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    Entries in 2013 World Team Championship (7)

    Thursday
    Dec052013

    Russia Wins The World Team Championship - Barely

    After coming back from a bad start in the World Team Championship and beating Ukraine yesterday in the match of the tournament, round 9 against the heavily outrated and winless Egyptian team should have been a near-triviality. Instead, it was a near-disaster. They drew their Black games easily enough, and Ian Nepomniachtchi took advantage over Samy Shoker's characteristically energetic but positionally careless style to grind out a win, but it was Vladimir Kramnik whose chess proved rather unwieldy.

    His opponent, Mohamed Ezat, went for a queen sac line against Kramnik's Reti that looks exciting if you've never seen it before, but which is generally considered a way to suffer one's way to a draw - if all goes well. Indeed, Kramnik was not surprised and was probably winning, but somewhere around moves 25 and 26 (or both) he lost the thread, and soon it was only Ezat who could play for the win.

    The game resolved itself into an ending after White's 35th move in which Kramnik had a queen and an a-pawn against a rook and two bishops, with both players having f-, g- and h-pawns. To win, Ezat needed to do one of two things: round up the a-pawn, or keep the a-pawn under control while going after White's f-pawn. Ultimately Ezat didn't manage to execute either aim, and Kramnik achieved enough counterplay to save the game. (As it turned out, the Russians would have won the gold on board points even if Kramnik had lost, but even that wasn't clear until fairly late as Ding Liren was pressing Mustafa Yilmaz before that game finished in a draw.)

    In the meantime, the Chinese team defeated Turkey 3-1 and assured themselves of the silver, ahead of Ukraine on board points. To their credit, the Ukranians bounced back from yesterday's disappointment to defeat Armenia 2.5-1.5 thanks to Anton Korobov's victory over Vladimir Akopian.

    With a win in that match the Armenians might have taken the bronze; instead, they finished behind the Americans (who drew their final match against the Dutch team) on tiebreaks.

    And so another exciting event comes to a close, but chess fans don't have to wait long for the next big thing. The Shirov-Dubov match continues tomorrow, and the latest edition of the London Chess Classic starts on Saturday, with the "real" event starting Wednesday, December 11. (Among the participants are Kramnik, Anand, Nakamura, Caruana, Gelfand, Adams and Svidler.)

    Wednesday
    Dec042013

    The Daily Update: Russia Beats Ukraine And Leads The World Team Championship; Shirov Beats Dubov Again

    There's still a round to go at the World Team Championship, but for practical purposes the winner and the medalists seem to have been decided. In the key match of the tournament, the leading Ukranians took on the Russians, hoping to keep or extend their lead of a single match point (half a point in normal chess scoring). The first three boards were drawn, but Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi defeated Yuriy Kryvoruchko, and his team won the match. As the Russians' final opponent is the Egyptian team, which has lost all its matches and has only managed eight points in their eight matches - in 32 games - it would seem to be a foregone conclusion. If so, it would mark the first time in quite a while that the Russian team has managed to win a major team competition.

    Ukraine is now a point behind, but their chances of catching or leapfrogging the Russians are exceedingly slim, as we just noted. Worse, they're not in second right now but in third. The Chinese team beat the Germans - also 2.5-1.5 with the sole victory coming on board four - and while they are tied with Ukraine on match points they are ahead in board points. Better still for the Chinese, Ukraine must play the tough and motivated Armenian team, while China will play the next-to-last placed Turks. If Armenia wins, they will finish ahead of Ukraine (they are the only other team besides the Russians and the Chinese) who can do so, but before we assume that the Chinese are a shoo-in for second there's a warning to be issued.

    The American team played Turkey in this round, and if they had won they still would have been in the medal hunt. They were apparently confident enough to rest Hikaru Nakamura, and they paid the price. Ray Robson was convincingly beaten on board 3, and only Varuzhan Akobian's fine endgame play enabled them to save a tie thanks to Akobian's win on board 4.

    Meanwhile, in the other noteworthy ongoing event Alexei Shirov won again to take a 2.5-.5 lead over Daniil Dubov in their match (and to get back over 2700). They've reached the halfway point, and have a rest day tomorrow.

    Tuesday
    Dec032013

    The Daily Update: World Team Championship, Shirov-Dubov Match

    They're headed for home at the World Team Championship, and right now it's a three-team race for the gold. The Ukranian team bounced back - sort of - from yesterday's loss with a victory over Egypt. It was only 2.5-1.5 over a team that had lost all of their matches, but as match points have priority over board points that was good enough. The Ukranians thus lead with 12 match points out of 14 (six match victories worth two points apiece, and one loss).

    They are a point ahead of the Russians, who beat the Dutch team 3-1. The Dutch team had been in the thick of the medal hunt, but will now have a tough time catching up. They had been tied for third, but now that belongs to the Chinese alone. The Chinese team beat Azerbaijan 3-1 and have 10 match points.

    Three teams have 8 match points, and in tiebreak order they are the U.S. (3-1 victors over Germany), Armenia (3-1 winners against Turkey) and (as noted above) the Dutch team.

    Here are the key pairings for the last two rounds:

    Round 8:

    • Germany-China
    • Turkey-USA
    • Netherlands-Armenia
    • Ukraine-Russia (that match will probably decide the tournament, especially if Russia wins)

    Round 9:

    • Russia-Egypt
    • Armenia-Ukraine
    • USA-Netherlands
    • China-Turkey

    There's also the exhibition match between Alexei Shirov and Daniil Dubov. Game 2 was an exciting win for Shirov with the black pieces in a Moscow Gambit (Semi-Slav), and while Dubov had a big advantage in time out of the opening Shirov's very deep experience in such positions mattered, and he managed to outplay his young opponent in the complications. So far, it's a very entertaining match.

