- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Our oldies are goodies.

Justifying their top seeding, the U.S. 50-and-over squad took clear first in last month’s World Senior Teams Championship in Rhodes, Greece. The team won eight of nine matches in the 26-team competition, conceding only one drawn match with Iceland.

All five U.S. players took home board prizes for their work in Greece, with top board GM Alex Shabalov and GM Alex Yermolinsky on Board 5 capturing individual gold, and GMs Joel Benjamin, Igor Novikov and Jaan Ehlvest all collecting bronze.

In the 65+ age competition, Russia grabbed the team gold, followed by England and France.

Ehlvest showed how to get an early point on the board with his 21-move demolition of Icelandic GM Margeir Petursson from the White side of a Sicilian Dragon. In what can be a razor-sharp opening, Black’s sense of danger seems to desert him in the game’s critical phase. After 14. h5 Nxh5 15. Kb1, necessary now for Black was 15…Qe5 to shore up the defense in the face of the looming mating attack.

Instead, Black walks into 15…exf3? 16. Rxh5! (child’s play for a top grandmaster; there may be no immediate mate, but White’s pieces will soon flood the zone along the newly opened attacking lines) gxh5 17. Bd3 f5 18. gxf3, and White’s attack is well worth the sacrificed exchange.

Another sub-optimal move leads to a quick quietus: 18…Rf7? (Petursson had to try 18…Qe5 19. Rg1+ Kf7 20. Bc4+ e6 21. Qxh7+ and hope to hang on) 19. Bc4 e6 20. Qg5+ Rg7 21. Rd8+ Kf7, and Black resigned just ahead of 22. Qxf5+ Ke7 23. Qf8 mate.

Shabalov’s strong play was on display in a complex middlegame against veteran English GM Jon Speelman. In a highly theoretic Open Catalan line (7…b6 is a provocative new idea), Black proves superior in the wide-open position that results from 13. Nf3!? cxb2 14. Bxb2 Nd7!? (returning the gambited pawn; the materialistic 14…f5?! 15. Bxc6 Nxc6 16. Qxc6 Qd5! 17. Qxd5 exd5 18. Rac1 Bxe2 19. Re1 Bxf3 20. Rxe7 looks drawish with the opposite-colored bishops) 15. Bxc6 Rc8 16. d5.

Speelman slips with 19. Re5? (Bd7! Rcd8 20. Rcd1 Qb7 21. Ne5 Bf6 22. Bc6 holds the balance) Bf6 20. Bd5 (see diagram) Qd7! (Bxe5?! 21. Nxe5 Rcd8 22. e4 gives White way too much play), and White has too many loose pieces and too many pins to overcome.

There followed 21. Qd2 Nd3! 22. Rxc8 (exd3 Bxe5 23. Bxf7+ Qxf7 24. Nxe5 Rxc1+ 25. Bxc1 Qd5) Rxc8 26. exd3 Bxe5, when White would asphyxiate after 24. Bxe5 Qxd5 25. Qe3 Bb7 26. Kg2 Re8. One last pin — 26. Qxc4 Rxc4 — clarifies Black’s superiority and in the final position White is down an exchange with no compensation; Speelman conceded.

Ehlvest-Petursson, World 50+ Senior Team Championships, Rhodes, Greece, April 2019

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 0-0 8. Qd2 Nc6 9. 0-0-0 d5 10. Nxc6 bxc6 11. Bh6 Bxh6 12. Qxh6 Qc7 13. h4 dxe4 14. h5 Nxh5 15. Kb1 exf3 16. Rxh5 gxh5 17. Bd3 f5 18. gxf3 Rf7 19. Bc4 e6 20. Qg5+ Rg7 21. Rd8+ Kf7 and Black resigns.

Speelman-Shabalov, World 50+ Senior Team Championships, Rhodes, Greece, April 2019

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. g3 d5 4. Bg2 Be7 5. O-O O-O 6. c4 dxc4 7. Qc2 b6 8. Ng5 c6 9. Rd1 Ba6 10. Nd2 h6 11. Nge4 Nxe4 12. Bxe4 c3 13. Nf3 cxb2 14. Bxb2 Nd7 15. Bxc6 Rc8 16. d5 exd5 17. Rxd5 Qc7 18. Rc1 Nc5 19. Re5 Bf6 20. Bd5 Qd7 21. Qd2 Nd3 22. Rxc8 Rxc8 23. exd3 Bxe5 24. Bc4 Bxc4 25. Nxe5 Qd6 26. Nxc4 Rxc4 27. Qe2 Rc7 28. Qe8+ Kh7 White resigns

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email [email protected].

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