Sharks, Scorpions, Blitz and Nor'easters Advance to Semfinals
By Kostya Kavutskiy   
November 6, 2010
USCLmainlogo.jpgTHE EAST
New England Nor'easters 2.5-1.5
New York Knights

This was a great matchup between a team that has played the best chess all season (NE) and the team that has underperformed the most (NY). Leading New England were IMs Sam Shankland and Robert Hungaski, who both won against New York's double-GM lineup of GM Alex Lenderman and GM Pascal Charbonneau.





New England had draw odds so those wins were enough but, NM Alex Cherniack made a draw against NM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy to put New England through to the semifinals.

Baltimore Kingfishers 1.5-2.5 Boston Blitz

A very strong Boston team won this match thanks to wins by IM Marc Esserman and NM Ilya Krasik over IM Tegshuren Enkbhat and NM Adithya Balasubramanian, respectively.





A draw by NM Vadim Martirosov against FM Ralph Zimmer secured the lead, even though a 2-2 tie would be good enough for Boston would advance to the semifinals.

Thus, the semifinal match in the Eastern Division will be between the New England Nor'easters and the Boston Blitz, a highly anticipated affair. Both of these teams have done very well thus far. The match will take place on Wednesday, November 10th at 7PM EST. As always you can follow the match live on the Internet Chess Club

THE WEST
Miami Sharks 3-1 Chicago Blaze

Despite being up against draw-odds, Miami was able to win this match quite convincingly. The biggest thanks should go to Miami Expert Nicholas Rosenthal, who won very quickly against heavy favorite FM Gauri Shankar.



 After that, GM Julio Becerra and FM Marcel Martinez were able to draw, which meant it would all come down to GM Renier Gonzalez to hold against GM Mesgen Amanov to secure the win for Miami. GM Gonzalez actually wound up winning, after GM Amanov was forced to make desperate attempts to win in a drawn position.



Arizona Scorpions 2-2 Seattle Sluggers
Arizona's pre-game advantage of draw odds was very much in play here, as the Scorpions were able to hold off the very dangerous Seattle Sluggers, tying the match and thus advancing to the Western Semifinals. IM Levon Altounian was able to draw Seattle GM Varuzhan Akobian, while Arizona's NM Nick Thompson and Seattle's FM Costin Cozianu exchanged wins on boards 4 and 2. This meant that FM Robby Adamson of Arizona would have to hold a draw against FM Slava Mikhailuk, who fell just short of winning the game (more on that later). FM Adamson came through, forcing a perpetual after 109 moves to advance Arizona to the semifinals.



The Western Division Semifinal Match will feature the Arizona Scorpions vs. the Miami Sharks. Tune in to ICC on Wednesday, November 10th at 9PM EST to see which team will make it into the finals.

Visit uschessleague.com for more recaps, semifinal-lineups, and more! Now let's give out some awards for the quarterfinals:

Most Exciting Match

Winner: New England Nor'easters vs. New York Knights

This  match was highly anticipated by just about everybody, and it did not disappoint. All four games were very exciting and this match was quite close until the very end.

Most Interesting Opening

Winner: NM Ilya Krasik (BOS) - NM Adithya Balasubramanian (BAL)

Philidor Defense

In this game NM Krasik was able to punish his opponent with some very deep opening preparation.
1.d4 d6 2.e4 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nbd7 4.f4 A very sharp approach, more common is [4.Nf3] 4...e5 5.Nf3 exd4 6.Qxd4 c6 7.Be3 d5
bestopening_1.jpg
8.exd5
8.e5 and; 8.0-0-0 are less critical, especially after this game.
8...Bc5 9.Qd3 Qe7 10.Nd4
10.Kd2 has also been played a bit, but if the text move leads to an advantage it should be preferred.
10...Nb6
After this move White can force a significant advantage with accurate play, perhaps Black should investigate [10...Ng4!? 11.Nf5 Nde5! 12.Nxe7 (12.fxe5 Qxe5 13.Qe4 Qxe4 14.Nxe4 Bb4+ 15.Bd2 Bxf5 16.Ng3 Bxd2+ 17.Kxd2 Bg6 18.Re1+ Kd7=) 12...Nxd3+ 13.Bxd3 Nxe3 14.Nxc8 Rxc8 15.dxc6 Rxc6
bestopening_2.jpg
and White is a pawn up here but Black's activity and the presence of opposite colored bishops make the position tenable.
11.dxc6 bxc6 12.0-0-0 Ba6
12...0-0 is possible too but White is clearly better.
13.Qd2
13.Qxa6 Qxe3+ 14.Kb1 Bxd4-+
13...Bxf1 14.Bf2!
bestopening_3.jpg
A very nice in-between move with the idea to play Re1
14...Nc4
14...0-0 15.Rhxf1±
15.Qe1 Bxd4 16.Qxe7+ Kxe7 17.Rxd4 c5 18.Rd1 Bxg2 19.Bxc5+!N
bestopening_4.jpg
An improvement over the other game that reached this position, where White played [19.Rhe1+ Kf8 20.Bxc5+ Kg8 21.Bxa7 h5 22.Bd4 Rh6 23.a4 Rg6³ 1/2-1/2 Coursaget, N - Seret, J 2007]
19...Ke6 20.Rhe1+ Kf5 21.Rd4!

bestopening_5.jpg

The point of White's opening play--Black's knight is trapped, which means that White will have an extra pawn in the endgame with a clear advantage. NM Krasik's insightful commentary can be read on the Boston Blitz blog.

