GM Shankland on the World Team Championship - Web Extra

In the September 2017 issue of Chess Life, GM Sam Shankland wrote about Team USA’s performance at this year’s World Team Championship in Khanty-Mansiysk. This “web extra” features additional material that was not included in the print article.  
GM Sam Shankland. Photo: Anastasia Balakhontseva
Although the U.S. qualified for the World Team again this year, our squad was significantly weakened as our top three players were already committed to playing in the conflicting Grand Chess Tour. Still, I was optimistic about our chances. Our open team included me on board one; GM Alex Onischuk, who had just tied for first in the U.S. Championship; GM Varuzhan Akobian, who recently had a breakthrough and got up to 2670; and the young and improving GMs Ray Robson and Jeffery Xiong. Our women’s team was comprised of IM Anna Zatonskih, four-time U.S. women’s champion; WGM Sabina-Francesca Foisor, our reigning U.S. women’s champion; WGM Katerina Nemcova; and rising talents WFM Jennifer Yu and WIM Akshita Gorti. We faced numerous challenges before the tournament even began: a long journey, flight delays, and changes to the tournament schedule that cut our pre-tournament rest time in half. When the dates changed, two members of the women’s team arrived in Khanty-Mansiysk just a few hours before the first round! This may well have affected the overall standings as Jennifer Yu lost a tough game to Iulija Osmak in round one. If she had been a bit better rested, I think it might have resulted in a drawn match.
[pgn][Event "11th World Teams Women"]
[Site "Khanty-Mansiysk RUS"]
[Date "2017.06.17"]
[Round "1.1"]
[White "Osmak, Iulija"]
[Black "Yu, Jennifer R"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D00"]
[WhiteElo "2350"]
[BlackElo "2319"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "r2q1rk1/1b2b1pp/2n1p3/pp1pPp2/2pP3P/P1P1PNB1/1PB3P1/RQ2K2R w KQ - 0 17"]
[PlyCount "51"]
[EventDate "2017.06.17"]
[WhiteTeam "Ukraine"]
[BlackTeam "United States"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "UKR"]
[BlackTeamCountry "USA"]17. Bf4 {The position is closed but will not remain this way- both sides have
very clear attacking plans. White will aim to blast open the kingside with the
g2-g4 thrust, while black will counter on the queenside with b5-b4.} Bc8 $2 {
In such positions, time the most important factor. Black is doomed on the
kingside and needs counterplay fast} (17... b4 $1 {This was thematic and
strong. Black is doing very well here as white cannot get g4 through too
easily. For example:} 18. g4 $1 {This is probably best anyway, though black's
idea is revealed after} b3 $1 {Forcing the bishop back. Following} 19. Bd1 fxg4
$1 {Black is no longer hanging on h7. The game would continue} 20. Ng5 Bxg5 21.
hxg5 g6 22. Bxg4 Qd7 {And this looks like a dead draw to me- black has only
one weakness on h7 that can be overprotected four times, and the knight will
soon show up on f5. I can't think of any credible plan for either side.}) 18.
g4 $1 {Energetic and strong. The computer does not yet appreciate the gravity
of black's situation, but to me it looks very dire} Bd7 (18... Rb8 {This was
preferable, pushing b4 through more forcefully but still white should be
better in the same manner as the game} 19. gxf5 exf5 20. Kd2 b4 21. Qg1) 19.
gxf5 exf5 20. Kd2 $1 {White is playing very well. The king on d2 will be
perfectly placed and she has cleared the first rank to bring in the heavy
pieces} b4 21. Qg1 bxc3+ 22. bxc3 Qe8 23. Qg2 {In a higher chess sense,
black's position should be lost. White's technique was pretty convincing} Nd8
24. Ng5 Ne6 25. Rag1 Bxg5 26. Bxg5 Nxg5 27. hxg5 Be6 28. Rxh7 $1 {Very nice}
Qg6 (28... Kxh7 29. g6+ Kg8 30. Qh3 {With mate to follow on h7}) 29. Rgh1 Qxh7
30. Rxh7 Kxh7 31. g6+ Kh6 32. Bd1 Rh8 33. Ke2 Raf8 34. Kf3 f4 35. exf4 Rf5 36.
Qh3+ Rh5 37. Qxe6 Rf8 38. Qg4 a4 39. Kg3 Rff5 40. Qxh5+ Rxh5 41. Bxh5 Kxh5 42.
f5 1-0[/pgn]
In round three, the men’s squad played China, the top seed and reigning champions. All four games were drawn, but we squandered some real chances. For example, I had Ding Liren in all sorts of trouble, but did not manage to put him away. It was a really frustrating and disappointing game for me.
