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U.S. stands alone atop leaderboard at WTC

By Tony Rich 


[imagefield_assist|fid=1773|preset=frontpage_200x200|lightbox=true|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=200|height=200]BURSA, TURKEY -- The United States stands in clear first after round seven of the World Team Championship.


On a crucial must-win day, the Americans demonstrated true grit in their path to victory over Greece. The Greek team, with surprise victories over Russia and Armenia, are dangerous rivals capable of upsetting any team. The victory was by the smallest margin at 2.5-1.5 and was not decided until the last moment.


On board two, the game between Alexander Onischuk and Ioannis Papaioannou was the first to finish and resulted in a draw.


The Hristos Banikas – Yury Shulman game on board three was also decided peacefully without much trouble. Board four, on the other hand, saw Varuzhan Akobian under pressure after missing the much stronger 14. Qxd8. Halkias played actively and tried to convert the full point, but Akobian’s stalwart defense ensured the draw. When asked if he saw the queen exchange, Akobian said, “Of course! Trade queens, easy win. I don’t know what I was thinking. After 16. Qd6 I completely missed 16… Nd3+.”


Board one presented an interesting battle between Hikaru Nakamura and Vasilios Kotronias.  Nakamura chose an offbeat line of the Petroff defense and quickly landed in a passive position with few prospects. Kotronias played accurately, but slowly, and as move 40 approached, the Greek found himself low on time. True to his style, Nakamura kept things complicated and after the dust settled, was up a whole rook. Kotronias resigned on move 44 and the U.S. won the match.


Russia and Armenia drew their match, which featured an epic 113-move confrontation on board four. Arman Pashikan, who reached a rook and bishop versus rook endgame against Vladimir Malakhov on move 64, battled for another 48 moves before conceding the draw. These endgames are anything but simple to defend unless you’re Josh Friedel, who “knows, simply by glancing at the position, which moves lose and which moves draw, as if he had access to a color-coded scroll which rolls out with each move.” ("The Grandmaster House" by Jesse Kraai on Apparently Malakhov has access to a similar scroll, as he was able to keep the balance.[imagefield_assist|fid=1774|preset=fullsize|lightbox=true|title=|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=267]


The exact same endgame was reached on board three in the Egypt – India match, and the Egyptian player, Khaled Abdel Razik, lost to India's Geetha Narayanan Gopal in 122 moves. The loss proved costly as India topped Egypt 2.5-1.5.


In the upset special of the day, host country Turkey won its first match of the event with a surprising 2.5-1.5 victory over Israel. In other action, Brazil got crushed by Azerbaijan 3.5 - 0.5.


The drawn match between Russia and Armenia was key as it allowed the United States to move into sole possession of first place with matches against Armenia and Azerbaijan yet to come.


Tomorrow's showdown between Armenia and the U.S. will be the marquis match-up of round eight.


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