With regards to drama, rises and falls, the World Team Championship certainly had it all. The start was all about the disasters of Russia and the US, and the heroic results by Israel and Cuba, while the second half inverted this, but ultimately it was the very same gold medalists at Tromso who came out supreme: the irrepressible Chinese.
Who could have imagined that a team with the highest average Elo by far, and having won more gold medals at the Chess Olympiad than any other nation would start with a staggering 0-2? Yet that is exactly what happened, followed in suit by Team USA. It is true that Russia had failed to take any spot on the podium in Norway last year, but for all onlookers and pundits, it was a fluke nothing more. If that was a fluke, then what to make of this disastrous start? It is hard to explain: statistical blip, coincidence, disinterest… Who can say?
The medals awaiting the winners…
… and the trophies.
If Russia had a bad start, the US was not much better, though in their defense their lineup was the second lowest rated, ahead only of Egypt, so anything above would be a windfall. Ultimately, a solid result by top board Sam Shankland, with above average results by the team, most notably Aleksandr Lenderman who won his last four games, with a 2818 performance.
If Egypt came as the heavy underdog rated 100 Elo less than penultimate USA and over 200 behind Russia, they still managed to draw their match against Israel, and lose by only the smallest margin to China, Hungary and Armenia.
While the top teams were slow out of the gates, both Israel and Cuba had strong starts taking the early lead, but they could not keep up the momentum and other nations were able to overcome their hesitant beginning to make up the lost ground. The new leaders came in the guise of Ukraine and China, who soon fought every round toe-to-toe, while distancing themselves from their rivals.
It all came down to the last two rounds, both tied, when Ukraine unexpectedly lost to the USA, while China beat Cuba handily. The final round saw Ukraine only draw against Hungary as China trounced India by 3-1.
Top individual scoring
|4||GM||Quesada Perez Yuniesky||2629||Cuba||5.5||8||68.8||3|
|10||GM||Dominguez Perez Leinier||2729||Cuba||5.0||9||55.6||1|
The disparity between the two leaders and the rest meant a condensation of teams, nearly everyone, with realistic chances for the bronze. Who was favorite was anyone’s guess, especially after so many unexpected results.
The key moment would have to be Armenia’s defeat of Russia in round seven, right when the Russians had seemed to be working on a comeback, giving the Armenian the slimmest of leads. This was all it took them, and with wins over India and Egypt, were able to secure the last spot on the podium.
Tie Break 1: Matchpoints (2 for wins, 1 for draws, 0 for losses)
Tie Break 2: points (game-points)
Tie Break 3: FIDE Sonneborn-Berger