USCL Regular Season Finale
By Robby Adamson   
November 1, 2007
knightslead.jpg
The New York Knights (L-R, Jay Bonin, Pascal Charbonneau, Irina Krush and Iryna Zenyuk) were jubilant after earning the final playoff spot.
The last week of the regular season of the U.S. Chess League concluded with six exciting matches all of which were decisive, including some unbelievable comebacks by some teams thought for dead just a few weeks ago. The last playoff spots went to the New York Knights and the Miami Sharks. Before getting to the games, I want to take this opportunity to thank Greg Shahade for his incredible efforts in creating and organizing a top notch chess league where a majority of the top U.S. players participate. Also, thanks to all the bloggers for all the teams to create excitement both nationally and locally.

USCL Week 10 Results


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

Boston Blitz wins East, tops Philadelphia 2.5-1.5


With the two division winners receiving a first round bye, and the added bonus of draw odds in future matches, all eyes, except those who were trick or treating on Halloween, were on the first match of the night between the co-East Division leaders Boston Blitz and Philadelphia Inventors. Although tied in the standings, Boston held the tiebreaker advantage based on match points.

The top board featured GM Larry Christiansen facing off against GM Sergey Kudrin. In such an important match and having draw odds, Larry chose to play conservatively against Kudrin, who had yet to lose this year. Although the game continued for a long period of time, nothing exciting happened and the game was drawn.

Knowing the importance of the match, Boston played their second-Gm card, Eugene Perelshteyn, who faced off against Philly’s IM Bryan Smith on board two.



Eugene decided against his customary Accelerated Dragon, choosing instead to play 1...e5. After a lot of maneuvering, Bryan’s kingside attack broke through with his 38. Bxh5.
 
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Position after 38.Bxh5





Philly however was unable to score any additional points on either board three or four.  NM Denys Shmelov got a big advantage right out of the opening and slowly ground down IM Richard Costigan. 



 Meanwhile, Board 4 featured two young talented masters, Daniel Yeager and Chris Williams, in a complicated Slav Defense. With both players in time pressure, Chris waded through the complications and emerged with the “bear” point (Chris’s nickname is Chrissybear) to give Boston the win, and a very important first round bye. 



Congratulations to Boston for winning the East Division. Also, congratulations to Philadelphia who made the playoffs for the first time ever, and have draw odds in their match-up next week. 

NY Knights Get Final Spot in East


    In the most exciting match of the night, the New York Knights and New Jersey Knockouts faced off in a desperation match. New York needed to win the match to advance to the playoffs, while New Jersey needed only a draw.  The top board featured another GM match-up between Pascal Charbonneau and Joel Benjamin.



 In what appeared to be a very equal position with limited winning chances for either side, Joel managed to achieve a rook ending where Pascal’s rook was passively placed in front of Joel’s passed pawn, with Joel netting the point with some nice endgame technique.  

    While this game was in progress (this was the second to last game to finish), New York had taken care of business on board three where IM Jay Bonin played his best game of the year.



He took down NM Mackenize Molner with a nice piece sacrifice with 18.Nxf7 and 19.Nxd6
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Position after 18.Nxf7


 Also, IM Irina Krush defeated IM Mikhail Zlotnikov on board 2, converting a nice space advantage into a win.

With three games completed, and NY holding a 2-1 lead, the match came down to the board 4 match-up between NY’s Irina Zenyuk and NJ’s NM Evan Ju.



In a Taimanov Sicilian that was at least 15 moves of theory, Evan Ju pressed very hard to win a queen ending, trying some 117 moves that actually ended in a draw as a result of the 50 move rule!
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Position after 101...Qb5+


Evan’s king was unable to avoid numerous checks (I believe 54 consecutive checks!), though not for a lack of trying!  I was impressed with Evan’s attempts to win as well as Irina’s calm and collected play in time pressure (several time she moved with about 7 seconds remaining before she got her additional 30 second increment) to hold a draw, secure a 2.5-1.5 win, and thrust her team into the playoffs.  

Queens Pioneers spoils Baltimore’s playoff hopes


    The third match of the night featured the Queens' Pioneers who had already been eliminated from playoff contention against the Baltimore Kingfishers, who needed a win and some help from some other teams. Unfortunately for Baltimore, it was not to be. GM Stripunsky and GM Blehm faced off in an offbeat variation of the Berlin Defense in a Ruy Lopez. Stripunsky, who is known to play sidelines to steer games away from theory, chose to play the highly unusual 5.Qe2 and seemed to get some advantage, but was unable to get more. 



