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Dallas Leads US Chess League: Week Five Highlights Print E-mail
By Kostya Kavutskiy   
September 30, 2013
USCLmainlogo.jpgThe most anticipated match this past week was between the league's two perfect teams, the Miami Sharks and Dallas Destiny. The close encounter ended up in favor of Dallas, and they are now at a 5 - 0 score to lead the South Division.

Meanwhile, in the Pacific division, the last place Seattle Sharks won a topsy-turvy match against first place San Francisco. The  Mechanics retained the top spot after the other match ended in a tie.

In the East, there were no huge surprises. The New York Knights beat the Philadelphia Inventors to solidify their first place standing, and the New Jersey Knockouts won their second match in a row to sneak into second place in the Atlantic Division. The other anticipated match-up of the week was the New England Nor'easters vs. Connecticut Dreadnoughts, two very strong teams that ended up splitting the point.

Here are this week's full results and overall standings:

Tuesday, September 24

Miami Sharks vs. Dallas Destiny (1.5 - 2.5)
St. Louis Archbishops vs. Carolina Cobras (2 - 2)
Los Angeles Vibe vs. Arizona Scorpions (2 - 2)
Seattle Sharks vs. San Francisco Mechanics (3 - 1)

Wednesday, September 25

New York Knights vs. Philadelphia Inventors (3 - 1)
New Jersey Knockouts vs. Manhattan Applesauce (2.5 - 1.5)
New England Nor'easters vs. Connecticut Dreadnoughts (2 - 2)
Boston Blitz vs. Baltimore Kingfishers (2 - 2)

Western Conference

South Division

Dallas Destiny (5 - 0)
Miami Sharks (4 - 0)
St. Louis Arch Bishops (2.5 - 2.5)
Carolina Cobras (0.5 - 4.5)

Pacific Division

San Francisco Mechanics (3 - 2)
Arizona Scorpions (2 - 3) 
Los Angeles Vibe (1.5 - 3.5)
Seattle Sluggers (1.5 - 3.5)

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

New York Knights (3.5 - 1.5)
New Jersey Knockouts (2.5 - 2.5)

Philadelphia Inventors (2 - 3)
Manhattan Applesauce (1.5 - 3.5)

Northeast Division

New England Nor'easters (4 - 1)
Connecticut Dreadnoughts (3 - 2)
Boston Blitz (2.5 - 2.5)
Baltimore Kingfishers (1 - 4) 

This week I'd like to present two highly sharp, exciting, and not flawless affairs:

IM Dmitry Schneider (MAN) - GM Joel Benjamin (NJ)
(Game of the Week!)

GM Joel Benjamin won his second GOTW this season in one of the sharpest games played yet:

The fireworks started here...

Benjamin 1.jpg

13.Nxc7+!? Qxc7 14.Rxd6 The point of White's previous move, with threats of a discovered attack against Black's queen (for instance Rxh6), as well as Qxc5. But GM Benjamin found a nice resource here: 14...b3!
Benjamin 2.jpg

A powerful counterattack! Suddenly White's king becomes very uncomfortable lined up on the c-file against Black's queen. 15.Bc4 A logical move, developing a piece while defending the a2-pawn. White had a wide choice, but all lines lead to Black's favor:

15.cxb3 Nb4 and the threats of Ne6+ and Ncd3+ are too strong, White is simply lost.
15.axb3 Nb4! and Black's next move is Qa5, with a decisive attack. Meanwhile, Black's king on e8 is perfectly safe.
15.Rxh6 can simply be met with 15...Rxh6! 16.Bxc7 bxa2 and Black gets themselves a new queen.
15.a3 was the best defense and here the fireworks continue with 15...Nb4! where 16.axb4 (16.Rd4 is the best try) is strongly met with 16...Ne6!  With a triple threat of Qxc2, Bxd6 and Nxf4! White is losing at least a piece, the best choice being 17.Rd2 Qxf4-+
15...bxa2 16.Bxa2 Nb4 (16...Qa5 was stronger, but the position remains quite complex.) 17.Bxf7+!
Benjamin 3.jpg
A nice little resource to try and stay in the game, if Kxf7 then Rf6+ wins Black's queen. It was already clear here that regardless of the final result this game would be in the running for GOTW. 17...Kf8 18.Bg6 Both kings seem to be in incredible danger, but Black comes through on top: 18...Ncd3+ 19.Bxd3 Bxd6 Ever since capturing on d6 White's rook was simply a spectator to the rest of the action, and here GM Benjamin finally put it out of its misery. 20.Bxd6+ Qxd6
Benjamin 4.jpg
Although the position is not yet lost for White, within a few moves Benjamin was able to consolidate the extra rook and win Game of the Week! 0-1

