With what’s being described as one of their best team-showings in recent years, Russia rolled back the years with a vintage stellar performance and assured of the gold medal with the luxury of a full round to spare at the FIDE World Team Championship in Astana. Therefore the big question left was just who – among the tight chasing pack of England, India and China – could best hold their nerve and show the necessary mettle needed to join the victors on the podium for the silver and bronze medals?
And as with Russia, team-spirit seemed to be the vital ingredient here as un-fancied England similarly rolled back the years to take silver after they crushed Sweden. It was a true team performance – with Michael Adams, Luke McShane, Gawain Jones, David Howell and veteran Jon Speelman – as England’s consistency throughout the competition ultimately proved to be the difference.
Through the Eighties, England emerged from nowhere as a chess nation to sensationally become #2 behind the former Soviet Union – and this was the first time in 22-years that they had made a podium-finish in a major team tournament. The jubilant non-playing team captain, Malcolm Pein, said: “We showed in Astana that, although our teams do not receive the official and financial backing of many of our rivals, our resilience and team spirit are second to none.”
Reigning Olympiad champions China, after being rocked early in the competition with successive losses to USA and Russia, staged a dramatic comeback to clinch bronze ahead of India, who had the misfortune of having to play and losing to a rampant Russia who remorselessly wanted to end on a winning high. The USA also ended on a high, with an emphatic 3-1 win over Iran to join India in the also-ran stakes.
Garry Kasparov once nicknamed England’s unflinching top-board, Michael Adams, “the Spider” and the name stuck. The reason for the then-world champion’s monicker was due to Adams’ liking for “creepy-crawly moves” and the ability to weave a web around his helpless opponents, and then wait for them to beat themselves before he strikes with the decisive blow – and that’s just what happened in today’s game, as Adams inspired England to that crushing final-round win over Sweden to snatch the silver medal.
Open: 1. Russia 16/18; 2. England 13; 3. China 12; 4-5. India, USA 11; 6-7. Iran, Azerbaijan 8; 8-9. Kazakhstan, Sweden 4; 10. Egypt 3.
Women’s: 1. China 18/18; 2. Russia 14; 3-4. Georgia*(tiebreak), Ukraine 12; 5. Kazakhstan 10; 6. India 9; 7. USA 7; 8-9. Armenia, Hungary 4; 10. Egypt 0.
Individual Board Golds:
Open: 1. B. Adhiban (India); 2. Luke McShane (England); 3. Surya Ganguly (India); 4. Alireza Firouzja (Iran); 5. Vladislav Artemiev (Russia).
Women’s: 1. Tan Zhongyi (China); 2. Alexandra Kosteniuk (Russia); 3. Huang Qian (China); 4. Aleksandra Goryachkina (Russia); 5. Melia Salome (Georgia).
Photo: Captain Malcolm Pein shows the English way for success: team spirit and snazzy blazers! | © David Llada / FIDE World Team Championship
GM Michael Adams – GM Nils Grandelius
12th FIDE World Team Championship, (9)
Sicilian Defence, Moscow Attack
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ The Moscow Attack – and its cousin, the Rossolimo after 2…Nc6 3.Bb5 – have long been favoured by Adams. There are no big, complex theory lines like the Najdorf or Dragon, just simple developing moves to gain a little space here and there. 3…Nd7 4.a4 Black will eventually have to play …a6 anyway, so Adams is just stopping any queenside expansion ideas. 4…e6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be2 b6 7.d4 cxd4 8.Qxd4 Bb7 We have a standard Sicilian Hedgehog-like position, but White already has a clamp on the queenside and a ready attack on the d6-pawn. Nothing much to write home about, but Adams makes the most of it. 9.0-0 Ngf6 10.Rd1 Be7 11.Be3 0-0 12.e5! With Black’s position now consolidated after castling, this is the only move that offers White a little something from the position – but just watch and marvel at how Adams turns that “something” into a lasting initiative. 12…Bxf3 Slightly better was heading directly to the endgame with 12…dxe5 13.Nxe5 Nxe5 14.Qxe5 Qb8 15.Bf4 Qxe5 16.Bxe5 but long-term, with a 3 v 2 queenside majority and the weak Black pawns on a6 and b6, the position will only become more and more difficult for Black. 13.exd6 Bxe2 14.Nxe2 Nd5 15.dxe7 Qxe7 16.Nc3 Nxe3 17.Qxe3 It’s an innocent enough position, but the queenside pawn weakness and control of the d-file offers Adams all he really needs to slowly but surely turn it into a winning advantage – and his masterclass in patiently waiting to convert the win is a lesson for everyone to learn from! 17…Rfd8 18.Nd5 White’s move doesn’t come as a shock for Black, as he’s banking on his rooks becoming active to gain back the pawn – but Adams has seen a little further. 