|US Chess League: Week Two Highlights|
|By Kostya Kavutskiy|
|September 17, 2012|
Week two of the US Chess League was the first of three inter-divsional match-ups, where teams from the Western Division faced off with teams from the East. It is one exciting change this year, which will breed some new and intriguing inter-divisonal rivalries. Each match was either extremely close or very one sided, and there were many upsets and surprises. Starting off Monday night was San Francisco – Manhattan, where all games ended up drawn, including a wild affair between GM Jesse Kraai and GM Vladimir Romanenko, where GM Kraai had a winning attack but was unable to find the decisive blow (28.f4 looks crushing, meeting 28...Nxe6 with 29.Rxe6).
Next came New York – Los Angeles, where the Knights were favored by a large margin, fielding two GMs to none, but were stunned when IM Zhanibek Amanov of the Vibe pulled off an upset win against GM Alex Lenderman who blundered a piece in a slightly worse position:
In this match every player with White won their game, leading to a tie. The next skirmish, between the Arizona Scorpions and the Philadelphia Inventors looked to be in Arizona's favor, until FM Dehmelt's three pawns overwhelmed FM Atoufi's bishop, in an unexpected endgame win, tying the match for Philly:
The last match of the night, between the New Jersey Knockouts and Seattle Sluggers, saw Fide Masters Cozianu and Mikhailuk of Seattle holding New Jersey GMs Boris Gulko and Joel Benjamin to a draw, and the match was decided by FM Curt Collyer's win over New Jersey's Vince Klemm:
Wednesday's results were more unbalanced. The Boston Blitz sweeped the Miami Sharks 4-0, including a smooth endgame win for SM Jorge Sammour-Hasbun over another perennial USCL all-star, GM Julio Becerra:
The other 4-0 sweep came from the Saint Louis Arch Bishops over the Baltimore Kingfishers, including a Game of the Week winning win by GM Ben Finegold over GM Niclas Huschenbeth. Carolina-Connecticut saw Black winning all games, including an impressive win by GM Robert Hess over IM Jonathan Schroer:
Another interesting match-up was between the 2010 champions, the New England Nor'easters, and the always strong Dallas Destiny. Arguably the game most looked forward to of the week was between GM Sam Shankland and a fellow young American star, GM-elect Conrad Holt, which ended in an accurate endgame win for GM Shankland:
New England – Dallas ended up drawn, and the final divisional score for the week was in favor of the Western Division, 16.5-15.5, but some could say that the Western division had an unfair advantage, given that the starting time was considerably later for teams located on the East coast. But, I'll let the fans sort out which division is truly stronger!
Game of the Week
1st GM Ben Finegold (STL) vs GM Niclas Huschenbeth (BAL) 1-0
It is not often a GM loses within 25 moves, but that is what happened here, as GM Finegold setup a nagging pin along the a1-h8 diagonal and never looked back, finishing with the crushing 25.Rxf6 (followed by Qg5+)
2nd GM Mikheil Kekelidze (CON) vs FM Kassa Korley (CAR) 0-1
Second place went to FM Korley's exciting upset over GM Kekelidze, who was probably better out of the opening but misplayed the position, and his space advantage quickly turned into a weakened and exposed position.
IM Puchen Wang (DAL) vs IM David Vigorito (NE) 1-0
A fine positional effort by IM Wang, who showed an instructive example of how to win when you hold an opposite colored bishop, as well as the initiative.
After all the matches were done it was revealed that no team stood perfect, leading me to believe that this will be one of the most contested USCL seasons ever. Catch all the week three action live on ICC and Chess.com.
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.