Miami and New England to Contest US Chess League Final
By Kostya Kavutskiy   
November 16, 2010
USCLmainlogo.jpgKostya Kavutskiy of the LA Vibe writes about the US Chess League Semifinals. Watch the final showdown between the New England Nor'easters and the Miami Sharks Saturday at 4 PM EST on the Internet Chess Club. Also follow blogs, games and more on uschessleague.com.

The East


The highly anticipated semifinals showdown between the New England Nor'easters and the Boston Blitz did not disappoint fans. Boston's IM Marc Esserman and New England's NM Alex Cherniack were doing very well out of the opening, and were able to defeat their respective opponents. IM Robert Hungaski of New England swindled SM Jorge Sammour-Hasbun in a drawn endgame which gave the Nor'easters the two points they needed to advance into the finals. GM Larry Christiansen defeated IM Sam Shankland in an intriguing endgame (see below) to tie the match 2-2, but New England's draw odds, a luxury earned by having the best record in the East, meant they would be advancing to the finals..  

The West

The raging hot Miami Sharks overcame draw odds and upset the very tough and balanced Arizona Scorpions. Miami board 4 Nick Rosenthal scored an upset over Nick Thompson, while GM Julio Becerra and GM Renier Gonzalez drew on boards 1 and 2. This meant that it would be up to FM Marcel Martinez to hold against FM Robby Adamson, who has been saving matches all season for Arizona. Adamson was unable to create any winning chances in his serious time trouble, and even ended up losing. 

This means that the Miami Sharks will face the New England Nor'easters in the 2010 USCL Championship Match. The match will take place on November 20th live on the Internet Chess Club. Time for awards! 

Most Exciting Match

Winner: Boston Blitz vs. New England Nor'easters 

Obviously this was a tough decision, albeit a simple one since I only had 2 matches to choose from. I ended up going with this match mainly because it was billed as the greatest semifinal match of all the time, not to mention that all four games were interesting.









Most Interesting Opening

Winner: IM Robert Hungaski (NE) - SM Jorge Sammour-Hasbun (BOS)

English Opening 

1.Nf3 c5 2.c4 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6 6.g3 Qb6 All main line so far 7.Ndb5
bestopening_1.jpg
7.Nb3 is more popular, and most games continue 7...Ne5 8.e4 Bb4 9.Qe2 d6 10.f4 Nc6 11.Be3 Bxc3+ 12.bxc3 Qc7 13.Bg2 0-0 with an interesting and unbalanced position.
7...Ne5

7...Bc5 is another interesting line, where several games have continued 8.Nd6+ Ke7 9.Nde4 Nxe4 10.Nxe4 Bb4+ 11.Bd2 d5 12.cxd5 exd5 13.Nc3 Be6 14.Bg2 Rhd8 15.0-0 which is unclear.
bestopening_3.jpg
Analysis after 15...0-0

  8.Bf4
8.Bg2 has also been played.
8...Nfg4 9.e3
9.Qa4!? has been played a few times at the top, but Black has yet to go into 9...Qxf2+N (a few games have continued 9...g5 10. Bxe5 Qxf2+ 11. Kd1 Nxe5) 10.Kd2 Qc5 11.Ne4 Qb6 12.Bh3 Nf6 13.Nec3.
bestopening_4.jpg
Analysis after 13.Nec3

where White has good compensation for the pawn.
9...a6 10.h3
10.Nc7+ Qxc7 11.Qxg4 is possible too but I think Black is doing fine after 11...Qxc4 12.Bxc4 Nxg4
10...axb5 11.hxg4 Nxc4 12.Qb3 d5 13.Bxc4 dxc4 14.Qxb5+ Qxb5 15.Nxb5 Bb4+ 16.Ke2
bestopening_5.jpg
Position after 16.Ke2

This position has been reached no less than 10 times
16...Ke7
Other tries are 16...Ra5 and 16...0-0.
17.Rhd1
The first new move, quite natural, but Black's position is already slightly better--White will have to find something else in this line. The game continued
17...Ra5!
best
18.Bd6+ Bxd6 19.Nxd6 b5 20.a3 Ba6 21.Ne4?
21.g5=+
21...b4!
after21b4.jpg
Black is close to winning now.
22.axb4 c3+ 23.b5 Bxb5+
And here the game should have ended with 23...Rxa1 24.Rxa1 cxb2 25.Rb1 Bxb5+ 26.Kd2 Rd8+.
afterBxb5.jpg
with the idea of Bd3--an opening success for Black!

