England Grabs Silver At World Team Chess Championship
The successful English team in Astana. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

England Grabs Silver At World Team Chess Championship

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
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37 | Chess Event Coverage

England today defeated Sweden at the World Team Championship in Astana, Kazakhstan to claim the silver medals ahead of China and behind Russia, who had already secured gold on Wednesday.

China, already sure of gold as well, also won its last match in the women's section and finished ahead of Russia and Georgia.

Open section:

With the gold medals already firmly in Russia's pockets, today's fight was about which team would be best of the rest. That became England.

The team, which qualified by virtue of its excellent fifth place at the 2018 Batumi Olympiad, scored one of its best ever achievements at team events, more than a generation after winning three silver medals at Olympiads in the 1980s. Back in the day, the star team included e.g. Nigel Short, Tony Miles, John Nunn, Jon Speelman and Murray Chandler, and finished right behind the untouchable Soviet Union in 1984, 1986 and 1988 and won bronze in 1990.

The victory at the 1997 European Team Championship should be mentioned as well. (Adams and Speelman were part of that team!) Now, 22 years later, there's another success. And it came with a narrow team: Except for the one game where Speelman substituted, England played with the same four players: Michael Adams, Luke McShane, David Howell and Gawain Jones.

Three of them won individual board medals: gold on board two for McShane, bronze for Howell on board three and silver for Jones on board four.

McShane World Team Chess Championship
Luke McShane won individual gold in Astana.

"This was an amazing team performance, only made possible by invaluable support from the Scheinberg family. [The family, former owners of Pokerstars, also supports the annual Isle of Man tournament. - PD] All chess players in England can be justifiably proud of our national team today," said team captain Malcolm Pein.

"We showed in Astana that although our teams do not receive the official and financial backing of many of our rivals, our resilience and team spirit are second to none. I'm looking forward to our next outing at the European Team Championships this October," Pein said.

Crucial for England's success were the tied matches with Russia, USA and India, and of course their convincing win against Sweden in the final round.

Bo. Fed 5 England Rtg - Fed 10 Sweden Rtg 3½: ½
1/1 GM Adams, Michael (w) 2708 - GM Grandelius, Nils (b) 2694 1 - 0
1/2 GM Mcshane, Luke J (b) 2661 - GM Blomqvist, Erik (w) 2488 ½ - ½
1/3 GM Howell, David W L (w) 2693 - GM Smith, Axel (b) 2487 1 - 0
1/4 GM Jones, Gawain C B (b) 2681 - IM Johansson, Linus (w) 2479 1 - 0

Michael Adams was the only player in the team who underperformed, but in the final round he actually played his best game. Like in his best days, he used the smallest positional edge (control of the d-file, combined with a passed c-pawn) to slowly outplay Nils Grandelius.

Adams Grandelius World Team Chess Championship
Adams vs Grandelius. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

The Englishmen needed that win, as China was expected to win its match against Kazakhstan as well. China did, and so its disappointing tournament still yielded the team bronze.

Bo. Fed 6 Kazakhstan Rtg - Fed 4 China Rtg 1½:2½
2/1 GM Jumabayev, Rinat (w) 2609 - GM Ding, Liren (b) 2812 ½ - ½
2/2 GM Ismagambetov, Anuar (b) 2545 - GM Yu, Yangyi (w) 2761 0 - 1
2/3 GM Kazhgaleyev, Murtas (w) 2587 - GM Wei, Yi (b) 2733 ½ - ½
2/4 IM Makhnev, Denis (b) 2476 - GM Ni, Hua (w) 2683 ½ - ½

Drawing on three boards was excellent for the local team, but Anuar Ismagambetov didn't stand a chance against Yu Yangyi. White's 8.axb4 led to an irregular pawn structure, especially for a Nimzo-Indian, and the Kazakh player failed to handle it correctly.

Already champion, Russia ended its tournament with another win. There was just one winner in their match against India.

Bo. Fed 9 Russia Rtg - Fed 1 India Rtg 2½:1½
5/1 GM Karjakin, Sergey (w) 2753 - GM Adhiban, B. (b) 2683 ½ - ½
5/2 GM Nepomniachtchi, Ian (b) 2771 - GM Ganguly, Surya Shekhar (w) 2633 ½ - ½
5/3 GM Grischuk, Alexander (w) 2771 - GM Sethuraman, S.P. (b) 2637 1 - 0
5/4 GM Andreikin, Dmitry (b) 2725 - GM Aravindh, Chithambaram Vr. (w) 2599 ½ - ½

In one of the longest games of the round, Alexander Grischuk patiently maneuvered a pawn-up position with rooks and opposite-colored bishops to a win. One can hardly blame S.P. Sethuraman for stumbling there. It ain't fun defending this kind of position!

Grischuk Sethuraman World Team Chess Championship
Grischuk declined a slightly inappropriate draw offer from Sethuraman and ended up winning.

At some point, Sethuraman actually offered a draw. At the post-tournament press conference Grischuk said he had three reasons to play for a win.

First, a funny one: Karjakin told him the day before that if the team won with 2.5 points on boards 2-4, it meant Russia would have taken gold even if Sergey lost all his games! Second, in all previous rounds, Grischuk played really cautiously since he was almost always Black and holding his board.

Sethuraman gave him a third reason when he offered a draw in a worse position. Grischuk said this was "an insult to chess."

Grischuk press conference World Team Chess Championship
Grischuk (left) and Karjakin at the press conference. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

At the press conference, Russia's coach Alexander Motylev said he was very happy but also exhausted: "A coach usually is worried twice!"