[pgn][Event "11th World Teams 2017"]
[Site "Khanty-Mansiysk RUS"]
[Date "2017.06.19"]
[Round "3.2"]
[White "Shankland, S."]
[Black "Ding Liren"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "E21"]
[WhiteElo "2676"]
[BlackElo "2783"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "r1b1r1k1/pp3ppp/1qn2n2/3p4/P7/B1PBPN2/2Q2PPP/R4RK1 b - - 0 14"]
[PlyCount "29"]
[EventDate "2017.06.17"]
[WhiteTeam "United States"]
[BlackTeam "China"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "USA"]
[BlackTeamCountry "CHN"]14... Na5 {I had outplayed my opponent in the opening and early middlegame,
and here energetic play put him in a bad way:} (14... d4) 15. Ng5 $1 {And
black is forced to critically weaken his kingside} g6 (15... h6 {This is much
more strategically desirable, but surprisingly black is just mated after} 16.
Bh7+ Kh8 (16... Nxh7 17. Qxh7#) 17. Nxf7#) 16. c4 $1 {Opening the position for
the bishops. In particular, the dark squares around black's king are very
tender} Qb3 (16... dxc4 17. Bxc4 Nxc4 18. Qxc4 {This would get the bishop pair
off the board, but black faces concrete problems. The only defense to Qxf7 is}
Be6 {But after} 19. Qh4 $1 {Black is very likely to be mated. Rab1 and Bb2
will come, and I can't imagine black surviving this assault}) 17. cxd5 $6 {A
step in the wrong direction. White is clearly better in this ending so I went
for it without too much thought, but I probably should not have given up on
dreams of mate so early. Objectively the move is not worse than Qd2, but in
practical value I think black would have had a tougher time playing against
the attack} (17. Qd2 $1 {Of course keeping the queens on was the critical
continuation. Black is under a lot of pressure, for instance} dxc4 (17... Nxc4
18. Bxc4 dxc4 19. Bb2 $1 {With a vicious attack on the dark squares} c3 {A sad
necessity} 20. Bxc3 Qd5 21. Qb2 $1 {Of course not trading queens} Nh5 22. Nf3 {
Black is coming under fire but still kicking and can try to defend}) (17... Ne4
) (17... h6 18. Bb2 $1 Bf5 $1 {Is a funny computer line. It might be black's
best chance though still after} 19. Ra3 Qb6 20. c5 $1 Qxc5 21. Bxf6 Qxa3 22.
Bxf5 Qd6 $1 (22... hxg5 23. e4 $3 {Is pretty awesome}) (22... gxf5 23. Qxd5
hxg5 24. Qxf5 Re6 25. Qxg5+ {Is a disaster for black} Kf8 26. Bg7+ Ke8 27. Qxa5
) 23. Ne4 Rxe4 24. Bxe4 Qxf6 25. Bxg6 $1 Nc6 26. Bc2 {White is clearly better
as black's king will never find a safe home}) 18. Be2 $1 Qb6 (18... b6 $2 19.
Qd4 {And Bb2 next will be painful}) 19. Rab1 $1 Qd8 20. Qxd8 $1 (20. Qc3) 20...
Rxd8 21. Be7 Rd2 22. Rfd1 Rxd1+ 23. Rxd1 Nd7 24. Ba3 {And white gets a much
improved version of the same ending}) 17... Qxc2 18. Bxc2 h6 19. Nf3 Nxd5 20.
Rfd1 Nb6 21. Bb4 $6 {I don't like this move} (21. Nd4 {This was simple and
strong. I avoided it due to} Bg4 22. Rd3 (22. Rdb1 $1 {This one I did not
consider for some reason. Bb4 and a4 next will be very effective} Rac8 23. Bd3
Bd7 24. Bb4 Nc6 25. Nxc6 Rxc6 26. Be1 {Black faces a long and difficult defense
}) 22... Rac8 23. Bb4 Nc6 24. Nxc6 Rxc6 25. Bb3 Be6 {When I thought black
should hold}) 21... Nc6 22. Be1 $6 {Too ambitious. I was hoping to slam
through with a5 and never let my bishop get hit with tempo, but this was not
the right plan} (22. Bc3 $1 Be6 23. Nd4 $1 {Something like this was called for.
after} Nxd4 24. Bxd4 Nc4 {Black is solid but passive, and will remain so.