Most Intriguing Endgame

Winner: GM Larry Christiansen (BOS) - IM Sam Shankland (NE) 

Once again, we find Shankland's game in this category, however this time he is on the losing side. After 36 moves, the players reached the following position, where White has a queen for a rook and knight:

bestendgame_1.jpg
37.Be4! White will choose the best time to trade off a pair of bishops, the right decision. 37...Bd5 (37...Bxe4 38.fxe4+-) 38.Qc2 Bb8 39.Be3 (39.Bxd5 Nxd5 40.Qh7 looks tempting but Black gets some counterplay with 40...Rc8 41.g3 Nf6 42.Qd3 (42.Qxh6?? Rg8= and Black can force White to repeat moves with Rg6 and Rg8) 42...Nd5+=; 39.Bg3! looks best and would probably end the game faster with the idea to disorganize Black's pieces) 39...Nh5 (39...f5!? 40.Bxd5 Nxd5 41.Bg1±) 40.Bxd5 Rxd5 41.Qc8 Bf4
bestendgame_2.jpg
41...Ng3+ 42.Kg1 Rd8 43.Qb7+ Kf6 44.h4 does not accomplish much, White is close to winning. 42.Bxf4 42.Bf2? Rd7! and Black can make a draw after 43.Qh8 Rc7 44.g4 Rc1+ 45.Kg2 Nf6 46.Qxh6 Rc2= and the only way to stop Be3 is to repeat moves with Kf1. 42...gxf4 43.Qh8 Ng3+ 44.Kh2 h5 44...Nf5 45.Qb8 Rxd4 the d-pawn is not that important here 46.Qxa7+ Kf6 47.Qxb6+-. 45.Qg7 a5 46.b3 b5 47.Qh8
bestendgame_3.jpg
47...b4? IM Shankland misses his last chance here, much better was 47...Nf1+! 48.Kg1 Nd2 49.Qb8 Nxb3 50.Qxf4 a4 51.g4 Nxd4 52.Kf2 b4 53.axb4 Nb5.
bestendgame_4.jpg
Analysis after 53...Nb5

The rook on d5 is just a wonderful piece, controlling everything--I think Black has enough counterplay with the a-pawn to make a draw. 48.axb4 axb4 49.h4! Ne2 50.Qb8 Nxd4 51.Qxb4+
bestendgame_5.jpg
Now that White has a passed pawn he can use it to disrupt any Black fortress-the rest of the game is simple and instructive 51...Kf6 52.Qb8 Kg7 53.b4 Rf5 54.Qd6 Nb5 55.Qb8 Nd4 56.Qd6 Nb5 57.Qd8 Rd5 58.Qb8 Rf5 59.Qa8 Nc7 60.Qa1+ Kh7 61.Kg1 Nb5 62.Kf2 Kg8 63.Ke2 Kh7 64.Kd3 Kg8 65.Kc4 Nd6+ 66.Kb3 Nb5 67.Ka4 Kf8 68.Qb2 Ke7 69.Qc2 Rd5 70.Qc4 Nd4 71.Qc7+ Rd7 72.Qc5+ Ke8 73.b5 Rd5 74.Qc8+ Rd8 75.Qc7 Rd7 76.Qxf4 1-0
bestendgame_6.jpg
Black resigns, a fine effort by Christiansen!  

Best Move
Winner: Nick Rosenthal (MIA) - Nick Thompson (ARZ) 
In the following position, Rosenthal was able to finish his opponent off pleasingly:
bestmove_1.jpg
29.Rxf5! exf5 30.Bg7!
bestmove_2.jpg
30...Kxg7 31.Qh7+ Kf6 32.Qh6# 1-0 

Mystery Category: A Positional Sacrifice
Winner: GM Renier Gonzalez (MIA) - IM Rogelio Barcenilla (ARZ) 

This game started out as a classical Ruy Lopez, and the middlegame was described by GM Alex Yermolinsky (who was doing commentary on ICC) as a position you would see in the 1950s! After 25 moves, IM Barcenilla decided to take a risk with a positional sacrifice!
mystery_1.jpg
25...Nxe4!? 26.Bxe4 Rxa2 27.Qb1 (27.Qc3! f5 28.Bb1 Ra3 29.Qd2± was the best way to respond) 27...f5
mystery_2.jpg
For the piece Black is getting:
1) Two pawns
2) Lots of space and restriction of White's pieces
3) Major props 
28.Bc2 (28.Nh4! looks quite strong as after 28...fxe4 (28...Rf8 is best, 29.Bxf5 gxf5 30.Ng3±) 29.Nc3 Bf6 (29...Ra3 30.Qxe4 and White gets a powerful attack) 30.Nxg6 Rg8 31.Nxa2 Rxg6 32.Kf1
mystery_3.jpg
White is up an exchange. 28...Qa3 29.Rcd1 Only move, otherwise Qb2 would eventually win the b4 pawn 29...Qb2 30.Rd2 Qxb1 31.Bxb1 Ra4 32.Ra2 Rxa2 33.Bxa2 Ra8
mystery_4.jpg
What's really interesting about this piece sacrifice is that the pressure lasts well into the endgame--basically Black has a lot of space and no weaknesses while White is cramped and has weak pawns on b4 and d5--if Black were to win either of those pawns then White's position would be hopeless 34.Bb1 Ra3 35.Bc1 Ra4 both sides have played perfectly since 28. Bc2 36.Bc2 Ra2 37.Bb1 Ra4 38.Bc2 (perhaps White should continue with 38.Bd2 but the match situation made it favorable for Gonzalez to make a draw) 38...Ra2 39.Bb1 Ra4 Game drawn by repetition ½-½ 
 
That's all for this week! Check back here every week for the USCL highlights. Follow all CHAMPIONSHIP action live on the
Internet Chess Club continuing with the FINALS on Saturday, November 20, 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/