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US Chess League: Fireworks From the Start Print E-mail
By Kostya Kavutskiy   
September 8, 2013
USCLmainlogo.jpgThe first two weeks of the U.S. Chess League are now behind us, and they were filled with cold-blooded, warm-blooded, and even hot-blooded action among the four divisions. Each week featured inter-divisonal matchups, allowing teams to get a feel for their main competition.

After two weeks, here are the standings:

Atlantic Division
New York Knights (1.5 - 0.5)
Philadelphia Inventors (1 - 1)
Manhattan Applesauce (1 - 1)
New Jersey Knockouts (0.5 - 1.5)

Northeast Division

Connecticut Dreadnoughts (1.5 - 0.5)
New England Nor'easters (1.5 - 0.5)
Boston Blitz (1 - 1)
Baltimore Kingfishers (0 - 2)

South Division
Miami Sharks (2 - 0)
Dallas Destiny (2 - 0)
St. Louis Arch Bishops (0 - 2)
Carolina Cobras (0 - 2)

Pacific Division
San Francisco Mechanics (2 - 0)
Los Angeles Vibe (1 - 1)
Seattle Sluggers (0.5 - 1.5)
Arizona Scorpions (0.5 - 1.5)

Only three players have managed to score victories in both of their games, and surprise surprise, they're all young!

GM-elect Daniel Naroditsky (SF)
FM Jeffrey Xiong (DAL)
Siddharth Banik (SF)

With that, here is some of the finer play from the past two weeks:

Week 1 Highlights

Korba-LA - Banik-SF (2nd place Game of the Week!)
Korba - Banik.jpg
Black to Move and Win

Show Solution

Izoria-MAN - Bartell-PHI

Izoria - Bartell.jpg

Show Solution

Mo-CAR - Becerra-MIA

Mo - Becerra.jpg

Two-time USCL MVP GM Julio Becerra was finally able to break through with 37...Ndxc4+! Sacrificing a knight for two very strong pawns, and when you take into account the passivity of White's pieces, the end result is hardly in doubt...  38.bxc4 Nxc4+ 39.Kf2 Na3! 40.Nc1 c4 41.Be2 b3 42.axb3 axb3

Mo - Becerra 2.jpg

White can only dream of giving back the extra piece for Black's queenside pawns. The game concluded 43.Nd2 b2 44.Na2 b1Q 45.Nxb1 Nxb1 46.Ke3 Kd6 47.Bd1 c3 48.Nb4 Bc4 49.Bc2 Nd2 50.Bd1 Kc5 51.Nc2 Bb3 52.Kd3 Bxc2+ 53.Kxc2 Kd4 0-1

Holt-DAL - Akobian-STL

Holt - Akobian.jpg

In a battle between two of the league's top players, GM Conrad Holt took advantage of Black's last move with

A simple combination to spot once you realize that Black's king is precariously placed along the vulnerable a2-g8 diagonal.
20...Bxd5 21.Nb6 Qc6 22.Nxd5 Bf8
(22...Rxd5 23.Bc4! Is the point of the whole combination, and Black is going to end up down an exchange at the very least. For instance 23...Kh8 24.Bxd5 Qxd5 25.Nb6 +-)
23.Bf3 Kh8 24.Ndc7 Qb6 25.Nxa8 Rxa8 +-

Holt - Akobian 2.jpg

With a clear extra piece Conrad converted without difficulties. 1-0

Benjamin-NJ - Charbonneau-NY (Game of the Week!)

Benjamin - Charbonneau 1.jpg

A thematic and strong central break, White hopes to exploit the weaknesses around Black's king. dxe5 34.Ne4 Nh6
(The ruthless 34...f5 35.Nf6 Rd8! is Houdini's choice to defend, but who would possibly welcome White's knight into the f6 square?!)
Sacrificing the exchange, although at this point it was more or less necessary...so I assume GM Benjamin had planned this before playing the committal 33.e5.
35...Nf5 36.exf6+ Kg8 37.Qg5 Nxe3 38.Qxe3±

Benjamin - Charbonneau 2.jpg

In compensation for the exchange White has the very strong f6-pawn, perfectly placed pieces, and easy ways to create threats (such as h2-h4-h5). Also Black is without any active ideas, so we can safely assume that White's position is quite fantastic!
38...Qc7 39.Qh6 Bb7
(39...Rf7 was necessary, to overprotect the g7-square.)