White will play for 100 moves.}) 22... Be6 23. a5 Nc4 24. Rdc1 $6 {I wanted to
prepare Ba4 to get a6 through, but missed a crucial detail} (24. Nd4 {It was
not too late to try something like this} Nxd4 25. Rxd4 b5 26. axb6 axb6 27.
Rad1 {White did not achieve the maximum the ending offered him, but he can
still press for a long time}) (24. Ba4 Nb2 {Is an easy draw for black}) 24...
Rac8 $1 25. Ba4 Bd5 26. Bc3 Red8 $1 {And here I realized a problem with my
intended Bb5...} 27. Bxc6 {Giving up a little too early, but I doubt I had
many winning chances left anyway} (27. Bb5 $2 N4xa5 $1 {A key resource which
turns the tables} 28. Bxa5 Nxa5 29. Rxc8 Rxc8 30. Rxa5 Rc5 $1 {And black will
win his piece back and even be better}) (27. Nd4 N4xa5) (27. Bd1 $1 {The
mature thing to do would have been to admit my mistake and waste 2 tempi on
Bd1-a4-d1 (the only way to avoid Nxa5) but this is very hard to do
psychologically. White can still press a little but I doubt he will succeed,
for instance} Bxf3 28. gxf3 {A sad necessity} (28. Bxf3 N4xa5 $1 29. Bxa5 Nxa5
30. Rxc8 Rxc8 {and the knight cannot be taken on a5}) 28... Rd5 29. f4 Rc5 30.
a6 b6 {I have a hard time seeing black lose here}) 27... Rxc6 28. Ne5 Nxe5
1/2-1/2[/pgn]
The women got on the scoreboard in round 3 by tying their match with Poland, thanks in no small part to Sabina bouncing back from her round 2 loss to score the first individual victory for the women’s team.
[pgn][Event "11th World Teams Women"]
[Site "Khanty-Mansiysk RUS"]
[Date "2017.06.19"]
[Round "3.2"]
[White "Foisor, S."]
[Black "Szczepkowska Horowska, K."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A17"]
[WhiteElo "2331"]
[BlackElo "2414"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "5bk1/1R4p1/p2r3p/2p4P/2PpPBP1/P5K1/8/8 b - - 0 46"]
[PlyCount "52"]
[EventDate "2017.06.17"]
[WhiteTeam "United States"]
[BlackTeam "Poland"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "USA"]
[BlackTeamCountry "POL"]46... Rd8 {The position is very tense, with both sides posessing a passed pawn
that will be very hard to stop. Sabina must be commended for playing perfectly
to send her pawn through first.} 47. e5 $1 {The first step is an easy one} d3 (
47... Re8 {The machine's recommendation is nonsense. After the simple} 48. Kf3
{Black's dpawn is going nowhere and her bishop remains dreadful- white is
easily winning}) 48. Bd2 $1 {The only way to stop the pawn} Rd4 49. Kf3 $1 {
Another only move. White calmly prevents Re4 before sending the epawn further}
Rxc4 50. e6 Bd6 51. Rd7 $1 {Patience when needed} (51. e7 $2 Kf7 {and the
tables would turn}) 51... Rd4 52. Rd8+ Kh7 {And now the finishing touch:} 53.
Bc3 $1 {Well spotted. It turns out luring the rook to an undefended square on
the dfile is even worth a bishop. Black has no choice} d2 (53... Rc4 54. Rxd6
Rxc3 55. e7 d2+ 56. Ke2 {and the epawn goes through}) 54. Bxd2 Rxd2 55. e7 $1 {
And black must lose an exchange.} Bxe7 56. Rxd2 {The rest was easy for Sabina}
c4 57. Ra2 c3 58. Ke2 Kg8 59. Kd3 Bf6 60. Re2 Kf7 61. Re4 Bd8 62. Kxc3 Kf6 63.
Kd3 a5 64. Ke3 Be7 65. Ra4 Bd8 66. Ke4 Kg5 67. Kf3 Kf6 68. Rc4 Be7 69. Rc6+ Ke5
70. Ra6 Bd8 71. Ra7 Kf6 72. Kf4 1-0[/pgn]
IM Anna Zatonskih. Photo: World Team Website
Round four was a tough loss against India for the men, but on the other side, the women won their first match, dispatching Egypt 3½ -½. Anna won a quick game as her opponent walked into a well-known Catalan trap:
[pgn][Event "11th World Teams Women"]
[Site "Khanty-Mansiysk RUS"]
[Date "2017.06.20"]
[Round "4.4"]
[White "Zatonskih, A."]
