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US Chess League: Playoff Time! Print E-mail
By Kostya Kavutskiy   
November 13, 2012
USCLmainlogo.jpgThe last few weeks of the US Chess League were crucial in determining the playoff standings, particularly in the Eastern Division. The Philadelphia Inventors and the Manhattan Applesauce advanced to the semifinals on Monday night (see games here http://uschessleague.com/games-2012.php) while the Western division playoffs (Dallas Destiny vs. Seattle Sluggers & Arizona Scorpions vs. Saint Louis Arch Bishops) go down on November 14th, Wednesday night. Be sure to follow along at chess.com, the Internet Chess Club and the uschessleague.com.  

This week I decided to analyze some fascinating fragments from the three Game of the Week finalists:

Week 10 Game of the Week

1st Place: FM Kazim Gulamali (BOS) vs GM Larry Kaufman (BAL) 1-0

Gulamali-Kaufman 1.jpg

17.g4!?
Objectively not a great sacrifice, but without an obvious refutation present, I think it's naive to claim a sacrifice is unsound when you're in the comfort of your own home and you have unconditional help from the silicon beast. Therefore I'd like to simply show some interesting details and let the readers decide for themselves.
17...hxg5 18.fxg5 Rxf1 19.Rxf1 Ng7 20.Rf6
Gulamali-Kaufman 2.jpg
The last few moves have been more or less forced, and now the point of the sacrifice is clear--White wins the g6-pawn and looks to create threats along the g- and h-files.
20...Bd7 21.Rxg6 Bd4 22.Ne2

Switching the knight to the kingside, where it can help with the attack.
22...Qf7

Here GM Kaufman should have gone for 22...Qc5+! 23.Kd1 Rf8 If you can get counterplay while defending against an attack, it is almost always worth pursuing. Nevertheless, White can keep things messy with 24.Rf6! and Black should not take the rook, since after 24...Bxf6 25.gxf6 there is no more counterplay against White's king, but White's attack rages on, despite being down a rook. This position is very, very unclear.
23.Nf4 Rc8+ 24.Kd1
White's king is surprisingly safe in the center, because it can take cover behind the Bd2 and d3-pawn.
24...Bxb2 25.Rh6 Ne8 26.Ke2

Gulamali-Kaufman 3.jpg
A quiet move, slightly improving White's position by preventing Qf1+ in case the Nf4  needs to move. These are often the type of moves that provoke the other side to make errors...
26...Bg7?

Losing immediately, allowing White a pretty combination, and highlighting the practical dangers of a piece sacrifice. Correct was the fearless 26...Bb5! but to play this position with any kind of accuracy I would only ask of Kasparov, Carlsen, and Houdini.
27.g6 Qf6 28.Rh8+! Bxh8 29.Qh7+ Kf8 30.Bb4+

Gulamali-Kaufman 4.jpg  
A very aesthetic mating combination indeed! 30...Nd6 31.Bxd6+ Ke8 32.Qg8+ 1-0

2nd Place: GM Alex Stripunsky (NJ) vs GM Tamaz Gelashvili (NY) 0-1


stripunsky-gelashvili 1.jpg
Up to this point White had a very decent position, but here Gelashvili found a deep sacrifice, starting with 20...Rxc3! 21.bxc3 e4!
Very strong! Cutting lines of communication in White's camp and setting up the incoming sacrifice by taking control of the f3-square.
22.Bd4
It seems like White's best try was 22.Ng4! preventing the sacrifice on h3, now best is 22...f5 23.g3 Bxc3 with obviously serious complications, but I'd prefer Black's chances.
22...Nxh3+! 23.gxh3 Nf3+
The knight on f3 puts White's king in a permanent mating net.
24.Kh1 Qh4

stripunsky-gelashvili 2.jpg
24...Bxd4 was even better, because of the key variation 25.cxd4 Qh4 26.Ng4 Bxg4 27.Rxe4 and here we realize that the Bd4 was necessary to defend the f2-pawn, so Black wins after 27...Qxf2 28.Bg2 Qg3-+ White must give up the queen, but Black mates soon anyway.
25.Qxf3?!