GM Sam Shankland (NE) - GM Mikheil Kekelidze (CON) (2nd place GOTW)

After about 20 moves in a thematic Benko defense, the two players reached the following position:

Kekelidze 1.jpg

22...c4! This is the kind of positional breakthrough that Benko players dream about -- Black's queenside pressure finally pays off...with interest. 23.bxc4 Rxb1+ 24.Nxb1 Qxa4 White is still a pawn ahead, but Black's dark-squared bishop and control over the queenside fully compensates them for the pawn. Although with perfect moves White shouldn't lose this position, all of the practical factors of play are overwhelmingly in Black's favor here. From a human's perspective, White's position is on the verge of collapse. 25.Rc1 Qb3 26.Nc3

Kekelidze 2.jpg

Here Shankland was hoping for Qxc4 Ne2, where White sets up a tight defense, but Kekelidze kept up the pressure with 26...Ra3! Not allowing White to consolidate with Ne2. 27.Nd1 27...Ra2 28.Qe1 Ne5! Within a few moves Black's pieces have reached their full potential and the position is now completely won. 29.Rc3 Qb4 30.Kf1 Nxc4

Kekelidze 3.jpg

Kekelidze finally wins back the pawn he sacrificed on the third move! 31.Rc1 Qb3 I'm not sure why Black didn't go for 31...Nxe3+ 32.Qxe3 Bd4 33.Qd3 Rd2 where it seems like White's king is simply trapped. Their next idea could be Bc5 and Qd4, with mate. 32.Bf2 Bh6 33.Rc3 Qb5 34.Kg1 Ne5? A serious mistake, allowing White back into the game! 35.Rc8+ Kh7 36.Nc3 Forcing the trade of rooks, and relieving most of the pressure. 36...Qa6 37.Nxa2 Qxc8
Kekelidze 4.jpg
 Fortunately for Black, his minor pieces are still superior to their counterparts, and within a few moves the position becomes winning yet again! 38.Qc3 Qa6 39.Nb4? Inviting Black's queen to penetrate White's camp. (39.Nc1 was necessary, to keep Black's queen from invading.) 39...Qe2 40.Qc2 Bd2 41.h4
Kekelidze 5.jpg
41...Nc4? Another error in a won position! What Black should have done...was nothing!
41...f6!! was much stronger, because White is in zugzwang! The queen needs to stay on c2 in order to pin Black's bishop while also control the d1-square. The bishop must defend e1 but also stay on the a7-g1 diagonal, and any knight move loses to Nd3. White has zero moves and can practically resign, for instance 42.Qb2 Qd1+ 43.Kh2 Bf4+ 44.Bg3 Bxg3+ 45.Kxg3 Qe1+ 46.Kh3 g5-+ with a mating attack. Middlegame zugzwang doesn't occur too often, but when it does, it's quite magnificent.
42.Qd3? Returning the favor, allowing Black's queen to penetrate even further. (42.Qb1 holds for the moment, but Black retains all the pressure of having such active pieces.) 42...Qd1+ 43.Kh2 Ne5 44.Qc2 Bf4+ 45.g3 Finally all of Black's pressure pays off, and White had to give up a pawn. 45...Nxf3+ 46.Kg2 Ne1+ 47.Bxe1 Qxe1 48.gxf4 Qxb4
Kekelidze 6.jpg
In general Black has good chances to win here, but only a last minute blunder by Shankland allowed Kekelidze to take the full point. A highly exciting game nevertheless! 0-1

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