[Black "Wafa, Shrook"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E18"]
[WhiteElo "2417"]
[BlackElo "2141"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "rn1q1rk1/pbp1bppp/1p1ppn2/8/2PP4/2N2NP1/PP2PPBP/R1BQ1RK1 w - - 0 8"]
[PlyCount "29"]
[EventDate "2017.06.17"]
[WhiteTeam "United States"]
[BlackTeam "Egypt"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "USA"]
[BlackTeamCountry "EGY"]8. Qc2 {White has the better side of a typical Queen's Indian/Catalan style
position, with e4 on the agenda soon. Still, black's next move was hard to
fathom:} Nfd7 $4 {Black probably was aware of the Ng5 shot, realized it is not
a threat, and then forgot about it. Once the knight leaves f6, this move is a
real problem!} (8... d5 {Would be my choice, avoiding e4, thought white is
pleasantly better after} 9. cxd5 exd5 10. Bf4) 9. Ng5 $1 {And all of a sudden,
in one move black has lost the game. Now that the knight has left f6, Qxh7 is
a mate threat which cannot be ignored, and white will take b7 next. After} Bxg5
10. Bxb7 Bxc1 11. Raxc1 {Black is not even able to get away with losing only
an exchange- it will be an entire piece. I was a bit surprised that she did
not resign here.} Na6 12. Bxa6 f5 13. Bb7 Rb8 14. Bg2 f4 15. Qe4 Rf6 16. e3 g5
17. exf4 gxf4 18. Ne2 fxg3 19. fxg3 Qe7 20. Nf4 Re8 21. Rce1 Qg7 22. Bh3 1-0[/pgn]
GM Alex Onischuk. Photo: Anastasia Balakhontseva
For round five, the men’s squad played Belarus. The match started very well, with two reasonably fast draws on boards three and four. That left just me and Alex Onischuk playing, and we both had very good positions. But then things began to fall apart.
[pgn][Event "11th World Teams 2017"]
[Site "Khanty-Mansiysk RUS"]
[Date "2017.06.21"]
[Round "5.1"]
[White "Shankland, S."]
[Black "Zhigalko, S."]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "E00"]
[WhiteElo "2676"]
[BlackElo "2635"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "6k1/1q1nbppp/3np3/p2p4/Pp1P2P1/1P1QPPB1/4N2P/2r2BK1 w - - 0 30"]
[PlyCount "94"]
[EventDate "2017.06.17"]
[WhiteTeam "United States"]
[BlackTeam "Belarus"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "USA"]
[BlackTeamCountry "BLR"]30. Nxc1 {This endgame is a bit better for white, and he can play for a long
time with no risk. His plan should be to slowly but surely march the central
and kingside pawns. I achieved basically everything white could ever ask for:
h4-h5-hxg6, e4-e5, f4-f5- yet still did not manage to win!} Qc8 31. Qd2 g6 32.
Nd3 Kf8 33. Kg2 Ne8 34. Nf4 Nd6 35. Bd3 Qc6 36. h4 Kg8 37. Bc2 Bd8 38. Qd3 Bf6
39. h5 Bg7 40. Bb1 Kf8 41. Kh3 Ke7 42. hxg6 hxg6 43. Qd2 Ke8 44. Bd3 Bf6 45.
Qd1 Ke7 46. Qd2 Ke8 47. Kg2 Ke7 48. Kf1 Ke8 49. Ke2 Kf8 50. Kd1 Kg8 51. Bc2 Be7
52. Qd3 Nf8 53. e4 Bg5 54. e5 Ne8 55. Ne2 Bd8 56. Qe3 Nh7 57. f4 Ng7 58. Qf3
Qd7 59. Bf2 Nf8 60. Ng3 f5 61. exf6 Bxf6 62. f5 $2 {I had played extremely
patiently all game long, but here I rushed things at the wrong moment.} (62.