25.Ng4 Nxe1 (25...Bxg4 26.Rxe4 f5 Black's will win the exchange back, and the attack will continue, but White is not lost just yet) 26.Qxe1 Bxd4 27.cxd4 Bxg4 looks very bad for White, but there is still some chance to survive.
25...exf3 26.Bxg7 Qxf2 27.Bxf8 Kxf8!
Gelashvili correctly evaluates that White's bishop is more important to the defense than the Re1. 27...Qxe1 28.Bh6 and White can pray to survive.
28.Rbb1-+
The material count gives White a winning advantage, but Black's queen, bishop, and light-squared pawn are perfectly coordinated to attack the enemy king, while White's pieces cannot create a single threat. 28...Qg3 29.Red1 f2 30.Bg2 Bxh3 31.Rd3 f5!
stripunsky-gelashvili 3.jpg
Threatening f4, and it's all over 32.Rf1 f4 33.Rxf2 Qxf2 0-1

3rd Place: IM Mackenzie Molner (ARZ) vs IM Jonathan Schroer (CAR) 1-0


1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4
Molner-Schroer 1.jpg
The Evans Gambit, born in the 19th century, is a fantastically sharp opening, favored by creative players. Although popular at the club level, it is not often seen at high levels. That said, Kasparov famously used it to beat Anand in 1995, and several months ago Nakamura used it with success against Hess in the recent U.S. Championship.
4...Bxb4 5.c3 Ba5
One of the main responses, another popular try is 5...Be7
6.d4
White's compensation consists of rapid development and a strong center.
6...d6

6...exd4 is more common, leading to sharp play after 7.Qb3.
7.Qb3 Qd7
The standard move, avoiding 7...Qe7 8.d5
8.Nbd2!?

A newer continuation, which has scored well for White in the past few years. 8.dxe5 has long been considered the main line.
8...Bb6
A common idea, the point being to put pressure on White's center and also threaten Na5.
9.a4
9.dxe5 dxe5 10.Ba3 allows Black to relieve the pressure with 10...Na5.
9...Nf6
The only game at the top level from this line continued 9...Nh6 10.0-0 0-0 11.dxe5 Ng4 12.exd6 cxd6 13.Ba3 1-0 Short,N (2645)-Sargissian,G (2676)/Wijk aan Zee 2008/CBM 122 (34); 9...a5? is terrible, since now after 10.dxe5 dxe5 11.Ba3 Black needs to be able to play Na5 here, but instead White just has a huge initiative against Black's king, which isn't going to be castling...; 9...Na5!? 10.Qc2 White keeps control of the center and has good long term compensation for the pawn
10.a5!?
Molner-Schroer 2.jpg
An exchange sacrifice, played first by IM Trent in 2008, which leads to a very unclear position where White simply plays down an exchange but with active pieces and interesting compensation for the material.
10...Nxa5 11.Rxa5 Bxa5 12.dxe5
The important-e5 pawn falls, and Black's pieces are quite poorly coordinated.
12...Ng4 13.exd6
13.h3?! Nxe5 14.Nxe5 dxe5 15.Ba3 c6!-+ And Black was able to consolidate the extra material without too much trouble. 0-1 Trent,L (2463)-Howell,D (2528)/Southend 2008/CBM 123 Extra (27)
13...0-0 14.h3 Nh6 15.Ba3 cxd6 16.0-0N
Molner-Schroer 3.jpg
Although I have no idea if it was prepared, this is an interesting novelty by Molner, who decides not to go for any immediate complications, but instead try to build on his initiative. (16.g4 is too weakening, and Black solved all their problems after 16...b5! Giving back a pawn but quickly activating the queenside pieces 17.Bxb5 Qc7 18.Qc4 (18.g5 Rb8-+) 18...Rb8 19.Qxc7 Bxc7 I think Black has better chances here, and in the following game Black was very close to winning. ½-½ Kulaots,K (2592)-Gonda,L (2520)/Rome 2011/CBM 144 Extra (84)
16...Bb6 17.Bd5 Kh8
Although natural, after this Black gets into some difficulties. 17...Bc5!? seems like a good improvement, not allowing White the e4-e5 break.
18.e5! Bc5
Necessary, to relieve the pressure, but now White's bishop switches diagonals to put pressure on Black's king.
19.Bb2

Perhaps stronger was 19.Ne4 Bxa3 20.Qxa3 Nf5 21.exd6 with idea to play c3-c4-c5 and secure the strong d6-pawn.
19...dxe5 20.Ne4 Be7 21.Nxe5 Qe8 22.c4
Molner-Schroer 4.jpg
White's pieces are extremely active, and pointed directly at Black's king. However, Houdini doesn't flinch, and gives an advantage to Black, but in a practical setting very few humans can feel truly comfortable with Black's position. White got the best of the arising complications, but the objective evaluation of this opening is yet to be determined.

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