U.S. Chess League Week 2 Recap
By Robby Adamson   
September 6, 2007
ImageThe second week of the US Chess League provided more exciting drama in some action packed games. All six matches this week were played on Wednesday, September 5, 2007, because Monday was Labor Day. As a US Chess League commentator for Chess FM, it is a real treat to see so many strong players participating in the league. This year's league has many high rated newcomers, and Grandmasters no less, including Hikaru Nakamura, Alexander Stripunsky, Ildar Ibragimov, Joel Benjamin, Sergey Kudrin, Patrick Wolff (that's a name from the past!), Sergey Erenburg, and some International Masters. Greg Shahade deserves a lot of credit for creating a league from scratch and increasing interest among the participating cities as well as from observers from around the World.

Recap of Week 2

1. Boston Blitz vs Queens Pioneers Boston 3-1
2. Carolina Cobras vs Baltimore Kingfishers Carolina 3-1
3. New York Knights vs Philadelphia Inventors Philadelphia 3-1
4. Tennessee Tempo vs New Jersey Knockouts TIE 2-2
5. Dallas Destiny vs San Francisco Mechanics TIE 2-2
6. Miami Sharks vs Seattle Sluggers Seattle 3.5-0.5

Boston prevails

The first match of the night between the Boston Blitz and the expansion team Queen Pioneers featured a board one match-up between GM Larry Christiansen and GM Ildar Ibragimov, both ranked in the Top 10 in the U.S.



Christiansen was very impressive in this game by creating immense complications and setting up some deep, tactical shots. Ibragimov defended well for a long time but succumbed to Larry's creativity. I really liked Larry's 25.f5, followed by Qb3. Black could have perhaps defended better with 25 .. f6 but the game is very complex. Once Ibragimov sacks the exchange, he is close to losing, though black could have put up better defense.

On Board two and in one of the crazier matches of the night, Jorge Sammour-Hasbun, who is easily GM strength, got very lucky against FM Jake Kleiman.



After missing some tactics early on and probably overcoming a lost position, Jorge defended very well and was able to secure the point for Boston, who would then lead the match 2-0.

Despite these wins, it still looked like a possible 2-2 tie. Ilya Krasik went crazy with a king walk and lost to FM Teddy Coleman. Meanwhile, FM James Critelli appeared to have good winning chances. Then he mouse-slipped and dropped his queen! While it's a shame a match was decided by this input error, the realities of playing online is things like this will happen, and will continue to happen.

Carolina Wins

In the second match of the night, Carolina seemed to coast to an easy 3-1 win over Week 1 upset winner, the Baltimore Kingfishers. This week, Baltimore was unable to pull the rabbit out of the hat like they did against the NY Knights in Week 1. The decisive games in this match occurred on Boards 3 and 4, where FM Oleg Zaikov, playing white, effortlessly defeated WGM Katerina Rohonyan in a Benko Gambit (Oleg plays the Benko for black!) Rohonyan never seemed to develop a plan in the early middle game and she was forced to try Rac8 (odd placement), and the consistent Qa8, though this plan is not effective. Meanwhile, Ralph Zimmer, in a relatively tame position, went crazy and sacked a piece. NM Craig Jones defended well as was able to secure the point and match with some cool defense and attack at the same time.



Philly Defeats New York

In a very exciting match between the NY Knights and Philadelphia Masterminds (can you believe my beloved Phillies blew a 8-2 lead in the 8th inning yesterday?), Sergey Kudrin played an Accelerated Dragon, rather than his usual Dragon.



Sergey took a very long think in the middle game before playing 17 .. Nbd3.


Position after Nbd3

Charbonneau, probably shocked over the move, missed 18.Bd3 Nd3 19.Qd3 Bc4 20.Qb1! Bb5 21.Rd5, where Black will have to cut his losses with Rc5 losing the exchange. White has good winning chances.


Analysis from Charbonneau-Kudrin after 20.Qb1!

After Pascal missed this opportunity, the game eventually petered out to a draw.

NY lost the match on board 3 and 4, where NM Daniel Yeager surprisingly upset IM Robert Hess, and NM Elvin Wilson put the screws to Matt Herman to win the match. I would consider this an upset based on the 3-1 score of the match as well as Hess's upset on board 3.

Tempo Nearly KOs New Jersey

In the fourth match, Tennessee Tempo missed a golden chance to get a rare match victory against a weaker than usual New Jersey Knockouts squad, and instead tied the match 2-2. Tennessee appeared to have the match in hand until Gerald Larson, Tennessee's fourth board, and probably in time pressure played 77 .. h2 against young NM Victor Shen, which stalemated white's king.


Position after 77...h2?

The game continued : 78.Kh1 Rf2 79.Rg3+!


Position after 79.Rg3+!

79...Kf4 80.Rg4+ Kf5 81.Rxg5+ Kxg5 White stalemated


For the correct technique to win Rook and 2 pawns (h+g is most difficult to win) vs. Rook, check out Week one's game between IM Richard Costigan (PHI) vs IM Alejandro Moreno Roman (MIA) 1-0.

Mechanics and Destiny remain tied for first in the West


In the second to last match of the night, and one that seemed to go on forever due to the 30 second increment that is added after every player's move, GM-elect Vinay Bhat was able to overcome some exceptional defense from IM John Bartholomew and win a lengthy opposite color bishop ending with rooks. Bartholomew has lost only a handful of tournament games in his life with the Scandinavian, and Vinay played very well.



Sluggers Win by Wide Margin

In the final match, the Seattle Sluggers, who always seem to have great strength on their bottom boards easily defeated the Miami Sharks 3.5-.5. If Serper had won his rook endgame a pawn up against last year's MVP Julio Becerra, it would have been a 4-0 sweep. The Tangborn vs. Marcel Martinez was of particular interest in that Tangborn seemed to sneak up on Martinez with a creative h5, h6 move which made black's position more difficult.

Week three will feature more exciting matches. The NY Knights really need a win, since they are sitting at 0-2, but it will be tough against the very strong SF Mechanics. The other match I am looking forward to pits the only two undefeated teams, Boston Blitz and Philadelphia Masterminds.

FM Robby Adamson is the main chess.fm commentator for the U.S. Chess League. He is also the director of the Western Chess camp in Tucscon Arizona, where Robby is based.