USA Stumbles in Round Two
By FM Mike Klein   
November 15, 2008
Hikaru Nakamura, in his round two Dresden Olympic debut

Neither the men nor the women could sustain their early success Friday at the Chess Olympiad in Dresden. The women’s team fell 2.5-1.5 to a determined Israeli quartet while the men split their games against the closely-grouped grandmasters from Greece.

The women’s team faced an uphill battle all afternoon as WFM Tatev Abrahamyan missed a tactic.

Position after 19. Bb1

After 19…Bxh2+, she decided not to recapture, as after 20. Kxh2 Qh5+ 21. Kg1 Ne2+ 22. Kf2 fxe4+ 23. Ke1 Rxf1+ 24. Kxf1 Rf8+ 25. Ke1 (or 25. Bf2 Ng3+ and 26…Qh1+) 25…Qh1+ 26. Kxe2 Qf1#. Unfortunately, her counter 20. Kh1 Qh5 21. g4 did not work either after 21…Qh3.

WGM Rusudan Goletiani remained perfect, however, increasing her personal score to two out of two. She formed “Alekhine’s Gun” on the b-file against her higher-rated opponent. In a pawn structure resembling a King’s Indian Defense, her opponent had no counterplay on the kingside and Goletiani duly converted the point and the U.S. moved even.

Next to finish was WGM Katerina Rohonyan, whose Benko Gambit led to a worse endgame. Her opponent’s rook landed on the 7th rank and cramped her position.

Her loss meant top board IM Irina Krush needed to convert her rook endgame for the Americans to salvage a tie. She pushed and pushed, trying to checkmate her opponent, but saw no alternative and settled for a perpetual. Her inexorable clock relentlessly prevented perfection as she missed a couple of wins.

Black to Move

According to Team Coach GM Gregory Kaidanov, Rh8 followed by g2 on either move 49 (in the position above) or 51 would have been the first winning variation for Krush, as after 49...Rh8 50. Rg7 Ra8 wins.


The Greek men, all rated between 2570 and 2590, formed a similarly big challenge for the U.S. The star performer for the men’s team remained GM Alexander Onischuk, who had another convincing win and has used his two Whites to score 2-0.

GM Gata Kamsky did everything he could to attack with the IQP, at one point eschewing a possible repetition with 20. Ne5! The game petered out into a rook endgame with an extra pawn, but the winning chances were negligible.


Ditto for GM Hikaru Nakamura, who courageously took his opponent’s e-pawn and defended ably but the resulting ending could not be won.


For the second match in a row, fourth board GM Varuzhan Akobian’s queen and pawn endgame would decide the fate of the team.


Unlike Thursday, all he had to do was draw, but also unlike Thursday, his position was much worse. Dressed in all black and straining relentlessly in the fourth and fifth hours to find a defense, there was none to be found. Team Captain IM John Donaldson stayed at Akobian’s side until the end, but as is usually the case, the person with the most advanced pawn usually wins these endings. Akobian capitulated on move 61 and the match ended in a 2-2 tie.

Against South Africa, the U.S.A. sat Gata Kamsky for the first time, while the women played their top four for the first time against Turkmenistan.

The South African team in their third round match against the American men.

The Turkmenistan women's team in their round three match against USA.

Mike Klein is reporting for CLO and Chess Life Magazine from Dresden. He's also using his sabbatical from his Charlotte chess coaching business to travel the world-and blog about it.