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US Squad Arrives in China for World Team Champs Print E-mail
By Tony Rich   
July 15, 2011
The squad in Shanghai: Tony Rich of the CCSCSL, GM Yury Shulman, GM Ben Finegold, GM Robert Hess, GM Alexander Onischuk, IM John Donaldson and GM Gata Kamsky

The countdown has begun for the 2011 World Team Championship (Ningbo, China, July 15-26), and members of the U.S. team are congregating in Shanghai to prepare for the epic confrontation. GMs Gata Kamsky, Alex Onischuk, Yury Shulman and Robert Hess will meet their team member, GM Yasser Seirawan, in Ningbo, China tomorrow, while team captain John Donaldson and coaches Varuzhan Akobian and Ben Finegold burn the midnight oil to prepare.

The World Team Championship, organized every other year, is an invitational team round robin in which countries vie for top honors. The stellar performance by the Americans in 2009 in Bursa, Turkey earned them the silver medal. However, with a stronger field and the absence of GM Hikaru Namakura, who had a previous engagement in Dortmund, speculation remains on the possibility of repeating. Not to be deterred, GM Finegold said, "It would be perfectly reasonable to see us to finish in the top 3. Don't forget that other super GMs like Kramnik (Russia) and Ponomariov (Ukraine) will both be in Dortmund as well.", when asked what his hopes are for the U.S. team.

Team captain and International Master John Donaldson remains confident. "Despite the absence of Hikaru, we are buttressed with the addition of Gata Kamsky." GM Kamsky, who is the reigning U.S. Champion, was unable to participate in the World Team Championship last year, as he was playing in Reggio Emilia. Our readers may recall that he shared first place in that event and has been seeing a true renaissance lately. Since Reggio Emilia, Kamsky has won the 2010 and 2011 U.S. Championship and defeated first-seed Veselin Topalov in the Candidates Matches, only to be knocked out by the ultimate victor and World Championship challenger Boris Gelfand. Coming off of his recent victory at the World Open, Kamsky seems to be in top form.

While known for his pragmatic play, Gata Kamsky views himself quite differently. In a recent New in Chess article, Kamsky compared chess to a symphony, in which the two players are conducting different orchestras; sometimes they are in harmony and sometimes they aren't, and a truly beautiful game is one in which all of the pieces coordinate to reach a logical end.

Board two for America will be GM Alex Onischuk, who earned a board two gold medal in this same event last year. Board three Yury Shulman, who came within a hair's breath of winning the 2011 U.S. Championship seems to be energetic leading up to the event. "These team events are always lots of fun.", said Shulman. "We are a really close team and enjoy competing as a group."

Board four was a surprise for everyone this year; veteran Grandmaster Yasser Seirawan, who was once top-ten in the world, came out of retirement for the 2011 U.S. Championship and qualified to participate in the 2011 World Team Championship.

Hess325.jpgRounding out the team is GM Robert Hess, who starts his freshman year at Yale this fall. Hess, who is likely to see a lot of action in this event, remains cool, calm and confident. "We are having a great time in China. Ben, Tony (Rich) and I relaxed at the spa yesterday and I am ready to get started."

The lineup includes such powerhouse countries as Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, China, Israel, Hungary, India, and Egypt. GM Alexander Grischuk, who will be on the Russian team, stated that this will be the strongest team event ever held, top to bottom. Over half the teams have an average team rating over 2700 for their first four players.

"While not at 100% (the U.S. team is missing Nakamura), our chances are still good." said Donaldson over dinner. "I think the great team dynamics are due to the support we have received from the American chess community, and especially our sponsors - the U.S. Chess Federation and the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis." 

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