The second game to finish in this match was Parker Zhao who was significantly down on time the entire game but was able to overcome a poor position and defeat WGM Katerina Rohonyan. FM Tegshsuren Enkhbat did his best to milk a slight advantage against IM Eli Vovsha,   but was unable to get better.



 Finally, NM Peter Bierkens defeated Tsaagan Battsetseg, to complete the 3-1 final match score.

Carolina Cobras tops Tennessee Tempo

    In a match that had no impact on the playoffs, North Carolina and Tennessee both played some new and little used players. NM Craig Jones, who usually plays board 3 or 4, squared off against IM Ron Burnett in a game where it appeared both sides had chances to win, but a draw resulted.



 The only decisive result in the match (Carolina’s Udayan Bapat drew FM Jerry Wheeler and Adam Holmes drew with Gainer Phay) occurred when Carolina’s John Timmel defeated Tennessee’s Gerald Larson. 



Mechanics defeats Destiny in potential playoff preview

    The fifth match of the night featured the Dallas Destiny, who already clinched a first round bye by winning the West Division, facing off against San Francisco Mechanics. This match had several interesting facets in that these teams could face each other in the playoffs, as well as decide the 2007 USCL MVP race. Much in the spirit of the fighting chess of the USCL, Dallas fielded a very strong team, despite the fact that they clinched a first round bye.  On Board 1, GM Patrick Wolff topped IM Drasko Boskovic in a 11.Qe1 variation of the Scheveningen Sicilian.



In somewhat of a surprise, IM Davorin Kuljasevic defeated GM-Elect Vinay Bhat, who was undefeated in USCL play this year.



On Board 3, IM Dimity Zilberstein defeated IM John Bartholomew with a nice kingside attack that derived from an Advanced Caro Kann.  



 Finally, Lilia Doibani drew with San Francisco’s Gregory Young to complete the San Francisco victory over Dallas, 2.5-1.5. 

Miami upsets Seattle to make playoffs

In the final match of the night, the Miami Sharks squared off against the Seattle Sluggers in a match featuring two teams competing for the final playoff spot in the West. Because of their better record, Seattle only needed to tie the match to advance. Tragically for Seattle, they were unable to tie or win this match, and missed the playoffs altogether with three straight losses to end the season.  In winning this match, Miami overcame a terrible start to the USCL (0-3 record), and won 3.5 out of their last 4 matches.

    GM Julio Becerra did his part for Miami by drawing GM Gregory Serper with the black pieces on board one.



  With this draw and Vinay Bhat’s loss as mentioned above, Julio Becerra won his second straight USCL MVP award.  Congratulations to Julio!

After a difficult 2007 USCL season, IM Marcel Martinez came through in the clutch, topping FM Loren Schmidt on board three to give Miami a 1.5. -5 lead with 2 games to play.



  However, Seattle’s FM Slava Mikhailuk topped IM Blas Lugo to tie the match at 1.5 each in a wild game.



The playoff hopes of both teams rested on the result of the game between Miami’s Luis Barredo and NM Michael Lee.

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Position after 52. Qxg3

With a few seconds on his clock, Michael missed 50…Nf1+ 51.Qf1 Qg3+ 52.Kh1 Qh4+ 53.Kg1 Qg3+ 54.Qg2 Qe1+ drawing,  and would have forced white to try 51.Kh1 Ng3+ 52.Kg2 Nxe4 with an edge for black – and a variation difficult to assess in time pressure.    After this missed opportunity, Barredo converted the winning advantage, allowing Miami’s remarkable run to continue. Here is the full game:



Congratulations to Miami!

    Next week will feature the first round of the USCL Playoffs, with one match in each division. In the East, Philadelphia will square off against the NY Knights (maybe Nakamura will continue his winning ways after a great result in Spain and at the Corsican Masters). In the West, the Miami Sharks face the dangerous SF Mechanics. Although both Philadelphia and San Francisco will have draw odds in their respective matches, they will be facing two very hot teams. The playoffs should be very exciting!
 
    Check out all the standings, numerous articles, blogs, polls, and predictions at www.uschessleague.com. ICC is providing live coverage.

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