Shabalov and Akobian Advance in World Cup!
November 23, 2009
A long night was in store for Akobian, Tregubov and the arbiter

Four-time US Champion Alexander Shabalov won against GM Vladimir Baklan in a thrilling tiebreak match to advance to round two of the World Cup. In an even more grueling match, Varuzhan Akobian played a marathon series of games against GM Pavel Tregubov. It was by far the longest tiebreak of the tournament, going on till nearly 1 AM local time. But after two tied rapid matches, and four tied blitz matches, Akobian finally broke through. Here are the consecutive wins that finally put Varuzhan ahead:

We can only hope that Akobian will be high on adrenalin for tomorrow's match against former World Champion Ruslan Ponomariov, and not at all exhausted!

As for Shabalov, he must have been very disappointed not to wrap up the match in the final rapid game where he executed a strong Najdorf attack. The endgame turned out to be far from an easy win. Shabalov's friend GM Alex Yermolinsky was watching on the Internet Chess Club and he wisely intuited that 36...bxa5 was too risky. 36...Rd3 instead would have avoided the complications.

This was truly a match of material imbalances- another of Shabalov-Baklan games featured a queen vs. two pieces and rook.

Fortunately for Shabalov's spirits and chances in the event, he won the blitz match.

GM Alexander Shabalov, More photos on the official site

Unfortunately it wasn't an American sweep in the tiebreaks: GM Yury Shulman lost a very tough match against Savchenko. Shulman fought very hard as evidenced by the following fine defensive win with Black which culminated in a Bishop and Knight vs. King endgame.

Shulman lost the first blitz game, was unable to come back in game two and was eliminated from the World Cup along with five other US players. See an interview with one of our other eliminated players, GM-elect Ray Robson (don't mind the grammatical errors!)
GMs Gabriel Sargissian, Yury Shulman and Varuzhan Akobian

Tomorrow Shabalov will face Navara in game 1, round two. Onischuk plays Naiditsch (who won against Hou Yifan in the tiebreak.) Kamsky was most likely set to play his trainer, GM Emil Sutovsky in round two but escaped that fate since Emil fell in the tiebreak to GM Weigi Zhou of China.

Good luck to our four remaining US players!

See the official website, and the Internet Chess Club for live coverage.
Also read Josh Friedel's nightmare travel story.