    Monday
    Dec022013

    Upsets Aplenty at the World Team Championship, Plus Shirov-Dubov Gets Underway

    At the World Team Championship Ukraine had gotten off to a rip-roaring 5-0 start, but today they received their come-uppance from the Dutch team, 2.5-1.5. Three games were drawn, and on board 2 Loek van Wely won with Black against Anton Korobov. Korobov had a safe position but went for more, and van Wely outfoxed him in the complications.

    Ukraine still leads, but the Russians are just a single match point behind after defeating their Turkish hosts 3-1. Ian Nepomniachtchi won with Black against Mustafa Yilmaz in just 20 moves, while Vladimir Kramnik beat Alexander Ipatov in a pretty remarkable game. When Kramnik played 19...c4 the "know-it-all" spectators on ICC said "sure, and next he'll play ...g4 and draw, boring". They got one part right: Kramnik played ...g4 just three moves later. But this was not the prelude to a draw or a peaceful disposition, as became clear when he sacrificed first a pawn with 29...e5 and then a piece on the next move. An impressive win, and one that shows how large the gap is between the world's very best and even a strong, 2600+ rated GM like Ipatov.

    Another big surprise was the Armenian loss to the Germans by a 3-1 score. Daniel Fridman defeated Sergei Movsesian with the black pieces, while Arkadij Naiditsch beat Vladimir Akopian with White - the only White win mentioned thus far in the recap.

    Since Radjabov and Mamedyarov aren't playing it probably isn't really an upset, but it is surprising that the USA's match victory over the Azerbaijan team didn't come from their top seeds Hikaru Nakamura or Gata Kamsky (both players drew) but from board 4 Ray Robson. Gadir Guseinov sacrificed four(!) pawns for a dangerous-looking attack, but in the end Robson's defense held and the material matterered.

    In a separate event, a six-game match between Alexei Shirov and Russian prodigy Daniil Dubov started today. Both players - Shirov especially - are known for their very sharp styles, but game 1 was a rather straightforward-looking draw with Shirov playing White. Still, I'm expecting some very exciting chess to come from this match, so keep your eyes peeled.

    UPDATE: Oops! I needed to research the event a bit more. Part of the arrangement is that if their regular game ends in a draw, they have to play some additional blitz games. And so they did. The first game also finished in a draw, but a very wild one, and Dubov won the second blitz game (which was also pretty sharp) with Black.

    Saturday
    Nov302013

    World Team Championship: Ukraine Leads After 5 of 9 Rounds

    The World Team Championship has just passed its halfway point going into tomorrow's (Sunday's) rest day, and Ukraine leads with a perfect 10 team points, meaning they have won all of their matches. Except for the 3-1 victory over Germany in round 4 they've been ekeing out 2.5-1.5 wins, but if one wins them all it doesn't matter if it's by a nose or a mile. The Russians have bounced back from their loss to the U.S. in round 2 with wins over China, Azerbaijan and Germany, and now they're in clear second with 7 match points. After that there's a three-way tie for third with the Netherlands, Armenia and China all with 6 match points.

    The Armenians could have been tied for second if Levon Aronian won today against Rauf Mamedov. That game was long headed for a draw, and when it reached the ending of rook and bishop (for Aronian) vs. rook it remained theoretically drawn. Aronian achieved nothing for a long time, but as often happens the defender tires or gets confused and the strong side makes progress. Eventually Aronian achieved a winning position and was a handful of moves away from mating or winning the rook...but the 50 move rule intervened: draw.

    Aronian's tournament has otherwise been very good, and there is now some space between him and Vladimir Kramnik on the live rating list. Or make that between him and Hikaru Nakamura, who is currently #3 in the world. Nakamura has been going up, and despite losing to Aronian in round 3 his highlights include wins over Kramnik in round 2 and Li Chao today. (Despite Nakamura's success, the U.S. team has only 4 match points: wins over Russian and Egypt but losses to Ukraine, Armenia and China.) Kramnik, on the other hand, is winless so far (-1 =3, took round 5 off) but the remaining Russians are playing well.

    Wednesday
    Nov272013

    World Team Championship, USA Beats Russia 3-1 In Round 2

    It seems that there are three things you can count on in life: death, taxes, and the Russians underperforming in team events. The Russians drew with Armenia in round 1, which was only a mild upset (and admittedly a better result than the U.S.'s 2.5-1.5 loss to Ukraine), but they were dispatched by the Americans 3-1 in round 2. Hikaru Nakamura defeated Vladimir Kramnik in what one would normally think of as a Kramnik-like performance, and for dessert leapfrogged Kramnik into third place on the live rating list. The other victory came from Ray Robson, who took advantage of Nikita Vitiugov's losing the thread in a very sharp Slav Marshall Gambit. Here's a quick look at both games.

    Overall, Germany and Azerbaijan lead the World Team Championship with 4 match points (i.e. 2-0 scores in their matches) and 5.5 board points; Ukraine has 4 match points and 5 board points to sit in third. It's a ten team round-robin though, so the current standings aren't too important just yet.

    Tuesday
    Nov262013

    World Team Championship Underway: Pairings Include Russia-Armenia and USA-Ukraine

    Ten teams are playing in this round-robin event, in Antalya, Turkey. In the order given on this page (the official page seems to be inaccessible at the moment), they are Armenia, Russia, the USA, China, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Turkey, Germany, Azerbaijan and Egypt. I don't know the full first round pairings, but do know that in addition to the matches listed in the title there's also China vs. the Netherlands.

    Games of particular interest: Kramnik-Aronian (a Botvinnik System game(!) with Kramnik pressing, though a draw remains the likeliest result) and Ivanchuk-Nakamura (a Spanish Four Knights by transposition from a Berlin).