Big Tests for Americans in Round Seven
By FM Mike Klein   
November 20, 2008
The women's team on board 1 in round 7 against China. Irina Krush vs. Hou Yifan and Anna Zatonskih vs. Zhao Xue

Following one of their most successful rounds yet, the U.S. teams will be “rewarded” with two top-five seeds. The men’s team took care of Cuba yesterday, 2.5-1.5, while the women romped 4-0 over Romania.

Today, the men have been matched with fifth seed Hungary, but GM Judit Polgar, who has suffered two straight losses, will not play. Team Captain IM John Donaldson will again go with his top four players, though he has stated that he trusts GM Yury Shulman and GM Varuzhan Akobian equally on board four. Shulman is coming off his first meaningful win of the tournament. Yesterday he beat Cuban GM Jesus Nogueiras with a sparkling idea, 13. e4!

Nogueiras felt compelled to capture the d-pawn, otherwise his bishop is trapped and Shulman would control the center, but this led to a worse ending with Black’s pawns scattered all over the board.


Shortly before he finished off the win, GM Hikaru Nakamura ended his blistering attack. Perhaps fueled by his loss in the prior round, Nakamura had an unquenchable thirst for checkmate. His opponent may have played more cautiously with 21…Qg6, but instead chose the hard to resist 21…Nf4, allowing the attack to continue.
Position after 21...Nf4

 The exceedingly rare endgame which ensued resembled the wild variant on the Internet Chess Club in which players begin with only lone kings and a,b,c pawns versus f,g,h pawns. Experience suggests Nakamura scores well any time ICC is mentioned in reference to his game.

From there, GM Gata Kamsky held his position. Though huddled on the back row and facing the two bishops, he found activity and after 41…Nxb5, he was in the clear.
The draw sealed team victory so GM Alex Onischuk’s loss was not too damaging, though his hunt for an individual medal took a blow.

The American women had a dominating round – unbeaten, untied, and largely unchallenged. WGM Katerina Rohonyan played her best game of the tournament, summoning Shirov or Tal with 14. Nxe6! and 18. Rxd7!
Position after 13...Bxh4

Position after 17...Bf6

 She played very quickly and needed only 23 moves to render the hapless Black king defenseless.


WGM Rusudan Goletiani took all the pawns her opponent offered and now stands on 5.5/6. Both WGM Anna Zatonskih and IM Irina Krush outplayed their opponents from equal positions, and the sweep was on. Krush, Zatonskih and Goletiani have three of the top 12 performances so far; all are playing above the 2600 benchmark.

Also encouraging for the Americans was their time management. Team Coach GM Gregory Kaidanov had expressed concern over this in the first half of the Olympiad. One hour into the start of round six, here is how the clocks stood: Krush, +40 minutes; Zatonskih, -25 minutes; Goletiani, +20 minutes; Rohonyan, +30 minutes. Zatonskih did close the gap and was nearly even on time after the second hour.

Today will be their biennial clash with China. The pairing's system again spat out curious choices – China is all alone at a perfect 12 points, while five teams, including the U.S. are on 10/12.  The U.S. is the third highest rated and is fourth on tiebreaks within the score group, however the fifth team on tiebreaks is Poland, who China has already played (China has also played the Netherlands, who are also one of the teams with ten points). Apparently, the pairings system has matched the first place team with the lowest allowable pairing in the next score group, correct if you go by Slovakian GM Sergei Movsesjan’s analysis: “The pairing system is very strange to me. It happens sometimes that the strongest team in the (score) group plays the weakest team. I don’t understand this.” Even so, the Americans’ continued success virtually assured them of playing China at some point anyway.

Historically, the American women have persevered over their nemesis. In both 2002 and 2004 they won 2-1 and in 2006 they tied 1.5-1.5 (though China medaled all three years and in fact nine straight Olympiads). However, in those three heads-up matches, IM Irina Krush is a combined 3-0. She’ll face her toughest challenge of all here in Dresden – she plays Black today against Women’s World Championship Runner-Up WGM Hou Yifan.

In other news, FIDE Treasurer Nigel Freeman said that Kamsky and GM Veselin Topalov were given official contracts last night after the game. Freeman expects that contracts will be signed today for a February, 2009 match in Bulgaria.

Poker player and Finnish number one Tomi Nyback showed that reports of his chess retirement are greatly exaggerated as he took out the wunderkind GM Magnus Carlsen. Notice the similarity between his piece sacrifice 20. axb5 with Akobian’s 23. Nxb5 in round three.


Position in Akobian-Mabusela after 22...Nf6. Akobian played Nxb5! here.

Also, titles were approved earlier in the week. Newly-crowned GMs include Larry Kaufman, Josh Friedel and Renier Gonzales. Marc Arnold and Ray Kaufman are now IMs and Iryna Zenyuk and Alisa Melekhina achieved WIM. The FIDE Arbiters Committee also conferred titles on Chris Bird, Alex Relyea, Jon Haskel and Francisco Guadalupe. IA Carol Jarecki is working on correcting matters for Jim Berry and Steve Wharry.

As the lone American in the journalist’s blitz tournament, I took third. Pictured here alongside me is first place winner FM Josip Asik of Serbia and second place winner WIM Anna Burtasova of Russia.

The journalist blitz champions

Mike Klein is reporting for CLO and Chess Life Magazine from Dresden. Check out his in-depth articles, Let the Games Begin in Dresden , USA Stumbles in Round Two, USA Almost Perfect in Round Three  and Rested Squads Resume Action. He's also using his sabbatical from his Charlotte chess coaching business to travel the world-and blog about it.