China, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan take the lead

by Assi Philosoph

The new exciting rapid format of the World Team Championship is proving to pay off. A lot of action is provided for the audience, who stood in line to enter the playing room and watch the top players playing and fighting for the first points, ensuring their road to the final stages.

As noted, only 4 out of 6 from each group will qualify for the quarter-finals, playing round-robin matches in a total of 5 games in each group. This means that teams had to be careful not to slip over on the first day, since recovering might be a difficult task. Let’s have a look at how the first day panned out!

Round 1

Group A

France 1.5 – 2.5 Ukraine

Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime 0.5 – 0.5 Ivanchuk, Vasyl

Moussard, Jules 0 – 1 Shevchenko, Kirill

Fressinet, Laurent 1 – 0 Volokitin, Andrei

Gharamian, Tigran 0 – 1 Kovalenko, Igor

Ukraine managed to overtake France in a disputed match, with 3 decisive games with a draw only on the first board between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, the current blitz world champion, and the legend Vasyl Ivanchuk.


Vasyl Ivanchuk Photo: Mark Livshitz


On board 4, Kovalenko played White and reached advantage after 40 moves, finishing the game in quite a forceful and convincing way:

41.Nf4+ Kd7 42.Nh5 Rh7 43.Nxf7 Rxh5 44.Nxd8 Kxd8 45.Rxf8+ Kc7 46.Rf7+ Kb6 47.e6 Rh1 48.Ke4 a5 49.a3 a4 50.e7 1-0

South Africa 0.5 – 3.5 China

Solomon, Kenny 0 – 1 Xu, Xiangyu

Cawdery, Daniel 0 – 1 Wen, Yang

Barrish, Daniel 0 – 1 Bai, Jinshi

Mhango, Banele 0.5 – 0.5 Li, Di

The Chinese had no difficulties scoring their first 2 team points. In the following position, reached after 26 moves on the first board, Solomon (W) played 27.Rxd5 with the idea of Nxd5 28. Qxc4



Xu answered 27…Ra4, saving his rook and leaving all the white pieces hanging in the centre. The white rook cannot move since the knight is en prise. The game ended a few moves later: 28.Rxd6 Qxd6 29.Bc3 Nd5 30.Nb3 Bf5 31.Bd4 Rxa2 32.Kxa2 Nb4+ 33.Ka1 Qc6 34.Nc5 Nxc2+ 0-1

Netherlands 1.5 – 2.5 Spain
Van Foreest, Jorden 0.5 – 0.5 Santos Latasa, Jaime
Van Foreest, Lucas 0 – 1 Anton Guijarro, David
Warmerdam, Max 0.5 – 0.5 Shirov, Alexei
Kevlishvili, Robby 0.5 – 0.5 Santos Ruiz, Miguel

The young Dutch team, led by the two Van Foreest brothers, started with a loss to Spain. They will need the help of Anish Giri, who is expected to join in later rounds.


Alexei Shirov Photo: Mark Livshitz

Group B

India vs Israel 2 – 2

Vidit, Santosh Gujrathi 0.5 – 0.5 Rodshtein, Maxim

Nihal, Sarin 0.5 – 0.5  Nabaty, Tamir

Sethuraman, S.P. 0.5 – 0.5 Boruchovsky, Avital

Gupta, Abhijeet 0.5 – 0.5 Kobo, Ori

This game ended in 4 draws, quite a good result for the locals. On the first board Vidit got the advantage, and after 45.Rxh7 Nd4 he played immediately 46.h5 (46. Ra3 e4 and then 47.h5 +-) which allows Black to find a draw with Rxf3+ 47.Kg2 Rf5!

48.h6 Rxg5+ 49.Kf2 Rf5+ 50.Kg2 Rg5+ 51.Kf2 Rf5+ 52.Kg2 Rg5+ and White’s king cannot move from king side since it is exposed to a fork 0.5-0.5

Azerbaijan 2.5 – 1.5 Uzbekistan

Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar 1 – 0 Yakubboev, Nodirbek

Radjabov, Teimour 0.5 – 0.5 Sindarov, Javokhir

Mamedov, Rauf 1 – 0 Vokhidov, Shamsiddin

Suleymanli, Aydin 0 – 1 Vakhidov, Jakhongir


Azerbaijan Vs Uzbekistan Photo: Mark Livshitz

The Azeris won the match with a little bit of luck (or experience?) on the first board. The game reached the following equal endgame after 44.Kb5 played by Mamedyarov (W)

Black played the innocent-looking move 44…c4? (Black had other options such as 44…g4 45.hxg4 fxg4 with draw to come) and allowed 45.Kb4! Kd5 46.Ra3 the idea Rb1+ 47.Kc3 Rc1+ 48.Kd2 Rf1 49.a6 1-0

Poland 1.5 – 2.5 USA

Wojtaszek, Radoslaw 0.5 – 0.5 Niemann, Hans Moke

Piorun, Kacper 0.5 – 0.5 Bruzon Batista, Lazaro

Bartel, Mateusz 0.5 – 0.5 Onischuk, Alexander

Gumularz, Szymon 0 – 1 Akobian, Varuzhan

The experienced Akobian (W) delivered a win for the USA team with a great technical exchange variation of the Queen’s Gambit.