Ne2 $1 {Black has no counterplay, and white can start by putting the knight on
e5 or c5. eventually f5 will be the plan but there was no need to rush}) 62...
gxf5 63. gxf5 Qf7 64. fxe6 Qxe6 65. Nf5 Nxf5 66. Bxf5 Qf7 67. Bh3 {I had seen
this far when I played f5 and thought I am winning the d5 pawn, but I
completely missed the very simple move} Ng6 $1 {Preparing Ne7. White's
advantage is gone.} 68. Qe3 Bxd4 {Not the only move, but good enough.} 69. Qxd4
Qf3+ 70. Kd2 Qxh3 71. Qxd5+ Kf8 72. Bc5+ Ke8 73. Qe4+ Kd7 74. Bd4 Qxb3 75. Qxg6
Qa2+ 76. Ke3 Qe6+ 1/2-1/2[/pgn]
The women faced Russia in round five. Anna defended a worse position very resourcefully and actually outplayed her former women’s world champion opponent decisively. In the end, though, she was a bit too happy to make a draw that she could have only dreamed of a few moves before.
[pgn][Event "11th World Teams Women"]
[Site "Khanty-Mansiysk RUS"]
[Date "2017.06.21"]
[Round "5.3"]
[White "Kosteniuk, A."]
[Black "Zatonskih, A."]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "C42"]
[WhiteElo "2542"]
[BlackElo "2417"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "1r2q1k1/2b2pp1/pPp1r1p1/3pP1B1/6QP/1P2RPP1/P5K1/4R3 b - - 0 31"]
[PlyCount "3"]
[EventDate "2017.06.17"]
[WhiteTeam "Russian Federation"]
[BlackTeam "United States"]
[BlackTeamCountry "USA"]31... Bxb6 {The players agreed a draw here, but in fact white losing the e5
pawn by force! The rook on e3 has nowhere to go but e2, and after} 32. R3e2 Ba5
$1 {White cannot avoid the loss of a pawn} 1/2-1/2[/pgn]
In round six, the men’s team played against Egypt, with Ray quickly punishing an early mistake and scoring his first win of the event.
[pgn][Event "11th World Teams 2017"]
[Site "Khanty-Mansiysk RUS"]
[Date "2017.06.23"]
[Round "6.5"]
[White "Robson, R."]
[Black "Abdelnabbi, I."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B67"]
[WhiteElo "2656"]
[BlackElo "2428"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "r3k2r/2qbbpp1/p2ppn2/1p2n2p/3NP2P/2NBBP2/PPPQ2P1/1K1RR3 w kq - 0 15"]
[PlyCount "21"]
[EventDate "2017.06.17"]
[WhiteTeam "United States"]
[BlackTeam "Egypt"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "USA"]
[BlackTeamCountry "EGY"]15. Bg5 Nc4 $2 {This loses on the spot. White's pieces are concentrated in the
center and ready for a strike, and the e5 knight was the glue holding black's
position together} (15... Rb8 {I don't think black should be worse here. He is
very solid and can start throwing b4 followed by a5}) 16. Bxc4 Qxc4 17. Nf5 $1
{Well spotted. Black cannot avoid a disaster} exf5 18. exf5 Bxf5 19. Rxe7+ $1
Kxe7 20. Qxd6+ Ke8 21. Bxf6 gxf6 22. Re1+ Be6 23. Nd5 Qxd5 24. Qxd5 Rd8 25.
Rxe6+ 1-0[/pgn]
Meanwhile, the women faced another tough opponent, China, in round six. Unfortunately, they never really had a chance to win and lost 3-1. While Sabina had a very solid position throughout, she missed one resource and her opponent never let her back into the game.
[pgn][Event "11th World Teams Women"]
[Site "Khanty-Mansiysk RUS"]
[Date "2017.06.23"]
[Round "6.3"]
[White "Tan Zhongyi"]
[Black "Foisor, S."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D61"]
[WhiteElo "2517"]
[BlackElo "2331"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "r2r2k1/pq2bppp/1p2pn2/2P1N1B1/2b5/1QP1P2P/P4PP1/2RR2K1 w - - 0 20"]
[PlyCount "61"]
[EventDate "2017.06.17"]
[WhiteTeam "China"]
[BlackTeam "United States"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "CHN"]
[BlackTeamCountry "USA"]20. Qxc4 Bxc5 $2 {This allows white to blast open the kingside} (20... Qc7 $1 {
This was needed. Black will take on c5 with the queen, and she should be fine})
21. Bxf6 $1 gxf6 (21... Rxd1+ 22. Rxd1 gxf6 23. Rd7 {Is even worse}) 22. Qg4+
$1 {Sabina mentioned after the game that she missed that Kh8 fails:} Kf8 (22...
