Chess: England to face superpowers at World Tag Team Championship in Astana | Chess

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England have been confirmed as one of 10 finalists for next month’s World Team Championship in Astana, Kazakhstan, where China, Russia and the United States are set to battle it out for the gold medals. Last year England finished fifth, the team’s best showing since 1998, at the 184-nation Batumi Olympiad which was a qualifier for world teams.

China won the Olympiad in 2018 and the United States in 2016, while Russia is the long-time superpower which has recently unleashed new global talent with the victories of 22-year-old Daniil Dubov in the world fast and Vladislav Artemiev, 20, in Gibraltar.

Their best players were ready to prepare in earnest for the World Team at the Aeroflot Moscow Open, which kicked off this week with 19-year-old Chinese Wei Yi as the top seed and Dubov as one of his main rivals. But after just an hour of play at the Cosmos Hotel, the first round was cut short due to one of the many bomb threats currently affecting Russian cities.

Too bad for those whose meticulous opening preparation was revealed to their opponents during this first hour. There will be a double round on Saturday to catch up, with the morning round, live online and free to watch, starting at 6.30am. Aeroflot is a tough event, and when the first round was replayed on Wednesday with a faster time limit, Wei Yi and Dubov were held to a halt.

The Champions Challenge is also underway in St Louis, where potential members of America’s Astana squad, led by world No. 2 Fabiano Caruana, face off against top-flight opponents in four days of rapids and blitzes.

England’s squad for the world championships is the Olympic quartet of Michael Adams, Luke McShane, Gawain Jones and David Howell. Nigel Short and Matthew Sadler, rated at 2,650, were unavailable, so veteran Jon Speelman serves as reserve and analyst but will only play in an emergency in the nine rounds from 5-14 March.

Russia and some other nations like their players to prepare for a team event at a training camp, but the individualistic English have always opted for competitive tournaments. A few weeks ago Howell tied for third, Adams and Jones all scored well in Gibraltar so are in good form.

McShane is an amateur who plays less, but he will be in action this weekend at the traditional Irish International Open at Bunratty. The 35-year-old could be briefed on not losing on board two to improve Jones and Howell’s chances of scoring winners. Analysis at the 2018 Olympiad, where McShane was also second board, showed he performed better against stronger opponents.

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Game moves

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The youngest grandmaster Dommaraju Gukesh, 12, had a brutal learning experience from a seasoned Russian in the first round at Aeroflot. It is possible that Boris Grachev had only modest ambitions at the start in a symmetrical Semi-Slavic, but Gukesh’s unwarranted pawn sacrifice 13…Nc5? followed by other dubious choices in the next few moves gave white head of steam for a classic kingside attack with queen, knight and rook starting at 20 Ng5!

A brisk and vigorous game chased the black king out into the open, and 29 Rf6+! sealed it. The end would be 30…Kh4 31 Qf2+ Kxg4 32 Qg3+ Kh5 33 Qh3 mate.

Boris Grachev versus Dommaraju Gukesh,
Aeroflot Moscow 2019

1 d4 d5 2 c4 c6 3 Nf3 Nf6 4 e3 e6 5 Bd3 Nbd7 6 0-0 Bd6 seven Nbd2 0-0 8 e4 e5 9 cxd5 cxd5 ten Ke1 Ke8 11 exd5 exd4 12 Ne4 Nxe4 13 Rxe4 Nc5? 14 Rxd4 Nxd3 15 Qxd3 Bc5? 16 Re4 b6? 17 Rxe8+ Qxe8 18 Be3 Bxe3 19 fxe3 Bb7 20 Ng5! g6 21 Qd4 Qe7 22 Ne4 f5 23 Nf6+ Kf7 24 Rc1 Rd8 25 e4 fxe4 26 Rf1 Ba6 27 Rf4 g5 28 Nh5+ Kg6 29 Rf6+! Kxh5 30 g4+ 1-0

Thank you for your opinion.

3607 1…Kd5! with the point 2 Nd6 Nxd6 3 exd6 Bxd6! 4 Bxd6 Kd8! (not Kxd6? 5 Bxh7+ and 6 Kxd6) when white loses one of his bishops and the game is level.

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