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England will take on the superpowers of global chess, Russia, the US and China, when the biennial world team championship starts in Astana, Kazakhstan, next Tuesday. The 10 participants include the top finishers in last year’s 180-nation Batumi Olympiad where England’s fifth place was the best since 1998.
The squad of Michael Adams, Luke McShane, Gawain Jones and David Howell is the same quartet as in Batumi, while the veteran Jon Speelman, 62, will double as team analyst and emergency reserve. Malcolm Pein is team captain.
Adams, Jones and Howell are all professionals and ready for action, while McShane is a City financial analyst and trader and arguably the world’s leading amateur. The 35-year-old plays his best against strong opponents, so is likely to be on board two with the idea that Jones and Howell can score well on lower boards.
Last weekend McShane showed he is in good form by winning Ireland’s Bunratty international played close to Shannon airport with 5/6, after a speed play-off with the veteran Mark Hebden. Astana will be much harder, but the US only fields a B team and this makes England a top half contender with an outside bronze medal chance.
Fabiano Caruana v Pentala Harikrishna, Champions Challenge, St Louis 2019. America’s world No2 eventually won this endgame, but he missed a chance here for a beautiful forced mate in five moves, using only White’s king and bishop. Can you do better?
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