US Chess League Week 4: From Best Move to Match
By Kostya Kavutskiy   
October 1, 2012
USCLmainlogo.jpgThe fourth week in the 2012 USCL season was the second of three inter-divisional weeks. As you'll recall, the West won the "conference battle" in Week 2, but this time the East struck back with a vengeance, winning 6 of 8 matches by a total score of 19-13. The New York Knights, Manhattan Applesauce, and Connecticut Dreadnoughts are tied for the lead with a 3-1 match score, while in the West the Dallas Destiny hold clear first place with 3.5-0.5, followed by the Seattle Sluggers who are at 3-1. For full results, standings, games, and more, check out From here on out, I'll be showing chess highlights from the weekly action from Match of the Week to Move of the Week to occasional surprise categories.

Match of the Week

Dallas Destiny vs. Boston Blitz (2.5-1.5)

Dallas have been dominating the West so far, and this week they were able to defeat Boston, who have made the playoffs every year since 2006. This match had some really interesting games, two of which I've analyzed below, as well as an important board one pairing between GM Cristian Chirila and SM Jorge Sammour-Hasbun:


Move of the Week (aka Rook of the Week)

SM Denys Shmelov (BOS) - GM Conrad Holt (DAL) 1/2-1/2

An instructive lesson in justifying your moves tactically:

Nc4 was the threat, forking the queen and the rook on e5, but GM Holt finds a nice way to avoid the threat and keep his rook active, taking advantage of the pin along the e-file. The game continued:
32.Nc4 Qd8 33.Bc2 f5 34.gxf5 Qg5+ 35.Qg3
Uh oh...Black now has three pieces hanging, did Conrad play too carelessly?
Nope, Black saves all three pieces and keeps the position dynamically balanced.
The rook is untouchable: 36.exf5 Re2+ 37.Kh3 Qh5+ 38.Qh4 Rh2+ and wins.
36...Bxd6 37.Rxd6 Ree5 38.Rbd1 Rc5 39.R1d2 Rfd5!
All right, now the rook is just showing off, but this is a sweet example of the interference tactic--if exd5, then the connection between the two White rooks is broken and Black wins after Qxd2+
40.Qxg5 Rxg5+
No more hanging rooks after the queen trade, and the game was later drawn. ½-½

Endgame of the Week

FM Jeffrey Xiong (DAL) - FM Vadim Martirosov (BOS) 0-1

Opposite colored bishop endgames are notoriously drawish, even if one side has 2 extra pawns--but all is not so simple, as can be proven by this game.
44.Kg3 b5
It's very natural to push this pawn first and force White to make a decision about their defensive setup.
A step in the wrong direction but not spoiling anything just yet...realistically there is no reason to believe Black has any winning chances here. (45.f4= holds the draw without any difficulty, but that is only obvious once you see how the game went.)
45...b4 46.Ke3?!

This makes White's defense difficult, and now it is clear that FM Xiong chose the wrong defensive setup. Houdini isn't giving me much help, so I'm evaluating these positions based on strategic thinking, and after Black's next two moves it is not so easy to save the game for White. FM Xiong was most likely following the endgame principle of using your king to defend against passed pawns and using your bishop to defend your other pawns. However, I believe the right defensive plan was to do the exact opposite: keep the king near the kingside pawns and not worry about the b-pawn. (It looks like 46.Kg5 holds the draw. The White king prevents the g5 break, and if the Black king runs over to the queenside then White can win the g-pawn and push his own f-pawn. I think the only try to win is 46...g6 with the idea of playing Bf5, holding the kingside together while the king runs to support the b-pawn, but White can keep the Black king boxed in with 47.Kf6 Bf5 48.f4 Kg8 49.Ke7= and Black can make no progress)
46...b3 47.Kd3?!

It's a bit unfair to also criticize this move since after playing Ke3, this was the obvious follow-up, dealing with the b-pawn with the king and using the bishop to defend the kingside. Now if White gets one move to play Bf4, the draw can be agreed... (White should have undid their mistake and played 47.Kf4! Kh6 48.Bd4 g5+ 49.hxg5+ Kg6 50.Bf6 h4 51.Kf3 Kf5 52.Kg2=)

Creating a second, and very distant passed pawn. If I remember correctly, there's a famous Kotov-Botvinnik game (also with a g6-g5 break) where Botvinnik clearly demonstrates the principle of "one diagonal", which states that it is very important for the bishop to be able to do it's job using only one diagonal. What that means is ideally, regardless of whether you are attacking or defending, your bishop should be able to defend your own pawns and stop the opponents pawns all on one diagonal. In this case, White's bishop cannot hold both of Black's pawns, and is thus overworked. Although the position is still salvageable, this "one diagonal" theme will be seen throughout the analysis.
48.hxg5 Kg6 49.Kc3?

