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US Chess League Week Six: Black is OK! Print E-mail
By Kostya Kavutskiy   
October 7, 2013
USCLmainlogo.jpgThis US Chess League season has gone by so remarkably fast, that just by looking at the standings I was really caught off guard (have there actually been this many matches!?). We're already more than halfway done with the regular season, and with each week the fight for the playoffs intensifies more and more. There are still no sure bets as far as qualification goes, and I'm sure things won't be clear in any division until the final week.

It was the second inter-divisional week, and the Eastern Conference had no real surprises. The New England Nor'easters have definitely established themselves as the team to beat, solidifying their first place standing with a solid win over the New Jersey Knockouts. The long term rivalry between the New York Knights and Boston Blitz was on display once again, this match ending up drawn. Baltimore Kingfishers and Manhattan Applesauce were able to win convincingly against the Philadelphia Inventors and Connecticut Dreadnoughts, each with a score of 3 - 1.

Headlining the action in the Western Conference were the Seattle Sluggers, who dealt the Dallas Destiny their first loss of the season. The San Francisco Mechanics drew with the Miami Sharks, while the Los Angeles Vibe and St. Louis Arch Bishops respectfully defeated the Carolina Cobras and Arizona Scorpions.

Here are this week's full results, followed by the full divisional standings:

Tuesday, October 1

Connecticut Dreadnoughts vs. Manhattan Applesauce (1 - 3)
New England Nor'easters vs. New Jersey Knockouts (3 - 1)
Baltimore Kingfishers vs. Philadelphia Inventors (3 - 1)
Boston Blitz vs. New York Knights (2 - 2)

Wednesday, October 2

San Francisco Mechanics vs. Miami Sharks (2 - 2)
Los Angeles Vibe vs. Carolina Cobras (3.5 - 0.5)
Seattle Sluggers vs. Dallas Destiny (2.5 - 1.5)
Arizona Scorpions vs. St. Louis Arch Bishops (1 - 3)

Western Conference

South Division

Dallas Destiny (5 - 1)
Miami Sharks (4.5 - 1.5)
St. Louis Arch Bishops (3.5 - 2.5)
Carolina Cobras (0.5 - 5.5)

Pacific Division

San Francisco Mechanics (3.5 - 2.5)
Seattle Sluggers (2.5 - 3.5)
Los Angeles Vibe (2.5 - 3.5)
Arizona Scorpions (2 - 4) 

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

New York Knights (4 - 2)
Manhattan Applesauce (2.5 - 3.5)
New Jersey Knockouts (2.5 - 3.5)
Philadelphia Inventors (2 - 4)

Northeast Division

New England Nor'easters (5 - 1)
Connecticut Dreadnoughts (3 - 3)
Boston Blitz (3 - 3)
Baltimore Kingfishers (2 - 4)  

As I mentioned a few times in my brief highlights video for Chess.com's YouTube channel, the theme of this week was vicious counterattacks ending in White's demise. Surprisingly, the three Game of the Week finalists were victories for Black!

IM Marc Esserman (BOS) - GM Tamaz Gelashvili (NY) 0-1 (game of the week!)

In a sharp and double-edged French defense, the players reached the following position with Black to move...
18...Ncxe5! 19.dxe5 Nxe5
French defense players dream of such sacrifices, but this can hardly be called a sacrifice...in fact it's specifically for these occasions that the term pseudo-sacrifice was invented. Due to the instant threat of Nxf3+ and Qh2# White's king is forced out into the open, where it won't have to wait long for its fate.
What else can we recommend? An open h-file is an open h-file, what can I say...these things happen! (20.Nxe5 Qxe5 21.Re1 Qh2+ 22.Kf1 Qh3+ 23.Ke2 (23.Kg1 Qh1#) 23...Qxg4+-+; 20.Re1 Nxf3+ 21.Qxf3 Qh2+ 22.Kf1 Rxc1! Perhaps this was the only trick that might have eluded some players -- Black wins back the sacrificed material, plus interest and dividends. After 23.Rxc1 Qh1+ 24.Qxh1 Rxh1+ 25.Ke2 Rxc1-+ Black has a few extra pawns and the more active pieces)
20...Nxf3 21.Kxf3 Rh3+!

The game could have still been botched up from here, but GM Gelashvili had no problems ending things quickly:
22.Ke2 Qc4+ 23.Bd3 Qxg4+ 24.Kd2 Rxd3+!
Accurate until the end, and literally not giving White even any hope of survival.
25.Kxd3 Qe4+ 26.Kd2 Rc4

White resigned in view of Rd4+, winning the queen, and in case of 27.Re1 Rd4+ 28.Kc3 Rxd1 29.Rxe4 dxe4, Black is simply going to promote a pawn on the kingside within the next few moves, and it's totally hopeless for White. This was Gelashvili's first game of the season, and literally couldn't have gone any better. 0-1

FM Robby Adamson (ARZ) - IM Vitaly Neimer (STL) 0-1 (2nd place GOTW)

Expanding on the queenside, with the idea of b5-b4 and bxc3, creating serious counter-threats. The idea itself is perfectly logical and in full accordance with the demands of the position (after all, the kings are castled on opposite sides), but the followup should have been swiftly punished!
23.Bd3 b4
Offering the knight as a sacrifice for the attack! Objectively this move deserves a question mark, but the sacrifice was most likely conceived by Neimer on the previous move, and this is simply a consistent follow-up to a previous line of thinking.
24.Bxe4 bxc3
Now Black threatens Rb8 and Rxb2, so White was obliged to counter the counterattack!