Black's queen turns out to be overloaded! Now with two extra pawns even most endgames will be completely winning for White. Although the resulting play wasn't perfect, Joel was able to take the full point and earn GOTW honors for his effort!
40...Bxe4 41.Bxe4 Rb8 42.Rxe6 Rb1+ 43.Kg2 Rb2+ 44.Kh3 Qd7 45.g4 Qc7 46.Qg7+ Qxg7 47.fxg7 Kxg7 48.a5 Rf6 49.Re5 Ra6 50.Rxc5 Ra7 51.a6 Rxa6 52.Rc7+ Kf6 53.Rxh7 Re2 54.Kg3 Raa2 55.h4 Re3+ 56.Kf4 Re1 57.g5+ Ke6 58.Bxg6 Rf2+ 59.Kg3 Rf8 60.Be4 Ke5 61.Kg4 Rg1+ 62.Kh5 Kf4 63.g6 Re8 64.Rf7+ Ke5 65.Kh6 Rh8+ 66.Rh7 Rf8 67.h5 Re8 68.Kg7 Ra1 69.Bd5 Ra3 70.Rh8 Re7+ 71.Bf7 Rxd3 72.Re8 1-0

Week 2 Highlights:

Charbonneau-NY - Hungaski-MAN (Game of the Week!)

Charbonneau - Hungaski 1.jpg

Last week GM Pascal Charbonneau was on the wrong side of the GOTW, but here he redeems himself with
In the chess sense there's not much you need to calculate to make such a sacrifice. All it takes is a bit of confidence!
 31...hxg5 32.Qxg5
Black's light-squared bishop lacks any good squares. White wins a third pawn for the piece and Black's king remains hopelessly weak.
32...Bf7 33.Rxf5 bxc4 34.dxc4 Bxd5 35.Rxf8+ Bxf8 36.cxd5 Bg7

 Charbonneau - Hungaski 2.jpg

There's nothing wrong with taking the knight, but Pascal decides to first force a trade of all the heavy pieces and only then regain the sacrificed material.
37...Kg8 38.Re8+ Bf8 39.Qg6+ Qg7 40.Qxg7+ Kxg7 41.dxc6 Nxc6 42.Rxb8 Nxb8 43.Bxd4+

 Charbonneau - Hungaski 3.jpg  

With three extra pawns you don't need to be a GM to earn the full point here. Game of the Week! 1-0

Naroditsky-SF - Mohandesi-ARZ

Naroditsky - Mohandesi 1.jpg  

The early leader in the MVP race offers the e4-pawn as a sacrifice. Currently it can't be taken with Nxe4 because of Qxf7+, but after
17...Nc5 18.Bb1

White insists on the sacrifice:
18...Ncxe4 19.Bxe4 Rxe4 20.Nf5!

Naroditsky - Mohandesi 2.jpg

The point of 17.Qf2! Black's kingside comes under immense pressure and it's hard to find a way to avoid the loss of material.

(20...Nxd5 runs into 21.Nh6+! gxh6 22.Qxf7#)
21.cxd5 22.Nh6+

remains a winning threat, so Black is more or less busted here.
21...Ng4 22.Qf3 Qe8 23.Ng3!+-

Naroditsky - Mohandesi 3.jpg

Winning an exchange, and the rest was not too difficult for America's newest GM-elect. 1-0

Neimer-STL - Rodriguez-MIA (2nd Place Game of the Week!)

Neimer - Rodriguez 1.jpg

FM Eric Rodriguez brings his last piece into play, a familiar attacking principle. Objectively White can still defend through a series of perfect moves...but they would seem to escape most players.
18.Bxg8 Kxg8 19.dxe5 Nxh3!

 Neimer - Rodriguez 2.jpg

With so many pieces around White's king this kind of sacrifice can be played without too much thought. (19...Nxg2 was a stronger breakthrough, but it's hard to argue with the game continuation...)
20.Nxf5 Nxf2+ 21.Kg1 Nh3+

(21...Nxd1?? This would be a huge blunder due to 22.Nxe7++- White wins back the queen and emerges with a couple of extra pieces.)

22.Kh2 would have lasted longer, but after 22...Qxf5 White's position looks pretty bleak, for instance 23.gxh3 Qxh3+ 24.Kg1 Rxf3-+ The queen and rook normally don't disappoint against such a naked king.

Neimer - Rodriguez 3.jpg

Black is currently down an exchange, but the threat of Bd3+ is fairly devastating. There is no longer any defense.
23.Re3 Bg5! 24.Nxg5 Bd3+ 25.Ke1 Rf1+ 26.Kd2 Rxd1+ 27.Kxd1 Nxg5-+

Neimer - Rodriguez 4.jpg  

After the fireworks Black has a serious advantage in piece activity, king safety, and material. IM Neimer resigned a few moves later. 0-1

Week Three starts on Tuesday, September 10. Find games, results, standings, line-ups, blogs, and more on www.uschessleague.com. Also make sure to check out www.chess.com/tv Tuesday and Wednesday nights for live coverage of every USCL match! The coverage is open to all members (membership is free), and often features league commissioner IM Greg Shahade, and other special guests.  Make sure to follow @hellokostya on Twitter as well.