine at the Olympiad this year by an amazing 3.5-0.5, and with any luck will have a repeat performance.

Tomorrow is a rest day at the World Team. See Tony Rich's rounds 2-4 update with annotations by GM Finegold, find photo galleries on the CCSCSL website and see further details on chessbase and TWIC.