Kh8 23. Rxd8+ $1 Rxd8 24. Qh4 $1 {And black has no good answer to Qxf6} Kg7 25.
Ng4 Be7 26. Qh6+ Kg8 27. Nxf6+ Bxf6 28. Qxf6 {White is nearly winning}) 23.
Rxd8+ Rxd8 24. Qh4 Ke7 25. Ng4 (25. Nxf7 {Also won}) 25... Qe4 26. Qxf6+ Ke8
27. Qh4 Qg6 28. Nf6+ Ke7 29. Nd5+ Kd7 30. Qa4+ Kd6 31. Nf4 Qg5 32. Qxa7 {White
is up 2 pawns and has a continuing attack- the rest was very straightforward}
Qe7 33. Qa6 Kc6 34. a4 Qb7 35. Qb5+ Kc7 36. Nd3 Rg8 37. Ne1 Qd5 38. a5 Qc6 39.
axb6+ Bxb6 40. Qh5 Rg6 41. Qxh7 Qd7 42. Qh4 e5 43. Qe4 f5 44. Qxe5+ Kc8 45. Ra1
Kb7 46. c4 Rc6 47. Qd5 Qg7 48. Rd1 Kc7 49. Qd8+ Kb7 50. Rd7+ 1-0[/pgn]
Jennifer Yu. Photo: World Team Website
Going into round seven, we had a real opportunity on our hands, and we emerged from what felt like a pretty smooth victory over Turkey. Meanwhile, the women drew their round seven match with Vietnam. Jennifer did an impressive 180 against her opponent, Thi Kim Phung Vo, by digging in and taking advantage of every slip.
[pgn][Event "11th World Teams Women"]
[Site "Khanty-Mansiysk RUS"]
[Date "2017.06.24"]
[Round "7.4"]
[White "Vo Thi Kim Phung"]
[Black "Yu, Jennifer R"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "D02"]
[WhiteElo "2378"]
[BlackElo "2319"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "4k3/pQ1n1pp1/4p3/6rb/4P3/3qN2P/5PB1/R2N2K1 b - - 0 29"]
[PlyCount "37"]
[EventDate "2017.06.17"]
[WhiteTeam "Vietnam4"]
[BlackTeam "United States"]
[BlackTeamCountry "USA"]29... Bf3 {White is up a piece here and should be winning, but she needs to be
accurate. With her king as open as it is, the price of a mistake will be high}
30. Qb1 $2 (30. h4 $1 {This was best, but very hard to find in time pressure}
Rg6 31. Qc8+ Ke7 32. Nc3 {And Ncd5 next should win the game}) 30... Bxg2 $1 {
Well spotted} 31. Nxg2 (31. Qxd3 Bxe4+ {Black gets the queen back and remains
up material}) 31... Qxh3 32. Nde3 Rh5 33. f4 a5 34. Kf2 g5 $1 {Black is still
losing here, but I like the spirit of this move. Open up the king and
complicate the game at all costs!} 35. f5 g4 36. Ke2 $2 (36. Rxa5 {Would have
won. Black's attack is just in illusion, while Ra8 next is going to hurt})
36... Qf3+ $1 37. Kd3 exf5 $1 {White has totally lost control} 38. exf5 Rxf5
39. Qe1 (39. Qf1 $1 {This was the only way to keep the balance, but very hard
to find in time pressure}) 39... Re5 40. Rxa5 Qe4+ $1 {The last touch. Time
control has been reached and white must lose material} 41. Kc3 (41. Kd2 Rxa5) (
41. Ke2 Qxg2+ $1) 41... Rxa5 42. Nc4 Qxe1+ 43. Nxe1 Ra1 44. Ng2 Ra2 45. Nce3
Rf2 46. Kd4 g3 47. Nh4 Rf4+ 0-1[/pgn]
The men suffered a heart-breaking loss to Ukraine in round eight. In what felt like a tragic turn of events, Var lost on time in a drawn rook ending.
[pgn][Event "11th World Teams 2017"]
[Site "Khanty-Mansiysk RUS"]
[Date "2017.06.25"]
[Round "8.4"]
[White "Akobian, V."]
