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Week 3 USCL Highlights: 3 Teams Stay Perfect Print E-mail
By Kostya Kavutskiy   
September 16, 2013
USCLmainlogo.jpgWhile the first two weeks of the USCL featured teams playing within their own division, the third week saw teams spread their wings and pay a visit to their conference rivals. Only three teams were able to maintain their perfect record to make it to 3-0, the envy of all other USCL teams. The San Francisco Mechanics went after the perennial underdog Carolina Cobras, and solidified their standings atop the Pacific Division. Meanwhile, both the Miami Sharks and the Dallas Destiny continued their winning ways with wins over the Los Angeles Vibe and the Arizona Scorpions-Miami and Dallas currently share top honors in the South Division. The South ended up winning the "divisional battle" 3-1, after the Saint Louis Arch Bishops squeaked out a win against the Seattle Sluggers.

The divisional battle within the Eastern Conference was also fairly clean cut, with the Northeast scoring 3.5-0.5 in matches against the Atlantic. Although some fans might take pride in having the stronger division, to the teams it simply means they'll have a tougher road to the playoffs! The Connecticut Dreadnoughts defeated the Philadelphia Inventors to increase their record to 2.5-0.5, as did the New England Nor'easters, winning against the polished New York Knights. The Boston Blitz won a close one against the New Jersey Knockouts, while the Baltimore Kingfishers drew their match with the Manhattan Applesauce.

Here are the complete results, with the slightly more fortunate team in bold:

Western Conference
Carolina Cobras vs. San Francisco Mechanics (1.5 - 2.5)
Miami Sharks vs. Los Angeles Vibe (3 - 1)
Dallas Destiny vs. Arizona Scorpions (2.5 - 1.5)
Saint Louis Arch Bishops vs. Seattle Sluggers (2.5 - 1.5)

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

And here are the standings after Week Three:

South Division
Miami Sharks (3 - 0)
Dallas Destiny (3 - 0)
St. Louis Arch Bishops (1 - 2)
Carolina Cobras (0 - 3)

Pacific Division
San Francisco Mechanics (3 - 0)
Los Angeles Vibe (1 - 2)
Seattle Sluggers (0.5 - 2.5)
Arizona Scorpions (0.5 - 2.5)

Atlantic Division
New York Knights (1.5 - 1.5)
Manhattan Applesauce (1.5 - 1.5)

Philadelphia Inventors (1 - 2)
New Jersey Knockouts (0.5 - 2.5)

Northeast Division

Connecticut Dreadnoughts (2.5 - 0.5)
New England Nor'easters (2.5 - 0.5)
Boston Blitz (2 - 1)
Baltimore Kingfishers (0.5 - 2.5)

With that, check out some highlights from the past week:

IM Andranik Matikozyan (LA) - GM Julio Becerra (MIA) 0-1 (game of the week!)

Becerra 1.jpg

44...e3! With this break GM Becerra launched a decisive attack. White has no time to orchestrate any defense or to generate some meaningful counterplay. 45.f3 (Considering the course of the game, perhaps 45.f4 was the most stubborn defense, but after 45...Qxf4 Black's position is dominant.) 45...e2! An experienced player understands that this is an "only move". Black opens lines and breaks through White's defenses. Otherwise White would play Be2 and there would be no way in. 46.Bxe2 Rxe2! Of course! Black gets rid of White's main defender. As Kasparov would put it, this isn't a sacrifice, it's just a trade. Black's rook was worth just as much as White's light squared bishop. 47.Rxe2 Qxf3

Becerra 2.jpg

And thus Black's queen and rook are more or less unstoppable against White's king. 48.Rg2 Qd1+ 49.Kh2 Rf1 50.Qd8+ Bf8
Becerra 3.jpg

Meanwhile, Black's bishop on f8 defends everything. 51.Qxh4 (51.Rxg6+ Kf7 and White is out of good checks.) 51...Rh1+ 52.Kg3 Qd3+ 53.Kf4

Becerra 4.jpg

Black has a number of wins here, but it's far from impossible to let the win slip. Becerra doesn't choose the strongest continuation, but keeps the game winning and in his control until the end. 53...Qd4+ (53...Rf1+ was the computer's choice, but it's much too sinister for a human to spot under the stress of time pressure. 54.Rf2 Re1! This positional move (putting the rook on an open file!) is the point, Black threatens Qe3 mate, and White has no serious defense. 55.Rf3 Qd2+ 56.Kg3 Rg1#) 54.Kf3 Qd3+ 55.Kf4 Qd4+ 56.Kf3 Rxh3+! If you can't find checkmate, just win the queen! A pragmatic solution. 57.Qxh3 Qd3+ 58.Kf2 Qxh3
Becerra 5.jpg


Black's queen and bishop are much stronger than White's uncoordinated rooks. The game ended a few moves later. 0-1

GM Michael Rohde (CON) - FM David Hua (PHI) 1-0 (game of the week 3rd place)

Rohde 1.jpg

After already sacrificing the exchange, GM Rohde found 20.Bxh7+! A variation of the classical "Greek Gift" sacrifice, with White setting up a menacing battery along the h-file. 20...Kxh7 21.Qh5+ Kg8 22.Rc3!
Rohde 2.jpg

Another thematic attacking idea - the rook lift. As there's no way to defend the h-file, Black is hopelessly lost. 22...Bxg5 23.fxg5 Re1+ 24.Kf2 Qe8 25.Rh3

Rohde 3.jpg
A picturesque position, as both kings seem to be in a difficult spot. And it's Black's turn? Sounds like trouble for White. Oh wait, what's that? No entry squares for the queen? Hmm...that changes things! Black was forced to play the desperate 25...Qe2+ 26.Qxe2 Rxe2+ 27.Kxe2 and resigned a few moves later. 1-0

In a contest introduced by yours truly way back in 2010, the USCL finally took notice and made it official. Here is Week Three's Move of the Week:

NM Ian Schoch (BAL) - NM Ryan Goldenberg (MAN) 0-1 (move of the week!)

Goldenberg 1.jpg
62...b6!! An idea you'd rather not forget. White gets an unpleasant choice between trapping their own bishop or allowing Black a passed pawn on the queenside. 63.cxb6 (63.Bxb6 Kxb4-+ is hopeless. White's king is stuck on the first rank and will have to give up their bishop for the a-pawn.) 63...Bb7 The point. White can't move their bishop without giving up their b-pawn. 64.Ke2 Kb3 65.Ke3 Kc2 66.Ke2 g2 67.Kf2 Kd3 68.Kg1 Ke2
Goldenberg 2.jpg

The zugzwang that wins the game. Kh2 is met with Kf2, so White is forced to give up their b-pawn. The game concluded as expected: 69.b5 axb5 70.Bb4 Kd3 71.Kf2 Kc4 72.Be7 b4 73.Bf6 Kd3 74.Be7 b3 75.Ba3 Kc2 76.Kg1 b2 77.Bxb2 Kxb2 It's interesting how opposite colored bishop endings are either painfully boring or refreshingly artistic. Kudos to Ryan Goldenberg! 0-1

Week Four starts on Tuesday, September 17. 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.