US Chess League Highlights: Week Seven
By Kostya Kavutskiy   
October 8, 2010
ImageThe New England Nor'easters were the big winners of Week 7 of the US Chess League , as they were able to clinch a playoff berth after a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Inventors, thanks to nice wins by IM Jan van de Mortel and NM Alex Cherniack.

You can read IM Jan van de Mortel's recap of the match here.

 


The Boston Blitz and New York Knights remain in 2nd and 3rd place, as they drew with the New Jersey Knockouts and the Carolina Cobras, respectively. Carolina was able to draw the heavily favored Knights thanks to IM Jonathan Schroer, who won a very nice game against GM Giorgi Kacheishvili, earning him the Endgame Clothing Upset Prize. The Baltimore Kingfishers remain in 4th place despite losing to the Manhattan Applesauce, who are now only a half-point out of the last playoff spot. New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Carolina will now need a small miracle to make the playoffs.

The big showdown of the Western Division was between the San Francisco Mechanics and Arizona Scorpions, who have been among the leaders of the division all season. Arizona won this crucial match thanks to nice wins by IM Daniel Rensch and IM-elect Robby Adamson.





Arizona moves up to 1st place, jumping over the Chicago Blaze, who lost a very tough match to the now 4th place Saint Louis Archbishops. San Francisco is in 3rd while Seattle, Miami, and Los Angeles are only a half-point behind Saint Louis. Although Dallas is currently in last place, they are still only a point away and have decent chances to make the post-season.

Visit uschessleague.com for more recaps, news, and lineups for next week! Ok, let's give out some awards!

Most Exciting Match

Winner: Carolina Cobras vs. New York Knights
Again, White was victorious in all four games (don't worry, I'll get some draws in this category soon), and while the first three wins were sharp and clean, the outcome of the fourth board was never clear until the very end. More analysis on this awesome match to follow.









Best Move/Most Interesting Opening
Winner: GM Larry Christiansen (BOS) - GM Joel Benjamin (NJ)
Caro-Kann: Fantasy Variation

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.f3 Qb6 4.Nc3 dxe4 5.fxe4 5...e5 6.dxe5
Interestingly, Benjamin chose 6.Nf3 in a 2009 USCL game against GM Giorgi Kacheishvili
6...Bc5 7.Bc4!!N
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The best move of the week also happens to be a powerful novelty, and it is clear that this wasn't prepared at home as GM Christiansen had spent over 20 minutes on the preceding move, setting up this superb piece sacrifice (7.Nf3 also leads to a good position, in case of 7...Bf2+ 8.Ke2 and White will consolidate with Qd3 and Be3 next)
7...Bxg1 8.Qf3 Be6!
GM Benjamin chooses right to give back the piece, as the greedy (8...f6?! is dubious indeed after 9.Bf4 and now Black has to find 9...h5! with idea Bg4 (9...Qd4 is bad due to 10.Bb3 Nd7 11.Rd1 Qb6 12.e6 Nc5 13.Rxg1 Nxb3 14.Be3 Qc7 15.Qg4+/-. White doesn't have to worry about 15...Na5 because of 16.Bf4 Qe7 17.Qh5+ winning back the piece and retaining a large advantage) 10.Qg3 Bg4 11.h3 Bd4 12.Bb3 g5 13.exf6! gxf4 14.f7+ Ke7 15.Qxf4
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Nd7. 15...Nh6 loses incredibly to 16.hxg4 Nxg4 17.Rxh5! Bxc3+ 18.bxc3 Qg1+ 19.Kd2 Rd8+ 20.Rd5!
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Qxg2+ 21.Kc1 cxd5 22.Qg5+ Kd7 23.Qxd5+ Kc7 24.Qxd8+! Kxd8 25.f8Q++- 16.hxg4 Nh6 17.gxh5 Raf8 18.Qg3
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Where White has much better chances due to having 4 pawns for a piece and a much much happier king as long as he plays 0-0-0 shortly
9.Bxe6 fxe6 10.Bg5?!

This gave Black a missed opportunity, albeit a hard one to find (10.Ne2! was best, and Black must give back the piece and accept a worse position. In case of 10...Bc5 11.Rf1 Ne7 12.Qf7+ Kd8 13.Bg5 Nd7 14.Bxe7+ Bxe7 15.0-0-0+- and the threat of Nf4-e6 is too strong)
10...Qf2+

Hard to blame someone for this move, but (10...Nh6! is very strong and very hard to find because Black has to see at least the next move as well: 11.Bxh6 11...Rf8! 12.Qh5+ g6 13.Qe2 Qxb2 14.Nd1 Qxa1 15.Bxf8 Kxf8 16.Rxg1 Nd7-/+
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Where White's king and pawns are now critically weak
11.Qxf2 Bxf2+ 12.Kxf2 Nd7 13.Ne2

and Black was able to equalize after
13...Nxe5 14.Nd4 Nf6 15.Rhe1 Kf7

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And the game was drawn about 30 moves later.

 
Most Intriguing Endgame
Winner: NM Craig Jones (CAR) - NM Justus Williams (NY)
Black was a little bit better in the following endgame that arose after 25 moves.
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Although a queen and 2 bishops endgame is rare, it seems as though a queen trade will happen soon (because neither side should want to give up control of the c-file) and the ensuing bishop endgame will be relatively dry and probably result in a draw. It is what happens in the next 47 moves in this game that earns it the title of Most Intriguing Endgame.
26.Qa3 Qd1+ 27.Kh2 Bc3 28.b4!?
28.Qc1 leads to a drawish endgame discussed above, but Williams realized he needed to play for a win to try to save the match for New York--keeping the queens on was the most practical way to play for a win 28...Qc2 29.b5 a5 30.Bb6 Bg4
with the idea to play Bd1 and pick up the a4 pawn
31.e5?! Bxe5 32.f3 Bf5 33.Bxa5?

