US Chess League: Week Six & Seven Highlights
By Kostya Kavutskiy   
October 22, 2012
USCLmainlogo.jpgAfter seven weeks in the 2012 US Chess League season, the playoff race seems closer than ever. Follow along on and find chess highlights from the past two weeks below:

Week 6

Match of the Week

Connecticut Dreadnoughts – Miami Sharks 1.5-2.5
A very close match between two strong teams, with Miami's NM Jeffrey Haskel scoring the only win against SM Arslan Otchiyev:

Move of the Week

IM Levan Bregadze (STL) – IM Albert Kapengut (NJ) 1-0

Bregadze-Kapengut 1.jpg

29.Nf5! An unusual sacrifice of the knight, but with a very simple intention: 29...gxf5 30.gxf5 White calmly recaptures, and Black's major pieces have no real way of coming to the defense of their monarch. The threat is Qg5, Rg1, etc. 30...Nxe4 A practical chance, trying to organize a defense along the fourth rank, but White's attack is too strong. [30...Rg8 31.Rg1+- Followed by Qf2, etc.] 31.fxe4 Rg8 32.Qf2 Rg4 33.Qf3 Rg5 34.Rg1
Bregadze-Kapengut 2.jpg
And with the queen and rook sidelined on the queenside, IM Kapengut had no choice but to resign. 1–0

Endgame of the Week

A fine example of rook & bishop vs. rook & knight was produced by GM Gelashvili:

GM Tamaz Gelashvili (NY) – GM Cristian Chirila (DAL) 1-0

The dominance of bishops over knights in endgames is well known, especially when there are only a few pawns left on the board. White has an extra pawn, but converting the advantage is anything but easy, since all the pawns are close together, meaning that the knight can contribute just as much as the bishop, or can it?
Gelashvili-Chirila 1.jpg
34.Bd7! Restricting the rook and the knight at the same time! Now White wants to bring the king in to attack the e5-pawn, and it is tough for Black to organize some kind of defense. 34...Ne2+ [If 34...Kg7 then 35.Bc6+ Kh6 36.Re7 wins the e5-pawn] 35.Kh2 Nc3 Black tries to get counterplay against the d5-pawn, but GM Gelashvili found a strong resource: 36.Be6+ Kh8 37.Rb3! Now Nxd5 loses to Rd3, and the rook will be able to win the e5-pawn from e3 37...Ne4 38.Re3 Nxf2 39.Kg1 Nd1 Now the obvious move is Rxe5... 40.Rb3!
  Gelashvili-Chirila 3.jpg

Psych! This is the problem with knights, sometimes they just can't find their way back to home base, and get stranded deep in enemy territory. [40.Rxe5 allows Black a chance to get their king in: 40...Kg7 and after Kf6 and Nc3 White is going to have a hard time holding on to the d-pawn, for instance 41.Re2 Kf6 42.Rd2 Nc3= followed by Ke5, etc] The position is very difficult to play for Black, since White's threat is Kg1–f1–e1, and Black's rook must leave the attention of the d5 pawn. 40...e4  41.Kf1 Rf8+ 42.Ke2 Nf2 43.Ke3 Nd3 44.Rc3 Nf4 45.Kxe4 Nxg2 Black has equalized the material, but now all of White's pieces are extremely active and support the d-pawn to win the game. (45...Nxe6 46.dxe6 Kg7 seems close to a draw but White's king is active and just in time to support the d-pawn--I don't think Black can hold here)  46.d6 Nf4 47.Bg4!
 Gelashvili-Chirila 5.jpg

Again the knight is dominated and cannot contribute to the defense.
47...h5 48.d7 1–0

Game of the Week

1st Place: FM Eric Rodriguez (MIA) vs IM Justin Sarkar (CON) 1/2-1/2

A hectic game, played reasonably well by both players considering the complexity of the position, stole the show in Week 6.

2nd Place: IM Levan Bregadze (STL) vs IM Albert Kapengut (NJ) 1-0

This game was relatively tepid, but the uniqueness of the Nf5 sacrifice caught the judges' eye.

3rd Place: GM Alexander Ivanov (NE) vs IM Jonathan Schroer (CAR) 1/2-1/2

After GM Ivanov sacrificed a bishop for three connected passed pawns, a tense middlegame and endgame was played out, eventually ending in a draw, although IM Schroer definitely had the better chances.

Week 7

Match of the Week

Los Angeles Vibe – San Francisco Mechanics 2-2

Although both of these teams are practically out of the playoff hunt, they are still capable of producing an exciting match, all games featuring some complex endgame play.