[Black "Moiseenko, A1."]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "E32"]
[WhiteElo "2673"]
[BlackElo "2676"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "1R6/6pk/5p1p/5P1P/3KP3/1p5r/8/8 w - - 0 55"]
[PlyCount "7"]
[EventDate "2017.06.17"]
[WhiteTeam "United States"]
[BlackTeam "Ukraine"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "USA"]
[BlackTeamCountry "UKR"]55. Rb7 {White did not manage to hit his clock here before losing on time, but
the position is a dead draw. For instance after} Rxh5 56. Rxb3 Rh1 57. Rb2 h5
58. Ke3 {Black's pawns are well contained and the king cannot join the fight}
0-1[/pgn]
This loss eliminated the men from any medal contention. The women also had a brutal round eight and ended up drawing Azerbaijan.
GM Jeffery Xiong. Photo: World Team Website
Even though no medals were possible, the tournament was not yet over. The men’s team faced Russia in the final round, and although we lost 4-0, it was a much closer match than one would think. For example, GM Jeffery Xiong had some chances against GM Vladimir Fedoseev, but unfortunately lost his way in the time scramble.
[pgn][Event "11th World Teams 2017"]
[Site "Khanty-Mansiysk RUS"]
[Date "2017.06.26"]
[Round "9.3"]
[White "Xiong, Jeffery"]
[Black "Fedoseev, Vl3"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "D30"]
[WhiteElo "2658"]
[BlackElo "2703"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "r5rk/2Rqb2p/4p3/p2pPp2/3N1P2/7p/1PQ1PP2/3R3K b - - 0 28"]
[PlyCount "31"]
[EventDate "2017.06.17"]
[WhiteTeam "United States"]
[BlackTeam "Russian Federation"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "USA"]28... Qe8 29. Qc3 $2 (29. Nxe6 $1 {White can get away with grabbing this pawn.
With precise play black may hold, but it's not an easy job} Qh5 $1 (29... Qg6
$2 30. Ng5 $1 Bxg5 31. Rg1 $1 {An important move. This may be what Jeffery
missed} (31. fxg5 $2 Qxg5 {And white will be mated})) 30. Qd3 Qg6 31. Ng5 Bxg5
32. fxg5 Qxg5 33. Qxh3 {The machine shows black holding this, but it looks
unpleasant to me}) 29... Rg6 $1 {Black defends e6. His position is now very
solid and he can look to invade the kingside with little fear of counterplay}
30. Rc1 Bh4 31. Nf3 Bd8 32. Rb7 Qg8 33. Nd4 Bh4 34. Qf3 $2 (34. Nf3 {as the
only way to keep the game going}) 34... Rc8 $1 {Black activates his last piece.
The rest was easy for a player of Fedoseev's class} 35. Rc6 Rg1+ 36. Kh2 Rg2+
37. Kh1 Rxc6 38. Nxc6 Qg4 39. Nd4 Rxf2 40. Rb8+ (40. Nxe6 {The computer's move
would not have changed the result} Rxf3 $1 41. Rb8+ Qg8 42. Rxg8+ Kxg8 43. exf3
Bg3 {Black is winning}) 40... Kg7 41. Nxe6+ Kh6 42. Qxg4 fxg4 43. Rb6 Bg3 0-1[/pgn]
In the women’s section, our team lost their final match to Georgia. However, there was a big upset elsewhere as an Egyptian player took down GM Wenjun Ju, the number two woman in the world, with a very pretty tactic.
[pgn][Event "11th World Teams Women"]
[Site "Khanty-Mansiysk RUS"]
[Date "2017.06.26"]
[Round "9.2"]
[White "Ju Wenjun"]
[Black "Mona, K."]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "E73"]
[WhiteElo "2583"]
[BlackElo "2168"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "r7/5pkp/5np1/3Pp1q1/1PR1P3/5QP1/4rN1P/5RK1 b - - 0 38"]
[PlyCount "7"]
[EventDate "2017.06.17"]
[WhiteTeam "China"]
[BlackTeam "Egypt"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "CHN"]
[BlackTeamCountry "EGY"]38... Raa2 39. Nh3 $2 {This allows a pretty checkmate} (39. Rc7 {Would have
held the balance}) 39... Qe3+ $1 40. Qxe3 Rg2+ 41. Kh1 Rxh2+ 0-1[/pgn]
Although it was a really rough tournament for the U.S. in more ways than one, our young players all impressed me with their eagerness to learn. With these rapidly-improving players adding depth and breadth to our teams, I anticipate many successful future tournaments.

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