Russia won the gold medals on Thursday at the sixth World Team Championship in Beersheba, Israel, with a smashing last-round victory over the Chinese men's team. Allowing only one draw and winning three games, the Russians leaped into first place, finishing with 22 points in 32 games. The Chinese men, who led the nine-team event until the last round, ended with 211/2 points and got the silver medals. Armenia won the bronze with 181/2 points.
The U.S. team finished fifth with 161/2 points. Their hopes for medals were dashed after a shocking 31/2-1/2 loss to the men from China. Connecticut grandmaster Ildar Ibragimov was the only American scoring over 50 percent in the championship. He won four games, drew one, and his only loss came against the Chinese grandmaster Ni Hua. Judging from Ni's speedy opening play in the Exchange variation of the Spanish, Ibragimov was caught in prepared home analysis involving a spectacular knight sacrifice.
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Bxc6 (The Exchange variation is popular among the Chinese players.) 4...dxc6 5.0-0 Qd6 (This 40-year-old idea of the legendary world championship finalist David Bronstein is Ibragimov's favorite defense.) 6.Na3 b5 (This is the most radical defense against 7.Nc4, keeping the knight on the edge.) 7.c3 c5 8.Nc2 (The knight is back in the game, supporting the central advance d2-d4.) 8...Bb7 9.a4!? (Softening the queenside. White does not have to protect his e-pawn, since 9...Bxe4 10.axb5! axb5 11.Rxa8+ Bxa8 12.Nxe5 Qxe5 13.Re1 Be4 14.d3 is to white's advantage. The Chinese team got a hint of how the American grandmaster may react from a 2003 Internet game, Balogh-Ibragimov. It continued: 9.Re1 0-0-0 10.a4 b4 11.Ne3 Qe6 12.Qe2 Ne7 13.Nc4 Nc6 14.d3 and now instead of 14...a5, black could have equalized with 14...Be7.) 9...b4?! (Black wants to keep the a-file closed. But either 9...c4 10.axb5 axb5 11.Na3 f6!? 12.Nxb5 Qd7; or 9...Rd8 10.axb5 axb5 11.Na3 c6 were better alternatives.)
10.Qe2!? (Ni comes up with a new concept. The queen covers the light squares and the rook can slide from f1 onto the d-file.) 10...0-0-0 (Ibragimov continues as expected, but his kingside is still frozen and he is ill-prepared for white's strike in the center.) 11.cxb4 cxb4 12.d4! exd4 (After 12...b3 13.dxe5 Qd3 14.Qxd3 Rxd3 15.Ncd4 Bxe4 16.Be3 is unpleasant for black.) 13.Ncxd4 c5?! (Chasing the knight from the center makes sense, but it also opens the lines against the black king.)
14.Rd1! (A splendid piece sacrifice. White has no intention of removing his knight. Since only one computer program came up with this idea, the Chinese obviously did their homework.) 14...cxd4 (Black has to accept the sacrifice. He does not have a good waiting move, for example 14...Be7 [14...Kb8 15.Bf4! Qxf4 16.Nc6+ wins.] 15.Bg5 cxd4 16.Rxd4 Qxd4 17.Nxd4 Rxd4 18.Bf4 and white should win.) 15.Rxd4 Qxd4!? (Black is forced to surrender the queen. Otherwise, he can't cope with white's powerful attack. The most beautiful variations come after 15...Qe7 16.Bg5!, for example 16...Nf6 17.Rc1+ Kb8 18.Bf4+ Ka7 19.Rc7 Qe8 20.Rxd8 Qxd8 21.Nd4!; or 16...f6 17.Rc1+ Kb8 18.Bf4+ Ka8 [After 18...Ka7 19.Qd2! Rc8 20.Rxc8 Bxc8 21.Rd8 Be6 22.Nd4! wins.] 19.Rc6!! Ka7 [After 19...Rxd4 20.Rxa6+! mates soon.] 20.Qe3! Rxd4 21.Qxd4+ Ka8 22.Qc4 Ka7 23.Rc8! and white wins.
(Other queen retreats are also inadequate. After 15...Qc7 16.Rc4 Bc6 17.Bf4 Qxf4 18.Rxc6+ Kd7 19.Rd1+ Kxc6 20.Qxa6+ Kc7 21.Qc4+ Kb6 22.Rxd8 wins. After 15...Qb6 16.a5 Qb5 17.Qc2+ Bc5 18.Bg5 Nf6 19.Bxf6 gxf6 20.Rc4 and white should win. After 15...Qe6 16.Qc2+ Qc6 17.Rc4 Rd1+ 18.Qxd1 Qxc4 19.Bg5 Qc7 20.Rc1 Bc6 21.Nd4 wins.)
16.Nxd4 Rxd4 17.Bf4! (Threatening 18.Qc2+.) 17...Ne7 (White wins outright either after 17...Rxe4 18.Qc2+; or after 17...Bxe4 18.Qxa6+ Kd7 19.Qa7+ winning the rook. Moving the rook away from d4 does not help, e.g. 17...Rd7 18.Rc1+ Kd8 19.Qe3! Ke8 20.Qb6 Ne7 21.Bc7 Bc8 22.e5 and black is tied up.) 18.Rc1+ Nc6 19.Qe3 Bc5 (Neither 19...Rd7 20.Qb6; nor 19...Kd7 20.Kf1 Rd6 21.Qc5, threatening 22.Bxd6 Bxd6 23.Rd1, can save black.) 20.Qh3+ Kd8 21.Be3! (The material is roughly equal, but the black pieces are awkwardly placed.) 21...Re8 (Black is trying to activate his rook, but burns his kingside. However, after 21...Ba7 22.Qg3! Rd7 23.Qxg7 Re8 24.Qf6+ Ree7 25.Qh8+ Re8 26.Bg5+ Ne7 27.Qxh7 white should win.)
22.Qxh7! (Cleaning up the kingside for the march of the white pawns is the simplest way to victory. After 22.Bxd4 Bxd4 23.Qd3, threatening 24.Rxc6, black has a tricky defense, 23...Re7! 24.Rxc6 Rd7! 25.Qc4 Bxb2! 26.Kf1 Bxc6 27.Qxc6 and white still needs to do some work to win the game.) 22...Ba7 23.Qxg7 Rdxe4 24.Qf6+ Kc7 25.Bf4+ Kb6 26.h4! (Run, rabbit, run.) 26...Re1+ 27.Rxe1 Rxe1+ 28.Kh2 Re6 (Black can't protect the pawn on f7: After 28...Re7 29.Be3+ wins.) 29.Qxf7 Re7 30.Qd5 Bb8? (Black blunders trying to defend against 31.Bd6 and 32.Qc5 mate; or against 31.a5+ Nxa5 32.Qd8+.) 31.Bxb8 Nxb8 32.Qd8+ (After 32...Rc7 33.Qxb8 the game is over.) Black resigned.
Solution to today's two-mover by S. Loyd (White: Kb5,Qf3,Rf4,Rg3; Black: Kh1,Qg2,Rg5,P:f5,h2,h3): 1.Qa8 Qxa8 2.Rf1 mate; or 1...Rxg3 2.Rf1 mate; or 1...Kg1 2.Qa1 mate.