We’ve seen a high-level of super-tournament activity almost following on from each other in recent weeks, what with the Altibox Norway Chess Tournament and then going straight into the Grand Chess Tour double-header in Paris and then Leuven - and you would think that, amongst all this, there would be nothing else of importance on the calendar clashing with the likes of Carlsen & Co.
But you’d be wrong if you thought that, because right in the middle of all this Fide, in their infinite wisdom, attempted to be spoilsports by clashing with all that elite activity by running the 11th World Team Championships 17-26 June in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia - but, if anything, the Fide event was overshadowed, as the World Teams without some of the top stars was not enough to attract much interest among the leading chess media sites.
America is the current Olympiad champions, but they were hit the hardest being denied the normally reliable services of the ‘three amigos’ in Wesley So, Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura. And Russia, looking to recapture their former glory days with team gold once again, were without Vladimir Kramnik and Sergey Karjakin. And for debutantes Norway, there was no World Champion Magnus Carlsen at the helm.
Yet one team wasn’t hit, and that was top seeds China - and the emerging chess superpower romped home for yet another impressive team triumph. In a close race with second seeds Russia, the outcome of the title was decided by China’s narrow win, with the only decisive game of the match proving vital, as Li Chao crushed Vladimir Fedoseev (featured below).
But Russia had some sort of conciliation for missing out on the open gold by capturing gold in the women’s event, as their highly-experienced squad of the current Olympiad champions proved no match for top seeds China, as they cruised to victory.
Open Final standings
1. China 16/18 (24½/36 Board points); 2. Russia 15 (25); 3. Poland 12 (20½); 4. India 11 (20½); 5. Turkey 10 (18½); 6. Ukraine 8 (17½); 7. Belarus 8 (17½); 8. USA 8 (16); 9. Norway 2 (11); 10. Egypt 0 (9)
Women Final standings
1. Russia 16 (25½); 2. China 13 (22); 3. Georgia 12 (21½); 4. India 12 (20); 5. Ukraine 12 (19½); 6. Poland 9 (18½); 7. USA 6 (16½); 8. Vietnam 5 (16); 9. Azerbaijan 5 (15½); 10. Egypt 0 (5).
GM Li Chao - GM Vladimir Fedoseev
11th World Team Championship, (7)
Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defence
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8 The dreaded 'Berlin Wall' endgame - and at elite-level chess, this has practically become the tabiya now of the Ruy Lopez. 9.h3 Bc5 More generally in the Berlin Wall, we see Black playing ...Be7 and ...h5 to hold-up White playing g4 to shift the Black knight on f5 - and this proves a coming problem for Black. 10.Nc3 Be6 11.b3 Kc8 12.Rd1 b6 13.g4!?[A solid alternative was 13.Ne4 Be7 14.Bg5 and White has a nice game. But here, Li Chao cuts straight to the chase by crippling Black's pawn structure. 13...Ne7 14.Na4 h5 15.Nxc5 bxc5 16.Ng5 hxg4 17.Nxe6 fxe6 18.hxg4 Ng6 Black's pawns are a wreck, so long-term the prospects look grim for the endgame - so he has to concentrate all his efforts on play on the kingside with a hope of mustering up some form of complications. 19.Re1 Kb7 20.Re4 If White can successfully complete his development without falling for any tricks on the kingside, then Black is doomed in the endgame. 20...Rh3 21.Be3! A critical move that not only hits c5, but also stops Black's rook from jumping over to c3 hitting c2. White can't rush into 21.Kg2?! as Rc3 22.Re2 Rf8! and with ...Nf4+ coming, Black is going to emerge with the better game with his rampant rooks set to question the vulnerability of White's kingside pawns. 21...Rah8 Whilst the rooks bearing down on the h-file look threatening, it takes no more than a couple of very accurate moves to show that they have no influence here. 22.Kg2 c4 Rather than waiting for White to further consolidate his position with Rd1, Fedoseev decides he may as well sacrifice one of his tripled, isolated c-pawns to disrupt White's queenside pawns. This is a very practical approach from Black to his awkward predicament. 23.bxc4 a5 24.Rb1+ Ka6 25.Rd1 Kb7 26.Rb1+ Ka6 Unfortunately for Black, he can't play 26...Kc8? as White mercilessly swoops in for the kill now with 27.Ba7! (threatening Rd4 and a mating net) 27...Kd7 28.Rd4+ Ke7 29.Rb7 Rh2+ 30.Kf1 Rc8 31.Bb6 and all of Black's queenside pawns are set to fall. 27.a3 Rh2+ 28.Kf3 Rf8+ 29.Ke2 Rhh8 The rook has to track back to allow Black to contest the d-file after Rd1. 30.Rf1 With Black's king stranded in the wilderness on a6, disconnected from the kingside, the threat now is pushing the f-pawn with f4-f5 etc. 30...Rh4 31.Rd1 Rh7 32.Kd2 White has a total stranglehold on the position and opts not to rush into anything too committal for now, but see's the nice and easy plan of marching the king over to the queenside. 32...Rhh8 There's no relief in swapping rooks, as after 32...Rd8+ 33.Kc1 Rxd1+ 34.Kxd1 Rh4 35.Ke2 Kb7 36.f3 White has the easy plan of Be3-f2 shunting the rook from h4, and then play f4 with a winning advantage. 33.Kc3 Rf7 34.Rf1 It's total domination now - White's threatening to push f2-f4 and also has the side option of Kd4-c5 targeting the c6-pawn. 34...Rh4 35.Kd4 Nf8 36.Rb1 Nd7 37.Kc3 Rh3 38.Kd2 White's winning plan is in a 'holding pattern' until after the time control, where the extra time will allow him to work out better the decisive breakthrough. 38...Nb6 39.Ke2 Rh8 40.Rb3 Rh1 41.Rd3 The time-control made, White now sets about his winning push. 41...Rg1 42.g5 Rh1 43.Rd8 Re7 Black can't allow White to play Re8, because if the e-pawn falls, then his game will soon collapse - but in defending his e-pawn, he allows White other rook to infiltrate via the recently vacated f-file. 44.Rf4 Kb7 45.c5 Also good and strong was 45.g6 and Rf7. But here all roads lead to Rome. 45...Nd7 46.Ra4! The end is nigh, as the doomsayers' street signs would say - and the rest needs to further explanation, as Black either loses his knight or surrenders his king to a mate - or even both! 46...Nb8 47.Rxa5 Rh4 48.Rd3 Na6 49.f4 Ka7 50.Rd4 Rh2+ 51.Bf2 g6 52.Rda4 Reh7 53.Rxa6+ Kb7 54.Ra7+ 1-0