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World Senior Team Championships, Prague 2020 (updated report)

The USA and Russia respectively won the 50+ and 65+ tournaments in the 8th World Senior Team Championships, played from 6-12 March at Prague in the Czech Republic.

In the 65+, France finished second and a German team, Schachfreunde Leipzig, took third on tiebreak from Germany 1. As explained below, the runner-up placings in the 50+ were ruined by a late team withdrawal.

USA again sent a strong 50+ team hoping to defend the title they won last year. With GM John Nunn withdrawing from the England squad before the event started, the Americans won convincingly, winning five matches and drawing two. England were fourth seeds but finished seventh.

The championships were scheduled, as usual, to be played over nine rounds but had to be halted two days earlier because of the Covid19 coronavirus.

The Czech Government issued a decree to stop all sporting and cultural events with more than 30 participants, so the organisers had no choice but to award the prizes according to the standings at the end of round 7.

At least one team that had entered (Mongolia Women) decided not to travel because of the Covid19 pandemic, while some teams experienced withdrawal of players, either in advance or while the event was in progress. Several games were decided by default due to the withdrawal of players.

Worse, the later rounds three whole matches of the 65+ and four in the 50+ were defaulted whole teams decided to go home after the draw was made.

When the tournament was halted, USA were declared winners of the 50+ Open and Russia of the 65+. The other medal positions in the 50+ were meaningless because the Lasker club, who took silver on tiebreak, were the beneficiaries of a 4-0 walkover when the amateur USA Too team went home early after the draw was made. They were not the only team in the competition to do this. If that match had been played, it is likely that the Czech team would have finished second and Iceland third.

A report by one of the players on USA Too, Bruce Leverett, can be seen on the ChessBase website. He explains the circumstances of their early departure but is rather disingenuous in saying "We hoped that the organizers would have time to change the round 7 pairings." FIDE pairing rules do not permit this.

Because of this withdrawal, the Czech team only took the bronze medals and Iceland finished fourth; they were only half a point and one point respectively behind the Lasker team. This was especially tough on the Icelanders because their final opponents were the USA first team and they held them to 2-2.

The 65+ championship was much more competitive than in recent years. Russia suffered an upset when they lost their match to Germany-1, but in the following round the latter went down heavily to Israel while Russia beat Germany-2.

Then in round 7 France beat Israel, but the potentially decisive match France versus Russia never took place. France finished second and the the tie for third place was broken, on game points, in favour of the German club Schachfreunde Leipzig, who ha beaten Israel in round 4.

Another report including some photographs can be seen at the European Chess Union website and at the official website of the organisers.

The full results (overall standings and round-by-round) can be seen on the chess-results website. The 65+ tournament was for players born in 1955 or earlier; the 50+ for players born in 1970 or earlier.

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.

We must hope that a proper championship festival can be held next year.

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