The FIDE World Team Championship which began on Tuesday is a 10-team round-robin tournament that takes place every two years. This time it is being held in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. The teams participating represent – as I understand it – ‘the ten countries whose chess federations dominate their continent’. However, as this information was gleaned from Wikipedia, I am in no position to guarantee its accuracy, especially as there does not appear to be a representative from South America. It is possible that a team was invited and declined to take part as top players may already be contracted to play elsewhere. This was the case with Poland, bronze medallists in 2017, who chose not to play as the date was confirmed too late for some of their players. Other teams who agreed to take part are not at full strength for the same reason e.g. India are without Anand and the US team is at best a B team with no Caruana, Nakamura, So or Shankland. The English representation is a strong one: Adams, McShane, Howell, Jones and Speelman with Malcolm Pein as captain. Matches take place on four boards, with two match points for a win and one for a draw.
After five rounds England are handily placed in third behind Russia and India, both of whom they have played and drawn 2-2 as they did with the USA who are in fifth place. Russia, who are now the favourites to win, still have to play India (in the final round) and the USA while England’s toughest match is against China in Round 8. China, who won the tournament in 2015 and 2017, were probable pre-tournament favourites, especially with a team featuring Ding Liren, Yu Yangyi and Wei Yi, but defeats to Russia and the USA leave them in sixth place. English scores at the half-way stage are Adams 1½/5, McShane 3½/5, Howell 3/5 and Jones 3/5. Today is a rest day and the tournament resumes tomorrow (Monday) and finishes on Thursday.
The American victory over China was a major surprise considering the relative strength of the two teams and with three of the four boards drawn, the match-winning result was the victory for Aleksandr Lenderman on board 4 over Ni Hua. The key move was 29….f6! but even after White was forced to give up a knight, the game still had to be won. Lenderman, however, kept his cool to secure a famous win for the USA and probably scupper China’s chances of a hat-trick of World Team gold medals.
White: Ni Hua (2683) Black: Aleksandr Lenderman (2637)
World Team Championship 2019