It was a very strange day yesterday in Acqui Terme, but at the end of it, the England 1 65+ team had established an unassailable lead and had become World Team Champions with a round to spare. But first, I need to round up the unfinished business of Round 7, which I left after my very quick draw against Danish team Skvat. (Which Google translates for me as either jellyfish or wimp!) Regrettably no-one else could manage more than a draw, and as we didn't all manage that, the match was lost 2.5-1.5. Such is life.
But there was far better news in the upper echelons of each tournament. In the 65+ section, England 1 kept its 1 point lead over Germany with a narrow 2.5-1.5 win over Hungary. John Nunn - inevitably! - scored the decisive win, but it seemed for much of the round that Paul Littlewood and Nigel Povah would win as well, so the final score was actually a bit disappointing. Germany 1 beat Israel 1 by the same score in the other top match, so there was no change at the top of the leaderboard, with England staying 1 point ahead. Meanwhile, in the 50+ section, England 1 took advantage of a friendly pairing by beating Still Active NL 3.5-1.5, though Mickey Adams, who has looked unstoppable in recent rounds, was surprisingly held to a draw by the Dutch IM, Piet Peelen. USA scored a strong 3-1 win over Georgia (or Georgia Winery Khareba to give them their full name) but fell another half game point behind, so that at the end of the round, England's game point lead had gone up to 2.5.
And so to yesterday's penultimate round. My team had another disappointing day, only drawing 2-2 against Norway's Golden Oldies team, with yet another draw for me. Nothing more to say. But it was all action on the top boards - even where there was no action! Because Switzerland turned up to play England 1 in the 65+ section with just 1 player, the rest of the team having gone down with covid! Apparently in the Olympiad this would have meant a 4-0 win for England, but there was no such rule in place here, and the Swiss Board 1 wanted to play. But in the circumstances John Nunn didn't, so the match went to us by 3-1 without a single move being played. So all eyes were now on the Germany 1 v Germany 2 match, where the German strategy of splitting its strength virtually equally between the two teams came home to bite them in the proverbials, as GM Meister beat GM Knaak on top board to win the match for Germany 2. Which meant that England 1 now led the field by 3 match points and couldn't be caught. So today's final round match - in which they have at last been paired against top seeds Israel 1 - is irrelevant for us, though the Israeli's can win a bronze medal if results go their way.
And covid intervened, potentially decisively, in the 50+ section too, as Hungary defaulted on bottom board against USA in the top match. But despite this handicap the mighty Magyars rose to the challenge and secured a 2-2 draw. with Jozsef Horvath downing Gregory Kaidanov on Board 1, and in fact the Americans were grateful to share the points as another Horvath, Peter, came very close to winning against Igor Novikov on Board 3. And so it was the US which blinked first, as England took full advantage of this lapse with a 2.5-1.5 win over the strong Georgian team. Mickey Adams won with a strong kingside attack against GM Sturua on Board 1 and Keith Arkell beat the legend that is former Women's World Champion Nona Gaprindashvili on Board 4. Nigel Short's draw on Board 2 meant that John Emms loss against Bagaturov didn't matter too much. And at the end of the day England 1 was a clear match point ahead of the USA, with the added bonus of 3 game points advantage. By my reckoning, this means that a 2-2 draw against Canada today will mean another English gold medal. Nothing can go wrong now, surely???
My tournament ends with a match against Ireland. It would be nice to win another game and finish with a plus score, but my form here does not make that an especially likely scenario. Nevertheless, there should be plenty to celebrate at tonight's England reception and the prize giving. Two World titles already in the bag (Open 65+ and Women's 50+) and the very strong likelihood of the most prestigious of them all, the Open 50+, will be added to the haul. It's an early start tomorrow for my probably fraught return journey, so my final report will have to wait till Friday when I'm back home. Where I intend to stay for some time!!