USCL Week 9 Recap
By Robby Adamson   
October 25, 2007
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Week nine of the U.S. Chess League  featured the most exciting and wild matches of this year, and clarified the playoff picture significantly.  Next week’s matches as well as total game points (the tiebreaker used in case of a tie) will dictate not only who makes the playoffs but the respective seeds of the teams. The winners of the West and East divisions each receive a bye in the wildcard round and the second place get draw odds (meaning in case of a tie, the second seeded team advances) against the third place team in the wildcard round. To see all the details of the schedule, go here. 

Week 9 Results

San Francisco Mechanics vs Seattle Sluggers-  3-1
Philadelphia Inventors vs New York Knights-2.5-1.5
New Jersey Knockouts vs Baltimore Kingfishers- TIE 2-2
Queens Pioneers vs Boston Blitz-  TIE 2-2
Carolina Cobras vs Miami Sharks- -1.5-2.5
Tennessee Tempo vs Dallas Destiny--1.5-2.5

SF Mechanics shock Seattle 3-1. 

In Monday’s featured match, the San Francisco Mechanics easily topped the very strong Seattle Sluggers, in a possible preview of a playoff match. Once again, IM Joshua Friedel squared off against GM Gregory Serper on board 1. In five previous matches, white won each game, and this game was no exception. Serper, playing black, played his usual Kan Sicilian, and it did not appear that Friedel obtained much of an advantage. However, Josh turned the tables with some creative play, marching Serper’s king to h4 and forcing mate.

 

    On Board 2, GM-elect Vinay Bhat, and possible 2007 USCL MVP, did what he has done all year – just win baby. Vinay decided not to play his usual Slav Defense, and opted for a Queen’s Gambit Declined against Seattle’s IM Eric Tangborn, who never seemed to get much out of the opening. Vinay slowly outplayed Tangborn, breaking through with 30…d4, and eventually netted the point.



The U.S.’s newest master, eleven-year-old Daniel Naroditsky (congrats Daniel!), clinched the match for SF in drawing with Seattle’s Joshua Sinanan on board 4. The final game to finish was IM John Donaldson taking a draw in a better position against FM Loren Schmidt, and thus completed SF’s 3-1 defeat of Seattle who is in some danger of missing the playoffs altogether (they have draw odds next week against Miami).


Philadelphia makes playoffs for first time, topping NY Knights


    For the first time in USCL history, Philadelphia made the playoffs and actually has a chance to win the East Division.  GM Sergey Kudrin topped IM Yuri Lapshun in Yuri’s debut in the USCL.  Kudrin played the 9.Nd5 line against the Sveshnikov and Yuri never mustered any counterplay and was eventually ground down. 



In a ridiculously wild game on board 2, IM Bryan Smith somehow survived IM Irina Krush’s incredibly wild attack where Bryan marched his king from g8 to c4.  Even when Bryan had the chance to retreat and try defend, he instead correctly played actively and defended exceptionally well.

 

 Irina did have a perpetual, but she gambled when they each had a few minutes remaining and it backfired.

    Following Irina Zenyuk handing Philadelphia’s Elvin Wilson a rare loss on board 4, the match came down to board 3, where IM Robert Hess was unable to convert a winning ending against IM Richard Costigan.  Philadelphia hung on for a victory.

 

 New Jersey ties Baltimore

    In a match with significant playoff implications between New Jersey and Baltimore (all 5 teams in the East division were alive for the playoffs entering Week 9), decisive results occurred on all 4 boards. GM Joel Benjamin topped GM Pavel Blehm in a 3.Bb5+ Sicilian. Joel reached the type of position he likes and eventually defeated Blehm.
 
On board 2, New Jersey’s FM Aviv Friedman appeared to equalize quite easily out of the opening, but made two blunders (the first being 27…Nd7), and lost quickly thereafter. 



FM Mackenize Molner played an interesting piece sacrifice and found some nice defensive moves to keep the attack alive (like 24.Qc1!) in defeating IM Larry Kaufman.



Finally, WFM Tsaagan Battseteg overcame a poor opening to defeat NM Michael Khodarkovsky in what appeared to be an equal position.

 Boston fails to capitalize, ties match with NY Queens

    In the third match of the night, Boston failed to maintain sole possession of first place in the East Division, in tying with the NY Queens.  All games in this match were drawn, though not for a lack of trying. In another GM matchup, Alexander Stripunsky was unable to muster up an advantage against Larry Christiansen’s g6 line in the Panov Botvinnik Variation of the Caro Kann. 

Another wild game featured GM Eugene Perelshteyn surviving a bad position and drawing with IM Eli Vovsha.



Boston missed their best chance to win the match when Ilya Krasik was unable to wade through the complications and cash in on a winning position in the currently popular Botvinnik Variation of the Slav Defense against the Queen’s Michael Thaler. In the other game of the match NM Denys Shmelov drew with FM James Critelli.

Miami Sharks upset Carolina Cobras

    An undermanned Miami squad kept their playoff hopes alive by defeating the Carolina Cobras, ending Carolina’s playoff hopes. IM Lev Milman did his part, defeating IM Marcel Martinez in a highly tactical Richter Rauzer Sicilian.



    Unfortunately for Carolina, they were unable to covert on the remaining three boards where Carolina was favored.  In a game that qualifies for game of the week consideration, Eric Rodriguez sacrificed a piece for an attack, and although IM Jonathan Schroer defended well for some time, Eric was eventually able to break through.



  Meanwhile, Carolina’s Oleg Zaikov must have had his lucky rabbit’s foot to survive a dead lost position against Luis Barredo (which eventually lead to a draw), while Udayan Bapat failed to deliver the knockout blow and instead lost to Miami’s Gilberto Luna.

Dallas Destiny narrowly edges Tennessee Tempo

    In the final match of the night, Dallas narrowly defeated the Tennessee Tempo 2.5-1.5, to clinch the West Division title and the all important first round bye and draw odds in their next match.  On board 1, Ron Burnett did his best to take the game out of theory early on with 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.dc, but Boskovic defended well and the game ended in a draw.



After Dallas’s FM Andrei Zaremba defeated FM Jerry Wheeler on board 3, and Tennessee’s Gerald Larson defeated WFM Bayaraa Zoigt, the match was decided by Dallas’s IM Kuljasevic facing off against FM Todd Andrews, who had won three USCL games in a row. After equalizing in a Benko Gambit declined, Kuljasevic slowly outplayed Andrews to win the match 2.5-1.5.  



With one week remaining in the regular season, New York and New Jersey will most likely be battling for the last playoff spot in the East, with NJ holding draw odds because of its better record. Baltimore also has a chance for the final spot if they defeat Queens. New York may call on GM Hikaru Nakamura who is having a phenomenal event in Spain to face off against GM Joel Benjamin. The Boston Blitz will face Philadelphia for first place and a first round bye on the line in the East, with Boston having draw odds due to game points.  In the other match with playoff implications, Seattle will have draw odds against Miami in the battle for the last playoff spot in the West.  I would guess that 2006 MVP Julio Becerra will be back for Miami to once again face GM Gregory Serper. If the final week and playoffs from last year are any indication, tune in to see some exciting matches where every mistake is magnified. 

Check out all the standings, numerous articles, blogs, and predictions about the individual teams at www.uschessleague.com. Live coverage is being provided by ICC.

FM Robby Adamson is an estate planning lawyer in Tucson, Arizona, and organizer of the Western Invitational Chess Camp
(www.westernchesscamp.com ).