Most Intriguing Endgame
Winner: NM Christopher Chase (NE) - FM Alex Getz (NY)
After 28 moves we've reached the reason I was interested in this endgame:
endgame1.jpg
Black's bishop looks very nice on the long diagonal, but has only one target--the f2 pawn. The knight should be just as strong as the bishop in this position, and even stronger if it could get to a square like e6.
28...Bxb2 29.Rc7 Ba3 30.Rxa7 Bc5
A good square to attack f2 but after 31.Kf1 there is no way for a Black rook to get to the second rank--White does a good job of restricting Black's activity
31...b5 32.Ra5 b4

32...bxa4 33.Rxa4 Rb8 is better for Black but not easy to win.
33.Rb5 Kf7 34.a5 Kf6 35.a6 Ra8 36.Re1?!
A gamble that actually should have paid off. 36.Ra5 is equal but the game is far from over.
36...Rxd5 37.Nh2 Rxa6 38.Ng4+ Kf5??
bestendgame_2.jpg
Losing! But White fails to take advantage of it. After 38...Kg6 39.Rb8 Bd4 Black is close to victory.
39.Nh6+ Kf6

39...Kg6 40.Re6+ Kh5 41.Ng4+- and Black gets mated on h6.
40.Ng4+??
"Returning the favor"--I understand that according to the match situation White would be very happy with a draw, but this move allows Black to sidestep all major threats and use his extra 2 pawns to win the game. Winning was [40.Ng8+! Kf7 41.Rb7+ Kg6 (41...Kxg8 42.Re8#; 41...Kf8 loses to 42.Ree7-+ and the 2 rooks + knight create a mating net around Black's king.) 42.Ne7++- winning the rook]
40...Kg6 41.Rb8 Bd4 42.Re6+ Kf7 43.Rbe8 Ra7 44.Nh6+ Kg7 45.Rg8+ Kh7
White just can't coordinate properly to make any mating threats here
46.Rb8 f3 0-1

bestendgame_3.jpg
White resigned here because his initiative is over and all that is left is Black's two extra pawns and some dangerous mating threats against the White king.

Best Move(s)

Winner: IM Marc Esserman (BOS) - IM  Tegshuren Enkbhat

In the following position, IM Esserman played
bestmove_1.jpg
19.Qg4! An attempt to play Qg7 19...Kf7 20.Rg1! A second attempt to get in Qg7... 20...Ne8 21.Bxh7!
bestmove_2.jpg
Qg8 it is! White's tremendous space advantage decides--Black's king is entombed by his own pieces 21...Bd8 [21...Rxh7 22.Qg8#] 22.Bg8+ and Black resigned in view of 22...Ke7 23.Qg7+ Nxg7 24.Rxg7+ Ke8 25.Bf7+ Ke7 26.Bg6#
bestmove_3.jpg
A very powerful sequence of moves from IM Esserman 1-0

Mystery Category: Missed Opportunities!
Winner: FM Robby Adamson (ARZ) - FM Slava Mikhailuk (SEA)

As mentioned above, this would be the deciding game in the match between Arizona and Seattle. With Arizona's draw odds Seattle had to win this final game, but unfortunately missed a few opportunities to put the game away. The first came in this position:
Adamson1.jpg
Mikhailuk played 30...Bd7, but he should have played 30...Na3+ 31.Kb2 Nxc2! 32.Kxc2 Bd7+ 33.Kb2 Bxf5-/+ with a clear advantage. Around 38 moves later, the players reached this position:
Adamson2.jpg
Mikhailuk played the natural 67...Rxe5, but he should have played 67...Rexd4! 68.cxd4 Rxd4 and White must give up the queen, an easy win! About 18 moves later, the players reached this position:
Adamson3.jpg
Mikhailuk played 85...Bh5 and Black's initiative is still going, but objectively better was 85...Rd3+ 86.Ke2 (86.Kf2 Be4-+ is crushing) 86...Qe8+ 87.Kf1 Be4 88.Re1 Qe6 with a much better position.(Black could try 88...Qc6 and now White has to find 89.Ne5! but after 89...Bxg2+ 90.Kg1 fxe5 91.Qxe5+ Qc7 92.Qxc7+ Kxc7 93.Kxg2 Rc3 94.Re2 Rxc4 95.Kf3 Rxb4 96.Re3 White can hold the endgame) Adamson now played 86.Qxa3?? Missing the danger! Much better was 86.Re1 where White should hold 86...Qh6+ 87.Kf2 Bxf3 88.Kxf3 (88.Qxf3 Qxc1) 88...Qd2 89.Rc3 Rg8 90.g3 Qe1 91.Re3
Adamson4.jpg
And here Mikhailuk had a final chance to end the game but played Rxg3+?? Not realizing how easy White's defense was after this point (91...Qxg3+ would win easily) 92.Kf4 Rxe3 (92...Qf2+ 93.Rf3 and Black has to trade--a lone queen cannot do much except give a perpetual to an open king, which would be unsatisfactory considering the match situation.) 93.Qxe3= and Black was unable to create any winning chances in the resulting endgame.

That's all for this week! Check back here every week for the USCL highlights. Follow all PLAYOFF action live on the Internet Chess Club continuing with the Semifinals on Wednesday, November 10, and find pgn downloads, line-ups, blogs and Game of the Week details on http://www.uschessleague.com/

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