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World Senior Team Championships, Radebeul, Germany 2018

The USA and Russia respectively won the 50+ and 65+ tournaments in the 6th World Senior Team Championships, played from 7-15 July at Radebeul (just outside Dresden) in Germany. The full results (overall standings and round-by-round) can be seen here at the official website. The 65+ tournament was for players born in 1953 or earlier; the 50+ for players born in 1968 or earlier.

Runners-up in the 65+ were England-1 (Speelman, Emms, Plaskett, Hebden, and Arkell) on tie break from the Lasker Schachstiftung of Germany. Russia Women won the prize for the highest placed female team (17th overall). Germany Women-1 were second and England Women third ahead of two other German female teams. There was also one all-female team in the 65+ tournament (from Mongolia).

Between the two competitions, there were 128 teams from 26 countries with a total of 601 players participating. That makes this the largest festival of international Senior chess ever held as yet. The tournaments were for teams of four, with an optional reserve, representing nations, clubs, regions, or in the case of the Jhunjhnuwalas from the USA (formerly Hong Kong) a team of four brothers.

The 50+ tournament was very closely contested and only decided when the last few games were completed. The top seeded team from the United States (Shabalov, Benjamin, Ehlvest, Yermolinsky, and Kudrin) were beaten by England in round 4, thanks to a fine win by John Emms against Joel Benjamin, and were forced to play catch-up thereafter. For much of the event, the Lasker Club (led by GMs Graf and Yusupov) led England on game-points, the match between the two teams in round five having been drawn.

In round 8 the USA finally met the Lasker Club and defeated them heavily. England led by one MP before the final round but the American's superior game-point score and easier round 9 opposition emant that a drawn match would probably be insufficient for England in the final round. It must have been a hard decision to omit reserve Keith Arkell (who had scored 6.5 points, conceding only one draw) for the last round match. This was against the slightly high-rated Germany-1 team (who had earlier been defeated by the Lasker Club). Germany won by the narrowest margin but three draws were just enough for England to take silver ahead of the Laskers.

A noteworthy performance in the middle of the field should also be noted. Ireland were 44th seeds but had scored 10 match points after seven rounds. In the very first round they drew with a much higher rated German club team, thanks to wins by FM John Delaney and Brendan Lyons who both made plus scores in the tournament. Ireland finished with losses in two hard matches but still ranked 26th, well above expectations. This was the first time Ireland had sent a 50+ team to one of these events, though a 65+ team had also competed in 2016. This time Ireland's 65+ team was much weakened by the late withdrawal of its second strongest player, but still performed roughly to "par" on ratings, including winning a nail-biting match against Mongolia to avoid the bye.

As expected, the 65+ Championship was dominated by Russia (led by Sveshnikov and Balashov) who won all their matches. The runners-up, St. Petersburg, took the silver medals on tie-break from Germany-2. Those teams both lost to Russia and had two drawn matches, including against each other.

The second seeds, France, had a disappointing tournament after a shock loss in round 3 to the Hessische Musketiere when GM Anatoly Vaisser, many times the 65+ individual world champion, lost to 2289-rated FM Hans-Joachim Clara. After this they could not catch up because they had to play Russia in the final round. Another surprise result in the tournament was Germany-2 beating the higher-rated Germany-1 in round 5. Vlastimil Hort won for Germany-1 on top board but his second and third boards lost.

In the 50+ the best top board result was that of Shabalov (seven wins, one draw and one rest day). On board 2 for Germany-2 Klaus-Juergen Schulz scored 7-2 and Lasker Club's board 3 Felix Levin scored 6.5 out of 8. On fourth board, Alex Yermolinsky scored 6-1 (so we can look forward to his report on ChessBase no doubt). The 6.5 out of 9 scored by Ian Findlay of Canada was also excellent. As already mentioned, Keith Arkell had by far the best score among the reserves.

The best individual result in the 65+ tournament was the 7/8 for IM Nigel Povah on board 3 for England-1. He beat Russian board 3 IM Vladimir Zhelnin with Black, and conceded draws only to Alastair White of Scotland and IM Vladimir Karasev of St. Petersburg.

Povah's result was slightly better, percentage-wise, than the 7.5/9 achieved by three players: GM Evgeny Sveshnikov on top board for Russia, Vladimir Shushpanov on board 4 for St. Petersburg, and Yuri Boidman on board 2 for Germany-2. Also two players achieved 7/9 on board four. The best score achieved among reserves in the 65+ was 5/7, by Lutz Mueller of German club team Schachfreunde Leipzig (who finished 23rdof 61 teams), Michael Marshall of Danish team SK 1968, and Nikolai Pushkov of Russia.

Next year's World Senior Team Championships will be held in May on the Greek island of Crete and the 2020 championships have been awarded to the Czech Republic, to be played in Prague in March.

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