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USA (Chicago) Eliminated from World Cities by Victors Print E-mail
By Sevan Muradian   
December 28, 2012
GM-elect Robert Hungaski in UAE
Christmas Day was supposed to give the Chicago (USA) team a nice present but instead Hoogeveen (Netherlands) received it and eliminated the Americans with a match score of 3-1.

Chicago was pitted against GM's Giri, Sokolov, Tiviakov, and Smeets respectively. Out of the gate GM Akobian attempted to push Giri with more aggressive play but Giri refused to budge and Akobian spent a great deal of time on his clock to find a way to hold a position that had become difficult for him but eventually flagged (in a lost position). 


On second board, Ehlvest matched skill for skill versus World Open Champion Ivan Sokolov and seemed to have a devastating attack after offering the exchange sacrifice on move 25 but time pressure prevented him from doing complete calculations and soon they agreed to a draw.


GM-elect Robert Hungaski continued his typical approach of pressuring from the get go, though the game ended in a draw:


On fourth board, Ben Finegold lost his game to GM Jan Smeets but regardless of the position Ben pressed on until there was nothing left to press.


After the elimination Ehlvest and Hungaski parachuted into the Open tournament running parallel to the team event. Currently Ehlvest is part of a massive log jam for 1st place so the final two rounds will decide a lot. Akobian and Finegold left to enjoy their last two days in Dubai. 

One of the differences in the tie break mechanisms for the World Cities versus other team events is the use of the Berlin System. This is where each board is assigned a point value of 4 through 1 for boards 1 through 4 respectively. So a win on board 1 decides if 2 games are drawn and a lower board won by the other side. There are limited combinations that force the next tie break mechanism to be used (blitz playoff) such as a board 1+4 win and 2+3 win for the opposing side. Draws on all boards forces a blitz playoff as well.

But the Berlin System for tiebreaks allows for interesting strategies as in the contest between Baku and Wu Xi where Baku drew down boards 1 and 2 quickly. The match would be decided on board 3 where Baku was heavily favorited. The strategy worked for Baku, as China was the tournament darling by eliminating the team from Lviv, Ukraine and Baku did not want to chance any odd occurences that could happen.

Team chess introduces also the psychological challenge that your performance affects more than just yourself but that of your whole team. I don't doubt that when the team saw Akobian lose against Giri, the pressure was on Board 2 and 3 (Ehlvest and Hungaski respectively) to win their games. After Ehlvest drew his game it was pretty much locked in (unless Tiviakov and Smeets suddenly went brain dead). By this point Ben's game was locked in for Smeets. Hungaski though continued to push his opponent at this point for more of a personal goal than anything else.

Some people have asked how the team was formed and why it was named Chicago and why I referred to the team more as Team USA than Team Chicago. The team was formed at the 11th hour after I was contacted on Thanksgiving Day--I began contacting GM's one by one off of our FIDE rating list. Given the short time frame, almost all had holiday plans, tournament plans, etc. When I finally was able to put together the four person team, I then had to secure the sponsorship for the expensive last minute airline tickets. Since I had done the leg work and as many of these players have played in Chicago either in my events or others, I named the team Chicago. I've referred to the team as Team USA because really we're comprised of the players from within the USA. The other teams that were at the event, they weren't from the individual cities they 'represented' any more than our four team members live in Chicago. To me, it's interchangable. What matters is that we as the USA were represented, we fought, and it didn't cost the USCF or the USCF membership a single penny to send the team there at the last minute.

Be on the lookup for a full tournament report by GM Ben Finegold in the February issue of Chess Life Magazine.

Hoogoveen ended up winning the event, with a final round victory over Baku. For all of the tournament PGN's and standings visit http://www.worldcitieschess.com