18…Qf8 19.Nxb6 Nxb6 20.Qxb6 Rdb8 21.Qd4 Rb4 22.Qe5 Qc8 23.Rd2 f6 24.Qe2! Adams sees through the position with crystal clarity. By returning the pawn, he takes control of the d-file and his queen targets e6 and a6. Still, you wouldn’t think it was enough to win – but this is a trademark Adams position, as he shows great patience in such simple positions. 24…Rxb2 25.Rad1 Kh8 It may well be the sort of move that will have many scratching their heads over, as it immediately sets-up a self-inflicted back-rank mating scenario. Grandelius is wary of this, but just uses it as “waiting move” to try to prevent a possible Qxe6+ move. He is also worried about Rd7 and Qg4 with a winning attack – and if he stops the rook coming to the seventh, with 25…Rb7, then 26.Rd6 Rc7 27.h3! will be much like as in the game. That said, voluntarily moving the king into the corner and the self-inflicted mating threats is not the sort of move you should be making – especially against Adams! 26.h3 The obvious move is 26.Qxa6 taking full advantage of that back-rank mate – but that’s just what Grandelius is banking on here! After 26…h6! it now forces the trade of queens with 27.Qxc8+ Rxc8 that, despite being a pawn down, does offer Black realistic chances of saving the game with the double rook ending. But Adams remains calms and realises that keeping the queens on the board will only prove to be more problematic for his opponent. 26…h6 27.Rd6! Rab8 There’s a ready trap waiting to be sprung after 27…Rxc2?? with 28.Rd8+! winning the queen and 27…Qxc2? 28.R6d2! the rook. But more importantly for White now, the rook is hitting chronic pawn weaknesses on e6 and a6. 28.R1d2 R2b6 29.Rd7 R6b7 30.R7d6 Rb6 31.c4 Rxd6 32.Rxd6 e5? Under a lot of pressure from Adams, Grandelius misses his best shot to stay in the game with the cunning resource 32…Rb1+ 33.Kh2 Rb6! 34.Rxb6 (There’s nothing else now for White. If 34.c5 Qxc5 35.Rxe6 Rxe6 36.Qxe6 Qc7+ 37.g3 Qc2! Forces the quick draw with 38.Qxa6 Qxf2+) 34…Qc7+ 35.g3 Qxb6 36.Qc2 Qc5 and this Q+P ending has draw written all over it, with the Black queen the more dominant and White having to simultaneously defend three pawn weaknesses on a4, c4 and f2. Unless Black makes a monumental mistake here, it is hard to see how this game could end in anything other than a draw. 33.Qe4 Uncomfortable for Black, as the queen not only supports c4 but it also now ties the queen and rook down to defending against a potential back-rank mate. It’s just little things that Adams is building on, but they all mount up to a much bigger thing that leads to his exasperated opponent cracking. 33…a5 34.Rd5! Setting up another nasty little threat. 34…Qc7 If 34…Ra8 White sets the trap with 35.c5 Qe8 36.c6! easily winning, as now 36…Qxc6 37.Rd8+ wins the queen. 35.g3 With Grandelius all but paralysed in the web that Adams has now weaved, the spider is clearly in no rush, and just calmly gives his king more escape option rather than falling into the trap of a future …Qc1+ and …Qf4+ perpetual. But for the purists, then yes, more clinical was 35.Rb5 Rc8 36.c5 Qd8 37.Kh2 Qd2 38.Qg4 Rg8 39.f3 with a decisive advantage. 35…Rc8 36.c5 Qb8 37.Qf5 Qb7 38.Rd6! The pressure from Adams is relentless now, as he continues to torture his opponent, not with the complicated but rather simple and easy moves – something that Adams has made a career out of. 38…Qc7 39.c6! [see diagram] “‘Will you walk into my parlour?’ said the Spider to the Fly.” 39…Qb8 There’s nothing more now than to wait for the killing blow. If 39…Qxd6 40.Qxc8+ Kh7 41.Qd7 Qb4 42.Qf5+ g6 43.Qd7+ Kg8 44.c7 the little extra escape valve created by 35.g3 comes into play now, as after 44…Qe1+ 45.Kg2 Qe4+ 46.Kh2 there’s no saving attack on f2 to carry through the perpetual threat. 40.h4 Qc7 41.Qe6 With his series of small and very accurate moves, Adams now has a dominant position, never rushing things, but rather relying on squeezing the very life out of his opponent’s position. 41…Kh7 42.h5 Qb8 43.Rd7 Only now, with his opponent rendered helpless, does Adams move in for the kill. 43…Qb1+ 44.Kh2 Rf8 If 44…Rg8 45.c7 Qc2 46.Qxf6! defends the f2 perpetual and continues relentlessly with the attack. 45.Qg4 Rg8 46.c7 Qb6 47.Rxg7+ 1-0 Grandelius resigns now, as there’s a forced mate after 47…Rxg7 48.Qf5+ Kh8 49.c8Q+ Rg8 50.Qcd7 Rg7 51.Qe8+ Rg8 52.Qf7 Rg7 53.Qf8+ Rg8 54.Qxh6#