Jennifer's Last Word From Beijing
By Jennifer Shahade   
October 21, 2008
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Dmitry Schneider won his Armageddon match against Iran, but it wasn't enough for bronze.Photo Iryna Zenyuk
When I arrived home from Beijing, a day earlier than the rest of the team, I rushed to my desktop to see how the American team did in the rapid playoffs and was disappointed to see they came in fourth place, just out of medal contention. United States lost to Ukraine in the semi-finals after which Ukraine (silver) lost to China (gold) in the finals. Meanwhile the U.S. had to play Iran for a chance at the bronze medal. The first two matches were split, so a three-game Armageddon match would determine the bronze medallists. Captain GM Alexander Shabalov picked the three players who would contest the match, and he chose GM Eugene Perelshteyn, IM Dmitry Schneider and GM-elect Josh Friedel. Dima won a nice blitz game- at the end, White cannot defend against the brutal threat of Qh2 mate without hanging f2:



Josh lost, making Eugene's game decisive. Eugene was down on time and position, but with one second less and pieces flying everywhere, he stopped the clock. Eugene wanted to claim the rule that declares displaced pieces a loss for the player who knocked over the piece, or a double forfeit in the case of pieces being misplaced for many moves in a row.

In the end, the arbiters decided they had to replay the game, which Eugene lost. He found an interesting-looking sacrifice (22...Nxg5) which unfortunately lost quickly to a powerful countersack (24.Ncxe4).



I discussed the strict rules against misplaced and displaced pieces in a previous blog- the idea was to mandate more civilized play. I think the disputes  from this rule were ridiculous, but on the other hand, the tournament did occur in the scheduled time frame, and the appeals and disputes may have been even more complex without such a cut and dry rule. One thing is for sure: fast players were disadvantaged in China because they had to be extra careful not to knock anything over-it's sort of a "speed-equalizer."

Despite the disappointing finish, the U.S. men's team should be proud of their performance in the preliminaries. Dmitry told CLO: "I think the main reason our team played so well in the rapids is because we had great team chemistry... At some point every player on the team came through in the clutch and helped the team win." Shabalov thought it was all about the lucky hat:
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GM Shabalov, after the U.S. victory over India

Iryna Zenyuk told CLO, "The Iranian team was very joyful after the win, they were jumping on each other, kissing each other, it was really something..."  I talked to most of the members of the Iranian team at the event, and they were all very friendly. In one extreme example, I was on the lookout for some MindSport Games swag like bags, shirts, etc. because my father loves that kind of stuff. So at dinner one evening, I asked the Iranian arbiter at the event where I could get the Mindsports vest he was wearing. He took his vest off and gave it to me! I tried to refuse but it was a lost cause!  

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This wasn't the vest the Iranian gave me- nobody is that nice! Abby Marshall and Irina Krush helped me lower the price on this at the antique market.

Iran is generally not paired against Israel and if they are, it's understood that despite the wishes of the Iranian players, it's unlikely they will show up, due to higher orders. In China, Israel brought a B-team, so they were among the lowest rated teams in the event, in contrast to the Olympiad, where they usually occupy the top spots. Israel was paired against teams that are usually quickly out of their score-group in Olympiads: Tunisia, Iraq and Pakistan. In the Mindsport Games, all of these teams tried to change the pairings or forfeited against Israel. The pairings were changed in the case of Iraq and Pakistan but in the last round of the rapids against Tunisia, the Israeli captain was fed up. He told me he didn't understand why Tunisia didn't play them since it was not an order from the Tunisian government, so the Israeli team accepted their first forfeit win. The last round debacle was a sad note to end the last round of the Mind Sport team preliminaries.

I think I have about 2000 photos (literally) from China and uschess.org would certainly blow up before you got bored to death if I posted them all. Here are some of my favorites that didn't show up in any of my previous five reports: On arriving in Beijing , Blitzing in Beijing , Rapids and Team Climb , Team Blitz and the American men's advance to the rapid semis. Also see if you can tell between an expensive camera and a cheap camera in this China photo quiz.

Photo Gallery


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Cindy Tsai, whose family is from Taiwan, came out of retirement for the Mind Sport Games and played very well--Her Mandarin skills also helped the team navigate the city! Now she is back to work in NYC as the manager for customer care at  Peek, a mobile email device.


 
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GM Alexandra Kosteniuk, with her gold medals for the blitz team and blitz individual. Read Kosteniuk's interview with Hanken and look for an article on her World Championship victory in your December Chess Life. Photo chesspics.com.


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The Chinese women took gold in the rapid team and silver in the blitz team.
Photo chesspics.com.

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Peking Opera



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The view from the Beijing Continental Hotel where the U.S. team stayed.


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To Dmitry Schneider , the Great Wall is just a rook. Photo Shirley Ben-Dak


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Shirley Ben-Dak miming by the Ming Tomb. Photo Dmitry Schneider

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Jesse Kraai and statue in 798, Beijing's contemporary art district


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Iryna Zenyuk at the Bird's Nest, the Olympic stadium, largest steel structure in the world, and just a few minutes walk from our hotel.



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Does this girl, who plays for Norway, look familiar?

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The spirited Russian team (top: Valentina Gunina, Natalia Pogonina, bottom, Irina Vasilevich and Alexandra Kosteniuk) won the gold medal in the blitz team and bronze in the rapid team. Photo courtesy chesspics.com.


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To some members of the U.S. team, this picture makes them wish they were back in Beijing. It makes others happy they're home!Photo Dmitry Schneider


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Shabalov with Schneider, Shahade and Ben-Dak in the background.


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A dance show at the outdoor "Aigo" festival, which brought hundreds of college students to Beijing for a weekend festival of the game which supposedly merges Chinese and International chess. Basically, it's chess with cannons.


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If only they had let me bring this home for Halloween....



Browse complete Mind Sport Games games and results and look for yet more on China on uschess.org later this month: Abby Marshall has promised one of her famous blogs!