Except for Grandmaster Hans Niemann, who remains abroad for other tournament opportunities, the USA players and the USA team captain returned to their homes for Thanksgiving, a traditional holiday in the USA. On the fourth Thursday of November, celebrants sing the folk song Simple Gifts and the hymn We Gather Together. After a tense semifinal Round 1, which saw two tied matches, in Round 2, Thanksgiving lyrics resonated with the teams-winners China and Uzbekistan.
After round 1, chess fan Nechama Joanes, whose first name means “a consolation” in Hebrew, felt sorry for players who drew. She said, “A draw means two people don’t win”, so they are not satisfied. Nechama learned the rules of chess when she was seven, and she is now 11 years old. Her favourite part of the tournament was watching everyone think very hard and stay focused.
Semifinals – Round 1
Dr Zvika Barkai, Chairman of the Israel Chess Federation, rang the gong to start the first round of the semifinals. India and Uzbekistan tied their round 1 match 2-2. On the first board, Vidit Santosh Gujrathi drew with Nordirbek Yakubboev, although at some point, his position looked very dangerous. On the second board, Nihal Sarin and Javokhir Sindharov quickly traded the majority of pieces and split a point in an equal rook endgame.
On third board S. L. Narayanan gradually outplayed Shamsiddin Vokhidov with the black pieces to give his team the lead. Luckily for Uzbekistan, on board four, Jakhongir Vakhidov‘s pawn avalanche swept away S.P Sethuraman‘s defences.
China and Spain also tied their match 2-2. After the games on boards 1 and 3 were drawn, David Anton Guijarro,playing on the second board with Black, instructively outmanoeuvred Xu Xiangyu and put his team in front.
Xu Xiangyu – David Anton Guijarro
White is in zugzwang. Indeed, virtually any move leads to material losses. Xu Xiangyu tried 33.e5, but after 33…dxe5 34.fxe5 Rc5! Black won a pawn and smoothly converted it. | 0-1, 48 moves
In a short interview, Anton Guijarro (pictured below) said that this game might be his favourite win in the tournament. However, China levelled the score after Di Li beat Miguel Santos Ruiz on board 4.
To start round 2 of the semifinals, Jonathan Tal, age 14, a member of the Tel Aviv Chess Club, rang the gong. Uzbekistan defeated India 2.5-1.5. On the first board, Nordirbek Yakubboev prevailed over Vidit Santosh Gujrathi with the black pieces in a very complicated battle.
Javokhir Sindharov skillfully pressured Nihal Sarin’s pawn weaknesses and then broke through on the kingside.
Javokhir Sindharov – Nihal Sarin
52.Qxd3! forced an immediate resignation as 52… Qxd3 is met with 53. Rf7+ Nxf7 54. Rxf7+ Rg7 55. Rxg7+ Kh8 56. Rd7+ 1-0
India retaliated on board 3, where S. L. Narayanan won as White against Shamsiddin Vokhidov, but it was not enough to save the match as the game between Jakhongir Vakhidov and Krishnan Sasikiran ended in a draw.
Meanwhile, China defeated Spain 3-1. On the second board, Xu Xiangyu drew as Black against Spain’s David Anton Guijarro. Daniil Yuffa took over Miguel Santos Ruiz on the fourth board and drew his game as White against Di Li.
The decisive outcomes were posted on boards 1 and 3. Lu Shanglei, as White, impeccably converted his extra pawn into a full point against Jaime Santos Latasa, while Bai Jinshi cold-bloodily extinguished Alexei Shirov’s initiative and scored the second victory for his team.
The hymn We Gather Together was written after Spain lost in the Battle of Turnhout and suffered almost 50% casualties. That battle was in 1597 against the Dutch and English. This time, Spain’s opponent was China, and the casualties were just as bad. Out of the eight games played today (4 in round 1 and 4 in round 2), Spain got 3 out of 8 points or 37.5%.
Winning the fight
The hymn We Gather Together includes the lyric, “So from the beginning the fight we were winning.” That lyric applies to China in this tournament. China has been unstoppable since the FIDE World Team Championship 2022 began on November 19. The team dominated Pool A with 4 match wins and one tied match.
Yesterday, China eliminated Poland with one winning match and one tied match. In the two-round semifinals, China tied Spain in round 1, then won 3-1 to advance to the finals.
The folk song Simple Gifts includes the lyric, “‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be.” Yesterday, the Uzbek first board Nordirbek Yakubboev said that his team intended to win gold in Jerusalem, just as it did in Chennai at the 2022 Olympiad. Is the gold medal podium meant for Uzbeks, or do the Chinese belong there?
Tomorrow’s final will determine this championship’s gold medal winner and second-place finisher. Also tomorrow a “small final” to determine the third place and fourth place finishers, to be contested between Spain and India.
Each match will consist of two games, to be played an hour earlier than on previous days. On Friday, November 25, round 1 will be at 2 p.m. local time and round 2 at 5 p.m. If a tiebreak is needed, that will be played at 7:30 p.m.
Text: WIM Alexey Root, FIDE Press Officer, Jerusalem
Photos: Dr. Mark Livshitz and Maria Emelianova