Pi i

i mí

W i

After 19. dxc6

give me any edge; b) 20. Ba6 Qxc6 21. Bb5 Qb7 22. Rd7 Qc8 23. Ba4 c4!?; c) 20. a4!? Qxc6 21. Bb5 Qb7 (21. ... Qc8 22. Ba6 Qc6 23. Bb5 is even) 22. a5 bxa5 23. Rd7 Qc8 24. Qc2.

This is a strong maneuver, placing my rook where it can pressure Black's posi tion where necessary (the f and a files) are very strong avenues of attack for White.

When I made this move I stood up and I saw that GM Gata Kamsky had won against GM Vassily Ivanchuk. Other posi tions were still complicated with some advantage for the U.S. team.

In case of 26. ... Bb2?! 27. Qxa7 Rfc8 28. Ra6 Bxc1 29. Bxc1 White gets a big advantage. Two bishops are extremely strong in that position.

27. Qxa7

Objectively moves like 27. Rf1 and 27. Rc2 were stronger here, but my move is definitely more fun.

This is better than 27. ... Bxf2+ 28. Kh2 Rfc8 (28. ... Rbc8 29. Qb7!?) 29. g4! with a clear advantage to White.

After 29. Bxe4

He took off his watch,, Kasparov-style, at a pivotal moment...

29 Bb2? did not focus on the scenarios. Unlike

This is a blunder. Pavel had less than five minutes after this move. In all other lines White should be better anyway, although there is still significant work to be done to realize that advantage. 29. ... b5!? 30. Qxc7 Nxc7 31. Ra7 Rc8 32. Bf3! e4 33. Bg4 Be5+ 34. Kg1; 29. ... Rf7 30. Qxc7 Nxc7 (30. ... Rxc7? 31. Rf1 Nd6 32. Raf3 Rg8 33. Bd5 and White has a large edge) 31. Ra7 and White is a bit better; 29. ... Rc8 30. Qb7! Nd6 31. Qxc7 Rxc7 32. Ra8+ Rc8 33. Rxc8+ Nxc8 34. c7 when White has some pull.

Black loses immediately after 30. ... Rxc2 31. Rf3!

31. Rxa7

There was another more beautiful way to win the game: 31. Rxf2!? Qe7 32. Raf3 Nc7 33. Rf7! (33. Rf8+ Rxf8 34. Rxf8+ Qxf8 35. Bxf8 Ne8 with good winning chances for White) 33. ... Qd8 34. Rf8+ Qxf8 35. Bxf8 when White's better coor dinated forces will win.

31 Rxc2 32. Bxc2 e4 33. Bf4 Rc8 34. Bxe4 Nf6 35. Bf3 g5 36. Bxg5

After the game Hikaru and Varuzhan asked me if I saw 36. c7! gxf4 37. Ra8. Honestly I did not, but of course the posi tion is completely won anyway.

36 Be5+ 37. g3 c4 38. Re7 Bd4 39. c7 Ng8 40. Re4 Bf6 41. Bf4, Black resigned.

When I looked at other boards I could not believe my eyes; the score 3% % and even 4 became real.

The American women had better prospects of a medal, if only by a small percentage. They ranked fifth after ten rounds and had reasonable tiebreaks, owing to prior matches against top enders Poland, Russia and China, but they trailed on match points. Their calculations were simpler but they also did not control their own fate. The women needed a win over France (like the men's team, the big ger win the better, to avoid being overtaken on tiebreaks) and most cru cially needed Poland and Ukraine to avoid a drawn match. Top board IM Irina Krush the first ten rounds, the final round was held in the morning, which made her restless. "I couldn't sleep because I just wanted to get up," she said. "I was ready to play."

As the American teams took their seats at the crowded Dresden Convention Cen ter playing hall, their focus became evident. Players did not speak at all to their opponents and only very briefly with teammates. The cold of the recent snow falls had crept into the Olympiad itself. The men's and women's teams both hap pened to be playing on board three, directly opposite each other, creating a symbolic but silent unity in their shared mission.

When the games began, the pace of several of the men's games suggested that the opening had gone the way of pregame preparation. On board one, Kam sky got a comfortable position against Ivanchuk's French Defense, and next to him Nakamura played with his usual celerity from the start. On board three, Onischuk, who would finish with a 2700+ performance rating, repeated a dangerous pawn sacrifice ("sac") of an earlier Naka mura game, and GM Yury Shulman faced the system he was expecting to see.

The games continued and players assumed the stylized poses they had con jured all tournament. Kamsky would either sit up professorially or lean for ward and spread his hands in a V formation over his forehead, wrinkling skin toward his hairline. Nakamura offered more animation, alternating between scrunching his brow, staring down his opponent, and walking around confidently in between moves. Onischuk's face belied the pressure as he remained stoic while he cupped his hands over his ears. Shulman's over the board demeanor was the most pronounced in its consis tency and tension his universal reaction was to raise his shoulders even with his neck, clasp his hands tight, and occasion ally sweep his chair closer to the table with his feet.

The attempt at the nearly impossible mission passed its first hurdle, which stood to be the largest of them all, when Kamsky made relatively short work of world number three Ivanchuk in less than three hours. The American leader usually left the playing hall immediately following his games, but this time he stayed for a while to follow the progress of his teammates, who all fielded comfort able positions. Onischuk, who said he thinks it is positive to be a little nervous before a game, must have felt some relief to enter an opening that was fresh in his memory. He began playing the 8. Rb1 variation of the Grunfeld Defense only in September, but had been studying sys tems like it with teammates Shulman and Akobian prior to the Olympiad.

"We looked at some positions," Onis chuk said of the long distance training sessions. "It is funny that sometimes we had 'conference' calls with Yury and Var(uzhan) together. I had bad internet and I would get disconnected all the time. Sometimes they had not noticed that I was missing. I learned about some nov elties 'we' found in Dresden."

Onischuk's enterprising pawn sacri fice was researched during those sessions, and after a failed attempt with it by Naka mura in the ill fated Azerbaijan match, Onischuk slowly stepped up the pres sure of the bishop pair and center pawns to score the point. The Americans had used their two whites perfectly, and with the score now 2 0, Nakamura bore down even more, knowing that a big score could be attainable. Scores are posted in the playing hall as they are decided, and spectators and top players began to rec ognize that an improbable result was becoming likely. GM Veselin Topalov came up to Onischuk and asked if he thought a 4 0 sweep was possible. With other results falling the right way, Donaldson began calculating if 3% % or 4 0 was needed for a medal. "We have two winning positions," Onischuk said at that point. Donaldson, who had a train to catch later that night in the middle of the awards cer emony, began to rethink his itinerary. "Believe me, if we get 3% or four, I'll be glad to change my ticket."

Nakamura pressed for a win as Black against the forever teenage GM Sergey Karjakin, at one point eschewing an oppo site colored bishop ending. He took off his watch, Kasparov style, at a pivotal moment, at which point his stepfather, FM Sunil Weeramantry, gauged his con fidence as a sign that he would win. However the U.S. needed to first secure the match. With some chances for both sides lingering in the position, Nakamura agreed to a draw to clinch victory. He would then join Donaldson and Onis chuk in the press center to follow Shulman's game live and calculate tiebreaks.

The trio of men directed blazingly fast variations and counters at the LCD

Open Olympiad,

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