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On Chess: U.S. doesn't medal in China

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 28, 2011 - During a long and grueling tournament here in Ningbo, China, the U.S. team had real chances to capture a medal at the World Team Championship. But the competition proved too fierce, and we had to settle for tie for fourth place with 10 total points. However, after the complex tiebreak system, the U.S. ended up in sixth place, which is slightly better than our original seventh-place seeding. Still, it was a bit disappointing, as we squandered some golden opportunities.

In a normal chess tournament, an individual receives one point for a win and a half point for a draw. The same was true for this event, but individual results were tallied up after each round and then teams were awarded points based on the scores. Two points were awarded for a team victory, one point was awarded to each team if the scores were equal and zero points were given for a loss.

The United States experienced a real roller-coaster ride throughout the tournament. After a big victory in round five against India, we had a great opportunity to steal two points from a very tough Hungarian team (featuring Grandmaster Judit Polgar, the strongest female player in history), but a late blunder by American GM Yury Shulman left the match tied and gave the United States only one point.

A win against a tough Azerbaijani team in round seven offered a glimmer of hope for the Americans, but the stalwart Ukranian team was unwilling to yield, beating the United States in round eight to all but dash our hopes of earning a medal.

One bright spot for the U.S. team was GM Yasser Seirawan, who recently came out of retirement to play in the 2011 U.S. Championship in St. Louis. Seirawan is four-time U.S. champion, and he was the dominant force in American chess in the 1980s. Although he appeared a bit rusty in St. Louis, he has quickly returned to form, he scoring huge wins over top-level GMs like Polgar and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan.

His performance rating, which is calculated based on his results and the strength of his competition, was 2,773 - much higher than his actual rating of 2,635! This is an indication that he was playing quite well this tournament. I expect we'll see more of Seirawan in the coming months and years, as he seems to have really re-dedicated himself to sharpening his game.

My long trip continues, and I am about to head off to Chennai, India, to help young Ray Robson represent the United States at the World Junior Championship. Let's hope this time we can bring home a medal for the good ol' U.S.A.

(Armenia won the tournament, with China second and Ukraine third.)

Ben Finegold is the Grandmaster in residence at the St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center.

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