The losing move, because White needed to realize that the g5 pawn was important as a source of counterplay, and also that it wasn't too late to bring the king back to the kingside. (White could still hold with 49.f4! (keeping the g5 pawn as a source of counterplay) 49...h4 And now 50.Ke2! and White can setup a fortress, for example 50...Kf5 51.Kf1 h3 52.Kg1 Be8 53.Kh2= The only way Black can try to win is to defend the h3 pawn with the bishop, and then bring the king to c2 and promote the b-pawn. If that happens, however, White will be able to draw by shoving their g-pawn forward, distracting Black's bishop for a moment and win the h3-pawn. Then it's an elementary draw, since White can give up their bishop at any moment for Black's last pawn.; 49.Bf6 probably also draws but not as easily...anyways the variations are pretty interesting, so I recommend you to take some time and look through them: 49...Kf5 50.f3!?
I can't find a win here for Black, as long as White keeps their king within reach of the h-pawn and uses the g-pawn as a defensive resource. (50.Ke3?! Kg4 51.g6 is not good enough: 51...Be6 52.Kd3 h4 53.Kc3 (The win after 53.Be7 is very instructive: 53...h3 54.Bd6 Kf5! forcing the pawn to g7, after which White's pawns are more or less useless, since Black's bishop can control them both on the a2-g8 diagonal 55.g7 Kg4-+) 53...h3 54.Be5 Kf5! 55.Bg3 Kxg6 56.Bd6 Kf5 57.f3 For the moment it looks like the Black king cannot get to g2 to support the h-pawn, but Black can win by walking their king over to the defense of the a4 pawn, then forcing the f-pawn up with Bd5, and then walking the king back to promote the h-pawn. For example 57...Bd5 58.Kb2 Ke6 59.Bg3 Kd7 60.Bh2 Kc6 61.Bg3 Kb5 62.Bh2 Ka4 63.f4 Kb4 64.Bg3 Kc4 65.f5 Kd4 66.f6 Ke3-+ and Black wins--the Bd5 is doing two jobs, supporting the b3 pawn and stopping White's f-pawn, all on one diagonal!) 50...Be8 (50...Bc6 51.Ke3 h4 52.Kf2 Kf4 53.g6 Bxf3 54.g7 Bd5 55.Bb2 h3 56.Kg1= While Black's king goes to the support of the b-pawn, White will play Kh2 and win the h3-pawn, using g7-g8 as a way to deflect Black's bishop.) 51.Ke3 Bf7 52.Kf2 Kf4 53.Kg2 Bg6 54.Kf2 h4 55.Kg2 Bf5 56.Kh2 Kxf3 57.g6! The simplest way! 57...Bxg6 58.Kh3=)
49...Be6 50.Kd2
But now it is too late to bring the king back! (50.Bf6 h4 51.Kb2 h3 52.Be5 Kxg5-+ wins in the same fashion as in the previous line, where White plays 48.Bf6 and keeps their king on the queenside.] 50...Kxg5 51.Ke2
51.f3 Bd5 52.Ke3 h4 53.Kf2 h3 54.Kg3 Be6-+
51...Kf5 52.f4 h4 53.Kf2 Ke4
White resigned since Black's bishop can defend the h-pawn and stop White's f-pawn all on the c8-h3 diagonal, meanwhile there is no stopping Ke4-d3-c2 and White will have to give up their bishop. From this endgame I can draw the conclusion that the most important skill to have in opposite colored bishops is schematic thinking--being able to determine which defensive setups are fortresses, and which ones can be broken. 0-1

Game of the Week

1st Place:


An exciting draw (see above), where both players found some good moves to keep the game balanced throughout.

2nd Place:


A long endgame grind, ending with an instructive zugzwang win.

3rd Place:


26...e5 was a nice break, giving Black winning chances in a seemingly drawish endgame. After one or two inaccuracies White's position became very difficult to hold and GM Erenburg quickly capitalized on his advantage.

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

Kostya Kavutskiy will be filing weekly USCL recaps at He won #3 in Best of CLO 2011 for his article on "Breaking 2366", and is a member of the Los Angeles Vibe.