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No Medal for U.S. at World Team Champs

[imagefield_assist|fid=11914|preset=fullsize|title=GM Yasser Seirawan finished the tournament with a performance rating of 2773, almost 140 points higher than his 2635 rating.|desc=|link=none|origsize=|align=left|width=700|height=467]By Tony Rich

The 2011 World Team Championship has wrapped up, and Americans can be proud; ranked eighth out of ten teams, the U.S. squad tied for fourth place once the dust settled.

Round eight saw a tough match against Ukraine, in which the U.S. lost 2.5 – 1.5. At one point it appeared that the Americans may lose on three of the four boards, with Robert Hess likely to draw his game. However, Gata Kamsky, Alex Onischuk and Yasser Seirawan were able to turn their games around and hold the draw, but Hess, who was black in a Berlin Defense and equalized easily, was outplayed in the endgame and lost. After the match Hess commented, “I feel so bad losing that game. It was a crucial round and cost us a medal.”

The Americans rebounded in the final round with a convincing victory against Israel. Kamsky faced his long time friend and occasional second GM Emil Sutovsky on board one. The game followed sharp lines in the Ruy Lopez but was ultimately drawn. Kamsky commented after the game that he was probably lost at some point and spent most of dinner trying to figure out the complications.

Onischuk, who was in better form in the second half of the tournament, didn’t seem to get much with white against Michael Roiz and they also drew. Following suit, Seirawan drew an uneventful game against Ilia Smirin.

But the game of the match was on board four, where Robert Hess scored convincingly against Evgeny Postny. Hess sacrificed a piece on move 27, but after the game he said, “At that point I was already winning. It was nice to come back from my loss yesterday to win the only decisive game of this match.”

“A team event is about coming together and playing for the good of the whole, and that’s exactly what the members of the U.S. team did”, said team coach Ben Finegold. “Every evening, players could be seen celebrating their own victories while consoling those who lost.”

The dark horse throughout the tournament was GM Yasser Seirawan, who has been in relative retirement for most of the past decade, only to return to active tournament play at the 2011 U.S. Championship. Seirawan was remembered by his Chinese hosts from the 2003 USA vs. China match and many congratulations fell upon him throughout the event.

And so it was that the very talented American squad attended the closing ceremony, outperforming their expected result. Team Captain IM John Donaldson said, "The team was expected to finish =7th-8th and perform 2667 with a score of a little over 7.5 match points. We finished =4th, performed over 2700 as a team and put up 10 match points. Without Hikaru this is likely very close to as well as we could have expected. Yury if healthy would have done better but no one could have expected Yasser's result of close to 2800."

Earning individual medals were Gata Kamsky (bronze) on board one, Yasser Seirawan (silver) on board four and Robert Hess (silver) on board five. “It was really something”, said Kamsky. “I mean, yeah, we had a couple of slips in key rounds, but this was one heck of a team.”