After invading Black’s position from the queen side, White played 52.Rf8 forcing Black to enter a rook endgame with a pawn less 57..Re7 53.Qxe6 Rxe6 the game concluded 54.Rxf5 Kg6 55.g4 Re8 56.Re5 Rxe5 57.dxe5 Kf7 58.f4 Ke6 59.Kf2 gxf4 60.exf4 d4 61.h4 c5 62.h5 c4 63.Ke2 Kd5 64.g5 d3+ 65.Kd2 Kd4 66.e6 c3+ 67.Kd1 d2 68.Kc2 1-0

Varuzhan Akobian

Round 2

Group A

Spain 1 – 3 China

Santos Latasa, Jaime 0 – 1 Lu, Shanglei

Anton Guijarro, David  0.5 – 0.5 Xu, Xiangyu

Shirov, Alexei 0.5 – 0.5 Bai, Jinshi

Yuffa, Daniil 0 – 1 Li, Di

The Chinese team won convincingly against the Spanish, with wins on the first and fourth board. On the first board, White (Santos Latasa) played 58.Nd4?, allowing the black king to advance.

58…Kg5 59.Kf3 Nf4 stopping 60.Ne6 and preparing to manoeuvre. 60.Nf5 Ng6 zugzwang 61.Ne3 Ne5+ 62.Kg2 Nxg4 and Black wins after a few moves.

Ukraine 3.5 – 0.5 Shout Africa

Ivanchuk, Vasyl 0.5  – 0.5 Solomon, Kenny

Kovalenko, Igor 1 – 0 Cawdery, Daniel

Bernadskiy, Vitaliy 1 – 0 Barrish, Daniel

Oleksiyenko, Mykhaylo 1 – 0 Mhango, Banele

Ukraine was a clear favorite against South Africa and managed to win comfortably.

Ukranian fan Photo: Mark Livshitz

Netherlands 1.5 – 2.5 France

Van Foreest, Jorden 0.5 – 0.5 Santos Latasa, Jaime

Van Foreest, Lucas 0 – 1 Anton Guijarro, David

Warmerdam, Max 0.5 – 0.5 Shirov, Alexei

Kevlishvili, Robby 0.5 – 0.5 Santos Ruiz, Miguel

The Netherlands were unlucky again to finish with a 2.5-1.5 loss and will have to recover quickly tomorrow if they still want to qualify for the next round.

Group B

Israel 1.5 – 2.5 Uzbekistan

Rodshtein, Maxim 0.5 – 0.5 Yakubboev, Nodirbek

Nabaty, Tamir 0 – 1 Sindarov, Javokhir

Smirin, Ilia 0.5 – 0.5 Vokhidov, Shamsiddin

Postny, Evgeny 0.5 – 0.5 Vakhidov, Jakhongir

The hosting team lost to Uzbekistan and finished the day without a single win.

USA 1 – 3 Azerbaijan

Niemann, Hans Moke 0 – 1 Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar

Bruzon Batista, Lazaro 0 – 1 Radjabov, Teimour

Onischuk, Alexander 0.5 – 0.5 Guseinov, Gadir

Quesada Perez, Yuniesky 0.5 – 0.5 Asadli, Vugar

Azerbaijan showed its power against the Americans. With Mamedyarov and Radjabov on the first two boards, they seem to be unstoppable.

India 2 – 2 Poland

Vidit, Santosh Gujrathi 0.5 – 0.5 Wojtaszek, Radoslaw

Nihal, Sarin 0.5 – 0.5   Piorun, Kacper

Narayanan, S.L. 1 – 0 Bartel, Mateusz

Sethuraman, S.P.0 – 1 Janik, Igor

India finished the day with a second draw and Poland scored their first team point, giving them a little breather before tomorrow.

On the third board in this match Bartel, with the black pieces, played 28…d4

Narayanan took immediate advantage of it and played 29.Qe4 making strong threats against the king dxe3 (29…Kg8!) 30.Rh8+ Bxh8 31.Rxh8+ Kg7 32.Qh7+ Kf6 33.Qh6+ Ke7 34.Qxe3+ and Black is lost.

Opening Ceremony

The opening ceremony took place earlier in the hotel, with the presenter and mentalist Lior Suchard fascinating the players and the audience with his tricks. Lior guessed the numbers, names and passwords of the spectators and kept the players and the guests open-mouthed for more than an hour!

Lior Suchard Photo: Mark Livshitz

The speakers from the government were Ze’ev Elkin, Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Minister of Housing and Construction, and Raz Frohlich from the Ministry of Sports and Culture. Elkin, who is a great supporter of chess in Israel, said: “We are playing one of the oldest games in one of the oldest cities in the world, and it is a great honour.”

Sutovsky (L), Elkin and Barkai Photo: Mark Livshitz

Five time World Chess Champion GM Vishy Anand, who is also the commentator of the tournament, together with IM Almira Skripchenko said:

“It’s a great pleasure to be in Jerusalem again and I’m looking forward to being a commentator in this exciting format”.  The Indian legend visited Israel in 2018 to give a great simultaneous exhibition together with another former world champion, GM Anatoly Karpov. They were both in Jerusalem to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the country.

Vishy Anand Photo: Mark Livshitz

GM Emil Sutovsky, FIDE CEO added:

“We have different generations competing on several teams and that’s one of the beautiful things about chess. It will be interesting to see it over the board.”

The representatives from the Israeli Chess Federation were Dr. Zvika Barkai (Chairman), Or Theodor (President of Honor) and Gil Boruchovski (CEO).

Tomorrow the third round starts at 15:00 local time.

Don’t forget to watch the live commentary with GM Vishy Anand and IM Almira Skripchenko here.