USA Strikes Gold at Abbreviated World Senior Teams

Team USA is the winner of the 2020 World Senior Team 50+ Division after the event was cancelled after the seventh round in light of the global COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
Team USA at 2020 World Senior Teams (photo Jagr)
“USA 1” brings home the 50+ team gold, with the German club team “Lasker Schachstiftung GK” and “Czech Republic 1” winning the silver and bronze respectively. Russia struck gold in the 65+ Division, with France winning the silver and the German club team “Schachfreude Leipzig” taking the bronze. This is the third consecutive victory for a US entry in the 50+ division, and congratulations are in order to team members Alex Shabalov (captain), Gregory Kaidanov, Joel Benjamin, Igor Novikov, and Alex Yermolinsky, who joined the team as a replacement for Larry Christiansen. Still, the victory will perhaps be remembered less for the stellar play of the Americans than for the abrupt end to the event, one forced by increased social distancing policies enforced by the Czech government as the pandemic grows. The first such decree came before the fifth round, when the field was split into groups of no more than 100 players. When permitted group sizes were shrunk to 30, FIDE and the local organizers decided to abandon the tournament after the seventh round.
Joel Benjamin at 2020 WST (photo Jagr)
Joel Benjamin (who celebrated his birthday on Wednesday) sent a final note from Prague after the round ended.
It’s a crazy time for the boys in Prague.  Yesterday I played on my birthday, historically very bad news for me.  But I managed not to lose, and almost won.
Here Benjamin is referring to his round six game with Felix Levin, played as part of the drawn round six match with eventual silver medalist Lasker Schachstiftung GK.

[Event "50+ World Senior Team Championship"]
[Date "2020.03.11"]
[Round "6.3"]
[White "Levin, Felix"]
[Black "Benjamin, Joel"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "E11"]
[WhiteElo "2480"]
[BlackElo "2508"]
[PlyCount "70"]
[EventDate "2020.??.??"]
[WhiteTeam "Germany"]
[BlackTeam "United States"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "GER"]
[BlackTeamCountry "USA"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 Bb4+ 4. Bd2 Qe7 5. Nf3 Nc6 6. Nc3 Bxc3 7. Bxc3 Ne4 8.
Rc1 d6 9. d5 Nxc3 10. Rxc3 Nd8 11. Bg2 O-O 12. O-O e5 13. c5 dxc5 14. Qc2 e4
15. Nd2 f5 16. f3 e3 17. Nc4 f4 18. gxf4 Rxf4 19. Nxe3 Nf7 20. Nd1 b6 21. e3
Rh4 22. f4 Nd6 23. e4 Ba6 24. Rf2 Rf8 25. Ra3 Bb5 26. Rxa7 Rhxf4 27. a4 Be8 28.
a5 Qe5 29. Qc3 Qg5 30. Qg3 Rg4 31. Rxf8+ Kxf8 32. Qf3+ Rf4 33. Qg3 Rg4 34. Qf3+
Rf4 35. Qg3 Rg4 1/2-1/2

Igor Novikov was the hero of the round, winning an interesting rook ending against Jacob Meister to save the draw for the team.

[Event "50+ World Senior Team Championship"]
[Date "2020.03.11"]
[Round "6.4"]
[White "Novikov, Igor"]
[Black "Meister, Jakob"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E16"]
[WhiteElo "2551"]
[BlackElo "2427"]
[PlyCount "97"]
[EventDate "2020.??.??"]
[WhiteTeam "United States"]
[BlackTeam "Germany"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "USA"]
[BlackTeamCountry "GER"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Bb4+ 4. Bd2 Bxd2+ 5. Qxd2 O-O 6. g3 b6 7. Bg2 Bb7 8.
Nc3 d6 9. d5 exd5 10. cxd5 b5 11. Nxb5 Bxd5 12. Rc1 c6 13. Nc3 Ne4 14. Nxe4
Bxe4 15. O-O Qe7 16. Rfd1 Rd8 17. Qe3 Qe8 18. Nd4 Bxg2 19. Qxe8+ Rxe8 20. Kxg2
a5 21. Nxc6 Nxc6 22. Rxc6 Rxe2 23. Rcxd6 g6 24. R1d2 Ree8 25. Rb6 Ra7 26. a4 h5
27. b3 Rc8 28. Kh3 Kg7 29. Kh4 Rc3 30. Kh3 Re7 31. Rb5 Ra7 32. Kg2 Kf6 33. Rd6+
Kg7 34. Rdb6 Rc2 35. Rb7 Ra6 36. R5b6 Rxb6 37. Rxb6 Rb2 38. h4 f6 39. Rb5 Kh6
40. Kf3 g5 41. g4 hxg4+ 42. Kxg4 gxh4 43. f3 Kg6 44. Kxh4 Rd2 45. Rxa5 Rd3 46.
Rb5 Rxf3 47. a5 Rf4+ 48. Kg3 Rf1 49. Rb4 1-0

Bailing out with a drawn match kept us in the lead, one match point ahead of Czech1 and Iceland. But life was about to get weird! At 2:30 in the morning I received a panicked call from my wife telling me I had to arrange a new ticket to come home right away.  Only later did we learn that American citizens will be allowed to fly home after Friday, but we still have a lot of obstacles to overcome, some seemingly unfolding every hour. We got to the hall to find that round seven would be the last.  Enough is enough.  We noticed the Czechs making a quick 2-2 tie with Yamal, so we went for four draws in our match to clinch the gold.  With all the madness going on, I suppose a lot of players had no appetite to play. We were the only USA team to finish.  The Four Brothers had already gone home due to a family emergency.  USA Too hightailed it out of Prague as soon as Trump made his announcement.  We are not sure exactly what is awaiting us.  I don’t mind being tested and kept in self isolation... I just want to get home.
US Chess wishes all of our players safe and speedy travels home to our shores.

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