Going into the 2011 World Team Championship, Egypt may have had modest goals against a strong field. What ensued appeared to be disastrous, but the tournament had a high point for Egypt.
- First, each player on the Egyptian team would face Grandmasters (GMs) every single round. It is rare that players from Africa have an opportunity to face such strong players in each round. This would be good practical experience and a test for GMs Ahmed Adly (2631) and Bassem Amin (2609).
- Secondly, Samy Shoker (2475) and Mohammed Ezat (2430) were the only International Masters (IMs) in the tournament so being able to vie for a GM norm without having to win several games is also a unique opportunity.
- Thirdly, being in such an environment can certainly be a motivating factor for young players if they have aspirations for becoming grandmasters. There is a lot to learn from observing players and being involved in the preparations of high level play.
IM Samy Shoker certainly shocked
GM Alexander Areshchenko in round one.
Apparently, Shoker benefited greatly from the experience and was able to prepare to display his unique style. In round one Shoker sent a buzz throughout the tournament hall by beating Ukraine’s Alexander Areshchenko with his unassuming Pirc Defense. Granted, the Ukrainian had a chance to win the game outright with 23.Qg7! but dawdled and the Egyptian crashed through with a mating attack.
As the tournament, it was becoming apparent that Shoker’s performance was not a fluke. After six rounds of play he had a 50% score against the Grandmaster field. In fact, he had chances against Robert Hess but succumbed to a rash of blunders. He also threatened Gabriel Sargissian and Li Chao in interesting games. Against Evgeny Postny, he missed 50…Ra3+! winning.
The only game that Shoker had a poor showing was his disaster against Judit Polgar. His 16. Rh4 maneuver was destined to fail and Polgar crashed through quickly. So it appeared that Shoker was brought back down to his level after two losses and would face the top 10 player Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan. In this game, the erratic Azeri player was simply outplayed in a masterpiece by Shoker. The bishop ending was instructive and Shoker’s confidence showed by playing for a win when others lower-rated players may have agreed to a draw.
In Mamedyarov-Shoker, Shoker had a better bishop and exploited white’s weaknesses in rather technical fashion. After 36…f6! (diagram #1), Shoker had to figure out how to make use of his space advantage. After 48…Bh7, we see that black has made progress. White is in zugzwang and cannot guard both sides of the board any longer. White resigned after 49.Kd3 Kf4… Shoker shocks Shakh!
Lastly, Shoker appears more comfortable with the black pieces as seven of his games were with black and he had a plus-score against GM-level competition. While his teammates struggled in this tournament, they can gain a bit of solace knowing that they provide moral support to Shoker, one of the brightest stars of the tournament. Certainly 4/9 is not a plus-score, but when you look at the competition he faced and his performance, many 2600-level GMs would not be upset with a -1 score against this field.
Games (Java, PGN)
IM Samy Shoker (Egypt, 2475)