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U.S. Men's Team Makes Rapid Playoffs Print E-mail
By Jennifer Shahade   
October 16, 2008
Alexander Shabalov, Dmitry Schneider and Josh Friedel soon after winning against India

In the 1st World Mind Sport Games Team Rapid competition , the United States men's team qualified for the four team rapid playoffs along with China, Ukraine and Iran. Update: U.S. team came in fourth place, narrowly missing out on a medal. 

 American success was virtually guaranteed by a penultimate victory over India. 

GM Alexander Shabalov defeated GM Krishnan Sasikiran (2694 FIDE), in an attacking game from the Qe2 Ruy Lopez. Shabalov finished about 20 minutes before the rest of his team, and seemed nervous at first about the rest of the games "I don't want to look", but then proud after the rest of the team (in that round consisting of Friedel, Schneider and Perelshteyn), turned in draws to secure the match point.


 The semifinals pairings are  based on tiebreaks so China (1st place in the preliminarys) plays Iran (4th place) while U.S. (2nd place) plays Ukraine (3rd place). The winner of each match will battle in the finals for gold while the losers will face off for the bronze medals.

Watch the two-game matches live October 16-17 starting at 10 PM EST and going till about 5 AM EST. If those times are not good for you, you can also check all the pgn (chessbase) files from the event. I will be on my way back to New York tomorrow, but Iryna Zenyuk promised to root the team on and take pictures, so check back this weekend for that and also see complete results at the 1st World Mind Sport Games.
USA and India in pre game huddles--are they discussing opening theory or bargaining techniques?

Shopping Aside

Before the crucial match against India, Shabalov joked that it might be better to lose the match because if the U.S. team didn't make the playoffs, it would give them an extra day of shopping. I think the Indian delegation overheard the remark as they were right next to us and started snickering as well. The chance to bargain prices down to as little as 20% of the "set price" and high quality for the prices (despite the weak dollar) made many of us a shop-crazy in China. In the U.S. women's last match against Lithuiana, my opponent told me that she was tired because she'd spent every night up till 10 shopping, and then stayed up till 2 AM talking about the things they bought. When I told my team this story, they thought it was pathetic, but I thought it was just honest. People do talk about shopping a lot when bargaining is involved. (Abby Marshall and Shirley Ben-Dak are known as the best on the American team.)

In the end, Shabalov lost his chance to shop tomorrow, so he, Dima, Iryna and I snuck a trip to a enormous Beijing mall after the games. We were all tired and didn't buy much but bottled water (which they tried to charge us $5 for!) and street food just outside (vegetable dumplings and shrimp kabobs.)

Although they won't get any more chances to bargain for it at the Beijing markets, I hope the men will bring some gold (or at least something shiny!) back home.