Move of the Week

Here I'd like to show two examples of fine attacking play, one against g2 and the other against g7:

GM Alex Stripunsky (NJ) – SM Jorge Sammour-Hasbun (BOS) 0-1

 Stripunsky-Hasbun 1.jpg

In this position White had just played 24.Bd5 Threatening Bxb7 and Rxd6, and thus "forcing" black to trade off one of their strong bishops. But here Sammour-Hasbun replied with the energetic 24...Rag8! Ignoring White's threat of winning a piece by counterattacking a much more valuable target: the king. Now Black's pressure on the g-file is simply too much to handle. 25.Bxb7 This is White's only chance, accepting the sacrifice and hoping Black doesn't find the strongest continuation... [The naive 25.g3 would be immediately met with 25...Bxg3–+ and Black gets their queen and two rooks face to face with the White king.] 25...Rxg2+ 26.Kf1 Bg3!

 Stripunsky-Hasbun 2.jpg

A beautiful intermediate move, hammering down on the f2-pawn, the last of the king's protectors. White's Na4 is completely out of play, which I believe is the reason for Black's successful attack. [The routine 26...Qxb7 27.Rxd6 Qb5+ 28.Qd3 Qxa4 is good but the position remains complicated] 27.Rd2 [27.Kxg2 would lead to disaster after 27...Bxf2+! 28.Kxf2 Qh2+ 29.Ke3 Rg3+–+ The c5-pawn cuts off the king's escape, and White's king will be mated in a few moves] 27...Bh4! I think this move shocked me the most, as the bishop finds an unusual perch to torture the f2-pawn. 28.Qxc5 [If 28.Bd5 Black can win with Qf4! 29.Re3 and now a fantastic way to mate is c4! Taking control of the d3-square, threatening Rg1+ and Qxf2#, and if 30.Bxc4 then fxe4! Again threatening mate, and White has no suitable defense, as after 31.Rxe4 Rg1+ 32.Ke2 Qxf2+ 33.Kd3 The 3rd rank is left unprotected and Black wins with 33...R1g3+ 34.Re3 Qxe3#] The game ended 28...Qxb7 29.Qd4+ f6 30.Nc5 Qb5+ 31.Nd3 f4 32.Ke2 Qh5+ 0-1
 Stripunsky-Hasbun 3.jpg

Another attack, this time on the g7-square, occurred in the Week 7 Game of the Week:

NM Jared Defibaugh (BAL) – NM Justus Williams (NY) 1-0

Defibaugh-Williams 1.jpg

20.Bxg7! White sacrifices the bishop in order to combine threats against the exposed Nd5 and the Black king. The follow up, Ne5 and an eventual Qg4+ reminds me of the famous Kasparov-Portisch game, from 1983, also featuring Bxg7, followed by mate. 20...Kxg7 21.Ne5 Qd8 (21...Qd6 Was definitely better, defending the h6-pawn and preparing Rad8. White can retain the piece with 22.Nc4 Qg6 23.Qxg6+ fxg6 24.Bxd5 Bxd5 25.Rxd5+=) 22.Qc4 Black has no time to consolidate, since all of their minor pieces are vulnerable to White's dominating forces in the center. 22...b5 23.Qg4+ Kh8 24.Qf5!

Defibaugh-Williams 2.jpg
Threatening Be4 24...Qc8 25.Qh5 (25.Nd7!+- The move which decided matters in that aforementioned Kasparov game, was also very strong here, where White has many threats, such as Bxd5 and Be4.) 25...Nf6 [25...Qe6 was Black's last chance to continue the game, but White can win spectacularly with 26.Nd7! Qxd7 27.Qxh6+ Kg8 28.Be4 f5 29.Qg6+ Kh8 30.Rxd5! Bxd5 31.Qh6+! Accuracy is key! It is important to lure the king to g8 to get a tempo with Bxd5+, and then back to h8 to not allow the king to escape... 31...Kg8 32.Bxd5+ Qxd5 33.Qg6+! Kh8 34.Rxe7+-] 26.Qxh6+ Kg8 27.Ng6!

Defibaugh-Williams 3.jpg

Black resigned in view of 27...fxg6 28.Rxe7 1–0

Game of the Week

1st: Place: NM Jared Defibaugh (BAL) vs NM Justus Williams (NY) 1-0

The vote was close, but the USCL judges ended up giving the nod to NM Defibaugh, for his blitzkrieg attack (analyzed above).

2nd Place: IM Priyadharshan Kannappan (STL) vs FM Kassa Korley (CAR) 1-0

IM Kannappan, who is the clear leader in the MVP race, found a very strong bishop sacrifice in the endgame to gain enormous activity for his rooks and a few passed pawns and was able to beautifully convert the advantage.

3rd Place: IM Mackenzie Molner (ARZ) vs GM Conrad Holt (DAL) 1/2-1/2  

A sharp Winawer French, which featured pawn storms on both sides of the board, a positional exchange sacrifice, long castling on move 28, a pawn queened in the middlegame, ending in perpetual check.

Catch all the week five action live on ICC and on Monday and Wednesdays and find details on schedule, line-ups and more at