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False hope is officially a thing of the past. The next time you hear that a team is "mathematically alive" for a certain placement, remem ber Dresden, 2008 and the American teams' two bronze medals.

Going into the final round of the 38th Chess Olympiad, held November 12 25, 2008 in Dresden, Germany, the U.S. women's chances for a podium finish were shaky. The men's odds were highly improb able. So many teams needed to win, lose or draw in just the right way, but the two quintets took care of their end of the equa tion and waited for the tournament calculus to decide their fate. The resulting mutual third place finishes, the first time both teams medaled in the same Olympiad, punctuated a historic fortnight for Amer ican chess.

Going into the 11th and final round, the U.S. men and women were on the out side looking in at the race for team medals. The men, still trying to make up ground after defeats to higher ranked Azerbaijan and Russia earlier in the tournament, had given themselves a glimmer of hope after crushing India 3% % in round nine and then getting by the hometown German squad one match later. Still, they were mired in eighth place with one round remaining, with the worst tiebreaks of any team in the top 12. The caveat for the Americans was the obscure tiebreak sys tem, one of the many rule changes for the Olympiad. The complicated methodology, which multiplied a team's game points by the match points of its opponents, was highly volatile, impossible to predict, and heavily influenced by crushing wins or defeats. This meant that in order to medal, the U.S. men would not only have to beat Ukraine a team that had not lost a match all tournament they would have to trounce them. In addition, Russia and Spain had to tie their match, Armenia had to beat China, Israel had to beat Nether lands, and a bevy of past opponents had to perform well too. But as countless sports sound bite clichés go, they could only con trol their own games. "We just have to play the match with Ukraine and do our best," Team captain IM John Donaldson said before the 11th round.

2006 U.S. Champion GM Alex Onis chuk expresses a typical team thought: "Shortly before the last round I met the U.S. women's team and their captain GM Gregory Kaidanov at breakfast. We dis cussed our chances for medals. It turned out that our women had not an easy task: they had to beat a strong French team. When I told them that for us the only chance to get medals was beating Ukraine 3% %, we all sincerely laughed."

Left: Anna Zatonskih Photographed by Mike Klein

Exchange Grunfeld (D85)

GM Alex Onschuk (FIDE 2644) GM Pavel Eljanov (FIDE 2720) 38th Olympiad, Dresden, GER (11), 11.25.2008 Notes by Onischuk

I'd prepared for the last game with our fifth board player GM Varuzhan Akobian and my old friend GM Roman Slobod jan, who came to Dresden to support me, for about five hours, but we almost did not look at the Grunfeld. Somehow I did not believe Pavel would play it. I guess I did not realize that not only us, but also the Ukrainian team wanted to score big in the final round.

4. Nf3 Bg7 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. e4 Nxc3 7. bxc3 c5 8. Rb1 0-0 9. Be2 b6 10. 0-0 Bb7

I think this system is quite dubious for Black. White can choose now between the quiet 11. Qd3 and more aggressive 11. d5. Both moves should give him some advantage.

With a different move order we got a position from the game GM Hikaru Naka mura GM Shakhrivar Mamedyarov, which was played in the fifth round of the Olympiad. Hikaru lost that game but we looked together at this position at the team meeting and found some new plans for White.

14. Bf4 Nf6 15. Rfd1 Qd7

Good move. The idea is to play ... Rad8 and ... Qc8, improving the placement of his pieces on the back row.

In order to prevent his plan, Nakamura played 16. h3 in this position.

It was already not so easy to find a move here. The only alternative I see is 17. ... Rd8.

18. Nc6

This move looks good, but unfortu nately it should only lead to a draw. Probably the best way to keep pressure was 18. Rbc1!? Nd6 19. Bd3 with enough compensation.

18 Bxc6 19. dxc6

(see diagram top of next column)

During the game I also considered this move to be the main one. It turns out that after the strongest 19. ... e6 he can defend, and now I can also try moves like 20. e5!? or a) 20. Qc2 but they don't

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