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33...Bd4?
Black is still much better, but (33...Qf2 won on the spot--mate to follow)
34.Qb4 Qf2 35.Qe1 Bc2 36.Qc1 Kf8 37.Bd2 Bf5 38.Bh6+ Kg8 39.Bg5 f6 40.Bf4 h5 41.a5 g5 42.Bxg5!

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42.hxg5 leads to a draw after 42...h4 43.g4 fxg5 44.Bxd6! Be3 45.Qf1 Qd2 46.gxf5 exd6 47.a6 bxa6 48.bxa6 Kg7=
42...Qc2? 43.b6?!

43.Qxc2 I'm not sure why this wasn't played, after 43...Bxc2 44.Bd2 Bd3 45.b6 It seems like White should be able to play this on and eventually convert his extra-pawn advantage.
43...fxg5 44.Qxg5+ Kf8 45.Qxh5
45.a6 bxa6 46.b7 Ba7 47.Qxh5 leads to a draw
45...Bg6?! 46.Qh6+
46.Qg4 leads to a draw as well after 46...Bc5 47.a6 bxa6 48.Qc8+ Kf7 49.b7 Ba7 50.b8Q Bxb8 51.Qxb8 Bd3=
46...Ke8 47.h5?!
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White missed his chance with 47.a6! bxa6 48.b7 Ba7 49.Qh8+ Kf7 50.h5 Bh7 51.g4±
 47...Bf5 48.Qg5?
Now White should lose instantly (48.Qf4 was the only move, but Black has a perptual after 48...Be5 49.Qg5 Qb1 50.Qg8+ Kd7 51.Qf8 Bxg3+ 52.Kxg3 Qe1+ 53.Kh2 Qe5+ 54.Kg1 Qe1+ 55.Kh2 Qe5+=)
48...Qb1 49.g4 Qg1+ 50.Kg3 Be5+

50...Qf2+ 51.Kh3 Bf6-+ Should have been easy enough to find
51.f4 Qe3+ 52.Bf3 Qe1+?
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52...Bh7 should win easily, but perhaps Black missed that the f-pawn was pinned?
53.Kg2?
53.Kh3=
53...Qd2+ 54.Kg3 Qe1+
54...Bh7-+
55.Kh3 Qf2 56.Qxf5 Qxf3+ 57.Kh4 Bf6+ 58.g5 Qh1+ 59.Qh3 Qe1+?
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After a series of mistakes, Black makes the final one and is lost now (59...Bxg5+! 60.fxg5 Qe4+ 61.Kg3 Qe3+= and there's no way to escape the checks)
60.Qg3 Qh1+ 61.Kg4 Qd1+ 62.Kh4 Qh1+ 63.Kg4 Qd1+ 64.Qf3 Qg1+ 65.Kh3 Bd4 66.h6 Kf8 67.Qg2 Qe3+ 68.Kg4 Bc3 69.Qc2 Bxa5 70.g6 Qg1+ 71.Kf5 Qxb6 72.Qc8+ Qd8 73.Qe6 Ke8 74.g7 1-0
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An intriguing endgame indeed!

Mystery Category: Pawn Power!
Winner: GM Alex Lenderman (NY) - FM Ron Simpson (CAR)
I thought this game should get some notice because it had a very aesthetically pleasing pawn storm to decide the battle. After 16 moves, the players reached the following position which was fairly unbalanced, but let's see how the young GM used his pawns to attack the weakened position around Black's king.
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17.e4!
Opening up lines!
17...c5

Black tries a pawn thrust of his own, but his position is very difficult to defend.
18.exf5 g5 19.hxg5 c4
19...fxg5 looks relatively better but White has a very strong attack after 20.Rbe1.
20.g6! Bg8 21.Be4!
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21...dxe4 22.fxe4
White sacrifices a piece but gets four very strong pawns ready to attack the opposing king.
22...Kf8?

Trying to get out of the way, but this is too slow. Better was 22...Qb6 but White still wins after 23.e5 Nxe5 (23...fxe5 24.f6+-) 24.Na4! Qc6 25.dxe5 Bxe5 26.Nec3+-
23.e5 Bc7 24.Nf4

24.e6! would have been a very nice finish as after 24...Nb6 25.Nb5!! White can trade off his knight against Black's strong dark-squared bishop 25...Qxb5? 26.Qa3+ Ke8 27.g7+-
24...Qb6 25.Kh1 fxe5 26.f6!+-

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The pawns are too strong and the Rf1 now wins the game for White.
26...Nxf6 27.Nfd5 Bxd5 28.Nxd5 Kg7 29.Rxf6 Qxf6 30.Nxf6 Kxf6 31.Rf1+ Kg5 32.Qg3+ Kh6 33.g7 Rhe8 34.Rf6+ Kh7 35.Qg6+ Kg8 36.Qf7+ 1-0
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The g-pawn will queen with checkmate, a just finish for pawn enthusiasts.

That's all for this week! Check back here every week for USCL highlights. Follow all Week Eight action live on the Internet Chess Club, and find pgn downloads, line-ups, blogs and Game of the Week details on uschessleague.com.

For more of Kostya's writing, check out the LA Vibe team blog, http://happychess.blogspot.com/