Asked who is their leader, now that Vladimir Kramnik has retired, Grischuk replied: 

"We had Chuck Norris in the team. Vlad Artemiev, he was like Chuck Norris! Maybe you cannot call him the leader yet, but he has the potential to be the leader."

And indeed, with 6.5/8 Artemiev was Russia's MVP. (Fun fact: Artemiev also happens to be half-Kazakh. His father was born in Shchuchinsk, about 200 km northwest of Astana.)

India ended on 11 match-points, tied with team USA, which beat Iran on the final day. The top three boards all ended in favor of the Americans.

Bo. Fed 8 United States of America Rtg - Fed 2 Iran Rtg 3 : 1
4/1 GM Swiercz, Dariusz (w) 2655 - GM Maghsoodloo, Parham (b) 2673 1 - 0
4/2 GM Sevian, Samuel (b) 2642 - GM Idani, Pouya (w) 2604 1 - 0
4/3 GM Onischuk, Alexander (w) 2647 - GM Tabatabaei, M.Amin (b) 2600 1 - 0
4/4 GM Lenderman, Aleksandr (b) 2637 - GM Firouzja, Alireza (w) 2657 0 - 1

This match was not without a small incident.

This early flight, booked by the Iranian Chess Federation, was because initially the final round was scheduled for 11 a.m. which was later postponed by an hour after complaints from players.

Amin Tabatabaei and Parham Maghsoodloo finished their games (and lost) basically when the flight took off. One player made it: Alireza Firouzja, after winning his game!

He finished a fantastic tournament with a win against Aleksandr Lenderman. The young Iranian showed that he's not only a great blitz player, finishing on 7/9. Just one other player in the open section reached this score: Surya Ganguly of India.

Alireza Firouzja World Team Chess Championship
A fantastic result for Alireza Firouzja.

World Teams (Open) | Final standings

Rk. Fed Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 TB1 TB2 TB3
1 Russia 2 2 3 3 16 23,5 0
2 England 2 1 2 2 3 13 21,0 0
3 China 3 2 2 12 21,0 0
4 India 2 2 2 2 2 11 22,0 0
5 USA 2 2 3 1 2 3 11 20,5 0
6 Iran 1 2 1 2 3 8 18,0 0
7 Azerbaijan 2 ½ 2 3 2 2 1 8 16,5 0
8 Kazakhstan 1 ½ 2 2 3 4 14,5 0
9 Sweden ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 3 1 4 10,5 0
10 Egypt 1 2 ½ 1 1 3 12,5 0

Women's section:

China also won its ninth and final match to make its tournament truly perfect. Ukraine wasn't exactly a weak opponent, but still got crushed 3.5-0.5. Now that's what you call a dominating performance.

Bo. Fed 6 Ukraine Rtg - Fed 4 China Rtg ½ :3½
2/1 GM Muzychuk, Mariya (w) 2560 - GM Tan, Zhongyi (b) 2513 ½ - ½
2/2 GM Muzychuk, Anna (b) 2555 - IM Shen, Yang (w) 2453 0 - 1
2/3 GM Ushenina, Anna (w) 2443 - GM Lei, Tingjie (b) 2477 0 - 1
2/4 IM Gaponenko, Inna (b) 2427 - WGM Ding, Yixin (w) 2432 0 - 1

WGM Ding Yixin won a nice game against IM Inna Gaponenko, constantly working with little threats towards the opponent's queen and king.

As a result, Ukraine just missed out on medals. It tied with Georgia in third place, but scored 2.5 board points less. Russia took silver after a tie with Georgia.

After the closing ceremony, the Russian team briefly got together in front of Kosteniuk's webcam. The "Chess Queen" is a regular streamer, and gave players the chance to chat and show their medals to the world. 

Appropriately Aleksandra Goryachkina, who scored a stunning 8/9, was placed in the middle! 

World Teams (Women) | Final standings

Rk. Fed Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 TB1 TB2 TB3
1 China 3 4 18 26,5 0
2 Russia 2 2 3 4 4 14 26,0 0
3 Georgia 2 2 2 2 3 12 23,0 0
4 Ukraine ½ 2 2 2 2 3 4 12 20,5 0
5 Kazakhstan 1 ½ 2 2 3 10 18,5 0
6 India ½ 2 2 4 2 4 9 20,0 0
7 USA 1 ½ 2 0 3 3 7 15,0 0
8 Armenia ½ 2 1 1 2 4 4 15,0 0
9 Hungary ½ 0 1 1 2 1 2 4 11,5 0
10 Egypt 0 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 0 0 4,0 0

World Team Chess Championship 2019 Closing Ceremony
A dance performance at the closing ceremony. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
World Team Chess Championship 2019 Closing Ceremony
Goryachkina taking a picture, sitting in between Lagno and Girya. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
World Team Chess Championship 2019 Closing Ceremony
Georgia won bronze in the women's section. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
World Team Chess Championship 2019 Closing Ceremony
Russia, silver. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
World Team Chess Championship 2019 Closing Ceremony
China, gold! | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
World Team Chess Championship 2019 Closing Ceremony
China, only bronze this time in the open section. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
World Team Chess Championship 2019 Closing Ceremony
England, silver! | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
World Team Chess Championship 2019 Closing Ceremony
Russia, gold! | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
World Team Chess Championship 2019 Closing Ceremony
The board-two medals went to Sam Sevian, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Luke McShane. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

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