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US Chess League 2012: Opening Week Highlights Print E-mail
By Kostya Kavutskiy   
September 9, 2012
USCLmainlogo.jpgThe 2012 US Chess League (USCL) season kicked off last week, with some new and exciting changes. The biggest news this year has to be the introduction of matches now being played not only on the Internet Chess Club, but also on Chess.com (fans looking to follow the games live should note that Monday matches will be on ICC and Wednesday matches will be played on Chess.com ). Furthermore, there will now be live commentary for every match this year, with Monday matches being covered by ICC and Wednesday matches covered by Chess.com/tv.

The best player addition to the USCL this year is undoubtedly GM Robert Hess, who hasn't played in the league since 2007. Robert will be playing for the Connecticut Dreadnoughts, a new team that will be a serious contender in the Eastern division. Other top additions include GM Tamaz Gelashvili, playing for the 2011 champions New York Knights, GM Mikheil Kekelidze, also playing for Connecticut, GM Alexander Ivanov, joining the New England Nor'easters, and GM Vladimir Romanenko, joining the Manhattan Applesauce. GM Alex Stripunsky, who for the past few years held down the top board for Manhattan, recently transferred over to the New Jersey Knockouts.

The Monday matches featured some very tough match-ups in the Eastern division. The most exciting pairing had to be the showdown between the New York Knights and Manhattan Applesauce, and the teams did not disappoint, with GM Romanenko and NM Alex King winning for Manhattan on boards 1 and 4 and New York's GM Alex Lenderman and NM Michael Bodek winning on boards 2 and 3. The next match, Boston Blitz vs. Connecticut Dreadnoughts, ended in favor of Connecticut, thanks to a long win by newcomer GM Kekelidze over IM Steven Zierk:



The New Jersey Knockouts edged out New England 2.5-1.5, with IM Albert Kapengut and FM Arthur Shen winning relatively quickly, and after a long and interesting draw between GM Stripunsky and GM Ivanov the match was clinched.

Lastly, the Philadelphia Inventors drew their match with the Baltimore Kingfishers, with GM Sergey Erenburg unable to overcome IM Tegshsuren Enkhbat persistent defense:



In the Western Division things were less balanced. The Dallas Destiny, who present a strong roster year after year, kicked things off with an overwhelming win, trouncing the Seattle Sluggers 4-0. Leading Dallas was GM Christian Chirila, displaying some fine endgame play against FM Costin Cozianu:



The San Francisco Mechanics, who many expected to handily defeat the Carolina Cobras, were actually the ones on the brink of defeat, just barely escaping with a draw thanks to a late blunder by Carolina's FM Kassa Korley. The biggest game of this match had to be IM Jonathan's Schroer upset over GM Vinay Bhat:



 In the match between the Miami Sharks and Saint Louis Arch Bishops, the teams traded wins on boards 1 & 2, but FM Eric Rodriguez and Nicky Rosenthal of Miami won on boards 3 & 4, winning the match for Miami 3-1.

The last match of the night was between the Los Angeles Vibe and Arizona Scorpions. Contrary to the popular team strategy "draw with Black, win with White", Arizona drew both of their games with the White pieces and scored two wins from the Black side, including a big win by IM Mackenzie Molner over IM Andranik Matikozyan:



Game of the Week
Once again the game of the week contest has acquired a new format-this year IM Greg Shahade and NM Arun Sharma, the commissioners of the league,  will select the top three games from each week as finalists, from which the GOTW judges will rank 1-3. This year's judges include GM Alex Yermolinsky, IM John Bartholomew, IM-elect Victor Shen, IM-elect Kayden Troff, and FM Elliot Liu.

1st Place
GM Vladimir Romanenko (MAN) vs GM Tamaz Gelashvili (NY) 1-0




An original and intriguing game, as it is not often the case that both sides castle queenside in a Pirc/Modern defense. GM Romanenko got very well in the middlegame complications and came out on top. 23.Qe1 was quite a nice find, after which White's advantage was not in doubt.

2nd Place
FM Braden Bournival (NE) vs IM Albert Kapengut (NJ) 0-1




A sharp game right from the opening, which featured a rare line in the Najdorf defense. FM Bournival played a bit too ambitiously in the early middlegame and Black was able to seize the initiative, leading to the powerful tactical shot 25...Rxf3!, which effectively ended the game.

3rd Place
GM Julio Becerra (MIA) vs GM Ben Finegold (STL) 1-0




GM Becerra got a small edge out of the opening and after finding the tactical shot 20.Nxd5, winning a pawn, was able to convert the endgame without too much difficulty.

Week 2 features the first set of interdivision match-ups, where teams from the West will face off with teams from the East. This will be just the first spark of the perennial debate of which division has the stronger teams. Follow Monday's action on ICC, and Wednesday's on Chess.com and find full information, including games and line-ups on uschessleague.com. Also find the US Chess League on facebook and twitter.

Kostya Kavutskiy will be filing weekly USCL recaps at uschess.org/clo. He won #3 in Best of CLO 2011 for his article on "Breaking 2366", and he is also a member of the Los Angeles vibe.
 
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