From 1974 to 1998 the U.S. men's team won one gold, two silver and six bronze medals at the chess olympiads. At their worst, they did not finish below fifth place. Those were the happy days. Two years ago in Istanbul, the team finished 26th and this month in Bled, Slovenia, it slid to 41st place, the poorest olympiad result ever.
The individual results according to board order were: Gregory Kaidanov, 4.5 points in 10 games; Yasser Seirawan, 6.5/9; Boris Gulko, 4/8; Joel Benjamin, 3/8; Larry Christiansen, 6/10; and Alexander Ivanov, 6.5/11.
The U.S. women's team finished 10th, but beat many top teams, including the winning Chinese team. Their scores were: Irina Krush, 9/13; Camilla Baginskaite, 5.5/11; Jennifer Shahade, 6/11; and Elena Donaldson, 4.5/7.
Seirawan was the only U.S. player with an individual award, winning a silver medal on the second board. He liked his performance against Jonathan Rowson of Scotland, a typical positional squeeze in a queenless Queen's Gambit Accepted.
1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e3 Nf6 4.Bxc4 e6 5.Nf3 c5 6.0-0 a6 7.b3 b6?! (Black wants to place his bishop on the long diagonal a8-h1, but after 7...b5 8.Be2 white can undermine black's queenside with a timely a2-a4, winning control of the square c4.) 8.dxc5! (Only now Seirawan goes for a queenless game, a nightmare for tactically inclined humans and chess machines.) 8...Qxd1 9.Rxd1 Bxc5 10.Bb2 Nbd7 11.Nbd2 (Spassky played 11.Nc3 against Fischer in Sveti Stefan in 1992, where Seirawan was a first-hand observer.) 11...Bb7 12.Be2 Ke7 13.Ne1! (A signal to the attack. The white cavalry is ready to drive black's bishop out of the diagonal a3-f8.) 13...Bd5?! 14.Nd3 Bd6 15.f3 Nc5 16.Nb4 Bb7 17.Nc4 Bc7 18.Nd3! (The last obstacle to a successful invasion is being removed.) 18...Nxd3 19.Rxd3 Rhd8 20.Ba3+ Ke8 21.Bd6! (Party time!) 21...Bb8 22.Bxb8 Raxb8 23.Nd6+ Rxd6?! (A tricky defense that saves material, but leaves black with weak queenside pawns and gaping holes on the dark squares. After 23...Ke7 24.Nxb7 Rxd3 25.Bxd3 Rxb7 26.Bxa6 Ra7 27.Bc4 Ra3 white brings his king to the queenside and breaks the blockade.)
24.Rxd6 Nd5 25.Rc1! Ke7 26.Rxd5 exd5 (After 26...Bxd5 27.Rc7+ Kf6 28.e4 Bb7 29.e5+ Kg6 30.Kf2 b5 31.Bd3+ f5 32.Ke3 Kh6 33.g4 black has problems, e.g. 33...f4+ 34.Ke2 Bd5 35.g5+ Kxg5 36.Rxg7+ Kh6 37.Rxh7+ Kg5 38.h4 mate.) 27.Rc7+ Kf6 28.b4! (Since black is tied up, Seirawan fixes the queenside before bringing his king to a dominating position in the center.) 28...Bc8 29.a4 Ke6 30.Ra7 b5 31.axb5 axb5 32.f4! (A triumph of a dark-square strategy.) 32...g6 33.Kf2 h5 (After 33...Bd7 34.Bf3! Rb6 35.Ke2 Rd6 36.Kd3 followed by 37.Kd4 black's position collapses.) 34.Ke1 Bd7 35.Kd2 Kd6 36.Bd3 h4 37.Ra5 Bc6?! (Black should have tried 37...Kc7, for example, 38.Kc3 Kb6 39.Kd4 g5!? 40.fxg5 Rg8, although after 41.Be2 Rxg5 42.Bf3 white has the upper hand.) 38.Kc3 Rb7 (After 38...Kc7 39.Ra7+ Rb7 40.Rxb7+ Kxb7 41.Kd4 Kb6 42.Ke5 the king marches in.) 39.Ra6 Rb8 40.Kd4 f5 41.Be2 Re8? (Loses a piece.) 42.Bxb5 (After 42...Rc8 43.Ba4 black has no defense against 44.b5. On 43...Kd7 44.Rxc6 Rxc6 45.Kxd5 wins.) Black resigned.
Defense in Trouble In one of the most instructive games in Bled, between the Dane Peter Heine Nielsen and Darmen Sadvakasov of Kazakhstan, the Queen's Gambit Accepted did not fare better, even with the queens on the board.
1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 c5 6.0-0 Nc6 7.Qe2 cxd4 8.Rd1 Be7 9.exd4 0-0 10.a3 a6 11.Nc3 b5 12.d5! (A well-timed, powerful central break. The white rook comes alive on the d-file, creating problems for the black queen.) 12...exd5 (Forced, since 12...bxc4 13.dxc6 Qb6 14.Qxc4 drops a pawn. After 12...Nxd5 13.Bxd5 exd5 14.Nxd5 Bd6 15.Bg5 f6 16.Be3 white has a mighty pressure.) 13.Nxd5 Bd7 14.Ba2 Nxd5 15.Bxd5 Qc7 (On 15...Rc8 16.Be4! is strong.) 16.Qe4 Rae8 (After 16...Bf6 17.Bf4 Qb6 18.Be3 Qc7 19.Rac1 white's pin soon decides.) 17.Bf4 Qc8 18.Rac1! (The pin is so devastating that white can even sacrifice his queen.) 18...Bd6 (On 18...Bg5 comes 19.Bxg5! Rxe4 20.Bxe4 with a clear advantage, for example 20...h6 21.Rxd7; or 20...Qe8 21.Re1.) 19.Bxd6! Rxe4 20.Bxe4 Qe8 (After 20...Rd8 21.h3!? Be8 22.Bxc6 Bxc6 23.Ne5 white should win. And 20...Re8 is met by 21.Bxc6 Bxc6 22.Nd4 leaving black without hope.) 21.Bxf8 Kxf8 22.Rxd7 Qxe4 (On 22...Qxd7 comes 23.Bxc6.) 23.Rxf7+! Kg8 (On 23...Kxf7 24.Ng5+ wins a queen.) 24.Rc7 (After 24...Nd8 25.Re1 Qg6 26.Rc8 wins.) Black resigned.
Solution to today's problem by L. Prokes (White: Kg1,Rc1,P:c6,g6; Black: Kc7,Rh6,P:g2): 1.g7 Rg6 (Better is 1...Rh1+ 2.Kxg2 Rxc1 3.g8Q Rxc6, still a technical win for white.) 2.Ra1! Kb8 3.c7+! Kxc7 4.Ra8 (More elegant than 4.Ra2 that also wins.) 4....Rxg7 5.Ra7+ wins. Robert Sobel, who defeated Bobby Fischer at the 1956 Canadian Open, pointed out that in another Prokes study of Nov. 4 (White: Kd3,Rf3,Ra8, P:d6; Black: Kg1,Rc1,Rg2, P:c7) after 1.d7! Rd1+ 2.Ke3, black draws with 2...Rgd2!