Yermo's Travels: 2020 World Senior Team Championship

by Alex Yermolinsky
3/10/2020 – Our regular contributor ALEX YERMOLINSKY unexpectedly finds himself with the U.S. Team at the World Senior Championship in Prague. Battling fellow seniors (and avoiding viruses), he sent us an update on the first four rounds. | Pictured: Spring outside the US Embassy in the Czech capital.

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Senior GMs in global gathering

The U.S. Team travelled to Prague to defend the title we won in the last two years in the 50+ category. There's only one change in our line-up: Gregory Kaidanov came to replace Jaan Ehlvest. There would have been more, if it wasn't for the last moment decision by Larry Christiansen not to take part, due to understandable concerns over the Coronavirus situation. Had Larry decided to come, I wouldn't be there, and therefore wouldn't be writing this and subsequent reports from on location.

Hotel entranceThe second half of 2019 wasn't favourable for my chess due to some family issues, and, also thanks to somewhat misguided attempts to combine chess playing with commentating and teaching. Whatever it was, it brought my rating below 2500, and I found myself out of consideration for both the Team and the Senior Invitational Championship to be held later in the year in Saint Louis.

Hey, life is going on no matter what, so I jumped on a chance to join the team in Prague, even if it took setting my personal best by paying over $2,000 for the airfare. As far as my form goes, I have said it before and will say it again, in senior circuit it doesn't really matter. It's not like any of us is playing better than we did when we were younger. The only requirement for participation is being alive. The last statement now has some sinister overtones as this novel virus is upon us.

TrioThis year event is held at the Olympik Hotel not far from the famous Old Town Prague. Led by Captain Shabalov, Joel Benjamin and I ventured to explore its alleyways, with some necessary stops for refreshments. Czech beer needs no further endorsements, but it gets one from us anyway.

The customary jet lag almost behind us, we sat at the boards to take care of the business.

This year's filed is somewhat larger with 55 teams competing in the 50+ category, so most of the opening round matches were, well, mismatches. Our team took down Wales by the 4-0 whitewash, and then Russia Women and Czech Republic 2 by 3½:½, all of which was to be expected, albeit there were some sticky moments here and there.



Team USA (L to R): Shabalov, Kaidanov, Novikov, Yermolinsky

The first big test came in yesterday's round four, as we faced England, the team that beat us two years ago in Dresden. That loss almost meant a tournament disaster, but we managed to win all other matches, and became the beneficiary of Germany's late round victory over the English. Last year in Rhodes, we managed to avoid such an excitement by scoring an early 2½-1½ win, and today was even better, although things weren't looking so great in the first hour or two.

Shabalov surprised Arkell with his opening choice of the Dutch Defence. Reading Shabba's notes one realizes that everything was under control, but a good Dutch is still a Dutch, so I could only breathe easier after all major pieces got traded. Still, I thought White should be able to defend the endgame thanks to the low material left, but it worked to perfection. Check the notes by Shabalov below.


On Board 2 we rested Kaidanov, thus shifting Benjamin to face Hebden. There's really no mystery in the USA team line-up changes. Captain Shabalov believes in rotating players under a rigid schedule. First to rest is #5, then #4, followed by #3 and #2. Does it mean Shabba himself will not play in Round 5? Inquiring minds will have to wait until it's officially announced by 10 am tomorrow.

Anyway, it seemed Joel had a good advantage going in his game, but Hebden is a fearsome tactician, and he managed to cause enough confusion in Benjamin's time trouble to salvage a half-point.

Igor Novikov appeared to misplay his favourite Meran to an extent where his position looked alarming. Glenn Flear had won every game he played in Prague up to that point, and he seemed poised to continue. Igor had to find some incredible resources, digging deep into his vast expertise in such structures in order to reach equality.

This left me battling James Plaskett again. A year ago in Rhodes he played the Benko and had no reasons to complain about the outcome of the opening. This time I went 1.f3, seeking more familiar structures, and I got my wish, only to misplay it a bit once again.


Queen's Indian Defence - The Modern Approach

On his new DVD, Sergei Tiviakov presents a complete repertoire for Black with the Queen's Indian Defence. The grandmaster explains everything one needs to know after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6, more profoundly, extensively and thoroughly than ever before.

Anyway, all's well that ends well. We are not going to complain about the 3:1 victory. Today in round five, Czech 1, led by GM Hracek, is going to be a tough test.

P.S. I would like to apologize for the scarcity of photos to illustrate my report. No cellphones (or wristwatches, much to the dismay of GM Sveshnikov) are allowed anywhere in the tournament hall, while the players who finished their games must leave immediately. The next time I get a day off, I promise I will storm the place and won't leave until I got at least some pictorials.

P.P.S. Midnight Blitz:

Midnight blitz

It's almost midnight, but the chess in Prague never stops!

Standings after Round 4 (top 10)

Rk. SNo   Team Team Games   +    =    -   TB1   TB2   TB3   TB4 
1 1
USA USA1 4 4 0 0 8 14,0 0 30,5
2 3
CZECH REPUBLIC 1 CZE1 4 4 0 0 8 12,5 0 27,5
3 2
LASKER SCHACHSTIFTUNG GK GER 4 3 1 0 7 11,5 1 31,0
4 5
SLOVAKIA SVK 4 3 1 0 7 11,5 1 31,0
5 7
YAMAL RUS1 4 3 0 1 6 12,0 0 27,5
6 12
MOSCOW RUS2 4 3 0 1 6 11,0 0 28,0
7 13
CANADA CAN 4 3 0 1 6 11,0 0 28,0
8 11
USA TOO USA2 4 3 0 1 6 11,0 0 25,0
9 4
ENGLAND 1 ENG1 4 3 0 1 6 10,5 0 34,5
10 6
ISLAND ISL 4 3 0 1 6 10,5 0 33,0

...55 teams

Live games - Round 5


All available games



Yermo is enjoying his fifties. Lives in South Dakota, 600 miles way from the nearest grandmaster. Between his chess work online he plays snooker and spends time outdoors - happy as a clam.


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