A poor move, most likely connected with time pressure and a wrong evaluation of the consequences after 25.fxg6. The text move allowed IM Neimer to launch a decisive assault against White's king.

I'm not sure why Adamson rejected the direct 25.fxg6! Here White's attack seems to deliver first, since the threat of gxf7+ Kxf7 Bxh7, with Qg6+ next is immediate and crushing. Perhaps what was overlooked by both players is that after 25...Qxa2 26.gxh7+ leads to victory.

It's always hard to play the guessing game  during analysis, but I'm wondering if both players assumed 26.gxf7+ was the right move in this line. Alas, it is not the best move here, since after 26...Kxf7 27.bxc3 Qa3+ 28.Kd2 Rxe4 29.Qxe4 Qxc3+ 30.Ke2 Re8 Black is getting the advantage, due to the vulnerability of White's king.

After 26.gxh7+ Kh8 White can now play 27.bxc3! The point here is that in the analogous line (we're comparing 26.gxh7+ with 26.gxf7+) after 27...Qa3+ 28.Kd2 Rxe4 29.Qxe4 Qxc3+ 30.Ke2
Black's king is on h8 (instead of f7), and Re8 here doesn't win White's queen. So White is simply up a rook and winning the game. This is my best guess as to why Adamson rejected 25.fxg6, possibly assuming that 26.gxf7+ was the correct move, leading to a line favorable for Black. This wrong assumption, or perhaps some other overlooked idea, caused him to play a wholly inferior move and lose spectacularly!

After 25.fxg6 Black is really losing in all lines, since 25...Rb8 (25...hxg6 is met with 26.Bxg6 fxg6 27.Qxg6+ and Qxf6) 26.gxf7+ Kxf7 27.Bxh7 with idea Qg6+, simply ends the game in White's favor.



Threatening the soul-crushing Rxb2, and b2-b3 can always be met with c5-c4, breaking through instantly. That's the  nature of these sharp positions - one tiny slip can turn the game around completely.

There's really nothing else to recommend for White here, Black's attack basically plays itself out.
26...Bxg5 27.b3

27.fxg5 Rxb2 28.Qd3 Qxa2-+ is a done deal.
27...c4 28.fxg6
Finally, but about three moves too late! The game concluded
28...cxb3 29.gxf7+ Kxf7 30.Qe2 Qa3+ 31.Kb1 c2+
0-1 Neimer took a big chance in this game, but it paid off beautifully!

NM Kevin Mo (CAR) - IM Larry Remlinger (LA) 0-1 (3rd place GOTW)

Having played a half-dozen games with the veteran IM Remlinger, I know his positional sense is quite profound, which allowed him to produce the following modern classic:

Another dream of the French defense realized! A very thematic exchange sacrifice, crippling White's structure and earning long-term positional compensation.
16.gxf3 Bd7 17.Ne3 Rf8

Black's position is incredibly solid and a pleasure to play.

18.Be2 is Houdini's choice, evaluating the position at +1, but clearly the misguided program doesn't sense that White's position has neither meaning nor purpose. Black has a number of useful moves here, such as Ne7 or Bf4, and even after a non-move like Kh8 White has no clear plan to make use of their extra exchange. The kingside weaknesses are here to stay, and practically speaking, Black's chances are clearly better.

Instead of forcing the issue too quickly with 18...e5, Remlinger opts to build up an attack on the kingside. The tricky part about these kinds of positions is that you must stay patient and not blow up the game too quickly with a move like e6-e5. It's much more frustrating for your opponent if they have absolutely nothing to do but anxiously wait for any kind of action.
19.Be2 Qh4 20.Ng4 Rf5 21.Kh1 Kg7 22.Rg1 Rg5!?


Opting for an unusual endgame: two rooks vs. three pieces!
23.h3 h5
Continuing with the idea that was probably initiated on Black's 20th move. 23...Bf4 was another promising option, simply putting White in a total bind.
24.f4 Rxg4 25.Bxg4 hxg4 26.Qxg4 Qxg4 27.hxg4?


A serious mistake. Necessary was 27.Rxg4 Ne7, where White is definitely not better, but since Black cannot free their pieces with e6-e5 anytime soon I think the position is roughly equal. The engine gives White a clear edge but that's total nonsense -- very few humans would prefer White's position here! Minor pieces are just so much more fun.
And once again the poor computer is just confused, evaluating this position as dead equal. But within ten moves Black won handedly.
28.f3 e5 29.dxe5 Nxe5
The problem here is that White's rooks have absolutely nothing to do, while Black's minor pieces have a myriad of squares and outposts to choose from. Black's king also has much more active prospects than its counterpart. Remlinger had no trouble slowly improving his position to the maximum.
30.Kg2 c5 31.Re2 Bc6 32.Rge1 Kf6 33.Rd1 Bb5 34.Rf2 Nc4 35.Rb1 Ne3+ 36.Kg1 d4 37.cxd4 cxd4
The d-pawn will be quite expensive, costing White a full exchange at the very best, and after Black brings their king to the center the game will really just be over. A classic display of long-term positional compensation! 0-1

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