2019 World Team Championship

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Bobby Ang

Chess Piece

12th World Team Championship
Astana, Kazakhsstan
March 5-14, 2019

Current Standings (6 of 9 rounds)

1. RUSSIA (Karjakin, Nepomniachtchi, Grischuk, Andreikin, Artemiev), 10/12

2-3. INDIA (Adhiban, Sasikiran, Ganguly, Sethuraman, Aravindh), ENGLAND (Adams, Mcshane, Howell, Jones), 9/12

4. USA (Swiercz, Sevian, Onischuk, Lenderman, Izoria), 8/12

5. CHINA (Ding Liren, Yu Yangyi, Wei Yi, Bu Xiangzhi, Ni Hua), 6/12

6. IRAN (Maghsoodloo, Idani, Tabatabaei, Firouzja), 5/12

7-9. AZERBAIJAN (Naiditsch, Mamedov, Guseinov, Safarli, Abasov), KAZAKHSTAN (Jumabayev, Ismagambetov, Kazhgaleyev, Makhnev, Kostenko), SWEDEN (Grandelius, Tikkanen, Blomqvist, A.Smith, Johansson), 4/12

10. EGYPT (Amin, Adly, Fawzy, Hesham, Abdelnabbi), 1/12

Match Point System. Each match will be scored by match points as used in the FIDE Olympiad. Winner will get two points, a draw will give each team a point, and a loss is scored as zero points. If any teams finish with equal match points, the tie shall be resolved by board points in total.

Time Control: 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, then 30 minutes play-to-finish with 30 seconds added to your clock after every move starting move 1.

The World Team Championships is held every two years as some sort of counterpoint to the Chess Olympiad, which is also a biennial even taking place in even-numbered years. The World Team Championship occurs in the odd-numbers.

The World Team champions is supposed to be a gathering of the elite teams only. This is a 10-team event and its composition is:

Defending World Team Champion — China

European Champion — Azerbaijan

Asian Champion — Iran

Champion of the Americas — USA

African Champion — Egypt

Olympiad Top Finishers not otherwise qualified — Russia, Poland (declined, replaced by Sweden), England

Host Federation — Kazakhstan

Nominee of FIDE President — India (the FIDE President nominated the next higher ranked in the 2018 Olympiad)

Due to the uncertainty over the scheduling of the event and where it will be held there were several notable absentees. In particular the American team came without any of their silver-medalist Olympiad squad (Fabiano Caruana, Wesley So, Hikaru Nakamura, Samuel Shankland, Ray Robson). On the other hand the team they did send was not so shabby either. Aside from Samuel Sevian, Alexander Onischuk and Alex Lenderman, they had two strong newcomers, Darius Swiercz (formerly from Poland) on top board and Zviad Izoria (formerly from Georgia) on board 5.

As you know China had won the 2018 Batumi Olympiad and also is the defending World Team Champion, so they have strong claims to being the top chess nation in the world. Personally I find this an anomaly, for how can you be the numero uno if you don’t see anybody playing chess in the streets, in the parks, in bars and pubs all over the capital and even in the marketplace? Chess everywhere is something you see in Russia, Germany, several other capitals in Europe and even some places in the United States. In the Republic of Georgia they routinely include a chess set in a bride’s dowry. Estonia (Keres) and Armenia (Petrosian) have chessplayers in their bank notes!

But not in China.

Anyway, chess country or not China sent their gold-medal winning Olympiad squad to Astana minus Li Chao, who was replaced by Ni Hua. This seemed to wreck their team chemistry a bit. Li Chao, a frequent Philippine visitor, is a bit of an up-and-down guy, sometimes losing very badly, sometimes appearing to be invincible. He however seems to revel in team events. For example in the 2017 World Teams Li Chao was the team’s hero at the event with five wins and four draws. He scored what became the crucial win of the whole event by toppling Vladimir Fedoseev’s Berlin Wall in the only decisive game of the Russia-China match. In the final round China had to beat Poland to gain gold medals and once again it was Li Chao to the rescue, as he scored the only win while the other three games were drawn.

Here in Astana, China started out by beating Azerbaijan (who came without their top two stars Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Teimour Radjabov) 3.5-0.5, but then slid down to two consecutive losses to the USA and Russia, both by 1.5-2.5 counts. Ian Nepomniachtchi’s victory over Yu Yangyi was the decisive point for Russia. It is a beautiful game. Watch!

Nepomniachtchi, Ian (2771) — Yu, Yangyi (2761) [C43]
World Team-ch Open 2019 Astana (3.2), 07.03.2019

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4 Nxe4 4.Bd3 d5 5.Nxe5 Nd7 6.Nxd7 Bxd7 7.0 — 0 Bd6 8.Nc3 Nxc3 9.bxc3 0 — 0 10.Qh5 f5 11.Re1 c6 12.Bg5 Qc7 13.Re3 g6 14.Qh4 Rae8 15.Rae1 Rxe3 16.Rxe3 Re8 17.c4

Nepom revealed after the game that he had prepared this line with GM Alexander Motylev before the game. At this point Yangyi had already spent an hour while White had hardly used up any time.

17…Rxe3 18.Bxe3 Be8 19.c5 Qe7

Also in the same interview Nepom expressed the opinion that this move was a mistake, because after …

20.Bg5! Qe1+ 21.Bf1 Bf8 22.Be3! <D>


Black’s queen, far from threatening the White king, is shut out of play.]

22…Qa5 23.Bf4!

The Black queen still can’t get into play.

