USCL Week 4 Recap
By WGM Jennifer Shahade   
September 20, 2007

USCLmainlogo.jpgWe are reaching the midpoint of the third season of the U.S. Chess League , and the only thing clear is that it's going to be a very tight race. Each year, the USCL's popularity grows. This year's highlights include an explosive USCL blogosphere, (way too many to list here- check www.uschessleague.com for a comprehensive list) and a recent New York Times article on the event.

Knights Narrowly Defend Their Honor  


Monday night's game between the New York Knights and the at that time undefeated Boston Blitz featured a highly anticipated board one match-up between Hikaru Nakamura and Larry Christiansen. That game was an interesting draw, though it ended pretty early, on move 32. The slugfest of the evening turned out to be GM Pascal Charbonneau's battle against Eugene Perelshteyn on board two, the first ever USCL GM vs. GM match on board two!

Pascal called the game his best ever in the USCL (even though he has defeated Larry Christiansen twice in the league!), partly because he needed to win based on the match situation, which was 2-1 at that point in the Blitz's favor. "I was very upset when I lost all my pawns," said Pascal, "but soon after I realized I still had winning chances, and I gained confidence." The star move of the game was 26…e4!, threatening Nxa5 and forcing a win of material.



But who's closer to Manhattan?


In their second game of the season Queens defeated New Jersey. The first match was a draw. This time, Stripunsky took down  Benjamin. (Check out the Ask GM Joel entry about his first game against Stripunsky.)



Stripunsky made a series of accurate attacking moves in this game, starting with 16.Bg5!, a tough move to meet. If Bxg5 Qxe4, Black is going to lose another pawn. Next came the counterintuitive backwards knight move Na2, and the quiet crusher 30.a5, which made room for Qa4. Stripunsky could have won earlier if he found the devastating 32.Rxh7 (instead of 32. b3)   Rxd3 33. Qg6 mating. He found a similar line on move 35, but Black could have improved with 33..Rxd7 after which 34.Qe6+ Kf8 35. Rxd7 Qf5+! and Black's king at least survives into the endgame..


Philadelphia-Baltimore


Baltimore won 3-1 against Philadelphia, and the match featured four decisive results (not atypical in the fighting U.S. Chess League.) In his UCSL debut, UMBC student Sergey Erenburg won a nice game against Bryan Smith. Smith played very creatively but Erenburg defended well with moves like 21…Qb6!, and 23…Bxh2! Bryan points out that he could have drawn with 28.Qa3 Qe7 29.Qa5+ b6 30.Nc6+ Kd7 31.Ne5+ etc.  "I could also just play 29.Nb5+ (after 28...Kc7) and he has to play 29...Kd8, and then draw or try 28.c4"



Tennessee-Miami

Todd Andrews won his first USCL game this week, and things looked good for Tennessee with Ron Burnett managing to win Julio Becerra's queen on board one. Instead of 38…Kg7, Becerra could have played 38…Kh8, avoiding Burnett's combination. Becerra managed to slide his King into a3, and Burnett's pawns were slower. If Burnett wanted to avoid all confusing lines, he could have played 53.Qxd2, when it's hard to imagine the black knight being able to defend against white's three pawns.





Northwest Grudge Match


In another all decisive match, Seattle defeated San Francisco 3-1. On board one, GM Gregory Serper defeated the more active but less experienced IM Josh Friedel. Gregory attacked almost as if it was a middlegame. Josh had few chances as Gregory found a clear arc to victory.




 Carolina-Dallas


The Cobras and the Destiny fought hard to a draw. Lev Milman won on board one against Drsako Boskovic, but Keaton Kiewra made up for this with an attacking victory against FM Oleg Zaikov.



The board four game between Craig Jones and Francisco Guadalupe was nerve-racking. All three results were possible, all of which would result in different final results for the match.