Yermo's Travels: The USA in Rhodes (part 1)

by Alex Yermolinsky
4/20/2019 – Hot on the heels of the European Senior Championship in Rhodes, the World Senior Team Championship for players aged over 50 and 65 is underway. ALEX YERMOLINSKY reports on the progress of the top-seeded USA team. | Pictured: Captain Alexander Shabalov and Yermolinsky decided to take a few days to be chess tourists in advance of the competition

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USA, the colossus team in 50+

The U.S. Team has arrived on the island of Rhodes to defend the title we won last year. There's only one change in our line-up: Igor Novikov came to replace Sergey Kudrin. There were some concerns as Igor hadn't played any chess in the last eight years, but on the 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.

opening ceremony

Officials welcoming the players at the opening ceremony

Strong teams from Armenia, Israel and Iceland complement the field that also features England and Germany. We had our hands full right from the start.

 

Scotland vs USA

Scotland vs USA

Lucky break for us, and with two more wins from Shabalov and Ehlvest and a Benjamin draw we prevailed over Scotland by the count of 3½-½.

One problem for U.S. Teams has always been long travel and changing of the time zones. Bearing that in mind, Captain Shabalov and I once again decided to take a few days for acclimatization.

Opera

Bravo! Curtain calls at the end of La Boheme

We spend three days in Vienna, which went by in a flash between a visit to the Opera (we saw La Boheme) and a cruise on the Danube complete with a gourmet meal and wine tasting. We then came to Rhodes a day earlier and spent a night in the Old Town. Those streets are not meant for cars, but there's plenty of stores and restaurants within a short walk.

The delightful Danube

Old town Rhodes

An Old Town alley

The tournament is being held in the luxurious Olympic Palace Hotel, complete with large swimming pool area (daily sunbathing sessions begin after breakfast), tennis court (rankings: Shabalov, Ehlvest, Yermolinsky) and spa (haven't visited yet). The food is excellent too, so all our needs are taken care of.

sunset

Spectacular! (Click or tap to enlarge)

Time for serious business wasn't long in coming as we faced Germany in Round 2. It all started with a solid draw on Board 2.

 

Then I got massively lucky, as IM Christian Maier blundered in equal position. 1½:½ USA.

The best win was our fearless leader's demolition of the ever-solid Uwe Boensch's QGD. Notes courtesy of GM Daniel Fernandez (ChessBase Magazine coverage of Caruana-Anand, Saint Louis, 2018).

 

When Igor Novikov finally ground out a win in a rook ending we stood triumphant at 3½:½

The half-points lost in the first two matches deprived us of playing on Table 1, but the opposition was as good as they come. We faced England. It was still fresh in our memory how we stumbled against them in Dresden last year, and then had to chase the English for the rest of the event, finally getting help in the penultimate round. We really didn't want to repeat that experience.

Once again, El Capitan led the way.

 

We rested Joel Benjamin who was hitting the worst of his jet lag. Igor Novikov came to play on Board 2, but his game with Keith Arkell never got off the ground and was drawn uneventfully.

The following is my own effort.

 

Attacking with the Benko Gambit

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With 2½ point in the bag we were already celebrating when the events on Board 3 took a strange turn.

 

Anyway, three match wins in the first three rounds is a dream start for Team USA. We faced Armenia in round four and won again! As expected, it was a tough match. Minasian-Benjamin was agreed drawn after the opening, but the other three games all went distance. I put my best effort forward to outplay the veteran Arshak Petrosian with Black, but couldn't quite push it over the line in a pawn-up rook ending against his sturdy defence. Board 3 was a messy affair in a complex Kings Indian structure, but it never really came to tactical blows and the players took a draw after reaching the time control.

The decisive margin was once again provided by Shabalov who benefited from a Vaganian blunder in what otherwise seemed a pretty level position. The game started as a French, where White quickly sacrificed two pawns, but his initiative didn't materialize into an attack. Further analysis is required to make heads or tails out of it.

Standings after Round 4 (top 10)

Rk. SNo   Team Games   +    =    -   TB1   TB2   TB3 
1 1
 
USA 4 4 0 0 8 12,0 0
2 6
 
Italy 4 3 1 0 7 11,0 0
3 4
 
England 1 4 3 0 1 6 12,0 0
4 2
 
Armenia 4 3 0 1 6 12,0 0
5 7
 
Germany 4 3 0 1 6 10,5 0
6 13
 
Canada 4 3 0 1 6 9,0 0
7 3
 
Iceland 1 4 2 1 1 5 11,0 0
8 8
 
Argentina 4 2 1 1 5 9,5 0
9 11
 
Finland 1 4 2 1 1 5 8,5 0
10 9
 
Austria 4 2 1 1 5 8,5 0

Round 5 live

 

All available games (Rounds 1-4)

 

Links




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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IntensityInsanity IntensityInsanity 4/29/2019 11:02
Why did Novikov not play for 8 years? Anyone willing to share any info on this?
AlexYermo AlexYermo 4/29/2019 03:28
My bad on "compliment" - good catch
calvinamari calvinamari 4/22/2019 05:41
Yermolinsky, I think, was once rated around 2700 back when 2700 probably meant even more than it does today. In all events, he still obviously carries that amount of chess knowledge with him when he comments. Always impressive.
skakistis64 skakistis64 4/21/2019 01:28
"Strong teams from Armenia, Israel and Iceland compliment the field ..."

Perhaps, "complement the field ..." is correct.

Thank you for your analysis and commentary.
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