23…Bf7 24.Qf6 Bg7 25.Qd6

Threatening mate with Qb8+ followed by Bd6.


After 25…Bxd4 Nepom will continue nevertheless with 26.Qb8+ Kg7 27.Bd6 Black will have a difficult time keeping his position together.

26.Be3 Bf8 27.Qb8 b6 28.cxb6 axb6 29.Qxb6 Qa1 30.Qa7

Now White will be pushing his passed a-pawn, but Black has to take some desperate measures.

30…c5?! 31.Qa8!

With the idea of Bh6

31…Qe1 32.dxc5 d4 33.Bh6! Be8 34.Qd5+

An inaccuracy. An easy win could be had with 34.c6 Bd6 (34…Bxh6 35.c7 the pawn queens) 35.c7! Bxc7 36.Qa3! with a mating attack. The actual game continuation still wins, although slower.

34…Bf7 35.Qd8 Qe7 36.Qxe7 Bxe7 37.c6 Bd6

[37…Bxa2 38.c7 Be6 39.Bc4!]

38.g3 Bd5 39.a4 Kf7

Yangyi couldn’t take the c6 — pawn because 39…Bxc6 40.Bc4+ would trap his king in a corner. The bishops would then be powerless against the passed pawn. Let’s check it out: 40…Kh8 41.a5 Bc5 (41…Bb7 42.a6 Ba8 43.Bf4 Bxf4 44.gxf4 and now Bc4 — f1 — g2 wins) 42.a6 Be4 43.Kf1 Bxc2 44.Ke2 Be4 45.f3 Bc6 46.Bf4 Kg7 47.Be5+ Kf8 48.Kd3 Ke7 49.Bxd4 Bxd4 50.Kxd4 and now, While the Black king and bishop have to keep watch over the dangerous a6-pawn, White will raid and liquidate the enemy kingside pawns.

40.Bb5 Bc7 41.Bf4 Bxf4 42.gxf4 Ke7 43.c7 Bb7 44.a5 1 — 0

Nepom had an easy time executing Yangyi. The time control in use was 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, then an additional 30 minutes for the rest of the game with 30 seconds added to your clock after every move. At the time that Yu Yangyi resigned on the 44th move GM Ian had 96 minutes left, more time than when he started!

In round 4 China had a chance to get back on track against India, playing without their top 3 Anand, Harikrishna and Vidit. These three are also India’s only 2700+ rated players. GM Surya Shekhar Ganguly then bombarded Yu with tactical shots to hold the Chinese to a 2-2 draw.

Yu, Yangyi (2761) — Ganguly, Surya Shekhar (2633) [D38]
WchT Astana 2019 Astana (4.2), 08.03.2019

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Nf3 d5 5.cxd5 exd5 6.Qa4+ Nc6 7.Bg5 h6 8.Bxf6 Qxf6 9.e3 0 — 0 10.Be2 Be6 11.0 — 0 a6 12.Rfc1 Bd6 13.Qd1 Ne7 14.Na4 b6 15.b4 a5 16.b5 g5 17.Nb2 Ng6 18.Nd3 Rae8 19.Nfe1

Pre-empting …h6 — h5. Or so he thought.


Even then! Ganguly wholeheartedly gives up the h-pawn to open up the h-file.

20.Bxh5 Kg7 21.h3 Rh8 22.Bg4 Bxg4 23.hxg4

All according to plan. But he did not count on …

23…Rxe3! 24.Rc6

Not 24.fxe3 Bh2+ 25.Kh1 Qf1#

24…Bh2+ 25.Kf1

[25.Kh1 Rxe1+! 26.Qxe1 Qxd4 27.Rd1 Qxg4 and there is no salvation.]

25…Bg3! 26.Kg1

[26.Rxf6 Rh1#]

26…Bh2+ 27.Kf1 Bg3 28.Kg1 Qxd4! 29.Nc2!

Somehow White is still alive.

29…Bh2+ 30.Kh1

Not 30.Kf1? Qxd3+ 31.Qxd3 Rxd3 there is no immediate mate but Black is clearly winning.

30…Bf4+ 31.Kg1 Bh2+ 32.Kh1 Bf4+ 33.Kg1 Qxd3 34.Nxe3 Bh2+ 35.Kh1 Be5+ 36.Kg1 Bh2+ 37.Kh1 Qxb5 38.Rac1 Bg3+ 39.Kg1 Bh2+ 40.Kh1 Ne7! 41.g3 Nxc6 42.Nf5+ Kf8 43.Kg2 Bxg3! 44.Nxg3 Rh6 45.Nf5 Re6 46.Qf3 Qb2 47.Rh1 Ne7!

Once White’s powerful knight on f5 is gone there is no more hope.

48.Qg3 Nxf5 49.gxf5 Re2 50.Qf3 Qe5 51.f6 Ke8 52.Rh8+ Kd7 53.Rf8 Qe6 54.Qh5 Qe4+

Now it is skin and bones.

55.Qf3 Qxf3+ 56.Kxf3 Rxa2 57.Rxf7+ Ke6 58.Rxc7 Kxf6 59.Rc6+ Kf5 60.Rxb6 Ra3+ 61.Ke2 a4 62.Rd6 Ke4 63.Re6+ Kd4 64.Rg6 Ra2+ 65.Kf3 a3 66.Rxg5 Rc2 0 — 1

Its looking like China is already out of contention. On Tuesday we will give the final results.


Bobby Ang is a founding member of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines and its first Executive Director. A Certified Public Accountant, he taught accounting in the University of Santo Tomas for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.